A friend sent me a link to Gary Taubes NYTimes article “Why Nutrition Is So Confusing“. “Have you seen this article?” she wrote. I had not. I diligently read through and was trying to find the answer he promised. He had a lot to say about research processes and the community at large, etc. But he seemed to think that research was conclusive and the lack of common wisdom of the nation on being healthy despite the thousands of research articles available led him to the conclusion that the research methods were flawed.
And this is where we parted ways.
We have some problems. First, “common wisdom” aquisition in this country since the 1960s has changed as has the pace of lifestyle. We have grown to living on hearsay and soundbytes–not research. We do not live in a culture that cultivates critical thinking skills. So when some media worker looks at the 9-sentence abstract of what could be tens of pages of research… they are repeating an OPINION. They are reading that researcher’s opinion about what the results of that study say. They are not forming their own ideas about the data or even raising issues about something in the study that they think went awry or was not given enough consideration. We have been subtly brainwashed to believe that the people performing the research are somehow smarter than we are. No question–they undoubtedly have a level of knowledge on a certain subject that far exceeds most people (most of the time, anyway). But that doesn’t necessarily exclude the common man from being able to look at that study and critically analyze what they are seeing to see potential pitfalls that exist. I’m sure that in the more scientific, chemical process or physics-based studies where you need a certain level of scientific knowledge just to be able to read the study–yes, I see the point. That is not the majority of what is available to us.
But the common sentiment is “How could we detect a flaw in a study?” It’s back-handedly turned us into a nation of people who hand over decisions to “people who know better than I do” on every last point–and creating a “learned helplessness”. So the majority of people are not getting data and information about nutrition, they are getting hearsay. Even when there is pretty valid and reliable data available, it is not being delivered to the masses. We have become a culture of sensationalism and scandal. If it doesn’t raise ratings, it’s not worth covering. Taking care of ourselves and participating in our nations responsibility of citizenship aren’t “fun” and so–they fall by the wayside. This is evident in both our state of health (mental and physical) and our abysmal voter turnout statistics.
That’s a cultural problem, not a research problem.
When people who perform research look at trials and studies, they KNOW that they are not conclusive. It’s constantly pointing to “but here’s what we DON’T know” based on this study. In fact, every study points to things that require further research based on the results they’ve gathered. It’s a known and accepted part of the process; and all researchers offer up the questions their research creates. But you have to actually READ THE STUDY to see that. Most of the world does not.
So yeah–there is PLENTY of data out there on nutrition. And although most of it is not definitive and finite, every bit of it provides some level of useful knowledge. The author cites research on animals as examples of substandard research. But I have not seen a research study on animals that ever claimed to definitively make a decision about human nutrition based on animal results as much as I have seen the call for further research on humans based on animal results. And I think that’s valid. He cites longitudinal studies as being somewhat useless; and truly–they don’t provide precision of results. But they are a snapshot of society that provide us with a lot of long-term information that can sometimes become more focused if someone wants to pick through the data from that study. Like most research–it points to potential.
When you add this problem to the mainstream mindset is that there is one right way for people to eat, it’s easy to see where someone could conclude that research methods are flawed. Part of the reason I did not pursue being a Registered Dietitian (RD) is because they are the perceived authority on nutrition in this country and they have by and large taken the mindset that there is one way to eat for everyone–and this differs pretty much based on medical diagnosis for the most. There is a growing subset of RDs that realize that this is not valid–that individual bodies don’t respond well to a standard dietary regimen. A LOT of RDs have gone through my health coach program and I meet lots of them at the training conferences I attend. They realize that bioindividuality plays a huge roll in all of this; and so do non-nutritive factors.
And this is why my group programs are so successful. We walk through what these studies say is likely to affect someone’s weight or overall health, and we take a journey to see what connects with each person’s body. I don’t dictate a way of living or eating, I am helping them to stop the “noise” and listen to their body. It’s a completely foreign concept. And that’s really sad.
We’d love you to join us on the journey to unraveling YOU! Click here to review upcoming group programs.