By now I’m sure you’ve seen some of the posts in the blogosphere on the recently launched Nutrition Science Initiative (NuSi). Several other bloggers like Robb Wolf and Stephan Guyenet have written about it, and they’ve done a great job covering what NuSi is about and how they feel about it personally. You can also read more about the initiative on NuSi’s website.
Rather than re-hash what has already been said, I’ll briefly introduce what NuSi is and then provide my thoughts on it.
NuSi is a non-profit organization created to:
facilitate and fund experimental research in nutrition with the goal of reducing the economic and social burden of obesity and obesity-related diseases.
Their mission is to bring together top scientists in the field and fund them to do ambitious research on nutrition that wouldn’t otherwise get funded, because of current social, political and economic trends. It’s being positioned as the “Manhattan Project” of nutritional science.
Who’s behind NuSi
NuSi is the brainchild of Dr. Peter Attia, of the Eating Academy, and author/journalist Gary Taubes. It is currently funded by the Laura and John Arnold foundation and other sources, and they are currently seeking financial contributions from donors that support its mission.
I know both Peter and Gary personally. I met Peter at AHS in Boston a few weeks ago, and we hit it off. Gary lives in Berkeley and we’ve had lunch a couple of times together.
Both Gary and Peter are proponents of the low-carb diet for the treatment of obesity and diabetes, and Gary has written extensively about his belief that excess consumption of carbohydrates is the cause of the obesity epidemic. Peter is also a fan of the low-carb diet as a treatment tool, but in our conversations he expressed his belief that obesity is a multi-factorial condition and can’t be attributed to any single factor.
Many of you are aware that I don’t agree with Gary on the cause of the obesity epidemic. So when I first heard about NuSi, my obvious concern was that the research supported by that organization would be driven by the low-carb bias of its founders.
High-quality, unbiased research
Fortunately, after a long conversation with Peter, I’m convinced that won’t be the case. First, none of the researchers on the NuSi scientific advisory panel have a low-carb bias. To their credit Peter & Gary didn’t just go out and invite all of the researchers that share their views on obesity. They invited some of the most respected names in the field. Second, NuSI will have no control over research design, conduct, or reporting. They do decide which studies they will fund, but after that, they have no control whatsoever over the outcome of the research. This is crucial, of course, to ensuring unbiased findings.
I absolutely support the goals and mission of NuSi. Sure, I may not always agree with them on the studies they decide to fund, but I think we need a concerted effort like this. The more reliable, unbiased research we have on the connection between nutrition and health, the better position we’ll be in to make meaningful changes that reduce the social and economic burden of obesity.