In February 2014, David Katz MPH ’93, the director of the Yale School of Medicine’s Prevention Research Center, wrote two glowing online reviews of a science-fiction novel called reVision.

In his biweekly column in The Huffington Post, Katz lauded the book’s “lyrically beautiful writing,” comparing it to the work of a veritable “who’s who” of great writers, including Plato, John Milton and Charles Dickens. “I finished with a sense of illumination from a great source,” he concluded. “The most opportune comparison may be to a fine wine.” Katz had used similar language two days earlier in a five-star product review he posted on the book’s page on Amazon.

But Katz omitted a crucial detail from both reviews: the subject of his praise was his own self-published passion project, released two months earlier under the pseudonym Samhu Iyyam. In April 2014, after Katz revealed on Twitter that reVision was his own work, The Huffington Post updated his February review to indicate the true authorship of the book. As of 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night, the Amazon review remained unchanged.

In recent weeks, the Amazon and Huffington Post reviews have drawn significant criticism from doctors and pundits who disagree with Katz’s support for the United States Dietary Guidelines, a set of nutrition standards that help determine the contents of school lunches. Katz, an internationally renowned nutrition expert, told the News that the social-media backlash against the reviews is part of a smear campaign engineered by groups aiming to undermine the federal guidelines.

But Fred Brown, a spokesman for the Society of Professional Journalists, told the News the Huffington Post column was blatantly unethical, and the blogger, Peter Heimlich, who wrote about the Amazon review in late September and contacted the News shortly after, said he is not involved in the debate over the guidelines.

Katz said the reviews conveyed his honest opinion and that he concealed the true authorship of reVision because he preferred to keep his professional life separate from his fiction writing. He eventually decided to reveal he wrote the book in order to help it reach a wider audience, he said. Katz declined to answer specific questions about the reviews, including whether he told editors at The Huffington Post that he had written the novel before writing his column about reVision.

“I wrote a … review of my anonymously self-published fiction novel, and said what I really think about it — then disclosed that I wrote it,” Katz said. “There’s really a story there?”

Monica Lee, a communications officer for The Huffington Post, did not return numerous requests for comment.

But Brown said the Huffington Post review violated basic journalistic standards.

“It ain’t ethical,” Brown said. “You should not review something without revealing you wrote it.”

Katz, a staunch supporter of the Dietary Guidelines, has written nearly a dozen nonfiction books about nutrition. In 2009, three medical organizations — the American College of Physicians, the American College of Preventive Medicine and the Center for Science in the Public Interest — called for him to be named United States Surgeon General.

Over the past month and a half, the Amazon and Huffington Post reviews have come under intense scrutiny alongside an ongoing Internet debate over the preliminary report released earlier this year by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, the government task force responsible for drafting the guidelines. The preliminary report, which was released in February, is a rough sketch of revisions to the guidelines due to be announced later this year.

On Sept. 29, Jason Fung, a Toronto-based doctor who said he is skeptical of the guidelines, tweeted a link to the Huffington Post review: “Here’s @DrDavidKatz writing a glowing book review about a book he himself wrote under a pseudonym. What an ass.”

Fung said his tweet was a direct response to an opinion column written by Katz four days before, in which Katz accused health journalist Nina Teicholz, an outspoken critic of the guidelines, of making exaggerated claims designed to promote her bestselling book “The Big Fat Surprise.”

“He was trying to imply that she was just doing it to sell more books,” Fung told the News. “He’s just a huckster that goes around trying to promote his own book.”

In September, the British Medical Journal published a lengthy article by Teicholz that questioned the integrity of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. The piece has generated fierce debate in the medical community, pitting experts who consider the guidelines tired and out-of-date against a group of distinguished scientists with Katz at its head.

Parke Wilde, a Tufts professor who focuses on health policy, said the debate over the guidelines has begun to degenerate into name-calling. Wilde said there is a temptation on both sides to spend time attacking opponents rather than focusing on the substance of the argument.

Frank Hu, a member of the advisory committee, said opposition to the Dietary Guidelines has fueled the social-media furor around Katz’s reviews.

“[Katz] has been the most vocal, consistent, visible defender,” Hu said. “They are coming after David, presumably, because they feel his message may be harmful to their cause.”

Hu added that some opponents of the guidelines are affiliated with special-interest groups that have a financial stake in altering nutritional standards.

On Oct. 24, Katz addressed the controversy in another Huffington Post column, insisting that Internet bullies had dug up the reviews in an effort to discredit his nutritional advice.

But Heimlich, who contacted the News about the controversy, said he was unaware of the guidelines dispute.

“Instead of trying to change the subject, [Katz] should man up and explain what happened,” Heimlich said. Heimlich added that he has sent a formal complaint to Amazon asking that Katz’s product review be taken down.

Representatives from Amazon did not respond to repeated requests for comment. But the website’s official terms of service state the site has a “zero-tolerance policy for any review designed to mislead or manipulate customers.”

Chris Morran, a journalist who reports on Amazon for the Consumerist — a consumer-affairs site — said the company has worked hard to root out fake or misleading product reviews in the past.

“I doubt they’d look too kindly on someone reviewing their own thing,” Morran said. “You then start questioning other reviews, which makes the site look bad.”

Morran added that Amazon is trying to prove it is more reliable than its rivals in the increasingly competitive online marketplace.

Amazon sued more than 1,000 Internet vendors last month for offering to post bogus product reviews on the site.

  • RIchard Feinman

    Is anybody in this a volunteer? We all have salaries, have income from books or other work and, for academics, are dependent on federal or private funding. I also think that the guidelines are intellectually totally corrupt and scientifically flawed if not downright dangerous — their track record speaks for itself. What special interest does Frank Hu think is paying me to have that opinion?

    And I published in a peer-reviewed journal a letter to the editor showing that work on which Dr. Hu is an author, a study on red meat and diabetes was inaccurate and misleading. I would never suggeest that he was motivated by the several NIH grants that supported the work. I am sure that he honestly believed in the study and the work is within the normal range of poor science that is accepted by the medical nutrition community.

    • Peggy Holloway

      I am so glad to see my “heros” such as Dr. Feinman and Nina Teicholz contributing to this discussion. Some of us are actually and truly interested in seeing the truth get out because we care about our fellow human beings.

    • ShadrachSmith

      I’m not saying that all nutritionists are hustlers, I’m just saying that a lot of hustlers are nutritionists.

  • Nina Teicholz

    Yes, Frank Hu, as a member of the 2015 Dietary Guideline Advisory Committee, has an vested interest in this debate and cannot be considered objective. He also receives considerable funding from the Tree Nut industry. The chair of the committee this year was a health-related business owner. Another member had 9 diet books to sell. But beyond financial interests, I think it’s fair to say that anyone who has published an opinion on the scientific literature has a bias towards not being wrong. That would be true of people publishing books or articles of any kind. More on my own funding and bias here:

    • charles grashow

      How much funding do you receive from the meat industry??

      • Peggy Holloway

        What makes you think she is funded by the “meat industry?” Her analysis of dietary science (or lack thereof) is brilliant.

        • MacSmiley

          Brilliant fiction! 😜

          • L. Lee Coyne

            A comment like that would be backed with some science if it had any credibility. Did you really read her book?

        • alan2102

          Not the meat industry directly, but…


          Thursday, October 8, 2015
          Nina Teicholz, The BMJ, The Nutrition Coalition and nutrition science’s George Soros: The Laura and John Arnold Foundation

      • Nina Teicholz

        Zero! I am not funded by any industry.

  • Gearoidmuar

    Your website has screwed up my comment. Too long to put in again, but I will say this to Dr.Hu. People are not against the recommendations because they want to get at David Katz or Hu or Willett. They are against them because they ignore a lot of the science and they think that the Diabesity bomb has killed far too many people already. I, a retired doctor have had my health impacted by the advice from the incorrect advice of the predecessors of this committee and it makes me really angry to see the persistence of the demonisation of fat against all PROPER epidemiological evidence, such as the French Paradox. This is NOT a paradox. It’s the answer.

    • Peggy Holloway

      Thank you for writing this. I, too, am angry. I’m writing a book about my family and the devastation we suffered trying to follow the dietary guidelines. Oh, is that a plug? (in truth, the book won’t have any commercial value – I will most likely give it away – I just want people to learn from our experience without having to suffer like we did).

  • Peggy Holloway

    David Katz simply makes me tired. Yawn. He is defending the indefensible and is showing the true desperation of one who staked his life and reputation on a faulty premise.

  • Emaho

    As a regular reader of the Huffington Post, I’ve made many comments disagreeing with Katz. Now, I’ll make it a point to mention his sleazy ways.

    From this article, “…a group of distinguished scientists with Katz at its head.” These are not scientists. They are not interested in the truth that might be found in studies of low carb, high fat diets nor of some of the good work done by Dr. Atkins and Dr. Bernstein. I agree with Gary Taubes in his Good Calories, Bad Calories. They are not scientists.

    No, those guys are a group of distinguished salesmen turning a blind eye to all of the blindness they have caused and are continuing to cause. Lucky, I only lost the sight in one eye before I started eating a LCHF diet 11 years ago.

  • Jeff Olson

    Said another way… If a guy with many hundreds of thousand of followers on-line wants to sell a book… the obvious commercial route would be to say, “I wrote a new book, I think it’s great, I think you’ll love it- check it out.” To use a a 3rd person, pen name was not a brilliant marketing strategy (it lasted 2 months) but a simple way to preserve a separation between Katz and Iyyam, which was the author’s personal choice (again, only for a few months). No harm, no foul…

    • Paleo Huntress

      Reviewing your own book and praising your own writing is most definitely “foul”. Lots of authors use pens names, but they don’t have the hubris necessary to give themselves kudos.

  • Mark Cucuzzella

    I am a Physician and Professor also questioning the DGA and have nothing to sell. Colleagues in reading through all this it is sad that as health providers we cannot work together to tackle the big rocks that undermine health…mostly the “carbage” as we know it. The more we all argue about who is right or wrong around the edges the public loses faith. Dr Katz you have undermined the public’s faith in my opinion.
    So I will continue to teach patients who have Insulin Resistance to reduce carbs and eat fat from real food for satiety , energy , and health. The patients will see the effect and decide if it works for them. Like many in this “debate” I have a basement of books, 1000s of articles read and dissected, treat patients daily, cook for my family, and teach the community how to be better humans.
    I gave out 1000 local apples on Halloween at my small running store too and nothing but smiles. so lets all continue to teach the joy of healthy food and movement.
    I appreciate the passion and knowledge everyone brings to the table for public good. But when the health of our country is failing we must be honest and relook at what is clearly not working and search for a solution. This will come from policy and the 3 A’s. is the toxin “accessible”, ” affordable”, and “acceptable” . Read Dr Lustigs new study on sugar in Obesity. The toxin may be sugar.

    Mark Cucuzzella MD, FAAFP
    Professor Family Medicine
    West Virginia University Department of Family Medicine

    • Jim Felder

      Your poor, poor patients. Insulin resistance is a symptom of an underlying disease. The root cause of this disease is not carbohydrates. In fact just look internationally and you will see that insulin resistance and type II diabetes is almost unknown in populations who get the majority of their calories from complex carbohydrates. These populations do not get more than 10%-15% of their calories from fat. Also their rates of CAD and most cancers is a fraction of those in the US. So if carbohydrates are the problem and fat is the answer, please explain why these populations are so healthy.

      In fact insulin resistance is due to a fatty diet, so you are in fact promoting a diet that is the very cause of your patients disease with your prescription of a high fat diet. Insulin resistance starts with free fatty acid accumulation in the muscle tissue ( Estradella). Even exposure to a single high fat meal can have a measurable effect on insulin resistance (Lee).

      Once the muscles are insulin resistant further diets high in saturated fat cause lipotoxicity in the liver leading to non-alcholic fatty liver disease ( Estradella) and eventually to lipotoxicity induced apoptosis of the beta cells in the pancreas (Cunha and Cnop). Once the beta cells are dead the diabetic progresses onto insulin dependent diabetes with no further opportunities for regression of their disease.

      As far back as Kempner in the 1940s doctors have reversed, not just managed, diabetes with a high carbohydrate diet. Today doctors like Neil Barnard and John McDougall
      have been able to successfully treat and even reverse diabetes with diet, and it wasn’t low low carb/high fat diet. McDougall reports that diabetics entering his 10 day residency program have to be monitored closely because a plant-based diet with no added oil (about 10% fat) restores insulin sensitivity so quickly that if they are taking drugs to increase insulin production or directly injecting insulin, their dosage has to be quickly lowered or eliminated to avoid dangerously low blood sugars. Some patients are restored to normal insulin sensitivity within the 10 day residence.

      It doesn’t matter in the slightest whether you think your
      patients will conform to such a diet. You sir are not God. If it is effective in disease
      reversal (as opposed to simple symptom management like a high fat diet is), then you own them the truth and let them decide
      what they will do with that information. If there was a pill that would reverse your patients diabetes would you withhold a recommendation that they take it just because you don’t think they would be able to tolerate what to you would be unpleasant side effects?

      • Paleo Huntress

        Wow, you liked that post so much that you copied and pasted it into more than one forum. >.<

        I developed T2D while a whole food vegan… and the last 6 months of that veganism was on McDougall's starch protocol. After the diagnosis I went back to eating animal food, went low-carb and then Paleo, getting almost 50% of my calories from fat, primarily saturated.

        In less than 3 months, the diabetes was gone– it took with it the hypertension, GERD and inflammation too (too low to measure), and my blood vessels are clear and elastic and my lipid profile is like that of a teenager (I'm almost 50) with total cholesterol under 140. (It was over 300 as a vegan). It's been almost 10 years and I'm still healthy and disease-free.

        Dr. Cucuzzella's "poor poor patients" are on the right track. =)

      • Rob Tate

        Which “populations” are you talking about? And what is your data that they get only 10-15% of their calories from fat?

      • tkent26

        Insulin resistance is primarily driven by (wait for it…) too much insulin. Reducing refined carbohydrate is the quickest and easiest way to lower insulin and blood sugar. All of those negative effects you mention, ectopic fat, NAFLD, etc, happen in the context of a chronically high insulin environment.

        Insulin resistance on a LCHF diet is _physiological_ and adaptive, and is accomplished with very low levels of insulin. This is quickly reversed upon eating a few meals of carbohydrates, and all other metabolic markers are quite healthy.

        Insulin resistance on the high sugar/refined carb diet is _pathological_, and occurs through chronic hyperinsulemia. Made worse, not reversed, by eating more carbohydrate.

  • RIchard Feinman

    My point is that, for science to make progress, we must take every publication and statement for its scientific content unless specifically indicated otherwise. To do anything else is to destroy the ability of science to make progress and reduces everything to ad hominem and politics. To suggest that a scientist is motivated by anything other than seeking the truth (however much we are personally convinced that they are) is a charge of scientific misconduct and requires proof. Admittedly a bad paper is like a bad musical performance. It takes some effort to dissociate the performance from the content but, if you don’t, you have nothing.

  • George

    An article in the NY Times today quotes NHANES evidence that obesity in the US continues to rise despite everyone knowing that all you have to do to lose weight is eat less, move more, and follow the dietary guidelines.
    In October Harvard scientists, including Frank Hu and Walter Willett, published a paper showing that low fat diets – the 30% fat, 10% or less saturated fat of the current dietary guidelines – were less effective for weight loss than any other intervention.
    “In weight loss trials, higher-fat weight loss interventions led to significantly greater weight loss than low-fat interventions when groups differed by more than 5% of calories obtained from fat at follow-up”
    So, when people are told to eat in the way that is least effective for weight control, they gain weight. Whether telling them to eat in a way that is more effective for weight control (and metabolic health) will make any difference remains to be seen, but this once again demonstrates that the guidelines weren’t built on solid evidence.
    The process that Katz and Hu have been defending is clearly flawed if mistakes like this can take a lifetime to change. People can change the way they eat in a day and see benefits within a week in a condition like type 2 diabetes (also on the increase) with LCHF. The DGAC process, even if it does finally arrive at a more-or-less correct conclusion, will have taken far too long and harmed far too many people. No wonder people get a bit shirty when its defenders try to shoot the messenger.

    • Jim Felder

      Low fat is actually 10%-15% of calories from fat. 30% is actually only considered “low-fat” in good old fatty USA. You do know that there is a world outside of the USA don’t you? You might look a little further than your own backyard to see how the rest of the human race is faring. Those populations who eat a truly low fat diet are the healthiest on the planet with chronic disease rates a fraction of ours. And just because researchers like Hu and Willett seem to be as myopic as you are doesn’t change the facts that the populations who eat low fat just don’t have the health issues we do.

      • tkent26

        Lots of populations who have also been healthy on higher fat diets, with very low rates of chronic disease. The “low fat diet” as advised by doctors and health authorities in the US has been a miserable failure, and we now have numerous randomized controlled trials, with human subjects, where a high(er) fat, low(er) carb diet produces better weight loss and metabolic health.

  • Peter M. Heimlich

    Via my blog today, “And he scores! Amazon scrubs ‘sock puppet’ five-star book review by prominent Yale professor, author, columnist”:

  • Peter M. Heimlich

    Good report and thanks to the YDN for moving forward the story.

    Quick correction: “(Peter) Heimlich added that he has sent a formal complaint to Amazon asking that Katz’s product review be taken down.”

    I didn’t send a complaint and I didn’t ask Amazon to take down the review. For a follow-up item I was blogging, I asked Amazon’s Public Relations department if Dr. Katz’s review was in compliance with their company’s guidelines. Via my Scribd account, here’s the complete correspondence:

    Apparently his book review was not in compliance, because, per my 11/14/15 blog, Amazon scrubbed it:

  • David_Brown

    This critique of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is worth reading:

    Excerpt: “The pervasive fat/saturated fat phobia in the DGA prevents a reasonable and balanced intake of dietary lipids and leads to a critical deficiency of saturated fats, an unnecessary limitation on dietary cholesterol, and an unhealthful ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 essential fatty acids.”

    Compare the critique to this: “There has been much confusion and sensational headlines about the role of different types of fat in CHD,” said Frank Hu, senior author and professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health. “Randomized clinical trials have shown that replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat reduces total and LDL cholesterol. And our comprehensive meta-analysis provides clear evidence to support the benefits of consuming polyunsaturated fat as a replacement for saturated fat.”