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Health & Medical

BEYOND TRIM: Don’t be blind to nutritional science

It’s an important part of humans’ health and fitness

Sherry DeWalt of CGH Medical Center
Sherry DeWalt of CGH Medical Center

Remember the hit song from the 1980’s, “She Blinded Me With Science”? Well, you might want to put on your sunglasses because I am about to shine a bright light on some eye-opening truths about nutrition.

First, the shady side. I’m talking about supplement salesmen and fad diet promoters who make promises about weight loss or health improvement if you buy their product or book.

I hate to be cynical but one of the first tests I apply to any piece of dietary advice I read or hear about has to do with money. If the so-called expert has any financial ties to the product or industry they are recommending, if they try to sell me something (i.e. supplements or their book) or, if they will profit from the advice they give, I tend to discount their message.

Here’s another eye-opener. While I work with a lot of caring and committed health professionals who are very good at fixing sick people, they may not be the best source of information about a healthy diet. The medical school curriculum does not spend a lot of time on nutrition and many doctors focus on treating illness with medicines and procedures, rather than focusing on the prevention of illness. If you have a doctor who recommends that you eat better, get some exercise, and control your weight you are blessed; but don’t expect them to be able to give you a lot of specific advice.

Another eye-opener has to do with the seeming confusion surrounding what constitutes a healthy diet. It can be difficult to wade through all the conflicting advice and sometimes it seems like even the “experts” can’t agree. There are doctors and fitness gurus and celebrities who recommend everything from paleo to keto to gluten-free. Some of them are just jumping on the bandwagon of whatever is in fashion and many of them don’t have any scientific background related to nutrition.

Yes, there is a science devoted to the study of nutrition and what is the healthiest diet for humans. It’s a relatively new science compared to chemistry, or biology, or even astrophysics but still there are decades of research that show what’s best. There is also a great deal of consensus among scientists who are actual experts in the field of human nutrition.

What is the consensus? Most experts in human nutrition agree that a plant-based diet is best for human health and for the environment. That doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone should be a vegetarian. It just means that 75-80% of what we eat should be vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds with animal products taking up a much small portion of the plate.

Shine on, friends.

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