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 Obesity – Energy Efficiency of Digestion – Are Our Vegetables Less Nutritious? – Vitamin D Reduces Cancer Risk? – Scientific Misinformation on Lactic Acid