The Questionable Science of Nutrition

We know that nutrition plays a large role in our health, but in all honesty, I don’t think we truly know much more than that. What about nutrition science, you ask? Well, it’s not simply science. It’s also a lot of lobbying, policy, Dr. Oz, and business interests. For example, the dairy industry has convinced us that milk is a necessity for healthy growth and bones, yet there are few real, reputable studies to back the claim. Large scale studies have shown that female milk drinkers even face an increased risk of fractures later in life. Keep in mind that milk is not necessarily related to the increased risk, but it certainly shows that drinking milk may not have the protective power we are told it has.

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This problem extends far beyond “Got Milk?” campaigns; there are so many misconceptions surrounding nutrition, especially when nutrition is so heavily influenced by business interests. Since March is National Nutrition Month, I thought this was the perfect time to share my thoughts on the current state of nutrition. And it’s a mess.

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While I am not a nutritionist or registered dietitian, I do consider myself a scientist and strive to be an informed consumer, but being an informed consumer is FAR from easy. Those nutrition articles in Shape magazine, or even in reputable news sources or some research journals, are not always accurate. Those clinical studies shown on websites may not be factual. Many companies hire an external group to conduct studies, which means that many of those studies are funded by the brand and designed in a way to produce the most convincing results to support the product’s claims.

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Mark Twain said it first.

I feel like this post has been a bomb of negativity, but I think it is so important to address. My advice for you is to always look for scholarly sources (peer-reviewed medical journals) for information, and make sure to read the note on any potential conflicts of interest the study or researchers might have. Beyond that, listen to your body. All of the nutrition advice in the world can’t compare to the specific ways your body functions. I think this is part of the challenge in the field, everyone’s body is different. We process and metabolize foods so differently depending on genes, the bacteria in our gut microbiome, or our past dietary choices. Keep this in mind, and take those nutrition articles with a grain of salt–something that may not be so bad for you after all.

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References:

Michaëlsson, K., Wolk, A., Langenskiöld, S., Basu, S., Lemming, E. W., Melhus, H., & Byberg, L. (2014). Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men: cohort studies. Bmj, 349, g6015.

 

Hannah

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