Nina Teicholz Distorts the Facts Again

So in No Big Surprise fashion, Nina Teicholz, is back at it again, this time in the New York Times with an editorial.  It's bad enough that she has mangled past history, and the science, beyond recognition, but this time she is distorting (one might justifiably use a stronger word such as LIE at this point) current events.  

The Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is out.   (It is important to realize that these are not the actual guidelines, but the DGAC report, the official guidelines will not be issued by the USDA and HHS until sometime later this year if not early next).

Who did the NYT tap to comment?   Someone with ANY knowledge of nutritional science?  No.  Nina Teicholz.  Seriously, Gray Lady.  This was clearly commissioned in advance, you couldn't do any better for your readers?  Is business that bad?  I guess so.  

The Government's Bad Dietary Advice by Nina Teicholz

Let's start with the big fat lie, and I've included some additional commentary from my original post at the end here.  After lamenting that nobody listened to Pete Ahrens, the Cassandra of his day, she writes:
Today, we are poised to make the same mistakes. The committee’s new report also advised eliminating “lean meat” from the list of recommended healthy foods, as well as cutting back on red and processed meats. Fewer protein choices will likely encourage Americans to eat even more carbs. It will also have policy implications: Meat could be limited in school lunches and other federal food programs.
Would it surprise you to learn that this is not true?  I'm guessing it will come as no surprise to most of my readers.  It's truly outrageous that Teicholz gets away with saying such things, but nobody in the mainstream seems to have the desire to question a word she says.  I haven't read the entire report.  It is long.  But in this electronic age, there's a wonderful thing called a search function that can help in fact checking.  On page 16 of the PDF of the report they write:
The overall body of evidence examined by the 2015 DGAC identifies that a healthy dietary pattern is higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat;[1] and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains. 
Footnote [1] reads as follows:
As lean meats were not consistently defined or handled similarly between studies, they were not identified as a common characteristic across the reviews. However, as demonstrated in the food pattern modeling of the Healthy U.S.-style and Healthy Mediterranean-style patterns,  lean meats can be a part of a healthy dietary pattern
This same quotation is repeated in bold face on page 39, along with the same footnote.  On that page, the report discusses dietary patterns, and the applicability of the recommendations to individuals and populations.  Interestingly, the quote is followed by:
Additional strong evidence shows that it is not necessary to eliminate food groups or conform to a single dietary pattern to achieve healthy dietary patterns. Rather, individuals can combine foods in a variety of flexible ways to achieve healthy dietary patterns, and these strategies should be tailored to meet the individual’s health needs, dietary preferences and cultural traditions. Current research also strongly demonstrates that regular physical activity promotes health and reduces chronic disease risk.
Sounds reasonable to me.  These would be 4 or the 9 instances where "lean meat" (or the plural) appears in the report.  Here are the other four unique occurrences, page numbers are for the PDF:
  1. Adolescent and premenopausal females should increase consumption of foods rich in iron. Heme iron from lean meats is highly bioavailable, hence, an excellent source.8  (p. 82)
  2. Protein Foods , 1 ounce equivalent is: 1 ounce lean meat, poultry, or fish; 1 egg; ¼ cup cooked dry beans or tofu; 1 Tbsp peanut butter; ½ ounce nuts or seeds.  (p. 174)
  3. Colon/Rectal Cancer: Moderate evidence indicates an inverse association between dietary patterns that are higher in vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, lean meats/seafood, and low fat dairy and moderate in alcohol; and low in red and/or processed meats, saturated fat, and sodas/sweets relative to other dietary patterns and the risk of colon/rectal cancer. Conversely, diets that are higher in red/processed meats, French fries/potatoes, and sources of sugars (i.e., sodas, sweets, and dessert foods) are associated with a greater colon/rectal cancer risk.  DGAC Grade: Moderate  (p. 265, repeated in summary table p. 278)
  4. Lean meat—Any meat with less than 10% fat by weight, or less than 10 grams of fat per 100 grams, based on USDA and FDA definitions for food label use. Examples include 95% lean ground beef, cooked; broiled beef steak, lean only eaten; baked pork chop, lean only eaten; roasted chicken breast or leg, no skin eaten; and smoked/cured ham, lean only eaten.  (p. 540)
NOWHERE, does this report specifically "advise" anything to the effect of *eliminating*.  Also note that this is more of a statement of what constitutes healthy dietary patterns, and does not serve as a list of "recommended foods".  No specific mention of lean meats was because they were not universally part of healthy dietary patterns evidence base.  This is NOT the same as "advising eliminating" anything from the list.  Footnote [1] appears to be intended to prevent just such an erroneous interpretation!  Its placement is directly after the phrase "lower in red and processed meats".    That footnote could not be more clear!   I'm really left to wonder if Teicholz is capable of reading for herself.  I know that sounds harsh, but you tell me please how someone could read this part of the report and come away with her "interpretation".

So to go one step further, I searched on eliminate and found:
Of note is that no food groups need to be eliminated completely to improve sustainability outcomes over the current status.  (p. 19, p. 423)
Additional strong evidence shows that it is not necessary to eliminate food groups or conform to a single dietary pattern to achieve healthy dietary patterns  (p. 39)
Eliminate was used in reference to sweetened beverages in school lunches.  Perhaps that's where Teicholz got the idea that protein was going to be endangered in the schools?   Further use of eliminate was regarding the negative consequences of eliminating milk in favor of SSBs (and getting pediatricians on board), and discussions of dietary patterns involving the elimination of certain foods and beverages (e.g. vegetarianism).   That's it.  Red meat?  No call to eliminate that either.  

To read Teicholz, you would think there was a bullet point "what's new" in this report.  Something specifically removing "lean meats" from some golden list of healthy foods?  It's simply not in there.  Teicholz is utterly irresponsible for misrepresenting the committee and its document the way she has.

Speculation:   I don't think Teicholz actually read the report and simply misstated something.  No, she simply paraphrased the talking points fed to her incorrectly.  It is increasingly obvious that something to the effect of political talking points is circulating about certain actors in the community.   Teicholz has no formal training as a journalist, to add to her utter lack of scientific background.  This results quite frequently in absurd statements. What appears to have happened is that the committee "eliminated" lean meats from the list of foods in the "overall" category as part of a healthy diet pattern.  Hence footnote [1].  Please go read it for yourself in context.  Page 16 of the PDF.  The talking points likely mentioned this, neglecting to point out that lean meats were specifically given the positive nod in the footnote.  Teicholz just mangled the translation.  This doesn't let her off the hook, mind you, it just raises the question of who is feeding her the lines.  You cannot read that report first hand and come away with her wording.  You can't.  It would be difficult to come away with there even being any sort of souring on lean meats by the committee.

Go watch, or rewatch a few minutes of Teicholz's TED talk 

You'd hardly recognize her from the far more polished, and exquisitely practiced, Teicholz.   

The rest of the original post ....

[I had written this as a prelude, but thought it ended up detracting from the overall point of Teicholz grossly misrepresenting the report.  Without any further editing ... ]

Regarding Teicholz's editorial:  This is filled with your typical (other) food industry lobby, observational studies, weak evidence clap trap that Teicholz is known for.  I've written a lot about her book and claims.  It remains mind boggling that anyone of serious mind takes her seriously.  She now writes:
Uncertain science should no longer guide our nutrition policy. Indeed, cutting fat and cholesterol, as Americans have conscientiously done, may have even worsened our health. In clearing our plates of meat, eggs and cheese (fat and protein), we ate more grains, pasta and starchy vegetables (carbohydrates). Over the past 50 years, we cut fat intake by 25 percent and increased carbohydrates by more than 30 percent, according to a new analysis of government data. Yet recent science has increasingly shown that a highcarb diet rich in sugar and refined grains increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease — much more so than a diet high in fat and cholesterol.
There is no support for these statistics.  We did not, as a population, cut fat.  If Teicholz had actually READ the 500 page report she's blasting, she would know this.  The 25% cut is a mathematical trick, a DISHONEST portrayal of what has happened.  Such dishonesty should never be tolerated, least of all in those who claim to be exposing such behavior in others.     I have used this example before.  If my financial planner advises me to cut my entertainment expenses to save for retirement, he/she is NOT talking about me going out to buy a new car or move to a pricier abode so that the percentage of my income that goes towards entertainment is reduced.  This is what Americans did, and it was NOT at the behest of following -- conscientiously, obediently, dutifully, or whatever other absurd adjective Teicholz wants to use -- government guidelines.  

In her book, Teicholz makes the unsubstantiated (e.g. unreferenced) claim that Americans have reduced fat intake from roughly 43% to 33%.  This conflicts with data from both Keys and Yerushalmy & Hilleboe presented in her book (in addition to studies like LA Veterans) that put the fat intake at roughly 40%.  Americans reduced the PERCENTAGE of fat from the high-mid to the low-mid 30's.  This is clearly where she gets her claim about 25%.  Far be it for Teicholz to cite and rely on actual evidence.  Evidence such as:  Dietary Assessment of Major Trends in U.S. Food Consumption, 1970-2005  (HT @erik_arnesen on Twitter).

Americans have NOT "cleared our plates" of meat, eggs and cheese.  In 2005, red meat still made up the majority of meat on American plates, despite the rise in poultry (not always included in "meat").   The Dietary Guidelines (and Goals of the committee) have ALWAYS included advice against sugar, particularly added sugar consumption.   Blaming the Guidelines for American consumption patterns that fly in the face of them is dishonest.  Period.

One last quote from Teicholz:
It’s possible that a mostly meatless diet could be healthy for all Americans but then again, it might not be. We simply do not know. There are no rigorous clinical trials on such a diet, and although epidemiological data exists for adult vegetarians, there is none for children.
This woman is a joke.  Seriously.  Thanks to commenter Jackie over on Science of Nutrition blog, it was brought up that Teicholz has described the American diet as "near-vegetarian".  This is absurd on its face.  But when one realizes that Teicholz with nary a blink of irony, has repeated her "epiphany" when doing restaurant reviews for a low budget outfit numerous times, perhaps it's possible she doesn't know what a vegetarian is.  How else to explain how she describes here own diet as vegetarian, but wherein she frequently ordered chicken breast?  The term "near-vegetarian" is used to describe the American diet five times in her book, with several more instances (including a section heading) on Ornish's version.  The first instance she writes:
It’s possible to think of the low-fat, near-vegetarian diet of the past half-century as an uncontrolled experiment on the entire American population , significantly altering our traditional diet with unintended results.
altered slightly from original linked to in text

 (HT to Seth for images of the hardcover he shared at my link).  Yeah, that's why in 2005, while beef was down and poultry up, we were still talking about meat consumption exceeding recommendations and not being *that* much off the mark from 1970.  Furthermore, to say that Americans now, or have ever, eaten a near vegetarian diet is laughable.  Check out:  The Making Of Meat-Eating America.  They link to the plot of global consumption.  Enough said, regardless of some likely under-reporting of consumption from certain regions, this map speaks volumes.  Teicholz deserves to be mocked openly for her descriptions of the American diet.  And her writing ought to be roundly criticized into obsolescence.

OK ... Sorry for the disjointed post, I didn't have time to fix it up.  I have MUCH more to say about #LowCredHighFraud Disinformation Force at work.  Later!


charles grashow said…

Dr. David Katz: Don’t believe everything you read

Saturated Fat is Back, Or Is It?

Don’t take dietary advice from non-experts
charles grashow said…

Atkins vs. Ornish: Copyright © 2014 by Nina Teicholz. The Fight Over Fat
MacSmiley said…
Hmmm. I wonder if Teicholz is alarmingly reacting to a similar claim of PRCM recapping that lean meats have been dropped from the Recommended List instead of being included in the footnote on a technicality… an indication of her failure to read the actual document?? 👀

[I am a mostly plants gal myself, but I would object to PRCM's characterization of the committee "singling out" vegetarian diets when such a diet pattern is more of an inclusion than a coronation. That's a victory in and of itself. Why exaggerate?]

Of course, there's nothing to contradict the possibility that Teicholz is merely exaggerating to stoke the fires of her own audience.

PS. As for under-reporting on the global meat consumption map (US only 120 lbs?), is there any accuracy to the lesser meat consumption in Greece? Teicholz is evidently connected to that country by marriage. If so, why isn't she pushing freshly-pressed extra virgin olive oil, HCHF instead of LCHF butter/meat/cheese?

That is the question.
Lighthouse Keeper said…
Yes, this woman is a flame fanner extraordinaire. According to Teicholz the Mediterranean Diet has only gained it's recent credibility and traction due to nutrition proffessors being whisked away to conferences held in exotic southern european destinations and being so overwhelmed by the experience and environs that they simply had no choice but to give the diet the thumbs up, and all funded by Big Olive no doubt. Here we see it's not about fat, this woman's agenda is anti carb. The Mediterranean diet can be as high fat as you choose but it does include those horrid whole grains.
Erik Arnesen said…
Go check Marion Nestle's blog where Teicholz responds to her critics: You couldn't make it up.
MacSmiley said…
Duh! I just noticed Charles posted this debate below. And guess what? Here's a screen print from the beginning of the debate! Look at the title.
MichaelGWS said…
The reporting I've seen has said the new guidelines encourage plant consumption over meat consumption for environmental reasons. I don't know what the actual report says but here is an example:

Maybe Nina just reads a lot of HuffPo? Relevant graph:

"Much to the chagrin of the U.S. Congress (and the delight of environmentalists), the committee for the first time considered the environmental impact of our diets. To that end, they recommended eating a plant-based diet that was low in red and processed meat, and they were roundly criticized for it by meat industry spokespeople."
carbsane said…
"Meat industry spokespeople" -- I'm going to have a bit to say about this. I don't think they are evil, but Teicholz and her ilk are constantly talking about the "food industry" being the purveyors of sugar, grains and processed foods. The beef industry is P.O.W.E.R.F.U.L. in this country. They are not happy.

Even Loren Cordain has said from the beginining that a meat-centric paleo diet can't be sustained globally. Not even close. It's the westerners that need to revert to it though, the poor plant-based/grain-legume based populations can keep going as they are. Very bizarre.
carbsane said…
PS I finally got around to whitelisting you so your posts should go through now hopefully :-)
MacSmiley said…
The DGAC's recommendations on more plant-based dietary patterns in view of sustainability is a new facet of the guidelines this time around. However, this is an addition, not the sole basis, for those recommendations.
MacSmiley said…
"Whatever the potential health virtues of eating a genuine approximation of our Stone Age diet, there is no space on this planet for >7 billion hunter-gatherers." ~ Dr. David Katz
carbsane said…
I do believe that this part of the guidelines seems to overstep the intended purpose of the committee.

It is unfortunate that they invite controversy by doing so. This is not to say that there are important considerations to be made, but in terms of what constitutes a healthy diet, environmental impact should not be intermingled with the nutrition/health evidence.
carbsane said…
This from July 2006 Wayback Machine on the FAQ's of Cordain's website. Note the question to follow ... oh the lean meat ;-)
MacSmiley said…
Hmm. No screen print, Disqus? Just as well. The CNN moderator mentioned something about a program name change, so NT might not have necessarily been inaccurate on this, depending upon her source.
MacSmiley said…
Great FUNNNNNNN from Dr. David Katz

We're Fat and Sick and the Broccoli Did It!

carbsane said…
OMG is she digging her hole. This woman cannot debate honestly.

Katz is a riot!
LWC said…
For someone looking to upend conventional nutritional wisdom, she is remarkably thin-skinned when challenged.
StellaBarbone said…
The link to Dr. Katz in the Huffpo is broken. Here's a new one:
charles grashow said…
Garlic, leafy lettuce, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers. I get fat if I eat a salad???

charles grashow said…
"Americans have increased carbs by more than 30% since 1965 and cut fat by 25%"
Statistical review of U.S. macronutrient consumption data, 1965–2011

Evan Cohen2,
Michael Cragg2,
Jehan deFonseka2,
Adele Hite1,
Melanie Rosenberg2,
Bin Zhou2

1Adele Hite is a PhD student at North Carolina State University.

2The Brattle Group, an economic consulting firm.

•Americans have been adhering to federal dietary guidelines for the past 40 years
•Fat consumption by U.S. adults has decreased from 45% to 34% between 1965 and 2011
•Carbohydrate consumption has increased from 39% to 51% over this same period
•There is a high correlation between the change in diet and the rise of OBESITY
•The percentage of overweight adults has increased from 42% to 66% since 1971
charles grashow said…

This report covers 1965 to 1995 so the BIG reduction had to have happened in the last 20 years. Did it??
foodrevboulder said…
Yeah, let's pull out the veggie chart but ignore the 41% growth in consumption of grains, the 19% increase in added sugar, the 6% increase milk products. And really, what difference does it make that consumption of added fats grew by 63%? But, well, umm, just ignore that part. Yes, some of the growth in added fats is a reporting anomaly but it's hard to ignore the elephant in that room.
HenrikBugge said…
The editor for Sceptic Magazine Michael Shrermer says on Twitter:
"Nina Teicholz's book is a good read & she did her homework showing that the diet-cholesterol-heart disease connection is not that solid."
carbsane said…
It's really quite sad that Shermner didn't do HIS homework :(
HenrikBugge said…
Not one of the sceptic leaders have critizied Shermers standpoint, and Nina Teicholz have got support from very qualified scientists.
So maybe Michael Shermer is right, and you wrong.
carbsane said…
Now we have "sceptic [sic] leaders"? If Shermer has gotten so lazy that he'll jump on Teicholz's bandwagon -- considering her a fellow skeptic I suppose -- without doing his homework, then he has lost credibility as a skeptic himself.

It's not about who is right or wrong, it's about how Teicholz's version of facts matches -- or in most cases doesn't match with -- the facts on the record.

The media giants of yesteryear have all lost clout, market share and dollars, so if hyping books like this makes them feel important again, gets their name mentioned, and maybe even generates some ad dollars, I guess that's all that matters.