This “long read” article from the Guardian outlines how in 1972, John Yudkin raised concerns about sugar being the greatest danger to our health instead of fat. However, his research findings were ridiculed, and fat continued to be labelled as the likely cause of obesity and the numerous conditions associated with obesity. It outlines how the scientific community embraced a certain school of thought and disregarded any subsequent evidence that suggested otherwise, i.e. saturated fats are particularly bad for your health. It suggests that this tide of movement was predominantly driven by certain personalities in the field of nutrition, or gurus. The gurus in the field were able to influence guidelines, despite the key messages not necessarily being supported by research evidence.
Whilst this article is primarily around nutrition, it prompted me to consider whether physiotherapy follows certain paradigms without necessarily critiquing them, and whether research findings within physiotherapy are disregarded because they are not in line with popular belief. This also brings in the concept of internal biases – how many of us are cognizant of all the biases we hold, and take this into account when reading research? Although we’re familiar with declaring financial, non- financial and intellectual conflicts of interest, should we also more explicitly consider the risk of other forms of bias e.g. authority bias?
References and links
Seshia S, Makhinson M, Bryan Young G (2016) ‘Cognitive biases plus’: covert subverters of healthcare evidence. Evidence Based Medicine [online] 21 (2) p41-45. http://ebm.bmj.com/content/21/2/41.full