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how many of you really follow "nutrition science"?

j
j8715 Apr 2, 2011 04:14 PM

I have a very strong belief that no one knows what the hell they are talking about.

When I was a kid eggs were bad and so was all fat. This almost ruined vegetables for me. Have you ever eaten steamed spinach? It is like eating a wet, green paper towel. Steamed carrots are pretty close to it on the awful food spectrum.

Now some fat and eggs are good. Butter may or may not be good. who the hell knows?

Potatoes? Good?

Salt? Bad??

Why are fruits and vegetables counted as separate things on food pyramids?

Gluten. I know some people are legitimately afflicted with celiac, but healthy people say they don't eat any wheat because of it?? I know I am not alone thinking some peoples allergies are all in their heads.

I can't wait until Kraft Singles and marshmallow fluff cure cancer.

My personal regimen is oatmeal for breakfast, some weight lifting, wine , green vegetables and beans a few times a week. If gluten makes me lose out on a few extra years drooling on my self in some pee smelling old folks home, so be it. Death to food science.

  1. Bill Hunt Jun 15, 2011 08:46 PM

    I dine on what I like, and never consider what Michelle Obama, or anyone else might think.

    I am an adult, and pay handsomely for my healthcare (max coverage), so just do not care what others might wish that I eat.

    Other than a few broken bones, and torn tendons/ligaments, I have been in great health for many decades.

    I ascribe to my own "food pyramid: Wine, foie gras, bacon, fried seafood and then certain veggies, like beets. Oh, if done well, I love breads too!

    Nah, I do not worry about the "food police," and have my continued health to show that they might not have all of the facts, or they have some other agenda... [Wink]

    Hunt

    3 Replies
    1. re: Bill Hunt
      mcf Jun 16, 2011 08:15 AM

      Following nutritional science, the topic of this thread, is actually the direct opposite of worrying about the "food police." It's about knowing what good science is, not science filtered through special interests. Choosing what to apply and what to ignore becomes a decision free of police interference, not more dependent on it.

      1. re: mcf
        g
        givemecarbs Jul 22, 2011 09:38 AM

        Ah what do I find at the very bottom of this thread? Words of wisdom and common sense from mcf. I am smiling ear to ear right now. What an awesome reply. Succinct and to the point too. Wish i could borrow a cup of that. Thank you mcf. Once again you have made my day.

        1. re: mcf
          crowmuncher Jul 23, 2011 11:08 PM

          Absolutely, but that don't mean we have to like it. Great post j!

      2. thew Jun 6, 2011 01:18 PM

        because science works like science, ie is always changing as new things are learned, and not like unchanging catechism it should be abandoned?

        1 Reply
        1. re: thew
          e
          ediblover Jun 8, 2011 02:35 PM

          The message I got from the OP was that emphasis should be placed on the limited knowledge and dynamic aspect of the field, not ignoring it entirely.

          For example, a funny thing is that whenever there's big news about a food being really good for you, you'll always have a small group of people that over-consume the food like crazy and have problems as a result. Most people just seem to ignore common sense when it comes to these things.

        2. eatzalot Jun 6, 2011 11:18 AM

          In my experience. the real problem with public perceptions isn't unknown or uncertain science, it's refusal to accept even what IS known, demonstrated, unambiguous, if that information threatens cherished notions.

          Take MSG. MSG evolved as a commercial product only after centuries of use in naturally occurring form in Japan (in Kombu seaweed, where it was first identified). It (more precisely glutamic acid, its unique half) occurs naturally in many flavorful foods (meats, fermented foods, peas, grape juice). In fact, glutamic acid (an amino acid) is important to the body as a neurotransmitter and in the nutrient pteroylglutamic acid, commonly (and mercifully) called folic acid. A now-notorious 1968 medical letter _suggested_ MSG additions as cause of an alleged effect of Chinese restaurant cooking, a theory soon fashionable. Yet relentless investigations have found no such effect, no specific MSG health effects at all (beyond sodium content, not specific to MSG), and no individual who can reliably detect MSG in food. True physical sensitivity to glutamate would manifest, of course, even if the person consumed it unknowingly, as in cheese or grape juice or fermented bean paste.

          None of that, though, dissuades the faithful from insistently self-diagnosing MSG sensitivity; their tirades can be found on this site. The real issue with cherished notions isn't about true/false, it's _unwillingness to know_ if they're true or false. For as any scientist can tell you, reality-testing a theory means allowing that it may be false. Without which you'll never actually know even if it's true.

          (Lately, fructose and even glucose are being demonized as MSG was. Despite long-public information that common sucrose converts immediately to those two sugars in the body, and that they also occur abundantly in healthy foods that we and many thousands of generations of our ancestors have thrived on.)

          3 Replies
          1. re: eatzalot
            f
            fara Jun 8, 2011 08:30 AM

            I have always thought the problem with lots of MSG added is the same as consuming high salt food. Headaches, thirst, etc. I think what people are missing wtih the HCFS debate is that it is commonly used as a preservative and taste enhancer in low nutrient foods (i.e. grains stripped of nutrition with separate vitamin compounds added back). It also has such an intense sweetness that people become accustomed to very sweet foods as the norm.

            1. re: fara
              eatzalot Jun 8, 2011 09:49 AM

              MSG's sodium issue is real but not MSG-specific (only one, often minority, contributor of sodium to the foods in question). Glutamates' stigma arose from a specific now-discredited "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" proposed in a 1968 medical-journal letter, which people proceeded to self-diagnose. Quoting a modern summary in Nathan Myhrvold's monumental new 5-volume _Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking:_ "extensive research has yet to identify a test subject who can reliably distinguish food with or without MSG in a double-blind study. ... even for studies that have focused exclusively on people who claim to have MSG sensitivity. ... science has found no health effects due to MSG consumption at the levels [present] in food."

              This boring follow-up reality is taking longer to catch on than the "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" idea did (I've been seeing it cited since the 1970s).

              Glutamates (glutamic acid) are vital and ubiquitous in our bodies; glutamates including MSG itself are common in natural diets and other flavor enhancers from soy sauce to cheese; false self-diagnosed glutamate sensitivity obscures real problems (e.g. intolerance of bean derivatives far more common in Chinese than European recipes); yet people stubbornly claim it. That's my point.

              Sugars have invaded low-nutrient processed foods since long before HFCS (merely the US's cheapest sugar du jour) -- because sweetness sells. (Evidently some people now commenting about it weren't around, or noticing, when this trend was underway literally decades before HFCS.) That issue really rests ultimately on consumers' decisions -- they reward producers of sweeter junk and the producers accommodate.

              The Fructose Folly is that people fixate on it as "poison," obscuring much wider sugar-intake problems, and without examining fructose's vast presence in natural foods, or that their favored sucrose immediately breaks down to fructose + glucose in the body. They actually metabolize HFCS internally whenever they eat sucrose.

              1. re: fara
                cowboyardee Jun 8, 2011 09:51 AM

                "I think what people are missing wtih the HCFS debate is that it is commonly used as a preservative and taste enhancer in low nutrient foods (i.e. grains stripped of nutrition with separate vitamin compounds added back)"
                ______
                Very true.

                "It also has such an intense sweetness that people become accustomed to very sweet foods as the norm."
                ____
                The sweetness is very comparable to cane sugar, which it is typically replacing in recipes. On the other hand, it is so cheap that processed food companies are adding it to things that never used to have sugar in them and adding it in greater quantities to things that traditionally do. It is also often used to help compensate for the flavor lost in low-fat 'diet' foods, in a dubious trade-off. So Americans probably are getting accustomed to sweeter and sweeter foods even though HFCS is no sweeter than sugar.

            2. dave_c Jun 6, 2011 10:36 AM

              I don't blame food science. I blame junk science, the media and marketing.

              Two things come to mind as sketchy.

              1) 8 Glasses of water a day. There's never been a scientific recommendation, but people and the media have played the 8 glasses up as a cure for all that ails.

              2) Drinks that claim to be 100% fruit juice or No sugar added. Sure no sucrose was added, but grape or apple concentrate was used so you're adding more "fruit" sugars. It's all marketing.

              1. inaplasticcup Jun 6, 2011 07:09 AM

                Anything I want to say on this topic has been said (and better than I could) upstream. Just wanted to chime in and thank you for making me laugh, j8715.

                1. EWSflash Jun 4, 2011 08:28 PM

                  +1- totally!

                  1. f
                    fara Apr 21, 2011 10:28 AM

                    I take every nutritional story with a grain of salt (literally, I like my sea salt). If it confirms what I'm already doing, I say great. If it doesn't I am very careful in deciding whether I let it affect me. It does seem reasonable that the recent nytimes article about sugar causing diseases could be accurate. I already don't eat many sweets, but I would never give it up entirely.
                    If I feel like I'm not following a healthy diet for a stretch of time, I think about what my 90 yr old grandmother, who goes to the gym every day, eats. She grew up outside of Bari on an olive farm and actually only likes to eat "healthy" food. She doesn't tolerate mayo, butter, or cream (except ice cream). She eats a lot of bean soups, fruit, and before they put her on coumadin, greens. Her specialty is roasted peppers and eggplant done in her convection oven. We eat that with toast and some grated romano cheese for lunch, maybe with a soup. Cold cuts are a treat but she also doesn't eat a lot of pasta.
                    My father also cooks like this. I notice when I deviate too much from this type of cooking I gain weight and feel sluggish.
                    I don't listen to nutritional stories for the most part.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: fara
                      mcf Apr 21, 2011 10:45 AM

                      There are nutritional "stories" and there is actual nutritional "science" and the two are confused by too many, including a lot of researchers, who often write conclusions unsupported by their own data. Way too much clinical emphasis is created from epidemiology, and this is the sort of crap that gets published in nutrition "Stories" and constantly in conflict with the next "story" causing folks who confuse stories with science to think the science, rather that the authors, is untrustworthy.

                      1. re: mcf
                        f
                        fara Apr 21, 2011 11:13 AM

                        hmm, funny that i wrote "story." i'm scientist, and i guess without thinking about it I call most of it "stories" because it falls under the category of "news story."

                        1. re: fara
                          mcf Apr 21, 2011 01:02 PM

                          It was the right term; what most folks think is science reporting is just regurgitation of some "story" purporting to be science. :-)

                    2. goodhealthgourmet Apr 20, 2011 09:04 PM

                      for the record, as a nutrition professional by trade with a graduate degree in Nutritional Science, i take offense to dismissal of the *entire* discipline as junk science or a load of crap.

                      to answer the question posed in the title of this thread, yes, i follow it - kinda comes with the territory given my educational background and profession. but following or studying a subject in no way obliges us to blindly accept every one of its concepts or claims as gospel. i'm an intelligent adult capable of forming my own conclusions through the process of critical thought...not a helpless sheep who just nods and assumes anything & everything is true or valid simply because someone published it in a book or posted it on the web. *populations* and *societies* change, so it follows that the disciplines and technologies they invent and promote will also change. the students and experts in these fields make advancements, experience setbacks, and yes, often discover that what they once believed to be fact is not...it's the nature of the beast. heck, a few years ago astronomists determined that Pluto isn't actually a planet. does that mean astronomy is baseless?

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet
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                        shaebones Apr 20, 2011 10:59 PM

                        Well said GHG.

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                          h
                          hungryabbey Jun 4, 2011 07:55 PM

                          Excellent points, GHG. I'm a dietetic intern and feel the same way. Unfortunately, many laypeople are not so quick to think so critically.

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                            f
                            fara Jun 6, 2011 06:57 AM

                            the problem is, that like with most clinical research, it's impossible to have a completely controlled for study. As a basic research scientist, I stick to the evidence demonstrated by the eating patterns and behavioral patterns in countries with low levels of "modern" diseases and long life expectancies.

                            1. re: fara
                              mcf Jun 6, 2011 07:03 AM

                              Completely controlled clinical study isn't necessary, though, for measuring clinical outcomes in the real world. That's what really matters, ultimately, along with maximizing control of variables.

                              1. re: mcf
                                f
                                fara Jun 6, 2011 10:28 AM

                                the problem is that you can't experiment on people. you can only observe them. so sorry, but I take clinical studies with a grain of salt.

                                1. re: fara
                                  mcf Jun 6, 2011 12:32 PM

                                  If you're talking about dissecting, yeah, you can't experiment on humans.

                                  1. re: mcf
                                    f
                                    fara Jun 8, 2011 08:24 AM

                                    well actually you can dissect humans. that is part of medical school- dissecting a cadaver. also, surgery? but think about it. you can only observe human subjects, not experiment on them with any real controls. you can give them substances that are proven to be non-toxic in other animals and subjectively measure side effects. can you create transgenic humans or breed them to your liking?no. can you control their environment from birth?no. there are so many limitations with human studies compared to basic science that the majority of clinical studies don't carry much weight outside of the medical field.

                                    I do respect clinical studies, they are needed. I just don't give them much weight. As a side note, try asking your average MD to design a research study and you will see why the clinical studies are so misinterpreted.

                                    1. re: fara
                                      mcf Jun 8, 2011 08:38 AM

                                      I care about real world outcomes, not the usually misinterpreted surrogate endpoints that too many allegedly well controlled studies produce, that end up in seriously flawed health policy.

                                      Clearly, I know one can dissect cadavers, but not living study subjects, which is what we were discussing.

                          2. n
                            nooyawka Apr 20, 2011 05:00 PM

                            I believe strongly in all science. I especially believe in nutritional science.

                            It's not that butter, and stuff like that, is better than its alternatives. It's that corporate greed comes up with alternative foods and substitutes (like Aspartame, Saccharin, etc.) that are marketed as healthier, but testing ultimately reveals the alternatives to be worse than the original foods. I recently accidentally bought a bottle of Heinz Ketchup with "no salt added". When I looked more carefully, I realized they put in a salt alternative. I wanted to return it right away. I'd rather eat the natural stuff, with natural and even added sodium. The better solution is to shrink and control my portions.

                            I believe in eating healthily. Lots of green and other vibrantly colored, fibrous vegetables. High fiber (like you said, oatmeal. I like my Total cereal.) Eating more varied fruits. Avoid the high sugar content fruits. Drinking lots of water. Eating lots of health, lean meats, like fish and white-meat chicken or turkey. Is it boring? Hell yes! But that's the price to pay for good health.

                            At the end of the day, there is no guarantee that good nutrition and exercise will give you a long and illness-free life. The science is constantly evolving. But, given our current body of knowledge, it will get you as close as you can come.

                            1. j
                              j8715 Apr 20, 2011 05:51 AM

                              It is interesting that some folk seem to follow a reactionary food science. . . or maybe a "I'll listen to what I want to hear" doctrine.

                              I reject all of it, other than the basic don't get fat and eat a variety of real food. I would never try something on the basis of its supposed anti oxidants or acids or what have you. Maybe quinoa is delicious, but telling me how dense its nutrients are and that some ass on oprah blends it up with yogurt and squash as a meal makes it seem as appetizing as cough syrup.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: j8715
                                I used to know how to cook... Apr 20, 2011 07:30 PM

                                Hi cowboyardee,

                                You said: "You can't call something 'junk science' without using some scientific concepts to shoot it down. Or heck, a reason at all."

                                Really? Why not?

                                Lucy

                                1. re: I used to know how to cook...
                                  cowboyardee Apr 20, 2011 08:20 PM

                                  You might add "If you want to be credible or persuasive" to the beginning of my quote. I thought it was implicit.

                                  Quite obviously, you CAN call anything whatever you want to call it - there are no stormtroopers on their way to your house right now.

                                2. re: j8715
                                  crowmuncher Jul 23, 2011 11:14 PM

                                  Amen!

                                3. I used to know how to cook... Apr 19, 2011 06:39 PM

                                  Hi all,

                                  Just thought I'd revive this semi-old thread.

                                  Hopefully some of the folks who are caught up in the Sugar is Toxic and Fructose is Toxic concepts being promoted in separate threads (Food Media Board) might benefit from some of the very astute posts here.

                                  Although those who are avidly supporting these ideas will no doubt disagree with me, I think both concepts are nothing more than junk science. Rather like the food fads of the past - fat is bad, grilled foods are bad, carbs are bad, salt is bad, beet juice will reduce heart disease, red wine is good, soy is a wonder food, that kind of thing.

                                  Hopefully this thread will lend some balance.

                                  Besides the OP and in no particular order, eatzalot, Sherri, timbrel2, tastesgoodwhatisit and others have stated what, to me, are extremely intelligent and sane positions on the whole topic of 'food science'.

                                  I don't mean to leave anyone out - there are many excellent posts in this thread.

                                  Lucy

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: I used to know how to cook...
                                    cowboyardee Apr 20, 2011 06:05 PM

                                    You can't call something 'junk science' without using some scientific concepts to shoot it down. Or heck, a reason at all. I have serious doubts that you understand or even fully read/watched the articles/video that you're criticizing. (In case you're interested, here are the links:
                                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM
                                    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/mag...

                                    )

                                    When I read this thread, I see it filled with statements ranging from the baldly ridiculous ("no one knows anything about nutrition"), to the oversimplified and under-informed (the OP's "why are fruits and vegetables counted as separate things on food pyramids?") to the often-true but at times misleading heuristics...
                                    (Tangent paragraph on "everything in moderation": it implies that moderate amounts of, say, radioactive waste or kool-aid in your diet will do you no harm - not true, though it may do so little harm as to not be worth worrying about. Also it falsely implies that a broadly inclusive but unguided diet is better for you than actively searching out healthy foods and to some extent shunning less healthy ones, or than eating nutrients in appropriate ratios. It may be a fair criticism of diet trends based on poor science or a poor understanding of good science to say that they have at times been too limited, not accounting for the very real health benefits of a more varied diet. To take 'everything in moderation' as the lesson from that is still too simplistic and wrongheaded)
                                    ... As well as a few insightful observations (particularly eatzalot's post above).

                                    I'm all for smart critiques of popular and scientific dogma, but the criticism of scientific concepts that people on this thread generally haven't read and don't understand rubs me the wrong way.

                                    1. re: cowboyardee
                                      cowboyardee Apr 20, 2011 08:48 PM

                                      "As well as a few insightful observations (particularly eatzalot's post above)."
                                      _______
                                      I also forgot to mention Tastesgoodwhatisit's post - also very insightful.

                                      Additionally, Iusedtoknowhowtocook... it seems you like these posts as well. If so, you might be interested in how decent science gets turned into nearly meaningless sound bites. Take a look at those links I put in my post above. They are actually good, deep, insightful looks at how sugar affects our bodies. Faultless? Probably not. But if you are interested in media providing substance rather than sound bites in food nutrition, then those are the good guys. They are complex, based on fairly solid research, and to some degree admitting to uncertainty, and also take some of the time needed to explain their premises.

                                      Now in between those articles and this thread, someone (be it the editor who titled the articles, the posters on another thread who oversimplified it in discussion, or you who presented it here without explanation) simplified that rather interesting research into a controversial 3 word header that is misleading to the general public.

                                      1. re: cowboyardee
                                        d
                                        DougRisk Apr 21, 2011 01:27 PM

                                        "(Tangent paragraph on "everything in moderation": it implies that moderate amounts of, say, radioactive waste or kool-aid in your diet will do you no harm - not true, though it may do so little harm as to not be worth worrying about. Also it falsely implies that a broadly inclusive but unguided diet is better for you than actively searching out healthy foods and to some extent shunning less healthy ones, or than eating nutrients in appropriate ratios. It may be a fair criticism of diet trends based on poor science or a poor understanding of good science to say that they have at times been too limited, not accounting for the very real health benefits of a more varied diet. To take 'everything in moderation' as the lesson from that is still too simplistic and wrongheaded)"

                                        +1 Great Comment.

                                    2. amyzan Apr 4, 2011 03:24 PM

                                      The problem, as I see it, is the coverage of nutrition science in the media. Most stories are so dumbed down and sensationalized, there is little to take note and apply. I find this a problem with news in general, though...

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: amyzan
                                        mcf Apr 4, 2011 03:30 PM

                                        Absolutely. And scientists using epidemiology as a basis for clinical medical practice are guilty, too.

                                      2. c
                                        chefathome Apr 4, 2011 03:11 PM

                                        If I were not a diagnosed celiac, believe me, I would eat a lot differently than I do. For the sake of my health I am forced to cut gluten out of my diet which is fine at home but extremely difficult when eating out. We have very little processed food in the house but never did have as I enjoy scratch cooking too much! I always have grown my own vegetables and herbs but that is partly because I'm a gardener and get so much joy out of the process.

                                        Eat well, love what you eat and be active. Expend more calories than you ingest. I'm going to continue eating my butter and bacon quite happily.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: chefathome
                                          e
                                          eatswjoy Apr 4, 2011 03:49 PM

                                          chefathome...

                                          icecone on the "Homecooking" board needs help with a non-gluton bread question. Might you be able to help her? I'll bet you would know more than me. :)

                                          1. re: eatswjoy
                                            c
                                            chefathome Apr 4, 2011 04:13 PM

                                            Thanks - I will wander over to Homecooking right now!! :)

                                        2. m
                                          Mona Williams Apr 4, 2011 02:49 PM

                                          For a while, I think it's better now, a lot of restaurants were leaving out salt (even from pasta!!) with the explanation that "It's not good for some people, so you can just add your own." Even though adding your own really doesn't work, especially with pasta, at least that was an honest answer. What really bothered me was the assumption, which I also ran into a lot, that salt is not good for anyone. Maybe it's my cooking-school background, where leaving salt out of your food would be equivalent to serving it on an asbestos shingle, but I have never been able to believe that.

                                          1. r
                                            redfish62 Apr 4, 2011 02:36 PM

                                            "Everything In Moderation"

                                            I have thrown that by the wayside. First there is the "everything" part of it .... I am results-oriented so if a food is not going to get me the results I want then it goes into the trash heap of my personal culinary history. I avoid it entirely. Sorry, you're fired, don't let the door hit you on the way out, I'll help you pack.

                                            Then there is the "moderation" part. Hard what to make of that, as ingesting ANYTHING in immoderate amounts is always a bad idea ...

                                            im·mod·er·ate (-mdr-t)
                                            adj.
                                            Exceeding normal or appropriate bounds

                                            http://www.thefreedictionary.com/immo...

                                            Heck drinking WATER in immoderate amounts can make you really sick or kill you. If driinking WATER in immoderate amounts makes you sick then I think it is safe to say that drinking or eating anything in immoderate amounts is a bad idea, it's like saying "Don't consume too much arsenic ..."

                                            So the "moderation" part of the equation is totally meaningless.

                                            Then there is the problem that, medical trauma issues aside, what is moderate/immoderate is entirely subjective and tends to change from time to time ...

                                            1. mcf Apr 4, 2011 02:15 PM

                                              I follow nutrition and metabolism science very closely, along with endocrinology, cardiology, molecular biology and a host of stuff that's related. It's not an art, it's a science, and it has profound effects on how we feel and on health maintenance and disease prevention and even reversal. One of the best journals I've found online for lay people is here:
                                              http://www.nutritionandmetabolism.com/

                                              As a result of more than a decade scouring Medline, etc. I've been eating increasingly low carb/high fat and environmentally clean food. I love to cook and to eat, I've reversed all my previous diabetic damage and given me a great lipid profile and prevented other conditions. YMMV.

                                              1. l
                                                Lexma90 Apr 4, 2011 12:49 PM

                                                Here's another on the same bandwagon of moderation generally, but also exercise, lots of fresh food, mostly plants.

                                                I read a lot of "nutrition science" stuff, but not necessary to follow every latest thing. In fact, I don't really follow any of the fad trends, but there are always nuggets of truth, or at least information, in any new article. And if I read something that sounds interesting, I'll generally dig deeper - I never stop with an article in the popular press.

                                                I will say that for the last 20 years or so, my diet has generally been lowish in fat, due to a genetic disposition to high cholesterol. And more carbs, due to a lack of interest in meat and being a runner. Though as I age, I'm finding both that I can't eat as much carbs (pasta and breads, primarily) without it effecting my weight, and that I'm more interested in eating more lean protein; "interested," as in, it appeals to me more than it used to.

                                                1. eatzalot Apr 4, 2011 12:27 PM

                                                  I don't really follow "nutrition science," rather it seems to follow me (when friends, some of them scientists, send news, often clashing with conventional wisdom du jour -- in various directions: some things the public maybe OUGHT to worry about get little press).

                                                  I saw some sensible well-reasoned posts in this thread, including by Sherri and especially tastesgoodwhatisit. Who more than compensates for a hard-to-type username by summarizing this topic penetratingly, succinctly -- one of the best summaries I've seen. Much of the frustration I hear over contradictory expert advice actually reflects the simplistic ways science gets reported, even willfully interpreted by the public. Stripped of vital contexts and qualifications and limitations, to sound bites that even develop lives of their own, "bandwagons" as LorenM put it in another thread here.

                                                  These oversimplifications also promote, as tastesgoodwhatisit mentioned, psychologies of perceived hip wisdom, and scapegoat ingredients easily demonized and avoided, an appealing alternative to much better established steps everyone knows about but that are closer to home, and take work: exercise, moderation, fresh vegetables, ...

                                                  H. L. Mencken: "For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong."

                                                  1. r
                                                    redfish62 Apr 4, 2011 07:46 AM

                                                    I follow it pretty closely but I don't listen to anyone's opinion about it, because there are 5 billion different opinions.

                                                    What cracks me up is every week they discover some new "Super Food" and all of a sudden everyone is eating it.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: redfish62
                                                      l
                                                      lilmomma Apr 4, 2011 08:05 AM

                                                      EllenGanssle

                                                      According to Nourishing Traditions, creamy butter is about the healthiest thing you can eat!!!

                                                      1. re: lilmomma
                                                        s
                                                        sedimental Apr 4, 2011 08:38 AM

                                                        Yes, just not the way Paula Deen eats it! LOL

                                                        1. re: lilmomma
                                                          EllenGanssle Apr 4, 2011 12:15 PM

                                                          Maybe that's why I liked that book so much!!! I do try to buy the grass-fed butter, but it is expensive.

                                                      2. b
                                                        beevod Apr 4, 2011 07:07 AM

                                                        92.2% of everything written about everything is nonsense. Have you ever really looked at some of the wan, dried out people shopping in "health" food stores? Follow your own instincts. Oh, and yes, moderation and exercise.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: beevod
                                                          EllenGanssle Apr 4, 2011 07:46 AM

                                                          That made me laugh. My brother-in-law always says, "99% of percentages are made up". My stepson works in a health food store, and says the same thing. Every person that shops there looks sick. He and I love to cook, so he usually comes home from work to homemade bread, creamy butter, hardly "health food".

                                                          1. re: beevod
                                                            e
                                                            eatswjoy Apr 4, 2011 11:47 AM

                                                            beevod, too true...LOL!

                                                            Unfortunately, I believe that many of the wan/sickly ones are there trying to find solutions to their health problems where medicine hasn't helped, even if it turns out to be the placebo effect. I spent some time at our local health food store buying non-gluten to see if that would help with my husbands' difficulties.

                                                            Moderation is certainly the way to go, I no longer eat a whole row of Ritz crackers with the majority of a can of Easy Cheese, I mix up my "good and bad" foods probably 80/20%.

                                                            As for bad science, I am mad at myself for throwing out all those nutritious egg yolks for years now that I have learned that they are one of the few foods that have specific nutrients for healthy brain function. My father has Alzheimer's, might I have shorted myself?

                                                          2. al b. darned Apr 4, 2011 01:07 AM

                                                            A few years ago there was a sitcom about a doctor, played by Danny Thomas, who was retiring from his practice. In the first show he was showing his family some of the things he cleaned out of his office. "Look at this nutrition poster. Red meat, white bread, cheese, butter, eggs. In 1952 this was a healthy diet. Today, it's a death meal!"

                                                            I also remember when oat bran was going to be the savior of us all.

                                                            Add my vote to the eat what you like in moderation.

                                                            1. iluvcookies Apr 3, 2011 08:42 AM

                                                              My father in law swears by every new "finding" that he reads about. Because of this, I have been "bleesed" with oversized blocks of gouda, a gallon of carrot juice, strange purple potatoes that tasted like soap, no less than 8 bottles of assorted supplements, and 10 packages of whole-wheat cappellini pasta (that turns to mush 30 seconds after it hits the water). While I am grateful for the abundance, I have no inclnation to use these things simply because they are healthy.

                                                              I am fortunate to have good cholesterol and blood sugar, a low risk for cancer, though if I lost 20 pounds it wouldn't hurt (and those white pants I bought would fit better). I eat a varied diet and try to cook at least one new dish a week. I love to bake and have a sweet tooth, but I modulate that with fresh veggies and fruits, as well as red wine in moderation. Clearly whatever I am doing works for my husband and me, so I'm sticking with my own common sense and kitchen wisdom.

                                                              And to the OP's point about marshmallow fluff, I am living proof that it, along with pints of vanilla Haagen-Dazs, can cure a teenage broken heart :)

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: iluvcookies
                                                                l
                                                                lilmomma Apr 3, 2011 10:28 AM

                                                                I just read some of Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon who is the president of the Weston Price Foundation. I also have read some Michael Pollan. It is all very confusing. The thing that was very interesting to me was that although some animals and cultures were considered vegetarians. Many of them actually ate a lot of insects that were on the veggies they ate. So they were eating insect protein which are complete. When we became more hygenic and started washing our produce more carefully, nutritional deficiencies occured.

                                                                I don't know how much of what anybody says is true, but it is all just fascinating to me.

                                                                1. re: lilmomma
                                                                  s
                                                                  sedimental Apr 3, 2011 10:45 AM

                                                                  It is all fascinating to me too. I still use grain soaking and lacto fermentation technique from Fallon's book. I love to "experiment" in the kitchen! I have read about the insect thing too..... I have decided that I wouldn't try to experiment with that :)

                                                                  1. re: sedimental
                                                                    l
                                                                    lilmomma Apr 3, 2011 02:16 PM

                                                                    Sedimental, Exactly what stuff do you do from Fallon's book? I'm curious. I just started making my own yogurt. I am not feeling guilty making bacon on Sundays and I have started to save the fat from it to fry with. That's it for me so far.

                                                                    1. re: sedimental
                                                                      EllenGanssle Apr 4, 2011 07:43 AM

                                                                      I loved reading Nourishing Traditions, and now I always soak my oatmeal. I think it tastes better, and it is faster in the morning. NJ is also close to legalizing raw milk, which I can't wait to try.

                                                                2. e
                                                                  ediblover Apr 3, 2011 08:32 AM

                                                                  You are correct in saying that no one knows what the hell they are talking about.

                                                                  Just this past Tuesday there was a fairly involving debate at the Harvard forum on... Vitamin D. A freaking vitamin that we've known for decades and we still can't decide on how much we actually need. That pretty much says it all when it comes to our understanding of nutrition and the human body.

                                                                  We know nothing.

                                                                  It's fun to think about when we will actually have a really good idea of how it all works. For that, we would essentially need a medical tricorder that could be strapped on to millions over their lifetime in order to record all of the data. Then we'd need to do that for a few generations. So... Maybe in 1,000 years we'll know.

                                                                  1. s
                                                                    sedimental Apr 2, 2011 09:34 PM

                                                                    I don't pay much attention to popular nutrition science. I do enjoy reading the esoteric stuff although it doesn't alter my daily diet much. Daily foods are important to me, the occasional food product that is *not so healthy* is fine. I try to stick with my daily foods in as pure a form as possible (organic & unprocessed).....then the occasional cheesecake or diet soda doesn't seem to be so "bad".

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: sedimental
                                                                      t
                                                                      timbrel2 Apr 3, 2011 07:23 AM

                                                                      We have always eaten in what we believed was a healthy way. We were once gardeners and we eat a wide variety of vegetables, grains, fruits etc. Due to many factors, some beyond his control, my husband who has exercised regularly for many years--ran a marathon for his 60th birthday-- has gained a lot of weight and has a number of health issues, none life-threatening just depressing.at 73. It is the impact of the weight on his life as much as anything that depresses him. I have worked with a trainer for about 13 years and she has helped me remain active despite MS. He is now working with her as well. A life-long vegetarian, she brought the work of Gary Taubes to my attention. I am now reading his book, which addresses the science he believes has been ignored, a science he believes points to high protein as the way to maintain a healthy weight. His work has made her change to eating meat which she detests and providing that diet for her family. Not sure what to think yet, just wanted to mention this material in the context of this conversation.

                                                                      1. re: timbrel2
                                                                        greedygirl Apr 4, 2011 07:23 AM

                                                                        "I am now reading his book, which addresses the science he believes has been ignored, a science he believes points to high protein as the way to maintain a healthy weight."

                                                                        Hardly ignored - it's the low-carb approach that's been in vogue for many years. I am familiar with the principles, but noone has been able to explain why people who have had a high-carb and relatively low-protein diet for generations (from Asian countries, for example) are in general pretty slim.

                                                                        For me, moderation is key. And exercise. Unfortunately, many people find that impossible and would rather look for "rules" which cut out a major food group, ie low-carb.

                                                                    2. t
                                                                      tastesgoodwhatisit Apr 2, 2011 08:52 PM

                                                                      I think you've got a few issues in your list.

                                                                      One is nutrition science. I'm not a biologist, but I am a research scientist, so I tend to interpret the reports of findings in any field from that perspective. In general, the scientists themselves know very well that they don't understand everything. What they report in their academic reports and papers is the current best version of what they know, and if it's good science, it comes attached with limits on that understanding - statistical uncertainties, sample size and selection biases, mathematical significance of the result.

                                                                      But when stuff gets reported in the media those limits get dropped or ignored by readers who don't understand it. So the news reports "Fat is bad for you and causes high cholesterol" , when the scientific study itself actually said "in a five year study of 500 men in their 30s, high fat diets were correlated with a 15% greater chance of high cholesterol, at an 85% confidence level. " The second one clearly states the limits in the result,and also distinguishes between causation and correlation.

                                                                      From the scientist point of view, unfortunately, splashy clear results make better press copy,and press coverage means a much bigger chance of getting research funding and jobs. Cautious results don't tend to get you a job.

                                                                      A second issue is how people interpret results. The gluten thing is a good example. There are people who have a legitimate issue digesting gluten, a serious medical issue. However, a lot of people simply extract "gluten is bad" from this, and either self-diagnose gluten intolerance (often incorrectly) or somehow extract that all gluten is bad, and a gluten free diet (or lactose free, or raw food diet, or carb free, or fat free, etc....) will make them healthier.

                                                                      Psychologically, this is quite tempting. It's a sound bite solution - short, easy to grasp, and simple to apply, with promises of great reward. It sounds cooler and more knowledgeable than simply eating home cooked food in moderation, and it gives you the option of safely pigging out, as long as the junk food doesn't contain gluten/fat/starch etc.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                                                        cowboyardee Apr 20, 2011 08:30 PM

                                                                        Good post.

                                                                        1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                                                          h
                                                                          Howard_2 Jun 4, 2011 04:17 PM

                                                                          Tastegoodwhatisit:

                                                                          Your post is excellent. I would add a few items which are slight nit-picks, which I hope will amplify your comments.

                                                                          1. The problem is, in part, what readers take away from mass-media stories. Another significant part is that a lot of journalists in the mass media simply don't know what they're talking about. They don't understand how to interpret these scientific results, and don't know how to ask the right questions to clarify things and inform readers.

                                                                          2. Another problem is that some of the "popular or current medical wisdom" is simply not based on good science. That's how it came to be that years ago eggs were regarded as "bad"--and also how coconut oil and MSG were regarded as bad! (In recent years coconut oil and MSG have been
                                                                          rehabilitated.)

                                                                          3. As an example of #2, medical "wisdom" today says "avoid fats." The "thinking" is that dietary fat will ultimately wind up as arterial plaques. But afaik there simply is no evidence that this is true, at least, not for large numbers of people. It may be true for some people; and it may be true as well that dietary fat results in arterial plaques certain other variables are present, e.g. when the eater is also a smoker, or has a certain genetic profile.

                                                                          4. As Groopman showed in How Doctors Think, and as we know from cognitive science, doctors don't always think clearly and cleverly about patient signs and symptoms, e.g. gluten sensitivity (which may be increasing).

                                                                          As for what to eat and what not to eat, I think I;'m a reasonably well-informed person on this stuff, and my practice, based on my knowledge, is "eat anything you want, certain in moderation; it might be a good idea to cut down on fructose, per Gary Taubes."

                                                                        2. h
                                                                          hungryabbey Apr 2, 2011 08:26 PM

                                                                          I love this post.
                                                                          I am just about to start my dietetic internship this fall, but can honestly say that after 4 years of hard-core nutrition education, I haven't really learned much about FOOD. Nutrients, yes. Numbers, yes. I can tell you anything you want to know about the food guide, or how much saturated fat you should have (or shouldnt have, I guess). Thankfully, I have had to stray from my professor's teachings in my own philosophy on eating and food, because if I didn't, I would be stuck where most of my peers are- understanding food in terms of how many Food Guide servings it adds up to. I have a huge problem with this, because most of my peers dont know ANYTHING about food, they're scared of food. And hell, you might be too if you ONLY were ever taught about it in such quantifiable, scientific terms. The problem will be once they go into practicing dietetics, and people ask them about FOOD... and they have no idea what to do or say.
                                                                          I agree.. I dont like words like "healthy" recipe/food/meal, or dichotomize foods as good or bad. I think if you are cooking with passion, and using good ingredients, then it must be healthy.
                                                                          I actually delivered a tedx talk about this last year, see here:
                                                                          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Du5OHg...

                                                                          1. s
                                                                            Sherri Apr 2, 2011 05:33 PM

                                                                            Eschewing the popular press is the first step toward nutritional sanity. I'm convinced that dietary hype sells especially to those looking for an easy answer and an excuse. It's as simple as: Just say "NO" to the next dietary fad. Michael Pollen has it right when he advises "Eat foods that your grandmother would recognize" or words to that effect. The giant food corporations receive little profit from this household, we don't eat a lot of things from boxes or packages. Honesty compells me to admit that I have more time to spend in the kitchen than many others since my days as a working mom are over but even when I was busier, I was what is called a "scratch cook".

                                                                            My husband and I have not changed our diets to fit the fad-of-the-moment and have no plans to do so. Our physicians congratulate us at yearly physicals, telling us to continue doing whatever we're doing. We may be the only two Americans who never bought into the "Low-Fat" or "Low Carb" mania recognizing that moderation is key. But so is flavor. We will happily sacrifice a lot of mediocre food for something small and truly delicious. Salt is not white death, eggs are a great food both nutritionally and economically, potatoes et al are delicious and wine & butter are gifts to be savoured.

                                                                            When the overindulgence devils visit, we realize that it is time to reduce caloric intake and increase physical exertion. Simple arithmetic says that consuming more fuel than you burn results in excess pounds. Making some changes is in order but never anything as draconian as a diet. We just modify and/or cut back until our clothes notify us that all is well.

                                                                            I will admit to buying at a local Farmers' Market. It's not for some esoteric nutritional reason, it's because the food tastes good. Eggs with deep rich yolks taste best to us, freshly picked produce has a bright flavor and lasts a long time. We eat from all over the globe and enjoy our meals; Lordy how we enjoy our meals! When all is said and done, I believe that is key.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Sherri
                                                                              I used to know how to cook... Apr 2, 2011 05:49 PM

                                                                              Hi Sherri,

                                                                              That was well said!

                                                                              Lucy

                                                                              1. re: Sherri
                                                                                t
                                                                                Terrieltr Jun 8, 2011 10:55 AM

                                                                                A favorite quote: Salt. A magic rock that makes food tasty.

                                                                              2. I used to know how to cook... Apr 2, 2011 04:58 PM

                                                                                Hi all,

                                                                                I agree with ipsedixit. Moderation is the key.

                                                                                If I do have a 'rule' at all it is I don't eat if I'm not hungry. When I'm hungry I eat whatever I feel like eating.

                                                                                I also do not 'modify' recipes to make them more 'healthy'... The thought of eating brownies made from black beans and applesauce is appalling.

                                                                                Lucy

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: I used to know how to cook...
                                                                                  j
                                                                                  j8715 Apr 2, 2011 05:04 PM

                                                                                  yeah i agree. why can't healthy food just be itself? beans and spinach are pretty good they don't need to be turned into fake hamburgers or fake meatloaf.

                                                                                  1. re: j8715
                                                                                    I used to know how to cook... Apr 2, 2011 05:23 PM

                                                                                    The key word in your post is 'healthy' ... To me, all foods are healthy. Maybe not for every person but generally speaking.

                                                                                    Pronouncements from on high that certain foods or even whole classes of food are 'healthy' or 'unhealthy' is absurd.

                                                                                    'cuz if you're gonna have beans (healthy) you just absolutely GOTTA have bacon (unhealthy) :)

                                                                                    Example: Haagen Dazs vanilla is made from cream, skim milk, sugar, egg yolks and vanilla, all perfectly natural and healthy ingredients. Oh, GOSH!!! Maybe the egg yolks are RAW!!! The shame of it all...

                                                                                    What would it be like made without the cream, using sugar substitute and eliminating the egg yolks? I don't think I want to find out.

                                                                                    Lucy

                                                                                2. ipsedixit Apr 2, 2011 04:16 PM

                                                                                  Unless you have a clinically diagnosed disease or medical condition (e.g. celiac or hypertension), eat everything and anything, but only in moderation.

                                                                                  Nutrition, like medicine, isn't a science, it's an art.

                                                                                  Beauty, like nutritional value, is in the eye of the beholder, or in this case, the eater.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                                    k
                                                                                    kerosundae Jun 4, 2011 05:18 PM

                                                                                    of course nutrition is science! but just not science we fully understand, so we still have to follow our intuition.

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