Brian Wansink is best known as the author of the book Mindless Eating, in which he describes his zany food experiments like the “bottomless soup bowl” (subjects were fed soup from bowls that refilled from the bottom, and the experimenters recorded how much they ate before they finally stopped).
Dr. Wansink is a 48-year-old Iowa native who somehow manages to talk like a California surfer dude. But he must be a smart guy, since he’s a professor at Cornell and the current Executive Director of USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion — the guy in charge of developing 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and promoting the Food Guide Pyramid.
So why are we discussing him on the Morning Banana Diet blog? Dr. Wansink is making an appearance because of his recent blog post titled “Morning Banana Diet Scandal.” The post appears in a couple of versions, at Amazon.com and at Prevention Online, and apparently it was also sent out in an e-mail newsletter.
Scandal?! What scandal? Reading the blog post, Dr. Wansink informs us that a television show was aired in Japan that promoted the Morning Banana Diet with falsified scientific data and fake subtitles to an interview of an English speaking university professor.
Update: Dr. Wansink corrected his blog posts on Amazon and Prevention,
removing the references to a falsified television broadcast.
Those of us who follow the Japanese dieting scene might react, Again? Will they never learn? That’s exactly what happened in January 2007 with the Natto Diet on a show produced by Kansai Television!
But wait a minute … I never heard of any scandal involving the Morning Banana Diet. When was this? According to Dr. Wansink, this emerged “about a month ago.” (This, despite his claim earlier in the article that he got this story “6 months ago” from the wife of a Japanese student.)
At any rate, I never heard of the Morning Banana Diet scandal (or more properly, Asa Banana Diet, since he’s talking about the Japanese version of the diet) because it never happened. Somehow Dr. Wansink combined and confused two differnt Japanese diets and two television shows that were broadcast a year and a half apart. The Natto Diet scandal is described in excruciating detail at the Japanese Wikipedia and Wikinews sites and many Japanese blogs and news sites, and there are a number of videos about it on YouTube. There is exactly nothing anywhere on the Web outside of Dr. Wansink’s blog posts about any Asa Banana Diet scandal.
But it makes a good story. Just like the stories in Mindless Eating. And I wonder now how reliable those are. For 2007 alone Dr. Wansink lists 13 academic journal publications. When does he find time to surf? With a schedule like that you can’t blame him for being sloppy with his sourcing and facts.
But what does Dr. Wansink think of the Morning Banana Diet? That there’s not anything “magic” about it. Sure, you will “lose weight if you eat only bananas for breakfast and no dessert for dinner,” and sure, “the high fiber in bananas will keep you full,” and sure, “it’s likely you would weight 20-30 pounds less at the end of a year” by cutting out dessert every day as the diet recommends. But it’s not “magic,” and anyway some woman told him six months ago the diet “ended in scandal” a month ago. Or something like that.