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As Andrew Huberman faces trial by media, here’s what we should really be asking

Andrew Huberman, the world’s most high-profile pop neuroscientist and podcaster, is in the media spotlight for his relationship behaviour. He should indeed be under the microscope, but not for what he does in his personal life

Imagine a scenario where a reporter rounds up your exes and asks them to dish the dirt. 

What would they say about you? 

The one with the messy break up. What choice words would they have? 

Now imagine waking up to find it all laid bare in print in one of the world’s biggest news magazines and shared online to their 2.6 million website users, 2.2 million Instagram followers and 1.7 million Twitter/X followers. 

That’s the unenviable experience Dr Andrew Huberman, a 48-year-old tenured professor in the Department of Neurobiology at Stanford School of Medicine, had this week when New York magazine ran a cover feature with the headline “Andrew Huberman’s Mechanisms of Control” and the subhead “The private and public seductions of the world’s biggest pop neuroscientist”.

You imagine that, upon seeing the magazine’s cover, Huberman’s blood must have run as cold as the water in the ice bath protocols he regularly recommends on his chart-topping health optimisation podcast, the Huberman Lab.

And you know what, he should be under the microscope. He should be held to account. But not necessarily for the things to which the vast majority of the 8,000-word deep dive into his private life is devoted. 

Huberman on trial

We’ll get to what Huberman should be scrutinised for in in a minute, but first let’s look at the New York magazine feature. 

It focuses heavily on Huberman’s personal life and, in particular, his relationships with women. It details allegations from multiple exes who claim they were deceived and emotionally manipulated by him and that, at one point, he was dating five women simultaneously.

As is the way with modern media, the story soon took on a life of its own. And, as the headline act in a line-up of “rockstar” scientists who’ve recently found fame by delivering insights on complex subjects in digestible formats, it didn’t take long for other outlets to pick up on the piece. 

Self-styled “high-end tabloid” The Daily Beast was one of the first major publications to sink their teeth into it, closely followed by The Sun, sucking up some SEO juice with the headline “Who is Andrew Huberman and does he have a girlfriend?” 

With the story topping the Entertainment trend chart on Twitter/X, other health and fitness influencers muscled in with their hot takes, some starting with the (admirably honest if nothing else) admission that they’d neither read the story nor listened to Huberman’s podcasts. 

He even landed himself a conspiracy theory cameo. “They don’t like Huberman because he’s part of the renaissance that is teaching people, especially men, how to be strong and self-sufficient and healthy” said one user on X. Always “they” isn’t it? Whoever they are. 

Body of evidence

One of Huberman’s most vocal critics is the cognitive anthropologist Chris Kavanagh. He hosts a podcast called Decoding The Gurus, which recently devoted a two-hour episode to examining the validity of a 20-minute segment from a Huberman Lab podcast on the scientific evidence for the benefits of grounding (a therapeutic technique that focuses on realigning your “electrical energy” by reconnecting to the earth).

“Huberman does not come out of this looking like a normal person,” was Kavanagh’s comment on the New York magazine story. 

You could, on the other hand, say he comes out of it looking all too normal. The story shatters the myth of optimised perfection and reveals the reality of flawed humanity.

The real question is, should the story have been published in the first place? That rests on whether Huberman has been hypocritical or deceptive. The case for says he is an expert who dispenses advice on how to live optimally and his subject remit extends to relationships. 

The fact he released a podcast episode titled “Dr Becky Kennedy: Protocols for Excellent Parenting & Improving Relationships of All Kinds” a few weeks ago doesn’t help his cause.

The case against says that he is a scientist who focuses on health and wellness optimisation and when he does cover relationships, he’s platforming an expert in that field and inviting them to share their advice rather than claiming to be the embodiment of the ideal partner. 

Lab rat

We didn’t set up Unfiltered to judge the private lives of scientists. We did, however, commit to scrutinising the advice they share, so that’s what we’re going to focus our energy on. 

The essential criticism of Huberman’s podcast advice is that he will say something is supported by research but not go into detail about the strength of that research and that he sometimes uses non-human data to make prescriptive recommendations. 

“Huberman is a really good example of someone who sounds ‘sciencey’ but is just pulling everyone’s leg,” said nutrition research scientist Dr Alan Flanagan in a recent interview with Unfiltered.

“If you look at the science that’s supposed to be supporting his claims it’s a random rodent study or it’s a speculative mechanistic study. It’s not robust but when he’s saying [things like] you get a 2,000% increase in dopamine from something, everyone says, ‘Whoa! I want more dopamine’, so I guess it sounds sensationalist. 

“I cannot believe for a second that he doesn’t realise he’s misrepresenting the quality or speculative levels of research into prescriptive behaviours you should do. I can’t believe that’s anything but deliberate.”

Flanagan isn’t the only expert to voice concerns over the way Huberman interprets data. “A two-minute cold immersion to the neck, and five 30-second cold showers per week led to a significant reduction in abdominal fat and waist circumference in the men in this study” wrote Huberman last year while linking to a PubMed paper. 

Epidemiologist Gideon Meyerwitz-Katz dug around to find the data from that study. “I would say this is a straightforwardly null trial, showing no benefit between cold exposure and none,” he said. 

“You’ve got someone who is a tenured scientist at an institution like Stanford,” says Flanagan. “So, to my mind, he either knows the information he puts out is speculative or experimental science or not very well supported. Or, he’s not quite aware because he speaks to a lot of different areas of science and he wouldn’t have specific expertise or knowledge in all of those areas. Or he’s just not aware of the context of that field and he’s putting it out anyway. It’s reckless and we can be clear about why it is being done – the commercial success of the podcast.” 

Does that mean you should no longer listen to the Huberman Lab? No, it doesn’t. But it is a reminder that these experts are people, not gods or gurus.

So don’t take everything at face value. Understand when someone might have a financial incentive to say something sensational. And be quietly grateful your personal life isn’t plastered over the cover of a magazine.

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