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Is Everything We Know About Nutrition Wrong?


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Earlier this month, a study by the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina revealed that much of the nutritional data collected over the last 40 years, and on which recommendations for a healthy diet have been based, may be fatally flawed. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) has been conducted since 1971 and is the primary source of data used to study diet's impact on health. In short, the number of self-reported calories consumed and expended did not jibe. Leader of the study Edward Archer didn't mince words: "It is time to stop spending tens of millions of health research dollars collecting invalid data and find more accurate measures."

In the Pacific Standard, journalist Aaron Gordon says we don't know what to eat. From the National Institute of Health’s Healthy Eating Plan to our government's dietary guidelines to your doctor’s own advice, Gordon argues, "There’s little to no good science behind our diet." This is because much dietary research is done via observational studies, which don't or can't control for multiple variables and that yield little more than correlations. Gordon closes with: "So if our recommended diet is faulty, what should we eat?"

If you think saturated fat and cholesterol are indisputable bad guys, think again, writes cardiologist Aseem Malhotra in the British Medical Journal. When it comes to heart health, he's betting on empty carbohydrates and added sugars as the culprits, citing a handful of new research. For one, he writes, the well-known Mediterranean diet, which is fairly high in saturated fats, is better at preventing heart attacks than either statins or low-fat diets. Our current dietary guidelines aren't only harmful to our hearts though, Malhotra writes. They are worsening Americans' struggle to maintain a health weight. "It is time to bust the myth of the role of saturated fat in heart disease and wind back the harms of dietary advice that has contributed to obesity."

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Inside Health Care posts feature recent news and blog posts from the health care community and are part of the Center for Advancing Health’s portfolio of free, evidence-based coverage of what it takes to find good care and make the most of it.

Tags for this article:
Diet and Nutrition   Heart Disease   Promote your Health   Seek Knowledge about your Health   Lifestyle and Prevention  

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