Would you like nutritionists to always change their minds? Do you want science-based information on diet, but don't know who or what to believe?
If you nod by appointment, you are not alone: Over 80% of Americans are befuddled.
Yet it is a complaint that gets rather tedious – if you are a nutritionist, then it is. So much so that I focused on my career to shine scientific light on today's critical food conversations that have a profound impact on public health and the environment. Mitra: From farm to fork, what we eat means.
Did you actually know that 80% of chronic diseases can be prevented through modifiable lifestyle changes, and diet is the biggest contributing factor?
Science says plants are better for you and our planet
Clean dining or keto? Paleo or gluten free? All 30 or vegan? Forget the fad diet because science has the answers – there is much more consensus on diet and health than you might know. For example, the scientific report from the dietary guidelines for 2015-2020 for Americans concluded that a plant-based diet is best for human health and the environment. More than 75% of your meal should include vegetables, fruits and whole grains, and protein sources should include beans, peas, nuts, seeds and soy.
Canada's 2019 Food Guide is also plant-focused, just as Harvard's healthy dining plate, while Brazil emphasizes food "primarily of vegetable origin." These guidelines and others also emphasize the importance of limiting processed and ultra-processed foods.
There is also agreement from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and others that plant-based diets are more sustainable, mainly because of the high energy inputs and environmental damage to livestock.
Although it may sound like a dish, a "plant-based" diet has been studied for decades. Awareness increases as it addresses two pressing public health challenges: the chronic disease epidemic and the climate change crisis. It is a win-win for human health and the environment. Plant-based diets can be tailored to your taste preferences, traditions and cultures, as the blue zones or regions of the world where people typically live longer than average and with fewer chronic diseases indicate.
If science has the keys to a health-promoting, disease-preventing, planet-saving diet, why are people so confused? A closer look will enable you to identify facts from fiction.
There is money in confusion
Celebrity junk science is an obvious player. It may even be dressed in flounder, such as Dr. Oz – however, chastised by the Senate for his quackery. (Doctors generally have little or no training in nutrition.)
Celebrities create huge platforms that often interfere with the truth (or drown it completely); The agreement between Netflix and Gwyneth Paltrow, whose company Goop was sued over a particular jade egg, suggests that science is losing its fight.
You don't have to be a celebrity to keep swinging. A list of Top 100 influencers showed that most were bloggers or sportsmen without expertise. (No one was scientists.) These voices get a significant pull on social media. Health Feedback, a network of researchers reviewing the accuracy of the online content, conducted a Credibility Consolidation study and found a small number of articles received a positive assessment, most of which "exaggerated the pros and cons of various foods."
Traditional media do not always throw light, unfortunately. Single-study sensationalism is ubiquitous – for example, glyphosate in oats, coconut oil and weight, coffee causes cancer – and findings lack context.
And science journalism has taken a hit, and perhaps CNN is interviewing an anti-science neglect. Or why The Los Angeles Times tweeted that there is a "growing belief" about the health benefits of celeryice. (Pro tip: It's nothing.)
Around the scent of fake dietary and media hype is a backdrop to the denialism of science, which legitimates antiquity when it comes from top levels of government. The illiteracy of science also plays a role.
Nevertheless, there is a lack of knowledge: 57% of Americans have never seen the dietary illustration of the US Department of Agriculture called MyPlate or know little about it, and 63% reported it was difficult to recognize sustainable choices. Shoppers also claimed that healthy food identification was difficult (11%) or moderate (61%). Not surprisingly, maybe since 48% looked at crowded food packages for guidance: Some brands are meaningful, while others are slightly more than marketing. (Ordinary, somebody?) In fact, powerful food and agricultural lobbies still have influence on dietary guidelines and hide science.
Throughout all this, I believe that the nutrition science community has tacitly contributed by not participating in public discourse publicly. Neither have we adequately defended our discipline when they were attacked, either by journalists, doctors or food writers.
Changing the Conversation
Potential community powers create a culture of nutritional confusion that not only confuses the truth of diet, they undermine science as a whole. Three steps will help the diners navigate in this rocky terrain.
Begin by asking critical questions when digesting diet news. Does the author have an advanced degree in nutrition, or does he or she have expertise in science journalism? Are there references to peer-reviewed studies or scientific organizations? Is the source credible? Are miracle cures or quick results promised? Are there expensive price tags for magic balls? Does it sound like clickbait? Questions about who-what-where-why-how are crucial.
Secondly, remember that what flashes through our news feeds often comes via algorithms that allow news to break through our echo chambers and induce the affirmative particle, in fact or not. Offline, we are also more likely to share beliefs with friends and family, our tribe. Being Curious About What You Eat and Why It Means Outside Your Comfort Zone Is Needed: You May Need to "Learn What You Have Learned."
Finally try it for size: Nutrition. Is it not. Confusing. We all have beloved traditions and values - what we eat is not just about science. (At least I hope not.) But it's time to learn the basic foods and nutrition facts that will inspire you to harness the power of power to promote health, prevent disease, and protect the planet. Change is possible – and the truth is out there.
P.K. Newby, Scientist, Science Communicator and Author, Harvard University
This article is reissued from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.