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KATAHN v. HEARST CORP.

August 6, 1990

MARTIN KATAHN and KATAHN ASSOCIATES, INC.,
v.
THE HEARST CORPORATION, GOOD HOUSEKEEPING MAGAZINE, JOHN MACK CARTER, THE GOOD HOUSEKEEPING INSTITUTE, AMY BARR, NUTRITION DIET AND FITNESS CENTER, DELIA A. HAMMOCK, and BARBARA J. GERWITZ



The opinion of the court was delivered by: NIXON

 JOHN T. NIXON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 Pending before the Court is the defendants' motion for summary judgment and the plaintiff's opposition thereto.

 FACTS

 Plaintiff Martin Katahn is a professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University, the Director of the Weight Management Program at Vanderbilt, and the author of several books relating to weight loss and control. His most famous works are The Rotation Diet and The Rotation Diet Cookbook. The underlying premise of the diet described in these books is that by rotating periods of low calorie intake with periods of higher intake, the dieter is able to prevent the metabolic slowdown that accompanies weight loss and thus avoid regaining previously lost weight.

 The March, 1990 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine contained a brief article stating that the concept of rotating caloric intake was not an effective method of dieting, and therefore the diet laid out in the plaintiff's books was a poor strategy for weight loss. The article, which appeared on a monthly page entitled "Nutrition, Diet, and Fitness," is based on a study performed at Vanderbilt University which compared a group of dieters on a varying caloric diet with a group that followed a constant calorie diet, and determined that the rotation of calorie intake has no effect on weight loss.

 The article reads as follows:

 THE DIET THAT COULDN'T

 The Once Highly Touted Rotation Diet Doesn't Work. Here's Why!

 
Remember the Rotation Diet that made its rounds in the U.S. in 1986? It was based on the premise that alternating daily calories between 600, 900 and 1200 would speed weight loss by preventing the metabolic slowdown caused by constant low calorie dieting. To find out whether rotation works, researchers at Vanderbilt University put one group of moderately obese women on a varying caloric diet with or without exercise while another group followed a constant calorie diet with or without exercise. In all cases, the diets provided an average of 1200 calories per day over the twelve week period. The results? The researchers discovered that rotation did not speed up metabolic rate, and the weight loss for both groups of no exercise dieters was the same. What did make a difference was exercise. Individuals on either diet who walked regularly lost significantly more weight than those who did not exercise. The bottom line: don't rotate your diet from day to day - instead, get up out of your chair and rotate your body by exercising!

 The plaintiff claims that the article oversimplifies and misstates both the Rotation Diet and the Vanderbilt study, and its conclusion that the rotation diet does not work is incorrect. He brought this libel suit as a diversity action, alleging that the defendants' false statements about the diet called into question his competency, veracity and trustworthiness, and caused significant damage to his reputation.

 DISCUSSION

 a. The Standard for Summary Judgment

 Upon a motion for summary judgment the court must first determine whether there is genuine dispute about any issue of material fact. See, e.g., Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986). As the Supreme Court recently clarified, the standard of materiality requires that "only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the ...


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