The lack of objective truth in nutrition

Hello everyone,,
There seems to be a lack of objective truth in nutrition which paralyzes anyone who wants to eat well, yet doesn't want to become a professional nutritionist.

As the average man comes home from his long shift at Walgreens, he decides to take responsibility for his life into his own hands. He decides to eat foods which will replenish him, and discard foods which will hinder him.

He goes to the nutrition subreddit and finds nothing but arguing and rhetoric. Milk is horrible for you, milk is a necessary source of protein. Multivitamins have been proven to be obsolete, yet you can't get the necessary nutrients without them. Go vegan, but here's why it will kill you. Do intermittent fasting, but here's why you shouldn't.

There is no "BEST" meal plan. There's no "BEST" anything. Everything is subjective, and if you want to eat like us elites, then read these books first, but then let us tell you how pseudo-sciency they are after you're done.

Devote your life to finding out how to fucking eat a decent meal that you aren't guilty about because we in the nutrition world can't agree that any food is good for you.

The man decides this is not worth his time. He is starving and decides to go out and get Wendys because he has to be at work early in the morning, and doesn't want to spend the next few years of his free time searching for a decent meal which will be discredited anyway.

-Written by a guy about to go get Wendys


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    edited August 2020

    The signal to noise ratio is indeed high in conversations like these. But I think that the angle of attack you have on this is the problem itself. Here is why.

    1. Almost everything is indeed subjective. There is no best anything, and there can't be. If you DO know that something is objectively wrong for you though (eating at Wendys daily is an example) but you still do it because you can't be bothered to follow something less than absolute perfection in nutrition then...you are just coping out.

    2. You don't need to read 10 books in order to know what is generally good or bad for you. In other words, you don't need the BEST meal plan or word from the undisputed authority in nutrition to make your food choices objectively better than they are now.

    3. You don't need a lot of time to eat healthy. You don't need to read 10 articles per day, shop for hours each week or spend copious amounts of time to prepare your food. Eating healthier is always worth your time in the long run, due to the objective effect it has on your health.

    Having said that, if you are having trouble finding out what is generally good and bad for you, just use the following picture, do everything in moderation and couple healthy eating with exercise. Or, go to a dietician or nutrition specialist (don't worry, you don't have to find the best in the world) and ask him for a meal plan or two + some tips for healthy eating.

    In any case, good luck. Hope that helps, cheers...C:

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    Even if you devote your life to studying nutrition, you'll be just another nutritionist (or nutrition scientist) with just another (possibly incorrect) opinion.

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    ... that said there are things that almost everyone agrees on:

    1. your total calorie consumption should be limited
    2. saturated and especially trans fat should be low
    3. fiber should be high
    4. sugar should be low
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    I LOVED this; thanks for sharing!

    I can speak to this thread personally, as I have both a BSc and MSc in Human Nutrition and Dietetics and have spent 8 years studying nutrition and almost 10 working in in the field. Despite what the internet says, neither of my programs pushed the "Standard American Diet" and my textbooks were written by scientists, dietitians, and physicians, not the food industry.

    Nutrition is arguably one of the hardest fields to study... To conduct really good studies, you need to control for so many variables: stress, physical activity, food and beverage intake, etc. Plus, some things like genetics can't be controlled for and interact with out nutritional environment in a profound way. The cost of conducting such studies is immense, so we end up with a small sample size and/or a study of short duration (both of which make generalizing findings difficult).

    More of our studies tend to be based on observational and epidemiological data. This is great for giving us large volumes of data but it doesn't control for the important factors mentioned above.

    The other issue is that "publish or perish" is a real phenomenon and so much time, energy, effort, and resources are wasted on useless studies that dilute the field.

    Given my experience in both academia and practice, I'd say that it's important to approach any new dietary phenomena with a critical mind. Nutrition recommendations change slowly (for good reason) and the best diet is one that consists of recommendations that have withstood the test of time. In my professional opinion, the healthiest diet (which refers to a diet that promotes longevity and minimizes disease risk) is one that:

    • Consists of mostly plant-based foods
    • Minimizes processed and ultra-processed foods
    • Avoids sugar-sweetened beverages
    • Consumes alcohol in moderation (if at all)

    Also, remember that if you are healthy, feel great, and can sustain your eating pattern for the remainder of your life, you're doing something right.

    Anywho, hope this added to the conversation!

    Susan Macfarlane, MScA, RD
    Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
    As always, any and all postings here are covered by our T&Cs:

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