Behind the Scenes at NutritionFacts.org

Behind the Scenes at NutritionFacts.org
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How does Dr. Greger come up with his videos?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

I’m often asked how long it takes me to come up with one of my daily videos.

Once the script is done, it doesn’t take more than like ten hours to create and record. It’s the research phase that takes the most time. I don’t think people understand how much work that takes; so, I wanted to kind of pull back the curtain, and give everyone a little sneak peek.

If you go to pubmed.gov, where you can access the database of the National Library of Medicine—the largest medical library in the world—you can search for topics like diet or nutrition, you’ll see that there’s about 100,000 papers published every year in the field of nutrition in the scientific medical literature. That’s more than 200 studies a day. I can’t read 200 studies a day, but 20 people could read 200 studies a day. I don’t want to miss a single important paper.

Then, the next step is to look for what I call anchor articles. These are the new studies around which I construct the videos. I’m looking for novelty, practicality, and engagement. Is it groundbreaking? If it’s just another study showing broccoli is good for you, unless there’s some new insight, it probably won’t make the cut.

Is it practical? I mean, is there some actionable information that can be used to make real world kitchen or grocery store decisions, right? Who cares if there’s some new whortleberry with medicinal properties, if it can only be foraged wild in the Siberian tundra or something?

And, finally, is there a way to make it interesting? That’s actually probably the greatest limiting factor. There’s lots of trailblazing new science, with hands-on implications—but, unless I can find a way to make it captivating, to add humor or intrigue, or solve some mystery, sadly, it just kind of goes by the wayside. That’s why we need like ten different sites like this; so, you know, I can just pass those papers along, and be like, “You try to make that interesting.”

Once I have the anchor, then the real work begins. I mean, just because something is published in the peer-reviewed medical literature doesn’t mean it’s true. There are studies funded by the National Confectioners Association that find that candy is just dandy. Studies covertly funded by Coca-Cola, or the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a flawed study, but you have to give it that extra level of scrutiny. You always have to follow the money.

Then, you have to put the study in context. For all I know, that new study is some outlier or fluke. Maybe there’s ten other studies out there that showed the exact opposite. How else can we make life-or-death decisions for ourselves and our families, but by the best available balance of evidence? That’s why every new study needs to be placed into context. Easier said than done.

For example, let’s say this paper lands in my inbox, arguing that fish oil increases the risk of cancer. Now, I could just make a video about it, just laying out the facts: there was this paper published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal that presented evidence that taking fish oil increases the risk of cancer. Here’s the paper; here’s the link to download the paper; here’s all the evidence they present, in black and white, right in front of you; here’s their reasoning, their graphs, their charts, their diagrams. This is the peer-reviewed medical literature, people. Done.

No. That’s not good enough. That doesn’t answer the most important question of all: is it actually true? For all you know, we are just cherry picking studies to fit some agenda. It’s not enough for us to just stick to the peer-reviewed science. I want everything on NutritionFacts.org to reflect the best available balance of evidence.

Okay, so, how do I figure that out? Well, even if the arguments make sense, based on the evidence we’ve provided, we have to make sure we’re interpreting the evidence we cite correctly. To do that, we have to pull all the 76 sources we cite, to make sure we’re not misquoting anything. And, what if each of those 76 papers cite 76 other papers? And, even if we correctly cited those 76 papers, what about all the papers we didn’t cite? There have been more than 2,000 papers published on fish oil and cancer. And look, this paper was published back in 2013. What about the papers that have been published subsequently that cited this particular paper? And that’s just one paper, for one video, right?

You’ll be glad you did do your due diligence though, because then you’d realize: hey, that fish oil paper got retracted. Why? Because the researcher evidently failed to disclose he owned his own supplement company, which sold a competing oil supplement. Again, that doesn’t necessarily mean something’s amiss, but definitely requires additional scrutiny.

So, anyway, bottom line: ideally, we do a comprehensive search of available literature to place any particular paper in context—while also going backwards and forwards in time, checking all the sources they cite, and all the sources that cited them. And, we’d do that anytime a paper is published on nutrition, which, again, happens a mere hundred thousand times a year.  

NutritionFacts.org is a 501c3 nonprofit charity that exists exclusively on donations from individuals like you. It’s like a Wikipedia model of just accepting donations from users who appreciate the content, who appreciate what we’re doing.

We reach so many millions of people that if one in a thousand makes a small contribution, we’re able to continue to thrive. So, if you feel like my work has enriched your life, please consider supporting us by making a tax-deductible one-time—or, even better—monthly donation.

Regardless, even if you never give a penny, everything on the website is and will always be free, for all, for all time. There’s no members-only area where you can get additional lifesaving information—for a price. There are no advertisements of any kind. We don’t accept corporate sponsorships. The site is strictly non-commercial. There’s no line of Dr. Greger’s Brand Snake Oil Wonder Supplements. Even all the money I get from my books and DVDs all goes straight back into the site. It’s just a public service, for those hungry for evidence-based nutrition.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Videography courtesy of Grant Peacock

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

I’m often asked how long it takes me to come up with one of my daily videos.

Once the script is done, it doesn’t take more than like ten hours to create and record. It’s the research phase that takes the most time. I don’t think people understand how much work that takes; so, I wanted to kind of pull back the curtain, and give everyone a little sneak peek.

If you go to pubmed.gov, where you can access the database of the National Library of Medicine—the largest medical library in the world—you can search for topics like diet or nutrition, you’ll see that there’s about 100,000 papers published every year in the field of nutrition in the scientific medical literature. That’s more than 200 studies a day. I can’t read 200 studies a day, but 20 people could read 200 studies a day. I don’t want to miss a single important paper.

Then, the next step is to look for what I call anchor articles. These are the new studies around which I construct the videos. I’m looking for novelty, practicality, and engagement. Is it groundbreaking? If it’s just another study showing broccoli is good for you, unless there’s some new insight, it probably won’t make the cut.

Is it practical? I mean, is there some actionable information that can be used to make real world kitchen or grocery store decisions, right? Who cares if there’s some new whortleberry with medicinal properties, if it can only be foraged wild in the Siberian tundra or something?

And, finally, is there a way to make it interesting? That’s actually probably the greatest limiting factor. There’s lots of trailblazing new science, with hands-on implications—but, unless I can find a way to make it captivating, to add humor or intrigue, or solve some mystery, sadly, it just kind of goes by the wayside. That’s why we need like ten different sites like this; so, you know, I can just pass those papers along, and be like, “You try to make that interesting.”

Once I have the anchor, then the real work begins. I mean, just because something is published in the peer-reviewed medical literature doesn’t mean it’s true. There are studies funded by the National Confectioners Association that find that candy is just dandy. Studies covertly funded by Coca-Cola, or the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a flawed study, but you have to give it that extra level of scrutiny. You always have to follow the money.

Then, you have to put the study in context. For all I know, that new study is some outlier or fluke. Maybe there’s ten other studies out there that showed the exact opposite. How else can we make life-or-death decisions for ourselves and our families, but by the best available balance of evidence? That’s why every new study needs to be placed into context. Easier said than done.

For example, let’s say this paper lands in my inbox, arguing that fish oil increases the risk of cancer. Now, I could just make a video about it, just laying out the facts: there was this paper published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal that presented evidence that taking fish oil increases the risk of cancer. Here’s the paper; here’s the link to download the paper; here’s all the evidence they present, in black and white, right in front of you; here’s their reasoning, their graphs, their charts, their diagrams. This is the peer-reviewed medical literature, people. Done.

No. That’s not good enough. That doesn’t answer the most important question of all: is it actually true? For all you know, we are just cherry picking studies to fit some agenda. It’s not enough for us to just stick to the peer-reviewed science. I want everything on NutritionFacts.org to reflect the best available balance of evidence.

Okay, so, how do I figure that out? Well, even if the arguments make sense, based on the evidence we’ve provided, we have to make sure we’re interpreting the evidence we cite correctly. To do that, we have to pull all the 76 sources we cite, to make sure we’re not misquoting anything. And, what if each of those 76 papers cite 76 other papers? And, even if we correctly cited those 76 papers, what about all the papers we didn’t cite? There have been more than 2,000 papers published on fish oil and cancer. And look, this paper was published back in 2013. What about the papers that have been published subsequently that cited this particular paper? And that’s just one paper, for one video, right?

You’ll be glad you did do your due diligence though, because then you’d realize: hey, that fish oil paper got retracted. Why? Because the researcher evidently failed to disclose he owned his own supplement company, which sold a competing oil supplement. Again, that doesn’t necessarily mean something’s amiss, but definitely requires additional scrutiny.

So, anyway, bottom line: ideally, we do a comprehensive search of available literature to place any particular paper in context—while also going backwards and forwards in time, checking all the sources they cite, and all the sources that cited them. And, we’d do that anytime a paper is published on nutrition, which, again, happens a mere hundred thousand times a year.  

NutritionFacts.org is a 501c3 nonprofit charity that exists exclusively on donations from individuals like you. It’s like a Wikipedia model of just accepting donations from users who appreciate the content, who appreciate what we’re doing.

We reach so many millions of people that if one in a thousand makes a small contribution, we’re able to continue to thrive. So, if you feel like my work has enriched your life, please consider supporting us by making a tax-deductible one-time—or, even better—monthly donation.

Regardless, even if you never give a penny, everything on the website is and will always be free, for all, for all time. There’s no members-only area where you can get additional lifesaving information—for a price. There are no advertisements of any kind. We don’t accept corporate sponsorships. The site is strictly non-commercial. There’s no line of Dr. Greger’s Brand Snake Oil Wonder Supplements. Even all the money I get from my books and DVDs all goes straight back into the site. It’s just a public service, for those hungry for evidence-based nutrition.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Videography courtesy of Grant Peacock

Doctor's Note

If NutritionFacts.org has helped your or your family in any way, and you’d like to do your part to keep the site going strong, please consider joining the thousands of individuals who support this important work, and make a donation.

This video is part of an experiment to find ways to appeal to those new to the site. So much of what I do is targeted towards those who already know the basics, but in the user survey about a thousand of you filled out a few weeks ago, many of you asked for me to take a step back, and do some videos targeted more towards those new to evidence-based nutrition.

So, with the volunteer help of videographer Grant Peacock, I came up with ten introductory and overview-type videos for both new users to orient themselves, and for long-time users to use, to introduce people to the site.

The first four are already up:

Stay tuned for:

What we’re going to do is alternate between these broader overview-type videos, and the regularly scheduled content—so as not to bore those who just crave the latest science.

Note: Though accurate at the time this video was taped, the “I take no salary” is no longer true. I left my HSUS Public Health Director “day job” to focus on NutritionFacts.org full-time, so I do now draw a salary. So donations to the 501c3 nonprofit that runs NutritionFacts.org may indeed now subsidize my kale habit.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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