Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Posted on January 28, 2007  Comments (11)

Excellent articles on eating healthy but also provides a nice insight in the practice scientific inquiry: Unhappy Meals by Michael Pollan:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy.

That is the advice on how to eat more healthfully by Michael Pollan the author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma

If nutritional scientists know this, why do they do it anyway? Because a nutrient bias is built into the way science is done: scientists need individual variables they can isolate. Yet even the simplest food is a hopelessly complex thing to study, a virtual wilderness of chemical compounds, many of which exist in complex and dynamic relation to one another, and all of which together are in the process of changing from one state to another. So if you’re a nutritional scientist, you do the only thing you can do, given the tools at your disposal: break the thing down into its component parts and study those one by one, even if that means ignoring complex interactions and contexts, as well as the fact that the whole may be more than, or just different from, the sum of its parts. This is what we mean by reductionist science.

Interactions are critical in many experiments. That is why multi-factor experimentation is so important (One-Factor-at-a-Time Versus Designed Experiments) though even using these techniques the complexity of interactions provides an incredibly challenging environment.

Last winter came the news that a low-fat diet, long believed to protect against breast cancer, may do no such thing — this from the monumental, federally financed Women’s Health Initiative, which has also found no link between a low-fat diet and rates of coronary disease. The year before we learned that dietary fiber might not, as we had been confidently told, help prevent colon cancer. Just last fall two prestigious studies on omega-3 fats published at the same time presented us with strikingly different conclusions. While the Institute of Medicine stated that “it is uncertain how much these omega-3s contribute to improving health” (and they might do the opposite if you get them from mercury-contaminated fish), a Harvard study declared that simply by eating a couple of servings of fish each week (or by downing enough fish oil), you could cut your risk of dying from a heart attack by more than a third

See: Another Paper Questions Scientific Paper Accuracy

But if nutritionism leads to a kind of false consciousness in the mind of the eater, the ideology can just as easily mislead the scientist. Most nutritional science involves studying one nutrient at a time, an approach that even nutritionists who do it will tell you is deeply flawed. “The problem with nutrient-by-nutrient nutrition science,” points out Marion Nestle, the New York University nutritionist, “is that it takes the nutrient out of the context of food, the food out of the context of diet and the diet out of the context of lifestyle.”

Related: Drinking Soda and ObesityEnergy Efficiency of DigestionAre Our Vegetables Less Nutritious?Vitamin D Reduces Cancer Risk?Scientific Misinformation on Lactic Acid

11 Responses to “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

  1. CuriousCat: Fruit Better Than Vitamins
    April 23rd, 2007 @ 9:09 am

    “But Guarnieri suspects that the phytochemicals found in oranges (cyanidin-3-glucoside, flavanones and carotenoids) are the substances that need further study. “But how they are interacting is still anyone’s guess,” she adds….”

  2. CuriousCat: Chocolate Every Day Will Keep the Doctor Away
    July 3rd, 2007 @ 6:08 pm

    Remember it has to be the dark chocolate with flavanol – given the recent positive press those the packaging usually makes the point of mentioning that the good stuff is included if it is…

  3. CuriousCat: Obesity Epidemic Explained - Kind Of
    July 5th, 2007 @ 8:38 am

    If 5% of the population was predisposed obesity in 1950 to obesity I can’t see any rational reason to think that has increased to 30% today…

  4. CuriousCat: Research on Why Healthy Living Leads to Longer Life
    July 29th, 2007 @ 1:20 pm

    “Diet, exercise and lower weight keep your peripheral tissues sensitive to insulin. That reduces the amount and duration of insulin secretion needed to keep your glucose under control when you eat…”

  5. Bill Cooke
    August 30th, 2007 @ 5:26 pm

    Its interesting to compare different countries and their diets. From UK, my recipes frequentky incluse lots of meat which I really enjoy. By contrast, my Spanish girlfriend eats meat far less frequently often opting for fish or just vegetables. I’d be interested to know the life expectancy differences between the two countries.

  6. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » The Man Who Unboiled an Egg
    February 14th, 2008 @ 1:11 pm

    “In order to ‘uncook’ the egg, you need to detach the protein molecules from each other. By adding a product like sodium borohydride, the egg becomes liquid within three hours…”

  7. CuriousCat: Big Fat Lie
    June 7th, 2008 @ 8:18 am

    “We are not thermodynamic black boxes; we are biological organisms and we have evolved complex systems of hormones and enzymes and proteins. That’s how we are regulated….”

  8. Richard
    August 27th, 2008 @ 7:13 pm

    I have been researching this subject for a quite a long time. I beleave that a low fat diet is unhealthy and is creating more health problems. For example: You should consume more beef and beef fat. Here is the catch, the beef you eat should not be grain fed. It should be grass feed only. Cows do not eat GRAIN naturally they eat GRASS. The reason we feed them grain is to get them to market faster to make more profit. The fat in a grass fed cow has 4X more vitamin A, 4X more vitamin E, and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). these are fat soluble nutrients. Another problem with grain is it lowers the ph balance in the animal causing cows to get cancer. I have seen cows with cancer leasion the size of a softball. The stomach of a cow eating grain is a 4 PH. The stomach of a cow eating grass is a 7 PH.

  9. Farmer in Chief at Curious Cat Investing and Economics Blog
    October 25th, 2008 @ 9:49 am

    It must be recognized that the current food system … is the product of a specific set of government policies that sponsored a shift from solar (and human) energy on the farm to fossil-fuel energy…

  10. Neha
    August 26th, 2009 @ 12:23 am

    maintaining a healthy diet that’s low in saturated fat, but also contains a healthy amount of unsaturated fats is key to living well.

  11. Curious Cat Science Blog » Growing Lettuce in My Backyard
    April 14th, 2010 @ 3:10 pm

    First it is very convenient. I want something to eat I can just go grab it out of the garden. Also it is healthier that many of the other things I might snack on…

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