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We're once again talking about Brian Wasink, the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. They were in the news last year over a retracted study, and he's back again with six more studies retracted. Nutrition research is hard. This is also not great for the public’s perception of science.

Aaron has a book out now! It’s called The Bad Food Bible: How and Why to Eat Sinfully. You can order a copy now!!!

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You may remember we did an episode, about a year ago, on how a study about Elmo stickers and cookies fell apart, had to be retracted, because it turned out the study hadn't been performed on school kids, as originally thought, but on much younger children in pre-school. Things have gotten worse. This is Healthcare Triage News.

[Intro Music]

Last week the author, Cornell researcher, Brian Wansink, had six papers retracted from JAMA Network Journals, all on the same day. Full disclosure, I'm social media editor from JAMA Pediatrics, one of those journals. Doctor Wansink was the director of Cornell's Food and Brand Lab, and he's one of the most well-known researchers in the world when it comes to making changes that might improve our diets. He was well-known, because his work showed again and again that you could make simple, tiny nudges to people and have drastic changes occur. It said, in other words, that it isn't as hard as we might think to get people to eat healthy. It was popular stuff. His studies were cited more than twenty thousand times. You know those hundred-calorie snack packs? Thank his work for those.

But, as of now, thirteen of his studies have been retracted. One said that if you shop when you're hungry, you buy more food. So, obviously, should shop when you're not. Another said that if you pre-order your lunch before it's time to eat, you make better choices. Another said that if you give people smaller bowls, they eat less. And all of these studies made news. It's likely you've heard of at least one of them, and they've all been retracted.

For some time, people have been calling for Cornell to investigate, and they have. It's taken a while, and more than one person has questioned whether they were dragging their feet because the lab, and Wansink's work, brought in a huge amount of money to the school and prestige.

Cornell's provost recently said Dr. Wansink's issues, and I'm quoting, included the misreporting of research data, problematic statistical techniques, failure to properly document and preserve research results, and inappropriate authorship. 

Wansink has decided to resign at the end of this academic year. He still maintains that he did nothing wrong, and that others will vindicate his work. I'm a little skeptical, not because I think he's evil, but because if there is one lesson to be learned from Healthcare Triage about nutrition, it's this: There are no easy solutions. If we could magically make things easier, we would. If we would get people to eat healthier with no pain, with no hard choices, with no trade-offs, we'd do it. Of course we would. There are always trade-offs, in everything when it comes to healthcare, even with food.

Many news stories about this in the past week and months to come will focused on the scientific methods used or misused in this work, and that's important and it's real. But, the lesson I hope you take home is this: be skeptical. If someone tells you a new study overturns everything we know and makes a complicated problem seem easy, question it.

[Outro Music]

Do you like the show? Always helps if you like or subscribe right down there. And another good way for you to support the show is with a subscription service called Patreon.com, where you the viewer can directly support on anything you like, like a dollar a month. More if you like, but if you don't want to, totally fine as well. Go to Patreon.com/HealthcareTriage to see how you can help.

We'd especially like to thank our Research Associates, Joe Sevits, Crafty_Geek, and Jonathon Dunn, and, of course, our Surgeon Admiral, Sam. As always, go to hctmerch.com to pick up good Healthcare Triage merch and my book, The Bad Food Bible, still on sale in stores.