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.
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:
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.
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.
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.