Trust a Veg Researcher? Nestle Says No, Barnard Says Yes. (Video)

What's a researcher to do when results call for a personal makeover? I thought the obvious answer was "learn and adapt."
06/25/2012 12:28 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What's a researcher to do when results call for a personal makeover? I thought the obvious answer was "learn and adapt." But for now, becoming vegan or vegetarian might cause your research to be ignored by top reporters and professors.

That was the unfortunate message from a session on "Staying Afloat in a Sea of Science News" at this year's International Association of Culinary Professionals conference. Two influential authors, New York Times reporter Melissa Clark and New York University professor Dr. Marion Nestle, discussed the flood of industry-funded studies they receive with Tweet-friendly titles such as "Chocolate Doesn't Make You Fat."

During the Q&A, the director of public relations for the Canadian Beef Council suggested, "Journalists should contact the commodity boards to help clarify issues and to help develop their critical thinking."

Nestle firmly rejected an offer, saying she'd contact scientists instead of the boards. And no, not scientists from the commodity boards, because the boards pay those scientists.

Clark expanded the information embargo, saying she also wouldn't ask vegetarians. Instead, she'd ask "people more like her, who eat some dairy and some meat."

Dr. Nestle agreed, which was surprising. In her new book Why Calories Count, she lists vegetarian and vegan under the heading "Pick a Diet that Works for You" as ways to "eat less and eat better."

Should scientists walk the walk? I have a friend who studies magnetic-field interruptions on biological systems. He listens to his cell phone using an earpiece, and does not carry his phone near body parts that he doesn't want, um, interrupted. I assume that Ignaz Semmelweis, the "savior of mothers," broke with tradition and started washing his hands before delivering babies after he discovered that doing so greatly reduced infant mortality.

Isn't it just logical that most nutrition researchers would eat in a more informed manner than most folks at the food court, what ever "more informed" means to them?

What does a top vegan researcher like Dr. Neal Barnard think about having his research ignored because of the way he eats? I asked him the next day. See his response in the video below, just after he tells me about his findings on the effectiveness of vegan diets for diabetics.

He says:

How are you ever going to have decent research if it's done by people who are still eating cheeseburgers and all that kind of junk? It's hard for them to be objective. But every sensible researcher, sooner or later, is probably going to become a vegan when they see what this kind of diet does.

What do you think? Have you changed your behavior based on research? Would you lose trust if you caught vegan firefighter Rip Esselstyn with a bucket o' fried chicken or found out that Dr. Atkins had really been a fruitarian? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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