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Most Nutritional Science is Faulty

I love CBC Radio.  Some of my earliest childhood memories are of playing on the kitchen floor while Mom cooked with CBC radio playing in the background.  For me it is an integral part of being Canadian.

One show I often listen to is "Quirks and Quarks".  It's a science news program hosted by Bob McDonald.  

Recently there was a very interesting episode wherein they discussed the prevalence of poorly crafted science in the field of human nutrition.  

The problem has been that so many nutritional conclusions have been built on observational studies.  While these studies have their place in science, they are better are formulating associations and hypotheses than scientifically valid conclusions.  They used the venue of "red meat is bad for you" to illustrate this exact point.  

When these public policy health regulations, that were formed from these observational studies, underwent rigorous scrutiny they prove to be right from 0-20% of the time.  Not exactly "bet the farm" kind of information there.  

When speaking about the field of nutritional science and the prevalence of these observational studies, guest speaker Nina Teicholz, Founder of the Nutrition Coalition, says "It's a little bit like we've been playing a game of soccer with no referees."  Her organization calls for dietary policy based on rigorous science and takes no money from food companies.  Check out their website here.  

It turns out when the "red meat is bad for you" conclusion is put up against a strong scientific study grading system it proves to be a very weak association.    

Scientists used the GRADE system to evaluate the red meat studies.  This is a system wherein studies are evaluated on their methodology and conclusions against the gold standard of science - Randomized controlled clinical trials.  It was originally created for healthcare but has gained a lot of popularity and use over the past few years in nutritional science. Here is their website.  

I don't want to tell you too much more because I really want you to read the article and listen to the program yourself.

You can check out the program here. Its a 14 minute piece.  Great listen.  Lots of great links there.

We are at the beginning of a revolution in food science.  Hopefully this kind of scrutiny and discipline will continue to grow for years to come.