Fitness fanatics will swear by paleo, doctors will swear by low-fat diets for lowering cholesterol, and nutritionists and dieticians argue among themselves about the “healthiest” diets for longevity and weight loss, and the best way to distribute fats, carbohydrates, and protein in the diet.
Why is it so confusing?
You would think that, since nutrition combines hard sciences, there should be some general truths that everyone agrees on. Mainstream media contradict each other, and they cite a list of sources to argue their side.
Take a snippet of this blog article found in BodyBuilding.com. It discusses a study carried out that may (or may not) put an end to the low-carb versus low-fat debate:
“[L]ow-carb is still a sensible option when looking to lose weight and concerns about cardiovascular damage likely are overblown—low-carbers in [the study reviewed] had better heart disease markers than the low-fat group.”
Now, let´s compare it to an article published on HealthyEating.SFGate.com.
“While some experts, like Finnish exercise physiologist Anssi H. Mannenen, argue that human adults have no clear requirement for dietary carbohydrates, severely limiting them makes getting the daily requirements of some vitamins and minerals difficult… Even though taking a vitamin and mineral supplement helps alleviate this problem, it does nothing to replace the thousands of phytochemicals naturally found in grains, fruits and vegetables now thought to be equally important for health.”
Reading between the lines, you can see they aren´t “lying” per se, rather discussing articles that have revealed the complexities of nutrition debates, such as the safety of low carb diets.
But, if you skim these articles (as most of us do as we read them on the bus on the way to work) the take away is either “low-carb diets are better for your health than the alternative” or “low-carb diets are detrimental to your health.”
Of course, the truth is a lot more complex.
Frankly, there is so little that we know about nutrition. Despite decades of serious research, the interaction between food and our individual bodies has been the subject of debate and research for decades. What is the surefire way to lose weight? How do different fats affect our bodies? Are carbs actually bad for us?
If even professionals within the health world cannot agree, you can only imagine the quality of tabloid journalism making serious claims.
As readers we need to differentiate between stories garnered from personal experience and rigorous research.
Most importantly, take everything you read with a grain of salt. Research is a constant process, and the ultimate goal is to the discover truths through debates and discussions, and critical readings of what you find in print and online.