You seem confused! Can we trust the media’s nutrition advice?
There is a reason why I don’t rely on the mainstream media to educate myself on nutrition and lifestyle practices. Day in day out we are being told contradictory information regarding what we should or should not be putting in our mouths, and it is of no surprise to me that the general public is completely confused over how to eat for optimal health.
Just this past two weeks the Guardian has released two articles, one saying that high protein intake is as bad as smoking 20 per day, and another that says the foods we should be relying on are predominantly proteins and fats – the “carbs are bad” argument.
But how can the information be so misleading? Isn’t it all based upon scientific literature?!
Here are 5 quick reasons why nutrition recommendations are so confusing and why “research” is not always the most reliable source of information.
- Many scientific papers are influenced by external factors (funding from people that are going to benefit from a certain result).
- A lot of the studies relating to nutrition are correlation-based studies. Whilst there may be correlation, it does not always mean causation – e.g. 100% of people who die of cancer drink water, therefore water causes cancer!
- The study population may not be relevant to you (age, ethnicity, sex etc).
- The study may not even be on humans.
- The sample size for the study may be insufficient to draw appropriate conclusions.
Reading research is not something that I specialise in, I do read it but my approach is to review it and see if it stands in line with my own personal experiences and thinking mechanism. I have no problem challenging what I think as long as there appears to be some level of common sense used when conducting the research and that it makes biochemical sense.
You will notice I rarely quote specific research papers. I see it all too often; in my opinion there is research out there to prove pretty much anything you want. As long as you are selective enough you can make a good argument about most things nutrition.
The truth is though, that there are a number of variables present in your life which may determine whether a specific research paper is or is not relevant to you. Couple that with the fact that most research is based upon a reductionist approach. What I mean by this is that they are looking for a clear cause and effect – usually relating to a specific compound such as a drug or supplement having a positive or negative effect on one specific function or marker.
Unless working on a specific infection like a gut bug, this approach does not interest me that much. When you start to treat the body as a whole or a system of systems you start to see improvements in health throughout the body. Each individual person should have the flexibility to change their protocol as what is right for you at one phase in your life may not be right for you in another. Staying healthy is a full time job, and having the extra awareness about your health to make changes as you go along the way is crucial.
You have to treat yourself as a study of one. By using common sense, nutrition and lifestyle practices you can overcome most of the common symptoms we experience. Anything further than that and you should be running tests to determine your own biochemical needs. Whether through blood, stool, urine or saliva – these can all help individualise your protocol further.
The goal of this article is to raise awareness of the useless reporting when it comes to health by our media. I literally cannot watch TV programs or read newspaper articles on health and nutrition, it frustrates me too much to read the absolute drivel being fed to the general public.
It is not just about general mass media though, it is also about raising awareness about your own health. If something works for you and you function on it well, and you have never been healthier, why take any notice of something that has been written in the national press that says the opposite?
I will leave you will a quote by Mark Twain:
The problem with common sense is that it is not too common.
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