Nutrition Advice

Why can’t experts agree on nutrition advice?

Why can’t experts agree on nutrition advice?


Do you ever feel like giving up trying to eat healthfully because in a year experts will probably change their minds?  Do you ever get confused when some experts claim a food is good, and others claim it is bad? Different foods have different effects on the body.

The truth is that most sources on nutrition ignore two basic truths:

  1. Research studies usually look for general trends, but every person’s body is unique.

Different foods have different effects on the body, so rather than asking “good or bad?” you should be asking “What’s the right time and quantity for this food in my diet?”  Every whole and minimally processed food can be beneficial  when eaten by the right person at the right time and in the right quantity.  Individuals vary in their genetics, health history, current health, stress levels, activity levels, weight, usual diet, home climate, and more.  All of these variables affect what kinds of foods would be most beneficial for this person and in what quantities.  So, when a study finds that a certain diet has a beneficial effect on 65% of participants, you have to wonder what diet would be best for the other 35%.  Or, when a study finds that a food is “bad”, consider the specific effect of the food and whether or not it could be beneficial in a different context or quantity.

  1. Several types of studies need to produce the same results before a definite conclusion can be made.

So some grad student injected mice with a super-concentrated form of some substance found in food XYZ, and the rats grew tumors.  Great!  We now know that if a rat could eat 40lbs of food XYZ in one sitting they would get cancer.  It’s not time yet to make recommendations for humans.  To draw reliable conclusions (that don’t change 10 minutes later) you need to see the same results across several studies, which should include long-term, randomly selected, double-blind studies (ones in which participants are randomly selected and randomly assigned to either a control group that gets a fake treatment or an experimental group that gets the food being studied, and participants don’t know which group is expected to see the positive results).

So, how does a normal person figure this all out?  If you are very interested in nutrition you can look into the studies that informed the advice you are hearing, in order to draw your own conclusions.  If that sounds unappealing to you, find a nutritionist, health coach, or doctor with a nutritional background, and ask them to explain the reasons behind the conflicting advice.


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1 thought on “Why can’t experts agree on nutrition advice?”

  1. When it comes to healthy eating and nutrition in general, it never hurts to research the matter on one’s own time. This will help one determine what the best course of action is, whether in regard to food, fitness, or what have you.

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