Why is nutrition so confusing?

From a certain perspective, nutrition science can seem like a mess. Lots of competing theories. One study seems to suggest one thing. The very next study seems to say the opposite.

People interested in health, fitness and wellness are stuck in limbo. Confused.

Another point of view could be, that “mess” demonstrates the real beauty of science. Science means putting all the ideas, good and bad into the ring and letting them fight it out This takes place over hundreds of years And using a particular method to determine the winners.

And that’s why nutrition science is so confusing at times. We haven’t yet had the hundreds, even thousands, of years for the best ones to emerge. Fats, carbs, and protein weren’t even discovered until the 1800s. It’s only in the last 20 years that we’ve begun studying new problems, such as what’s healthy. 

In a world full of tasty processed food and very little movement. All scientific disciplines begin with confusion, dead ends, frustration, and silliness. But what’s young is going to mature. Nutrition science will grow up. Not as fast as we’d like. Yet over time, the scientific method will cut and prune and do its work.

Meanwhile, here are some reasons why nutrition science can be so confusing at times. And why (sometimes) the media screws up reporting it.

1. It takes time, compared to Chemistry, nutrition is in its infancy.

2. Most funding goes to disease prevention. Most researchers would ask ‘how can we prevent this epidemic’ over ‘how can we get abs’

3. Where funding comes from can affect what studies find. Corporate pressures can influence study design. So the results favour what the company wants to show!

4. Most nutrition studies are observational. Correlation isn’t causation! Does red meat cause heart disease? And cancer? Or do people with these chronic diseases happen to eat more red meat?

5. If doing the research is tough, reporting it is going to be even harder! Journalists aren’t usually trained research scientists, which means that they often:

  • misunderstand study conclusions
  • over exaggerate single study findings

Single studies are interesting but often not important. They only usually provide one piece of a big puzzle that may take hundreds of years to complete.

Leave a Reply