Wansink Debacle does not Undercut Nutrition and Cancer Link

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In the past few weeks you may have seen news headlines about “nutrition research taking another hit.” At the center of those stories is Dr. Brian Wansink, a prominent food researcher from Cornell University. A university investigation found that he committed research misconduct, and now, over a dozen of his papers have been retracted by prestigious academic journals.

Most of his research is on how the food environment affects an individual’s eating behavior and food choices. For example, he reported that bigger plates correlate to eating more and that putting healthy choices like water, in front of all other beverages, led to more people choosing water more often. He did not conduct research looking at how diet impacts specific health outcomes, such as heart disease or cancer.

It is unfortunate that the recent retractions of Dr. Wansink’s research papers have led to headlines that challenge the broader validity of nutrition research. His research has no bearing on the link between diet and specific health outcomes, such as cancer. Organizations like AICR conduct systematic literature reviews and analyses of the highest quality research linking diet to cancer and other chronic diseases. Nutritional research is constantly evolving but assessments of the entirety of the available research provide the most reliable evidence on the relation between diet and cancer risk.

AICR’s Diet, nutrition, physical activity and cancer: a global perspective is the recommended “go to” for understanding diet and cancer research.

And the bottom line is that the fundamentals remain the same:

  • choose a plant-based diet
  • be physically active
  • aim for a healthy weight
  • make overall healthy lifestyle choices which together have a greater impact on cancer risk than individual factors


Note: AICR has quoted some of Dr. Wansink’s findings as tips for how you can make it easier to eat a healthy diet and we have flagged those instances on our website.


Author: Alice RD

Alice G. Bender, MS, RDN, is the Director of Nutrition Programs at AICR. She helps put the science of cancer prevention into action by providing tips and tools to choose nutritious and delicious foods. Alice has guided thousands of individuals to healthier lives through diet changes and choices.

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