Response to comments from this thread on Retraction Watch: http://retractionwatch.com/2014/03/25/march-madness-harvard-profs-take-shots-at-controversial-studies-request-retractions/#more-19391
Pharma seems to look for fields characterized by less scientific rigor to farm for drug development opportunities. Psychiatry has been a fertile field, but it has gotten so absurd that even the general public is beginning to question the legitimacy of some of these disorders or whether they actually require a pharmaceutical solution. Nutrition is a natural next target. Pseudoscience is well and truly established in this area (although I disagree that nutrition ‘isn’t a science’–there are legit scientific efforts in nutrition, it’s just that the quacks tend to dominate the discussion), so lack of actual evidence doesn’t pose a major issue for pharma.
A few years back there was a push to pathologize picky eating as a psychiatric disorder based on a new phenomenon of people refusing to eat foods they considered ‘unclean.’ It was the perfect merger of bad, misinterpreted nutritional information, of the sort shared by Dr. Oz and his ilk on TV and through the Internet every day, getting into the hands of people with underlying psych problems and limited critical thinking ability. Instead of recognizing the social context for modern information overload triggering new expressions of existing, already known psych conditions (obsessive-compulsive problems, eating disorders, excessive self-focus, etc.) a new disorder was created. No doubt existing off-patent drugs will be largely ineffective to treat the scourge of ‘Picky Eating Disorder’ and a new, very expensive drug will need to be developed.
To be clear, I don’t doubt that there are individuals very impaired by obsessive concerns about food. I just highly doubt it is a brand new, discrete disorder. This is another issue with pathologizing normal life and mild behavioral quirks. It manages to trivialize real problems by lumping them in with the largely self-imposed concerns of the worried well.
I think it’s time we recognize ‘Gullibility about Disorders Disorder,’ or GADD, as a serious and very expensive western health problem. Not sure what the cure is, but I hypothesize that an RCT would demonstrate that a simple, very inexpensive slap upside the head might be quite effective.