“Do you discuss nutrition with your patients?” the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy survey asked physicians. Three-quarters of them replied “always” or “most of the time.” “Do you feel qualified to talk about nutrition with your patients?” Again, 3 out of 4 said, “Yes.” To which I say, “Watch out!”
I have cause to be concerned. The Medscape article which reported the findings links them to two pieces: 1) A “recent study” that “associates…a sub-optimal diet” with “a substantial proportion of deaths in the United States due to heart disease, stroke and diabetes,” and 2) another that nudges physicians to “know what advice to give.” It couches this advice as “evidence-based nutritional advice” to help healthcare professionals deal with “information overload” on diet and nutrition. The whole point – the pretext for the Tufts “survey” – was to “educate” physicians and other healthcare professionals with that advice, i.e., their agenda-driven POV.
I agree there’s an association of “heart disease, stroke and diabetes” with a sub-optimal diet…a very strong association. Deaths from heart disease and stroke are much higher among type 2 diabetics and “pre-diabetics.” This association has led to the phrase “cardiometabolic disease” (CMD). But, again, on which diet did they become diabetic and develop heart disease? The Tufts answer (“evidence-base”) is just “association.”
The study was presented at the American Heart Association Epidemiology and Prevention-Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health (EPI-Lifestyle) 2017 Scientific Session. The findings were also commented on in Medscape by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Welch Center for Prevention Epidemiology. More epidemiologists! Epidemiology suggests hypotheses, not cause and effect!
Why is that significant? Because epidemiology can only address “associated with” and “related to” findings. But that does not deter them. This “poor diet” link, using “comparative risk assessment models,” estimates that 45% of cardiometabolic disease (CMD) deaths were “associated with” 10 dietary factors, and that these factors have “‘probable or convincing evidence’ for causality” (my emphasis). Epidemiologists are shameless in their reckless disregard for a basic tenet of the scientific method: Correlation does not imply causation.
The “10 dietary [death] factors” ranged in descending order from a high of 9.5% for 1) salt (“excess sodium”), to 2) low intake of nuts/seeds, 3) high intake of processed meats, 4) low seafood omega-3 fats, 5) low intake of vegetables, 6) low intake of fruits, 7) high sugar-sweetened beverages, 8) low intake of whole grains, 9) low intake of polyunsaturated fats and finally, at 0.4%, to 10) high intake of unprocessed red meats. Hmmm… Zero point four percent does not strike me as statistically significant, but I guess they just had to include red meat.
We can also be grateful that a low intake of polyunsaturated fats (corn oil, soy bean oil, etc), at 2.3%, ranked only 8th on the list. A higher intake, as they advocate, would, IMHO, only have raised the risk of death greatly.
This is what your doctor, if (s)he was not on the golf course, is learning and says (s)he knows about nutrition. To relieve “information overload,” Tufts gives these 6 educational talking points from the “advice to give” link.This is just the Government’s plant-based, one-size-fits-all, Mediterranean diet. It doesn’t mention carbs or type 2 diabetes, and if you are currently lean and healthy and ate this way, you could stay healthy. For the rest of us, balanced would need to be carefully defined, and avoiding all polyunsaturated vegetable oils stressed. Personally, though, I would rather embrace carnivory than give up red meat for a 0.4% increase in CMD death.