Author Archives: Colby Vorland

Fact Checking a Perlmutter Interview

Nutritional pseudoscience predominates in part because it is too easy for self-proclaimed experts to get away with saying anything they want without producing evidence. Such is the case for "Grain Brain" and "Brain Maker" author Dr. David Perlmutter, who claims - to paraphrase - that grains cause such wide-ranging diseases as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, ADHD, autism, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and cancer, to name just a few. Perlmutter has a long history with pseudoscience- detailed in this Read more [...]

Experimental Biology 2015 Tweet Analysis #expbio

Like 2014 and 2013, I collected tweets for the 2015 Experimental Biology conference (dataset here). The following are some comparisons between the 3 years. This year, there was an increase in the total number of tweets to the hashtags over the official conference start and end times of 8:00am EST, Saturday March 28 to 4:30pm, Wednesday April 1. The hashtags that were collected were: #xbio, #eb2015, #expbio, #asnatexpbio (this one was added at 10:36pm EST on Saturday, March 28 after I noticed that Read more [...]

Chemicals and Food: A Little Perspective

What do formaldehyde, hydrogen peroxide, and acetaldehyde have in common? They are all chemicals that we perceive as dangerous and known carcinogens or mutagens. They are also all likely to be found in your Thanksgiving dinner. No - they are not additives, preservatives, or contaminants - rather compounds found naturally in food. It is not uncommon to hear an argument that “artificial” chemicals added to food are dangerous. However, natural vs unnatural is not a good indicator of risk, and it Read more [...]

No, Dietary Guidelines Are Not Making Us Sick

Frequently I see the claim that dietary guidelines are the reason we are overweight and sick. It is used to sell books, particular diet strategies, or just to inject doubt about government agencies and nutrition science. This of course rests on the assumption that people are following the recommendations. Some groups have explored the proportion of the population that meets recommendations for various food groups. A good paper is by Krebs-Smith and colleagues from 2010, who used NHANES '01-'04 data Read more [...]

Experimental Biology 2014 Tweet Analysis #xbio

Like last year, I collected all tweets posted to #xbio and #eb2014 over the Experimental Biology conference. Here they are in a CSV file. Last year there were 5,455 over a 10 day period, and this year there are 6,223 over an 18 day period. During the last 8 days there were only about 120 tweets, so there were about 600 more tweets this year, and that was with a technology fail and loss of about 20 hours of tweets on the 30th (see graph). So there were probably at least several hundred more in that Read more [...]

Food Fortification in a Changing Environment

Over the last century, food fortification has been one of the great public health successes in nutrition, dramatically reducing the risk for diseases like pellagra, rickets, and goiter. But as Dr. Christine Taylor discussed, there has been a gradual paradigm shift in how we think about fortification. These changes were discussed in the session: “Fortification and Health: Opportunities and Challenges”, sponsored by ILSI North America on Saturday, April 26 at Experimental Biology in San Diego. Read more [...]

Is Self-Reported Diet Data Good Enough for Nutrition Science?

Southwest Airlines is consistently rated as serving good food on their flights, yet they don’t serve food at all. Can we trust diet data if people don’t know if they even ate? This amusing anecdote was offered by Dr. David Allison at Experimental Biology in San Diego in the session: “Not Everything That Counts Can be Counted and Not Everything That Can be Counted Counts: How Should We Collect Dietary Data for Research?” chaired by Drs. Regan Bailey and Claire Zizza. The panel took a critical Read more [...]

Experimental Biology 2014 Nutrition Poster Data Visualizations

All of the abstracts from Experimental Biology are public, and sortable by society (i.e. nutrition, anatomy, etc). So I wrote a little program* to scrape all 1,402 of the nutrition poster abstracts to try some visualizations using the software Gephi. First, here are the top 20 terms appearing in abstracts and the number of times they occur: effects dietary intake children effect food status 135 116 110 109 98 93 81 study mice nutrition vitamin adult consumption supplementation 79 77 76 72 71 71 70 cells diet women associated weight body 69 69 69 67 67 65 Below Read more [...]

The Underappreciated Role of Intestinal Fat Storage

Could a “fatty intestine” be related to insulin resistance and energy balance? These and other provocative questions were addressed by Dr. Elizabeth Parks last Saturday evening at Experimental Biology in San Diego. Organized by the Energy and Macronutrients Research Interest Section, Dr. Parks gave a seminar titled, “Going with your gut: Individual responses in dietary fat absorption.” Dr. Parks’ research often focuses on the cephalic phase of digestion - or the early physiological response Read more [...]

Addressing the Bias in Nutrition Science

“Nutrition deals with something very close to our hearts but often pretty far from our good judgement,” said LA Times journalist Mary MacVean, shortly after she humorously named 10 fad diet books that she received in the last few weeks. MacVean, who received the Science Media Award from ASN for her work in communicating science, introduced the session “Unscientific Beliefs about Scientific Topics in Nutrition” at Experimental Biology in San Diego on Sunday, chaired by Dr. David Allison. The Read more [...]