What the News Headlines Aren't Saying
Don't Stop Eating Egg Yolks Just Yet...
It seems that everyday there is a new headline claiming that some food can extend your life, or cause cancer, or some other lofty claim. And these are interesting headlines.
Wouldn't you want to learn which food to avoid to guarantee you don't get cancer?
Wouldn't you eat a certain food everyday if science said it would extend your life?
The problem is, science doesn't make any of these claims - people do. As a dietitian, I empathize with my patients, family and friends who seem confused, overwhelmed and, quite frankly, exhausted by the finicky "science" in the news related to nutrition. But the trouble is, science isn't finicky - science is fact. People are finicky.
Nutrition Science is an Ever- Evolving Science
Next to the great question "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" is another, equally confusing question for most - "Should I eat the egg?" This boils down to the great egg debate that seems to be the hallmark of "finicky science". Consumers want scientists to make up their mind regarding nutrition, but many people do not realize how difficult that can be. Why is it so difficult? Because research is difficult, and it is especially difficult to draw conclusive, cause-and-effect findings from nutrition research. There are many different types of studies that exist, and the gold standard, double blind randomized controlled trial, is often expensive and still exhibits flaws, not to mention possible ethical constraints.
Additionally, there are often many confounding variables that can affect the strength of study. Studies must be well-designed, applicable to various populations (as in, tested in multiple populations, if that's what the results are going to claim), should be peer-reviewed, and should be repeatable - and in fact, should be repeated, multiple times, before we even think we may be onto something. We also must use common sense to determine whether or not the association is plausible, and we must not confuse an association with cause and effect. Additionally, science is always evolving, and since nutrition is a science, our understanding of nutrition is always evolving. These changes can be difficult to keep up with, but one study (and one headline) shouldn't dictate your entire lifestyle.
Moderation May Not Seem Sexy
The trouble is, moderation doesn't seem to sell. How often do you read a headline that says "Balanced Diet Recommended"? Not too often. It usually reads more like "Consuming X Food Causes Cancer" or something equally as lofty. Many people seem to be searching for an extreme answer to their health questions (for example: do not consume carbohydrates, or do not consume meat), when the answer is really quite simple: eat a lot of plants, eat foods in their natural state (or in as close to their natural state as possible) often and eat a variety of food in order to obtain all necessary nutrients.
Can eating one food cure or cause a disease? Unlikely. However, having an overall healthy lifestyle whereby one nourishes their body with necessary nutrients, develops a positive, stress-free relationship with food, engages in physical activity and provides adequate rest will likely lower one's risk of developing a variety of conditions.
And as for the headlines, don't believe everything you read. If you're curious, reach out to an expert - you can find a dietitian near you at https://www.eatright.org/find-an-expert.