Podcasting has experienced a surge in popularity over the past decade, resulting in a saturated market with countless shows to choose from. Unfortunately, this influx of content has led to a fair share of podcasts lacking thorough research or substantiation.
While we may not have high expectations when tuning in to listen to comedians or true crime recaps, the same cannot be said for scientists. One prominent figure in the podcasting space is neuroscientist Andrew Huberman, leading the Huberman lab. Huberman has shown remarkable diplomacy and business acumen in nurturing the growth of his podcast.
However, despite his legitimate credentials, he is not immune to occasional criticism. As a fan , I recognize Huberman’s impressive qualifications and extensive publications. He is undeniably a highly skilled researcher. Nevertheless, like many other popular figures in his field, he sometimes exaggerates the significance of new studies and twists data to remain relevant and appealing in a fiercely competitive world. This tendency has become a primary point of criticism against Andrew Huberman.
One example that raises concerns is his assertion that palm cooling is equally or more effective than anabolic agents. It is increasingly challenging to evaluate information featured on podcasts, especially considering the whole ethos of what’s okay to say in 2023.
One notable issue is the lack of a firm understanding of internal and external validity in scientific research among many listeners. While the studies referenced by Huberman are often well-designed with high internal validity, establishing causation within their experimental settings, it does not grant scientists the authority to extrapolate the findings across diverse populations. Unfortunately, Huberman is often guilty of this practice.
For instance, he may cite a study highlighting the benefits of protein consumption in the morning and suggest incorporating it into one’s daily routine. However, he fails to mention that the study focused on a population of elderly pregnant women, making the recommendation less applicable to a wider audience.
In some instances, Huberman’s podcast ventures into the realm of bro-science. While his discussions on basic neuro pathways are rooted in well-studied and peer-reviewed science, his recommendations regarding supplements, light exposure, temperature, and other factors veer into a realm of hype.
Furthermore, when providing recommendations, Huberman often extrapolates from one or two peripheral experiments and presents them as categorical advice. “Take 1200mg of fish oil!” “Consume [specific amount] of L-tyrosine!” “Spend 10 minutes in red light therapy at 670nm!” “Begin your day with an ice bath followed by refraining from immediate warming up!” While these recommendations may not actively harm the average person, they lack scientific validity despite being presented in a similar tone and language as the initial scientifically grounded discussions.
To present an alternative viewpoint, skeptics may argue that Huberman is merely another Dr. Oz, utilizing his credentials to market self-help pseudoscience on YouTube while directing people to his supplement business. Criticism of associated websites being censored adds fuel to this argument.
For those doubting Huberman’s business acumen, his appearance on the Joe Rogan podcast discussing UFC and USADA highlights his diplomatic approach and targeted catering to a specific audience. These tendencies should be carefully considered, particularly due to his inclination toward broscience.
It is important to note that Huberman holds undergraduate degrees in the Arts and Humanities (B.A., M.A.) and his PhD is limited to a specific area within neurology, which may raise questions regarding the breadth of his scientific expertise.
Among fans well-versed in study methodology, the consensus on Huberman is that he often makes claims lacking substantial support. He relies on single studies or studies without human trials to back his training recommendations. Although most criticism revolves around his fitness advice, it raises concerns about the overall credibility of his content.
And while his content is enjoyable it’s worth taking a second look at the scientific researches he’s citing before implementing any of his suggestions into your day to day life.