Do you believe bacon causes diabetes? Cancer? If not, you may be an apostate in 2023, when we've just exited a period during which any skepticism of epidemiology(1) is met with the 2020s equivalent of 'Do you even Science, Bro?'
There is just one problem. Epidemiology isn't science. It is instead, in the best circumstance, a statistical effort to point scientists in the right direction. That is not the same thing, and in the worst circumstance it can be a weapon for social engineering, as epidemiologists placed within the International Agency for Research on Cancer to get classifications on products for trial lawyers showed.
Instead of informing public health, too many want to find a new Smoking Gun or, in the case of epidemiology, a new Smoking. Cigarettes were the big win for epidemiology 60 years ago, and their findings carried a lot of weight because it was once a group so data-driven they were the last to accept a hereditary link to cancer. That's right, a field that now trots out Scary Chemicals and Miracle Vegetables every month was once so conservative about its methodology they didn't accept family history mattered in cancer until long after the science community knew it to be true.
Now we get claims that nitrates and nitrites cause type 2 diabetes - but only if they are added, not natural. It's so weirdly narrow and unscientific it looks like Whole Foods funded the research.
What kind of magic must occur for added nitrites to cause diabetes while natural ones don't? It is outside the realm of science but that is a problem with epidemiology this century. From organic industry activists like former National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences head Dr. Linda Birnbaum (bonus:she's even against fluoride - your tax dollars fund this group) to all those who have infested EPA to promote their belief in virtual pollution, they insist they found a statistical correlation and then tell scientists they need to drop everything real and find a biological mechanism for how their suggested link exists.
That is the opposite of science. It has worked, smoking and alcohol are good examples, but now every epidemiologist wants to claim they found the next smoking and alcohol - or at least write a diet book based on the miracle vegetable health link they claim exists with statistical significance.
While some argue (including me) that statistical significance enables a lot of nonsense, but the bigger problem is the culture of 'food' and 'chemical' epidemiology. People rarely go into it unless they want to pile onto scaremonger already common. Fetishizing statistical significance is just a means to an end.
Sometimes they need to get really weird, like claiming that natural products, such as nitrites and nitrates cause type 2 diabetes - oops, sorry, they will insist they do not say "cause", they suggest, link, and correlate in studies before demanding actions on their non-risk in press releases and media accounts - and for that they need cosmic numbers of people to seem authoritative. In this paper it is 104,168 participants in the NutriNet-Santé cohort. All surveys are suspect, that is why epidemiology is in the giant red EXPLORATORY pile, but this is an uncontrolled web-based survey where people self-report everything, so it has even less credibility. Nonetheless, the authors conclude this breezy finding will "support the need for better regulation of soil contamination by fertilizers."
So fertilizer causes diabetes? That is even weirder than the time that Crossfit guy (not the racist, or the paramilitary one who threatens people, the one who hired them) claimed Coca-Cola causes diabetes and threatened to sue me, the Jonas Brothers, and everyone else who told him that Coke has saved a whole lot of diabetics while Crossfit has never saved a single one.
Nitrates and nitrates are natural preservatives and they help plants grow also. They are used in fertilizers, including certified organic ones, because they biodegrade fast and have high solubility. There is concern about nitrogen runoff if too much is used but fortunately the organic industry, which needs 6X as many chemicals per calorie compared to conventional food, is not the norm, so their impact on the environment is less than it would be if it were popular outside rich, white people.
Yet $130 billion per year in revenue shows that for a lot of people, the kind that pay money to attend Food Tank events and whatever, science doesn't matter. There is an entire highly-paid industry built around promoting alternatives to science, and especially food. Organic food is 400% more revenue than even the supplements market, and they're thrilled this claim came out because they can scare mothers into believing if they care about kids they will buy a Nocebo - which, unlike a placebo such as acupuncture, which creates belief of a positive effect, is belief in a positive effect from eliminating something harmless. That nocebo is 'no added nitrates.' It still has lots of nitrates, but none added. Outside growing the food. Really, even angels dancing on the head of a pin have trouble understanding how that can be actionable outside organic trade groups using 'penalize our competitors' lobbying.
The good news is this stuff is recursive. With a paper published - even in a pay-to-publish journal -the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences can send the authors taxpayer money to endorse organic food and promote chemophobia.(2)
That means Whole Foods can make new commercials for their real target audience.
Middle-aged white guy with a man-bun/ponytail on roller skates? Check. Middle-aged white couple in their pajamas dancing with joy because they believe peasants grew the produce they'll throw out next week using no science? Check. Throw in some non-specific people of color at the end so 'Frisco residents can feel tolerant and Whole Foods commercials practically film themselves.
The type 2 diabetes issue has nothing to do with fertilizer.
Type 2 diabetes is almost always a lifestyle disease. People are overweight and don't exercise and their natural insulin can't keep up with their calorie intake. So of course you can correlate bacon, deli meat or anything else to it because people with poor diets eat more of lots of foods. If NIEHS wants to send me a check, I can even correlate organic food to type 2 diabetes.
Are people happier eating whatever they want? They must be. Underwear models in TV ads are often unhealthy weight now but are always smiling. The reason legendary investor Warren Buffett never invested in Whole Foods, though, is because everyone in there is terrified and miserable. Their misery is caused by their apocalyptic narrative.
Of course, epidemiologists who sign off on provocative news releases related to their food frequency questionnaire paper hide behind 'we are not suggesting causation' when they just wrote that their work shows government needs to make food more expensive. And I will get the emails I always get when I am critical of these papers.
My response is this: Who do you think you are fooling?
(1) Unless a Republican invokes peer-reviewed epidemiology, then the 94 percent of academia that votes Democrat will get out the magnifying glass.
(2) Their former head, Dr. Linda Birnbaum, literally helps sell organic food now, and proudly notes her affiliation with Italy's fringe Ramazzini Institute.
Epidemiologist Claims Bacon Causes Type 2 Diabetes
By Hank Campbell | January 23rd 2023 07:23 AM | Print | E-mail