Voice in the Wilderness

Nina Teicholz by Laura Rose

“I guess history repeats itself, and the losers are not just me but a fair and public airing of the best and most current science” – The (ongoing) story of how top US nutritionists tried to gag New York Times best-selling author Nina Teicholz [Updated: CSPI’s BMJ retraction request goes missing – more after the jump]

As readers of Shooting the Messenger and The Sidebar (my Atlanta, GA blogging buddy Peter M. Heimlich’s world-beating website) will know, there have been some major developments in recent months re: efforts by members of the United States Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) to gag journalist and author Nina Teicholz.

Taking stock of the story so far, it’s remarkable how closely each new development seems to mirror Teicholz’s own account of previous efforts by nutritionists to suppress dissenting viewpoints.

Via her seminal 2014 book on the history of nutritional science, The Big Fat Surprise:

At a conference that [Danish researcher Uffe Ravnskov] and I were both attending near Copenhagen in 2005, he stood out in the crowd simply because he was willing to confront this gathering of top nutrition experts by asking questions that were considered long since settled.

“The whole pathway, from cholesterol in the blood, to heart disease – has this pathway really been proven?” he stood up and asked, rightly though rhetorically, after a presentation one day.

“Tsh! Tsh! Tsh!” A hundred-plus scientists wagged their heads in unison.

“Next question?” asked an irritated moderator.

For Teicholz, who started her research “expect[ing] to find a community in decorous debate,” this incident illustrated a surprising lack of tolerance within the nutritional sciences for alternative viewpoints, or even simple scientific inquiry.

Unfortunately, her anecdote would prove eerily prescient.

On November 5 last year, a letter signed by over 180 credentialed professionals, including a number of prominent faculty members at major universities, was sent to the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal).

The letter – organised by Bonnie Liebman at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a Washington, DC-based advocacy non-profit – requested that the journal retract The scientific report guiding the US Dietary Guidelines: is it scientific?, Teicholz’s September 23 article criticising the methodology and findings of the 2015 DGAC.

If there’s any doubt as to whether this constituted an attempt to silence a critic, all 14 members of the 2015 DGAC signed their names to the letter.

But the effort to gag Teicholz didn’t end there.

In March this year, she was disinvited from the National Food Policy Conference, a prestigious Washington, DC food policy panel at which she was scheduled to speak the following month (her replacement – wait for it – was president and CEO of the Alliance for Potato Research & Education Maureen Storey).

Sound familiar? Check out this excerpt from The Big Fat Surprise:

As [Ancel] Key’s ideas spread and became adopted by powerful institutions, those who challenged him faced a difficult – some might say impossible – battle. Being on the losing side of such a high-stakes debate had caused their professional lives to suffer. Many of them had lost jobs, research funding, speaking engagements, and all the many other perks of prestige.

…they were not invited to conferences and were unable to get prestigious journals to publish their work. Experiments that had dissenting results, they found, were not debated but instead dismissed or ignored altogether.

Things took a sinister turn in late March, with Peter reporting on how DGAC chair Barbara Millen and US Department of Agriculture exec Angela Tagtow conspired with Thomas Gremillion – director of food policy at the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which organised the conference – to kick Teicholz off the panel (click here to read Peter’s May 2 article showing the extent of Millen’s involvement).

Piling-on the anti-Nina Teicholz bandwagon was nutritionist and Huffington Post columnist Dr. David Katz, who was quoted in Ian Leslie’s acclaimed April 7 Guardian article, The sugar conspiracy, describing Teicholz as “shockingly unprofessional” and “an animal unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.”

Via The Big Fat Surprise:

…slander and personal ridicule were surprisingly not unusual experiences for…opponents of the diet-heart hypothesis.

Last month, several prominent physicians criticised Katz for his ad hominem remarks, leading Yale University’s School of Medicine to publicly disassociate from its otherwise unrelated namesake, the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Centerof which Katz is the founding director.

Bringing the whole sorry story up-to-date, this month Peter – with help from my sweetie Kelsi White and I – exposed Harvard professor and DGAC member Dr. Frank Hu’s efforts to solicit European signatories to Bonnie Liebman’s CSPI retraction letter.

Is Teicholz surprised by the extreme measures taken by members of the DGAC to shut her out of the debate? Here’s what she had to say:

“Even though I had covered the vicious politics of nutrition science extensively in my book, I couldn’t quite imagine the force with which the various attack strategies would be applied against me. Virtually every tactic that Keys and his allies used to malign anyone who challenged them – false accusations about supposed errors and supposed industry backing as well as just sheer name-calling – has been employed aggressively against me. I guess history repeats itself, and the losers are not just me but a fair and public airing of the best and most current science.”

Like those whom she wrote about in The Big Fat Surprise – researchers such as John Yudkin, Pete Ahrens and Mary G. Enig – Teicholz has dared to challenge the scientific consensus on nutrition, and has paid the price. Yet unlike those before her, Teicholz remains a prominent voice of dissent.

Is the tide starting to turn on diet and nutrition? Will we soon see a crack in the consensus? Wouldn’t that be a big fat surprise.

Update, 14/07/2016: The CSPI’s November 5, 2015 retraction request of The scientific report guiding the US Dietary Guidelines: is it scientific?, Teicholz’s September 23, 2015 BMJ article criticising the methodology and findings of the 2015 DGAC, has gone missing from the CSPI’s website, in its place this 404 notice:

CSPI BMJ 404 Page

According to Teicholz, the BMJ is preparing to announce it will not retract her article.

A PDF of the CSPI’s retraction request is available by clicking here.

An updated, December 17, 2015 version – absent the names of 18 signatories – is available by clicking here.

Homeopathy on the NHS

UK homeopathic hospitals: Atlanta, GA reporter and I ask oversight agency for a standard of care review

Homeopathy on the NHS

source

On April 25, my US blogging buddy Peter M. Heimlich and I co-signed and co-blogged a request for a review of “crystal therapy” and other dubious medical treatments being offered by a Liverpool hospital.

On May 2, we blogged about a similar request we made re: a Derbyshire hospital offering “energy therapies.”

On May 11, we blogged about a similar request we made re: a Norwich area medical facility offering “Thought Field Therapy” and other iffy treatments.

We filed our requests with the Care Quality Commission (CQC), “the independent regulator of health and social care in England.”

Today we filed the following request with the CQC re: the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine, Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital, and Bristol Homeopathic Hospital. (Click here to read the request).

Thought Field Therapy (and More!)

Why is UK’s Hoveton & Wroxham Medical Centre offering dubious “alternative” therapies? US reporter and I have asked UK oversight agency

Hoveton & Wroxham Medical Centre

On April 25, my Atlanta, GA blogging buddy Peter M. Heimlich and I co-signed and co-blogged a request for a review of dubious medical treatments being offered by a Liverpool hospital. On May 2, we blogged about a similar request we made re: Derbyshire hospital offering “energy therapies.”

We filed our request with the Care Quality Commission (CQC), “the independent regulator of health and social care in England.”

Today we filed another request with the CQC re: Hoveton & Wroxham Medical Centre (see the map) which – according to their website – is offering these treatments (all links to Quackwatch.com):

“Hypnotherapy”
“Neuro-Linguistic Programming” (NLP)
“Time Line Therapy”
“Life Coaching”
“Emotional Freedom Techniques” (EFT)
“Thought Field Therapy” (TFT)
“Eye Movement Integration”
“Energy Healing”
“Mindfulness”
“Reiki”

Click here to read the request.

See also: Crystal Therapy on the NHS, my April 23, 2016 item on the Aintree University Hospitals’ promotion of Crystal Healing and Chromotherapy.

Silencing Science: The War on Nina Teicholz

Prominent Harvard prof/researcher Frank Hu solicited European colleagues to sign/circulate demand for BMJ to retract article by author/journalist Nina Teicholz – she says her article criticized a fed gov review headed by Hu

This item is reported by me, crack US (Atlanta, GA) reporter Peter M. Heimlich, who’s cross-posting at his world-beating website, The Sidebar, and my girl, New Zealander Kelsi White. Given the content of the story, our “hands across the water” effort seems fitting.

Sleep_Frank_Hu

Frank Hu MD PhD MPH (source)

On Monday Peter reported how Barbara Millen PhD, chair of the 2015 US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), and USDA executive Angela Tagtow tag-teamed an effort that resulted in author/journalist Nina Teicholz being kicked off a panel at a national food policy conference held last month.

Teicholz is a high-profile critic of the DGAC’s methodology and findings (which have been widely criticized by medical experts and organizations).

It’s not the first time Millen tried to muzzle Teicholz. 

Last November, Millen signed a public letter to the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal). The letter demanded the retraction of a September 23 article by Teicholz which – you guessed it – criticized the methodology and findings of the DGAC.

Claiming Teicholz’s article was riddled with errors” – a claim disputed in a recent Guardian article (see below) and elsewhere – the letter was organized by the DC advocacy nonprofit, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

E-mails obtained via a public records request (click here to read) show that another DGAC member, Dr. Frank Hu, a prominent professor/researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health, asked a colleague to sign and circulate the retraction demand which resulted in a chain letter exchanged by European medical professionals and university faculty.

Bonnie Liebman

source

It started with an October 31, 2015 Dear Colleague” e-mail in which CSPI executive Bonnie Liebman asked dozens of nutrition science professionals to sign the letter.

The next day, Hu e-mailed this to Prof. Miguel Miguel A. Martinez-Gonzalez at the University of Navarra, Spain:

Hi Miguel,

Would you like to sign the attached letter to retract the BMJ article? if so, please email Bonnie Liebman.

I would greatly appreciate if you can ask your colleagues in Spain and other European countries to sign the letter. I think it is extremely important to retract the terrible BMJ article for the sake of science and public health.

Many thanks

frank

Miguel-Angel-Martinez-Gonzalez-coordinador-trabajo_MILIMA20150915_0031_26

Miguel A. Martinez-Gonzalez (source)

Later that day in this e-mail (slightly re-formatted for ease comprehension), Martinez-Gonzalez copied Hu on an e-mail he sent to about 20 colleagues, stating Yes, of course, Frank.”

From: Miguel Ángel Martínez González
<mamartinez@unav.es>
Date: 1 November 2015 at 11:36
Subject: Fwd: Letter to BMJ re Dietary Guidelines–Please respond by Nov. 3
To: Antonia Trichopoulou <atrichopoulou@hhf-greece.gr>,denis.lairon@univmed.fr, Katia Esposito <katherine.esposito@unina2.it>,giuseppe.grosso@studium.unict.it, Federico Jose Armando Perez Cueto Eulert <apce@plan.aau.dk>, “ligia.dominguez”<ligia.dominguez@unipa.it>, Matthias Schulze <mschulze@dife.de>, Iris Shai <irish@bgu.ac.il>,elliotb@ekmd.huji.ac.il, dario.giugliano@unina2.it, Angeliki Papadaki <Angeliki.Papadaki@bristol.ac.uk>, Arne Astrup <ast@nexs.ku.dk>, ricardo.uauy@lshtm.ac.uk, jose luchsinger <luchsin@hotmail.com>, Nikolaos Scarmeas <ns257@cumc.columbia.edu>, Christian Carpéné <Christian.Carpene@inserm.fr>, Olle Melander <olle.melander@med.lu.se>, boeing@dife.de, Marc Molendijk <m.l.molendijk@fsw.leidenuniv.nl>, Adriano Marçal Pimenta <adrianompimenta@yahoo.com.br>, Helfimed Study UniSA <Dorota.Zarnowiecki@unisa.edu.au>
Cc: Frank Hu <nhbfh@channing.harvard.edu>

Yes, of course, Frank.

I’m forwarding to my friends and colleagues this invitation to sign the attached letter:

I have read the full version of the attached letter and I agree to include my sign on it. I endorse its full content and the request to the BMJ to retract the journalist’s article.

Dear colleagues,
if you agree, you can send an email to Bonnie Liebman <bliebman@cspinet.org> with a similar content to what I have written above in blue font.

I would thank you all very much if you are so kind as to ask also to your friends from different European countries to sign the attached letter for the sake of science and public health.

Best regards,

miguel

Miguel A. Martinez-Gonzalez
University of Navarra-CIBEROBN
www.unav.es/preventiva
www.proyectosun.es
www.predimed.es
www.predimedplus.com
www.ciberobn.es
Research Gate

Here’s one of the recipients of Martinez-Gonzalez’s pass-along…

Angeliki Papadaki

…who obligingly added another link in the chain letter which she states was instigated by Frank Hu”:

From: Angeliki Papadaki [mailto:Angeliki.Papadaki@bristol.ac.uk]
Sent: 01 November 2015 12:48
To: Arne Astrup; Saris, Wim; Inge Huybrechts;manios@hua.gr; Inga Þórsdóttir; Andy Ness;susan.jebb@phc.ox.ac.uk; Agneta Yngve; Sibylle Kranz;lmoreno@unizar.es;
clare.collins@newcastle.edu.au; Antonis Kafatos; Jayne Woodside; Janet Cade; Dianne Ward
Subject: Fwd: Letter to BMJ re Dietary Guidelines–Please respond by Nov. 3

Dear colleagues,

Please see attached a suggestion for a BMJ retraction letter, instigated by Frank Hu at Harvard. We were asked to circulate the letter for signatures.

If you agree, please send an email to Bonnie Liebman (bliebman@cspinet.org) with a similar content to the below, in blue font, and circulate to your colleagues.

I have read the full version of the attached letter and I agree to include my sign on it.
I endorse its full content and the request to the BMJ to retract the journalist’s article.

Kind regards,

Angeliki

Why did Hu encourage colleagues to demand a retraction of what he called the terrible BMJ article for the sake of science and public health”?

We don’t know because he hasn’t responded to multiple inquiries.

2016-05-05_090024

source

But here’s what Nina Teicholz e-mailed Peter yesterday:

My BMJ article was a critique of the science used in formulating the 2015 DGA expert report. Frank Hu chaired the review on saturated fats, which I critiqued in a number of ways: it did not consult the “Nutrition Evidence Library” per standard USDA practice, and although the studies covered in the review had conflicting and contradictory conclusions regarding whether saturated fats do in fact cause death from heart disease, the review nevertheless concluded that the evidence on this point was “strong.” (Neither of these facts is disputed as part of the retraction request.) The question of whether sat fats cause heart disease has, over the past 5 years, undergone tremendous re-analysis and challenge, yet the Hu review did not reflect that ambivalence. In effect, it did not comprehensively review the most current science on this subject.

So was Dr. Hu making a good faith effort to address “an article riddled with errors” or was he attempting to censor a high-profile critic?

If he made himself available, along with that question, I’d ask him for a reaction comment to this section from Ian Leslie’s lively and informative April 7 Guardian article about the nutrition science wars:

In September last year [Teicholz] wrote an article for the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal), which makes the case for the inadequacy of the scientific advice that underpins the Dietary Guidelines. The response of the nutrition establishment was ferocious: 173 scientists – some of whom were on the advisory panel, and many of whose work had been critiqued in Teicholz’s book – signed a letter to the BMJ, demanding it retract the piece.

Publishing a rejoinder to an article is one thing; requesting its erasure is another, conventionally reserved for cases involving fraudulent data. As a consultant oncologist for the NHS, Santhanam Sundar, pointed out in a response to the letter on the BMJ website: “Scientific discussion helps to advance science. Calls for retraction, particularly from those in eminent positions, are unscientific and frankly disturbing.”

The letter lists “11 errors”, which on close reading turn out to range from the trivial to the entirely specious. I spoke to several of the scientists who signed the letter. They were happy to condemn the article in general terms, but when I asked them to name just one of the supposed errors in it, not one of them was able to. One admitted he had not read it. Another told me she had signed the letter because the BMJ should not have published an article that was not peer reviewed (it was peer reviewed). Meir Stampfer, a Harvard epidemiologist, asserted that Teicholz’s work is “riddled with errors”, while declining to discuss them with me.

See also: Voice in the Wilderness, my May 18, 2016 recap of how the DGAC in cahoots with other prominent nutrition scientists tried to gag Teicholz.

EFT on the NHS (cont.)

Why is a UK hospital offering dubious “energy therapies”? Atlanta, GA reporter and I have asked UK oversight agency

Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust

Last Monday, my Atlanta, GA blogging buddy Peter M. Heimlich and I co-signed and co-blogged a request for a review of dubious medical treatments being offered by a Liverpool hospital. We filed our request with the Care Quality Commission (CQC), “the independent regulator of health and social care in England.”

Emotional Freedom Technique NHS

Via People’s Experiences of the Health Psychology Service at Walton Hospital, Derbyshire County Community Health Services

Today we filed a similar request with the CQC re: Derbyshire Community Health Services which is apparently offering “Neuro-Linguistic Programming” (NLP), “energy therapies,” and “Emotional Freedom Technique” (EFT), treatments discussed in the post Mental Help: Procedures to Avoid by retired psychiatrist Stephen Barrett MD, founder and proprietor of Quackwatch.com. (Click here to read the request).

See also: EFT on the NHSmy April 4, 2016 item on Derbyshire Community Health Services’ promotion of Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), brain child of US author Gary “I am not a doctor” Craig.

National Holistic Service

Why is a Liverpool hospital offering dubious “holistic treatments”? Fellow blogger Peter M. Heimlich (Atlanta, GA, US) and I have asked UK oversight agency

A couple of days ago, I reported an item about how Aintree University Hospitals in Liverpool offers, apparently via the publicly-funded National Health Service, these “holistic treatments” (all links to Quackwatch.com):

“aromatherapy”
• “aromatic facial”
“reflexology”
“crystal therapy”
“reiki”
“colour therapy (chromotherapy)”

Today Peter and I co-signed (and are co-blogging) this request for a review to the Care Quality Commission, “the independent regulator of health and social care in England.” (Click here to read the request).

Crystal Therapy on the NHS

UK National Health Service promotes yet more dubious alt-med therapies

Via the Aintree University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust:

Aintree University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Crystal therapy traditionally involves placing quartz crystals on different parts of the body – often corresponding to a person’s “chakras” – in an attempt to construct an “energy grid,” which is purported to surround the subject with healing energy. 

The ancient healing powers of quartz crystals were said to have been discovered by Edgar Cayce (1877-1945), an American mystic whose “psychic readings” foresaw the lost city of Atlantis. He claimed that the citizens of Atlantis used quartz crystals “to obtain power and to amplify the natural energies of the earth and sun.”

Aintree University Hospitals further promotes colour therapy (or chromotherapy), an obscure treatment involving “the use of colour and its own unique vibrational, healing properties to balance energy in the body that may be lacking or over-stimulated.”

Needless to say, the scientific evidence does not support either therapy. 

The NHS’ promotion of the three other therapies listed above – aromatherapy (and aromatic facial), reflexology and reiki – has already garnered the attention of the mainstream media in the UK. However, the range of alternative and complementary therapies currently available on the NHS is not well documented. Stay tuned for more.

See also: EFT on the NHS, my April 4, 2016 item on Derbyshire Community Health Services’ promotion of Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), brain child of US author Gary “I am not a doctor” Craig.

EFT on the NHS

UK National Health Service promotes dubious alternative medicine therapy

Via the North Derbyshire Health Psychology Service:

Emotional Freedom Technique NHS

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is the brain child of US author Gary Craig, who despite having no medical credentials claims tapping therapy can be used to heal any and all manner of ailments, including “severe vaginal issues” and even cancer. From the horse’s mouth:

“One of the most obvious things about this weekend is the guy who’s running it – namely, me – is not a doctor. And you need to know, not only am I not a doctor, I know zip – I mean zip, or even less – about medical stuff.”

Research into the efficacy of energy psychology has shown EFT has no useful effect beyond that of a placebo. Snake oil, anyone?

No Room for Debate II

This is a sequel to my post yesterday about the Consumer Federation of America’s (CFA) decision to disinvite author of The Big Fat Surprise Nina Teicholz from the 2016 National Food Policy Conference. To recap: one of the panelists, Director of Nutrition Policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Margo Wootan, said that “concerns were raised about Teicholz’s credibility, given the significant inaccuracies in her work.” 

Wootan cited a letter that was sent to the BMJ requesting the retraction of Teicholz’s article, The scientific report guiding the US Dietary Guidelines: is it scientific?, which criticised the methodology and findings of the 2015 dietary guidelines report. The letter was organised by Wootan’s CSPI colleague, Bonnie Liebman, via an email that was circulated among 180+ university professors and graduates from the US and Europe.

I’m taking this opportunity to publish some of the responses to Liebman’s original email, which I obtained by filing records requests with various UK universities.

Name of signatory and university

Jayne Woodside, PhD / Queen’s University, Belfast
Laura Johnson, PhD; and Angeliki Papadaki, PhD, MSc, FHEA / University of Bristol
Mike Rayner, DPhil / University of Oxford
Neil Poulter, MD / Imperial College London
Graham MacGregor, MA, MB, BChir / University of London

No Room for Debate

Journalist critical of 2015 United States Dietary Guidelines disinvited from speaking at the 2016 National Food Policy Conference [Updated: Read the UK responses to Bonnie Liebman’s email re: CSPI / Nina Teicholz retraction letter by clicking here]

Nina Teicholz, journalist and author of The Big Fat Surprise, has been disinvited – or perhaps a more apt word would be “deplatformed”¹ – from a prestigious Washington, DC food policy panel. Politico reports that Teicholz, whose work challenges the science on diet and nutrition, has been replaced by Maureen Storey, president and CEO of the Alliance for Potato Research & Education. If nothing else, Storey’s pro-carb perspective will make for an agreeable talk.

Margo Wootan, Director of Nutrition Policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and National Food Policy Conference panelist, reportedly said that “concerns were raised about Teicholz’s credibility, given the significant inaccuracies in her work” – citing a letter that was sent to the BMJ requesting the retraction of Teicholz’s Sept. 23, 2015 article, The scientific report guiding the US Dietary Guidelines: is it scientific?, which strongly criticised the methodology and findings of the 2015 dietary guidelines report.

The Nov. 5, 2015 letter was organised by Wootan’s CSPI colleague, Director of Nutrition Bonnie Liebman, via an email that was circulated among more than 180 university professors and graduates from the United States and elsewhere. For a sense of the slipshod organisation and uncritical thinking that went into the preparation of the letter, click here for Liebman’s original email plus a sample of the responses, which I obtained via a records request to Queen’s University, Belfast.

Click here to sign a petition to reinstate Teicholz on the panel at the National Food Policy Conference on April 6-7.

See also: Disappearing Act: 18 co-signers of BMJ retraction request letter are now MIA, which I co-authored with Atlanta, GA reporter Peter M. Heimlich last December.

¹Deplatforming means disinviting a speaker at the insistence of a special interest group, and is traditionally the domain of hypersensitive undergrads, as seen last October when students at Cardiff University (UK) petitioned to cancel a lecture by iconic feminist Germaine Greer.