Breaking News!

Nutrition Neophilia Scrambles the Picture

We have breaking news from Barcelona! Headlines from the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress this week tell us: “Everything the government teaches us about eating is wrong.” Normally sober and cautious, Stat tells us: “Huge new study casts doubt on conventional wisdom about fat and carbs.” But you needn’t be alarmed. This is just another round of nutrition neophilia – we’re hooked on novelty.

Unremarkable Findings on Nutrition from the PURE Study

The source of all these headlines was a prospective observational study with a dandy acronym: PURE. It stands for Prospective Urban and Rural Epidemiological study. Get it? You can trust the findings because the study is PURE. Investigators simultaneously presented findings at the ESC Congress and published them in The Lancet.

The findings were not very surprising. The world’s healthiest people consume diets with plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, and whole grains. They eat less refined carbs and sugar. Radical new finding? Hardly.

But that doesn’t stop the tabloid science hype machine.

The real news of the last decade has been the acceptance that low-fat everything was a bad idea. It caused the food supply to shift toward more refined carbohydrates as it shifted away from fats. Fats bad. Carbs good. That was the thinking.

But flipping to the reverse dogma – fats good, carbs bad – would be just as silly. Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes are great sources of healthy carbs. Nonetheless, talk about turning everything on its head persists. It’s great click bait.

Addicted to the Latest Nutrition News

Perhaps we’ve become addicted to the latest nutrition news. Health reporters and editors are happy to push it, even when it’s not really news. People gobble it up. Who doesn’t love a new sensation? Nutrition neophilia is insatiable.

The Lancet published a companion commentary to this study. Despite a sensational headline, it offers one tidbit of good advice:

Uncertainty is likely to prevail until well designed randomised controlled trials are done. Until then, the best medicine for the nutrition field is a healthy dose of humility.

Let’s not take ourselves too seriously.

Click here for the study, here for the commentary. For further perspective from The Atlantic, click here.

Breaking News! Image © Mike Licht / flickr

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September 2, 2017

2 Responses to “Nutrition Neophilia Scrambles the Picture”

  1. September 02, 2017 at 11:56 am, Katherine said:

    Hi ConscienHealth! I wanted to leave this here, I did a little breakdown of the results and why they don’t “upend everything we know about nutrition” http://www.thenutritionwonk.com/single-post/2017/08/29/The-5-Continent-PURE-Study-A-Prospective-Cohort-Study

  2. September 02, 2017 at 2:22 pm, Ted said:

    Thanks, Katherine!