• Ana Bailoni

When it comes to nutrition, alternative facts is a thing.

Updated: Feb 2, 2018

Confused about nutrition? There's so much contradictory information about nutrition floating around. Truth is, we don't really know anything, and we're still trying to figure all this stuff out.

"Should I cut out carbs if my neighbor lost weight on the Keto diet?"

"Will red meat kill me?"

"Is dairy what's making me fat?"

"I can't afford organic produce, am I going to get cancer?"

And on and on it goes. So many "facts," so many different experts telling you what to eat, what not to eat, and claiming to have the cure for your overweight problems.

Before you get frustrated, or go around telling everybody they need to be eating Paleo because your trainer got you on it, it's important we understand something about nutrition science - It is not an exact science. In other words, in nutrition science, 2 + 2 don't always equals 4. It's very common for, while one group of scientists is excitedly waving around the latest revolutionary findings, to simultaneously have another group of scientists raining on their parade with similar but contradictory findings.

One reason is that biology is not an exact science, like mathematics. Biology is living, organic, ever-changing, and still very much a mystery to us. Another reason is that studies on nutrition involve thousands of hard-to-control factors - physiological, cultural, and psychological - that make it difficult to draw irrevocable conclusions from.

Like Richard Kahn, former chief scientific and medical officer of the American Diabetes Association told Freakanomics Radio in a podcast interview, "In general, nutrition sciences are not very robust compared to many other fields in studies in biological studies. There are often no control, no randomization, small number of subjects - it's very difficult to conduct very robust, long-term studies on nutrition."

So, what researchers often have to do is isolate a biological phenomenon to try to study it at the micro-level. These experiments are often done on rodents, isolated from all other factors, and decontextualized from our daily reality of eating and food choices. This is the reason for the apparent wishy-washiness of the diet and nutrition industry.

"Got Milk? It does a body good!"

"Wait, it may not do you so good... so, go ahead and cut out all dairy from your diet."

"Don't eat eggs, they're bad for you, they raise your cholesterol!"

"Never mind, actually eggs are really really good for you. Go ahead and eat 4 every day."

"The reason you're fat is because of all the gluten."

"Um, seems like only less than 1% of the population may or may not have a gluten allergy, so disregard what we just said."

All of this to say, take every piece of information with a grain of salt. Don't overthink it, and don't believe the nutrition terrorists with their food dogmas. Do your research, talk to as many people as you can, draw your own conclusions, and do what you think is best for you. And remember: behind every headline is someone wanting you to be scared so you'll spend all your money on their products.

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