Why most “nutritional science” is bunk

Not sure what prompted a primarily political news site like CDN to post this article this morning, but it was there. Here’s the very first line of the article:

What and how much we eat isn’t the only important thing when it comes to healthy nutrition. Timing seems to matter, too.

This is why I ignore the “science” of nutritional health. They constantly contradict themselves and I never know which “science” to believe, so I’ll just stick with the way I was raised and good old common sense. I’ve heard many times that eating several small meals throughout the day is better than eating a couple of large meals. Now they say that’s the exact opposite of true.

Except, note the hedging in the sentence…it “seems to matter”.

For most attention deficient people, that’s about as far as they’d go, or maybe they’d read the first few paragraphs which, although no actual science is cited so it’s basically just the opinion of the author, seems to reinforce the opening sentence.

The first citing of scientific evidence isn’t about human studies, it’s about mice and rats. One might note that mice and rats have a slightly higher metabolism, as well as different dietary habits and needs, than humans…but the author doesn’t.

You have to stick will the article all the way to about paragraph 20 to find any human studies on the topic cited, where you discover:

But the study, published in 2017, found no difference between groups one and two: They lost the same amount of body weight on average (about 7 percent after the six-month dieting phase), and displayed similar measures for risk factors for heart disease and diabetes such as blood levels of cholesterol, sugar or insulin; or the body’s responses to insulin. That the intermittent fasting offered no additional benefits beyond traditional calorie restriction was “pretty disappointing,” says nutrition scientist Courtney Peterson from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Then there are more mice studies that “proved” the thesis, followed by more human studies that didn’t etc.

It goes on and on with the same pattern. Some really telling statements:

Michelle Harvie of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust in the UK. One human study published in 2007, she says, even suggested that restricting eating times too much can be bad: In it, people ate all their calories in a single meal between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Blood sugar levels rose, and glucose tolerance worsened, both signs of ill health.

and

For Ethan Weiss, a cardiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who led the study, the findings were disappointing enough to stop the time-restricted-eating regimen he had been following for seven years, he wrote on Twitter.

But then the author promptly ignores the science and doggedly goes right into how we can best enjoy the benefits of the dietary habit he’s just demonstrated works for mice and rats, but not people.

Did he actually read what he just wrote?

Is it better to eat mostly meat, high protein, or is it better to be vegan? Are eggs bad for you or good for you? Butter or Margarine?

We don’t know because not only is the “science” of nutrition poorly executed, but people who report on it just reach whatever conclusions they want regardless of what the studies actually concluded.

I’m old so I remember the infamous study that “proved” saccharine would kill us because they fed mice massive amounts of saccharine and it gave them bladder cancer.

Oh…except they gave the mice an amount of saccharine that we would have to eat something like a pound a day to replicate. And it was discovered that the mechanism that caused the tumors in the mice isn’t replicated in humans. Oh, and studies later on suggested that saccharine might actually fight cancer in humans.

But trust the science.

Or just ignore all of it because you can’t trust it. That’s my plan. Personally, I think most of it has way more to do with genetics than anything else.

If you have a family history of a medical ailment, there’s a good chance you will have to worry about it too. My father died of Prostate cancer. I was diagnosed last year about this time…but because I knew about the family history and got checked regularly, I caught it early. I’m now both prostate and prostate cancer free.

I have more examples:

I salt everything. I like salt. Doctors have been telling me all my life that too much salt will cause high blood pressure…except my blood pressure is great. Always has been. Maybe it’s not the salt after all. Perhaps salt is not good for people who already have high blood pressure. Perhaps if you’re already genetically predisposed to high blood pressure, salt will push you over the edge. But I seriously doubt that salt causes it.

I have a friend who had seriously high cholesterol. He tried everything diet and exercise wise to get it under control. He wasn’t in bad shape before and his diet was already better than mine, but after they discovered his cholesterol problem, he became downright militant about it. He basically became a health nut, he looked great, he followed the dietary recommendations, he exercised regularly, but he just couldn’t get the cholesterol down and had to take medicine to keep it under control.

I, on the other hand, am 50 pounds (or more, depending on who you ask) overweight, eat whatever the heck I want whenever the heck I want, exercise intermittently at best and have never had cholesterol problems. Or heart problems. Or diabetes. Or high blood pressure. And I’m no spring chicken…it’s not like it hasn’t had time to catch up with me yet.

I do have medical ailments and strangely, they are all pretty much the same ones my dad used to complain about. Figure that.

I’m not saying that nutrition seves no role in health, it obviously has an impact, but I think the medical community vastly overestimates how much impact that is. Lack of nutrition can definitely cause issues and diseases, but as long as you’re meeting your nutritional needs, I believe that diet cannot “cause” long term health problems, but can exacerbate them if you’re already predisposed to having them.

Oh…and one more thing: life has a 100% mortality rate. I think I’d prefer to enjoy what time I have than waste it worrying about the current nutritional fad (or a virus with a 99.7% survival rate…but that’s another topic).

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