DR DAVID KATZ: MORE WOES AS FORBES DROPS HIM

By Marika Sboros

Dr David L Katz, one of the most outspoken voices in nutrition science in the US, has been terminated as a columnist by Forbes.com following an editorial investigation.

Katz has been a regular online columnist for the publication since 2016. The relationship terminated in June when Forbes deleted his most recent and final column.

Forbes Vice President Corporate Communications Laura Brusca confirmed to me via email that Katz is no longer a contributor.

Brusca also said:

“All contributors to Forbes.com sign a contract requiring them to disclose any potential conflicts of interest. We regularly and thoroughly review our network of contributors to ensure they are meeting our high editorial standards.

“If we discover a contributor has violated these terms, we launch an immediate investigation and end the relationship if appropriate. We do not disclose specific information of the case.”

Brusca provided no additional details.

The co-author of the column was Gil Blander PhD, founder and Chief Scientific Officer of a Cambridge, MA company called InsideTracker. The company’s website lists Katz as a member of its Scientific Advisory Board.

Forbes deletes column

Forbes has deleted the column, Personalizing Medicine: The Case for Connecting the Dots Inside, from its website. The URL where it was posted leads to a “404 page”, which provides no indication to readers about what happened.

From Google cache, I obtained a copy of the now-deleted Forbes article dated June 19, 2018. Katz also re-published it on his LinkedIn site on June 27.

In the Forbes version, Katz wrote that he is “privileged to serve as a science advisor” to InsideTracker”. On the LinkedIn version, he added that he is “privileged to serve as the company’s “(uncompensated) science advisor”.

Of the Forbes termination, Katz told me via email:

“The reason they gave is that their rules preclude adding a co-author without prior permission.  I was unaware of that. (I’m sure it was in the terms, but I had not worried too much about the fine print.)

“There was no undisclosed conflict at Forbes and that was never an issue.”

More conflict

Katz is founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in Derby, Connecticut and media reports regularly quote him as a nutrition expert. He has authored both clinical and popular books.

According to his 66-page CV, posted on his website, DavidKatzMD.com, numerous media outlets have published his columns and scholarly articles. He has also authored clinical and popular books.

According to his website, Katz “has a social media following of more than 900,000”. And according to his Twitter account, he has posted more than 19,000 tweets and has nearly 33,000 followers.

This isn’t the first time that Katz has faced conflict-of-interest claims for his columns that ended in retraction.

Defending bias

In November 2015,  Retraction Watch and iMediaEthics reported that the Huffington Post retracted two blog posts by Katz that became embroiled in nutrition controversies. That was after he wrote “incredibly favourable reviews” of a new novel without revealing that he had written it under a pseudonym. Katz compared his novel to Plato, John Milton and Charles Dickens.

He posted a defence of his anonymous reviews on his LinkedIn profile and connected criticism to his views on nutrition.

Katz has also regularly faced criticism for bias and undeclared conflicts of interest in columns, public talks on health, nutrition and promotion of products. One report in 2016 called him “junk food’s slyest defender“.

However, he has consistently denied any undeclared COIs.

In a Huffington Post column, Katz wrote:

“There is no methodological defence against conflict … Bias does not discredit research funding, but conflict does. When we are connecting dots to see the big picture, this distinction is important.”