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Feasibility of the paleo-community directly funding real, legitimate and useful science regarding nutrition/health?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created June 08, 2011 at 2:57 AM

Is it feasible for the paleo-community to directly fund real, legitimate and useful scientific studies regarding nutrition/health?

What kind of studies might provide the best bang for the buck? How much value might we expect to get from such studies? What kind of studies would be most persuasive? What kind of studies would be most useful towards advancing knowledge regarding health? How much money would these studies cost? How many people might be willing to pay towards funding those studies, and how much might they be willing to pay?

510bdda8988ed0d4b0ec0b738b4edb73

(20888)

on June 08, 2011
at 09:16 PM

To have any credibility you'll need to use real researchers. People often underestimate how hard science really is. Most of the time it takes to get a Ph.D. is not the work in your actual thesis, but the work in learning how to do "science" properly. If you go outside of the university system, you'll still need to use real scientists (Ph.D's) and if you're outside of the university you'll need to pay market prices for that work, not the uber cheap grad student labor. The cheapest (reputable) study will be in a university setting.

6869a1f2294b3a717a53645589a91d18

(1689)

on June 08, 2011
at 08:49 PM

Must the university system be used? Couldn't the community's money just be directly funneled to someone respectable maybe like Robb Wolf? Or is avoiding the university system too disreputable?

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5 Answers

3
510bdda8988ed0d4b0ec0b738b4edb73

(20888)

on June 08, 2011
at 04:29 AM

Well here's an estimate on the cost to run the absolute simplest, cheapest study. Anything more will cost a lot more (and would give you better results, hopefully).

The cheapest study will be done at a university where the professor is on board. You don't need to pay for the professor, his salary comes from the university. But the professor will need to pay one grad student + the grad students tuition (for 1 year that's probably $20,000 for the stipend and $15,000 for tuition at a state school). For the study to have any hope of statistical significance you'll need to finish the study with 24 people (12 in each arm). My wife (who has run people studies - I'm a natural scientist, molecules always behave, people don't - says to get 30% more people to start. So that's about 32 people. You'd probably pay them about $500 over the coarse of a year to participate. Another $16,000. This study would have to be of the type where you give them paelo information, hope they follow it, and do self-report compliance reporting. Anything else where you monitor and control food would require a clinical setting and you're talking 10x or more the cost. A study of this size can only answer one question and would probably take about a year to run and analyze the data. So you pick the one question you want answered and it will cost probably in the neighborhood of $50,000. But wait, there's more. If the study costs $50,000, the grant is charged at least $100,000. All universities have "overhead" charges. Basically it's a tax that goes to the university on all grant money spent. My university was generally regarded at cheap with a 100% tax. So you're talking $100,000 per question you want answered (and it has to be a simple enough question that the stats on 24 participants can give meaningful results).

6869a1f2294b3a717a53645589a91d18

(1689)

on June 08, 2011
at 08:49 PM

Must the university system be used? Couldn't the community's money just be directly funneled to someone respectable maybe like Robb Wolf? Or is avoiding the university system too disreputable?

510bdda8988ed0d4b0ec0b738b4edb73

(20888)

on June 08, 2011
at 09:16 PM

To have any credibility you'll need to use real researchers. People often underestimate how hard science really is. Most of the time it takes to get a Ph.D. is not the work in your actual thesis, but the work in learning how to do "science" properly. If you go outside of the university system, you'll still need to use real scientists (Ph.D's) and if you're outside of the university you'll need to pay market prices for that work, not the uber cheap grad student labor. The cheapest (reputable) study will be in a university setting.

3
21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on June 08, 2011
at 03:41 AM

Nutrition studies cost an amazingly ridiculous amount of money to conduct, even though nothing really fancy is involved. Outcomes that people (well, the NIH) is interested in typically occur over long timeframes. So the study must lock people into set diets for way longer than most people can handle it.

In my opinion, the best way to get paleo studies started would be to convince someone at the Harvard School of Public Health (Walt Willett, Frank Hu, etc) to include paleo-type information in a cohort study (such as the Nurse's Health Study, Health Professionals Study, etc). That way, when positive data comes out of such a large cohort, randomized trials will be more interesting to the general public and the NIH.

Convincing them is whole other ball of wax. Here's what a student told me when I interviewed there many years ago: "Nutrition? No, not really. We're more of an epi/biostats center. If you need data, we've got it." In other words, they are not so into mechanisms, and are more into publishing shitloads of articles in the New England Journal of Medicine.

2
3356ba7b8584634c67476c213c291fe1

on June 08, 2011
at 03:23 AM

If a "paleo funded" survey came out to support what the paleo community knows, people would argue that it was biased. Much like the corn producer funded studies. It wouldn't matter if it was done scientifically, it would get shot down. Until we get our own paleo subsidies, lobbyists, and government officials, we will have to be satisfied with our own knowledge. Just my humble opinion. Don't get me wrong, I would love for the irrefutable evidence to go mainstream, but money talks.

1
0dbd7154d909b97fe774d1655754f195

(16131)

on June 08, 2011
at 03:50 AM

I like reading this blog: link text

Today he talked about "Conway's Law" in relation to science. (Conway's Law is the observation that the structure of a product will reflect the structure of the organization that designed it.)

Applying this to science: Drs, scientists, academics, these people are all working within a structure that demands certain results and pressures. For example, pharma and other big money corporations fund the majority of studies (structure) and the scientists funded want to keep their funding and their jobs (pressure!). I won't go as far as saying that what they are producing is bad science (mainly because I am not smart enough to spot it). But, we certainly cannot expect innovation to come from that structure.

I think any truly innovative science will have to come from outside the mainstream as it now exists. This is as good a place to start as any.

I have no specific suggestions. Maybe it would be easier to measure the group's response using Survey Monkey or something?

Just don't ask me to write a check for the whole thing. I ain't got no money, honey.

1
65430e39d7e9e9322718d016fe668051

(2944)

on June 08, 2011
at 03:39 AM

No, FDA/ government/ big pharma will always win.

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