The Inadmissibility of What We Eat in America and NHANES Dietary Data in Nutrition and Obesity Research and the Scientific Formulation of National Dietary Guidelines

Academic Article

Abstract

  • © 2015 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. The Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee was primarily informed by memory-based dietary assessment methods (M-BMs) (eg, interviews and surveys). The reliance on M-BMs to inform dietary policy continues despite decades of unequivocal evidence that M-BM data bear little relation to actual energy and nutrient consumption. Data from M-BMs are defended as valid and valuable despite no empirical support and no examination of the foundational assumptions regarding the validity of human memory and retrospective recall in dietary assessment. We assert that uncritical faith in the validity and value of M-BMs has wasted substantial resources and constitutes the greatest impediment to scientific progress in obesity and nutrition research. Herein, we present evidence that M-BMs are fundamentally and fatally flawed owing to well-established scientific facts and analytic truths. First, the assumption that human memory can provide accurate or precise reproductions of past ingestive behavior is indisputably false. Second, M-BMs require participants to submit to protocols that mimic procedures known to induce false recall. Third, the subjective (ie, not publicly accessible) mental phenomena (ie, memories) from which M-BM data are derived cannot be independently observed, quantified, or falsified; as such, these data are pseudoscientific and inadmissible in scientific research. Fourth, the failure to objectively measure physical activity in analyses renders inferences regarding diet-health relationships equivocal. Given the overwhelming evidence in support of our position, we conclude that M-BM data cannot be used to inform national dietary guidelines and that the continued funding of M-BMs constitutes an unscientific and major misuse of research resources.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Archer E; Pavela G; Lavie CJ
  • Start Page

  • 911
  • End Page

  • 926
  • Volume

  • 90
  • Issue

  • 7