Gooey in the Middle

Can We Have a Little Middle Ground on Nutrition?

Middle ground on nutrition is hard to find. Disciples of various nutritional dogmas make it scarce. There’s no scarcity of nutrition causes for people to argue and two of them are in the news this week: breastfeeding and the Paleo Diet®.

National Breastfeeding Week is just behind us and hopefully the phenomenon of shaming mothers who are unsuccessful will soon be behind us as well. OB-GYN Amy Tuteur writes in Time that that she did not celebrate because:

My email inbox is filled with tales of anguish from women who feel guilty because they tried to breastfeed and were not successful. These women are tormented even when their babies are thriving on formula. Why? Because it has been drilled into them that “breast is best,” and, therefore, they are harming their beloved babies by formula feeding.

Breastfeeding definitely has merit. But is it a public statement or a private choice?

On another front, a distinguished international group of nutrition researchers are poking holes in dogma of the Paleo Diet that claims an “evolutionary basis for the therapeutic effects of high protein diets.” A new paper published in the Quarterly Review of Biology by Karen Hardy and colleagues proposes that prepared carbohydrates played a critical role in human evolution. Co-author Jennie Brand-Miller remarked that:

Our research suggests that dietary carbohydrates, along with meat, were essential for the evolution of modern big-brained humans.  Palaeolithic humans would not have evolved on today’s “Paleo” diet.

Considering the way that dietary practices have been intermingled with religious beliefs throughout human history, the zeal with which people advocate for their favorite nutrition dogma is hardly surprising.

Still, it’s best to keep those personal convictions from getting confused with nutrition science. In between the philosophies of purists, there’s plenty of room for good nutrition through moderation.

Click here to read more from Tuteur and here to read the paper from Hardy et al.

Gooey in the Middle, photograph © Patrick / flickr

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August 10, 2015