These days, so many people are frustrated by seemingly conflicting information. It can be frustrating to sort through all the information the media throws at us. One day eggs are a superfood, and the next day eating eggs is killing you.
There are a couple of issues underlying all of the misinformation you see in the media surrounding nutrition. First, most people in the media are not trained to read, to interpret, and to evaluate scientific information, so they rarely dig into the studies on which they report to determine their relevance or their significance.
You’re watching the nightly news, which reports that full-fat cheese is good for you. They tell you that a study of 1,000 people at a well-known university showed that people who at full-fat cheese were healthier than people who didn’t.
What they don’t tell you is that the study was sponsored by the dairy industry and that the control group who didn’t eat full fat cheese was eating a trans fat-filled, highly-processed cheese alternative. They didn’t include a group that didn’t eat cheese at all.
The second issue lies in the unequal comparisons the media makes in trying to be “fair and balanced.” For example, a reporter wants to talk about a recent study she read on whole food plant-based eating, so she contacts T. Colin Campbell to talk about his work.
She wants to present the opposing view, so she contacts Dr. Phil McGraw who’s 20/20 diet advocates eating chicken. She ends up with a great 10-minute segment arguing about the benefits of chicken in your diet.
To you, both people are addressed as “doctor,” and both people have written books about your health. They appear to be equals, but you know Dr. Phil and know you can trust him, so you assume chicken is good for you.
What you don’t know is that T. Colin Campbell is a professor emeritus at Cornell University with a PhD in nutrition, biochemistry, and microbiology. He’s been researching nutritional biochemistry for 60 years and has authored over 300 books and papers on nutritional biochemistry.
While we all love Dr. Phil, his expertise is in human behavior, and his diet is based on anecdotal evidence. When it comes to nutrition, he is decidedly not on equal footing with T. Colin Campbell.
All of this confusion is exacerbated by the fact that most doctor’s today have little to no training in nutrition, so you can’t ask the family doctor to sort it out for you.
Don’t worry… There is hope.
There are sources out there that don’t require a PhD to interpret or half your life to research, and there are some common sense things you can ask yourself to evaluate if what you’re reading/seeing should be taken with a grain of salt.
Don’t believe anyone. Yes, I just said that! Not even me. Check sources, and check who’s paying for things. If you your favorite nutrition magazine is sponsored by Yoplait, don’t believe anything they have to say about yogurt.
Ultimately, it is YOUR body and YOUR choice, so decide for yourself. Turn on your BS meter, and let it work for you.
One of my favorite sources for nutritional information is NutritionFacts.org (sample video above). Every entry has a video, a transcript, and a list of the sources cited. It’s a non-profit site, so nothing is paid for by the food industry.
Another of my favorite sites for nutritional information is the Mayo Clinic nutrition and healthy eating website. Their “diet” plan is really about changing habits, and their information is based in solid science.
I personally started my health journey with the Mayo Clinic Diet, because it was easy to understand and follow and easy to implement.
The bottom line is that you’re smarter than you think, and a lot of nutrition is common sense. Trust your gut… Unless it tells you Pop Tarts are healthy. They might be vegan and yummy, but we all know in our hearts that fruits and vegetables are better!