Journal Editors Make Excuses for Paleo Fraud

CrossFit Accesses an International Journal of Exercise Science Email

One of our friends in exercise science forwarded us this email from T. Scott Lyons and James Navalta, editors in chief of the International Journal of Exercise Science. Lyons and Navalta excuse their failure to fully investigate, address, and correct Mike Smith and Steven Devor’s fraudulent research. Here’s the email:

In the April 2014 issue of International Journal of Exercise Science (Vol. 7 Iss. 2), we published a manuscript entitled “Unrestricted Paleolithic Diet is Associated with Unfavorable Changes to Blood Lipids in Healthy Subjects” (Smith et al.). The article and its authors, as well as the journal and its editors, have been roundly criticized in public forums recently by proponents of the Paleolithic diet, and particularly by those who engage in common forms of high intensity interval training. They have alleged misconduct by the authors, fraud by the Editors, and they have requested a retraction of the article. We have informed them that the article was subject to peer-review, as are all submitted manuscripts, and we also followed up with the authors to investigate their claims of misconduct. The authors were forthright in their answers to us, and indeed stated, appropriately, the limitations to the research in the Discussion section of the paper. Upon suggesting that any further pursuit of alleging research misconduct should be directed towards the Institutional Review Board that approved the research, the critics chose rather to continue espousing their vitriol towards the authors, and towards us as well. To be clear, we will not be bullied by those who know nothing about research design, data collection, inherent limitations in research, peer reviewing, publication, or other components of the general research process, and we will not retract the article. We have worked very hard for nearly eight years to build an international, peer-reviewed journal that publishes quality research. While some articles and their findings may not align with a group’s chosen dogma, that does not give them the right to attempt to discredit the work of dedicated professionals. We at the International Journal of Exercise Science are a community of scholars dedicated to scientific integrity, and in this case, that means supporting our fellow professionals and standing our ground against the unfounded opinions of our critics. As always, thank you for your support of the International Journal of Exercise Science.

T. Scott Lyons, Ph.D.
James W. Navalta, Ph.D.
Co-Editors-in-Chief

Lyons and Navalta Should Not Tolerate Fraud

It is impossible to fully address this email’s errors on this blog. Nonetheless, we can correct some of Lyons and Navalta’s misinformation. For example, they stated that,

the article and its authors, as well as the journal and its editors, have been roundly criticized in public forums recently by proponents of the Paleolithic diet.

I wrote the articles to which they’re referring. I don’t follow the Paleo diet, nor am I a proponent of it over other nutritional models. The Paleo diet can be consistent with the diet that CrossFit Inc. promotes, but some people following the Paleo diet are not eating consistently with CrossFit’s recommendations. For example, the following meal is from a “Paleo” cookbook:

This meal is marketed as "Paleo": http://bit.ly/1DW7KsL

From the Paleo Chocolate Lover’s Cookbook: http://bit.ly/1DW7KsL

Food quality and quantity both matter. Macronutrient and caloric intake play crucial roles in fueling exercise and determining body-fat levels. Merely eliminating certain food groups is insufficient. A diet consisting exclusively of ribeye steak would perhaps be Paleo, but not effective for promoting health and fitness. The same goes for a diet consisting exclusively of agave nectar and bananas. We did not criticize the study for claiming that adverse health effects resulted from the Paleo diet. If a valid study found that the Paleo diet caused blood lipid levels to worsen, we’d have no problem with it. (We would want to know the macronutrient breakdown before drawing much of a conclusion, though.)

The Basic Logical Fallacy behind the Paleo Fraud

In fact, our problem with the study is simple: Smith and Devor associated adverse blood lipid effects with a diet that the subjects did not follow. Smith and Devor claimed the subjects followed strict Paleo diets. In fact, the subjects did not follow strict Paleo diets. They did not even attempt to. Nor were they even told to.

Smith and Devor committed a basic logical fallacy. You can’t conclude that A causes B, if A did not precede B. No amount of PhD.’s or peer review can make up for this fallacy. There is nothing in the fields of “research design, data collection, inherent limitations in research, peer reviewing, publication, or other components of the general research process” that would make Smith and Devor’s study valid. Navalta and Lyons went on to say that,

We have informed them that the article was subject to peer-review, as are all submitted manuscripts, and we also followed up with the authors to investigate their claims of misconduct. The authors were forthright in their answers to us, and indeed stated, appropriately, the limitations to the research in the Discussion section of the paper.


Peer review is not sufficient evidence of validity
. Even the NSCA recognizes that. And stopping the investigation after the researchers protested the innocence is absurd. This is just like stopping a murder investigation after the prime suspect declares his innocence. A proper investigation would never have accept the suspects’ denials as fact. Since multiple parties have sued Devor and/or his publisher for scientific fraud, Lyons and Navalta have no legitimate excuse for stopping their investigation here.

Google ChromeScreenSnapz1272

“Your honor, we can stop here. The suspect swears he’s innocent …” http://bit.ly/1Bdl35X

You can’t make chocolate pancakes healthy by slapping the Paleo label on them and you can’t make fraudulent research valid by pointing out that it’s peer reviewed. As Russell Berger covered, scientific journals have an acknowledged ethical responsibility to publish valid information and correct errors. The International Journal of Exercise Science, and its editors Lyons and Navalta, failed on both counts.

12 comments

  1. Hmm, interesting read! I’m not a paleo, but this still annoys me. People talk shit every day but unfortunately when it’s in ‘print’ many more believe it, compounded by terms like ‘scientific research’ Grrrh!

  2. lloydrshaw

    This is no different than them using completely fraudulent specifications on the Power Plate studies they published.

    http://digitalcommons.wku.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1170&context=ijes

    ” The PP provided a vertical vibration with a frequency between 30-50 Hz and an excursion of 2-5 mm. ”

    Those engineering specifications have been shown to be fake on every single independent test over the last 10 years. Fake with no-one even on the machine to dampen the vibrations.With numerous academics reporting issues of validity with results.

    By 2009 the fake specs issue was well known to every academic in the field. So this was no simple mistake.

    But the International Journal of Exercise Science just keeps accepting papers from academics using dodgy equipment. The trickle down effect of turning a blind eye, on ethics and science is profound. With the continued citation of studies using fake specs being allowed by the ” peer review process ” to be used in new studies.

    I suppose the “inherent limitation” in this study was at the time Power Plate were doing seminars and preaching ONLY their product had these special Fqs and Amplitudes. And were paying everyone NOT to test the machine.

    Note : And this was not only to athletes. But large sections of the population with muscle wasting illnesses.

    These guys in my opinion could not lie in bed straight. Some things never change. The dodgy academics will still take the grants from the dodgy companies. And the dodgy publication will continue to take a fee to publish it while looking the other way.

  3. This is not unique to this study, this journal, or this field of study. I have a master’s and have contributed to articles submitted to peer-review journals as well as peer-reviewing myself (that line “bullied by those who know nothing about research” really, really irked me). Some journals are known for integrity and rigorous review while other journals are known for filling an issue. I would recommend contacting the IRB. All you can do is continue to log complaints unless you’d like to find a medical expert, qualified nutritionist, and collaborate on a real, solid study of this. It is unlikely their process will change as a result of your actions, but your actions could help influence a larger entity to enact change.

  4. I do not understand how someone can claim fraud with this study… The limitations listed and terrible study design are clearly spelled out. The article says this was not well controlled, people did not keep good logs and there was no placebo group. Any person reading this study would see its conclusions should be taken with a grain of salt.
    When is CrossFit HQ going to fund a university study? Isn’t that what is supposed to happen in academics when there are differing viewpoints?

    • Russ Greene

      The problem with the study is that the study says the subjects followed a strict Paleo diet, when in fact they did not and were not even told to.

      No amount of caveats about controls and logging, and placebos, corrects the researchers’ fraudulent claim.

    • Russ Greene

      One more thing. CrossFit recently funded an international conference on exercise-associated hyponatremia. CrossFit already does support science.

    • I would agree…I’m not sure this study can be called out as fraud. It was clearly poorly conducted (the “large” 44 person sample size, as well as the lack of placebo and controlled adherence to the diet should all raise question to the reader’s mind); however, all of these faults where clearly written in the study! I will say, there seems to be a bit of bias from the study authors (in the discussion, it is mentioned that dairy is excluded from the Paleo diet even though dairy is an excellent source of calcium and people who exclude dairy may have a difficult time meeting calcium requirements without dairy, which is simply not true). In any case, it seems to me that Crossfit is upset that there is a study out which is clearly tied to the Crossfit lifestyle and also yields negative health implications. I can definitely see why this is bad for them and they would like it to be deemed fraudulent, but it seems that people who are educated in the true principles of the Paleo diet and healthful eating in general would be able to spot all the holes in the study and stand behind the Crossfit and Paleo lifestyle regardless.

  5. I enjoyed reading about this.
    No study is perfect but this one had a very poor study design. I wonder if it had been rejected from a higher quality journal? Unfortunately there has been an explosion in “peer-reviewed” journals and many of them are not very good. It would be really interesting to redo this study with a better design and stronger internal validity. I also think that it would be beneficial to train PhD students to be good reviewers (and teachers) as part of their training because the quality of reviewers varies a lot.

  6. lloydrshaw

    I would say Fraud is the ONLY term to use for this reason.

    People got paid to do the study. Academics who claim to be “experts” in the field took money. Then another bunch of “experts” just happened to overlook the obvious in the peer review process.

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