Sorting through the Science

Nutrition and food claims are everywhere. If you’ve been on the internet, flipped through a magazine, watched TV, walked through a supermarket, or just drove down the street and looked at some billboards then you know this is not an exaggeration. Certain foods are deemed healthy one day, unhealthy the next, and curing all ailments and causing drastic weight loss the day after that.

Is this never-ending stream of contradicting information confusing or overwhelming? Yes? Then keep reading.

Understanding how to sort through the science makes navigating all of those health claims a lot easier (and humorous as you start recognizing the ridiculousness of some of them). There are a few simple ways to distinguish the credible from the bogus info.

Here’s how…  When you hear a health claim, ask yourself 3 questions:


Question 1.

Is the health claim true? This can take a little investigating. Was the study(s) that supports the health claim done well? If not, the findings probably don’t hold water. Who funded the study? Does the organization or company behind the funding stand to make a profit from the results? Red flag. Has the research been replicated multiple times or just once? Credible findings have been replicated by multiple researchers.


Question 2.

Is the health claim the whole truth? Or just a part of it? I.e. – A study shows a breakfast of sausage and eggs keeps participants satisfied longer than a breakfast of corn flakes, therefore a health claim is made: fat and protein should be consumed at breakfast and carbohydrates should be avoided. That claim is not the whole truth. There are many other factors at play.


Question 3.

Does the health claim matter? If it’s a marketing ploy or results have been cherry picked with the goal of someone making a profit… it probably doesn’t matter. If small findings are blown out of proportion and reported out of context… the claim probably doesn’t matter. An example of this: an advertisement that a drug lowers cholesterol even though research shows it has zero effect on heart attack rates. So does the fact that it lowers cholesterol matter when the drug doesn’t actually lower your risk of a heart attack? No.


As you sort through the science, consider these simple points – If it sounds too good to be true, it might be. If it’s a short-term intervention, there won’t be long-term results. There are no shortcuts when it comes to your health!


To learn more about the field of nutrition science and how to evaluate health information, check out Dr. Campbell’s book Whole; Rethinking the Science of Nutrition.

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