Food For Thought

Salt, school lunches and the intersection of food, wellness and public policy.

Fed Up With Nutrition Misinformation

Where are all of the common sense nutritional scientists?

I just finished my fortieth semester teaching nutritional science at the college level. Each year, more and more students enter my classes armed with nutrition misinformation perpetuated by so-called scientists, bureaucrats and celebrities who know little about physiology and biochemistry and less about the psychological and human personality aspects of weight management and nutritional health.

Today’s celebrity and pop science culture continue to promote myths such as, “sugar causes diabetes;” “wheat is bad for you;” “sugar is an unnecessary part of the human diet;” “soda taxes curb obesity;” and “all-natural supplements are always safe.” Such provocative and simplistic statements are typically based on a nugget of scientific fact but do not consider what truly inspires long-term healthy habits. Yet, few nutritional scientists are willing to speak out against such falsehoods for fear of retribution. Remaining silent does a disservice to our patients, students and the public and allows myths to become fact in the eyes of bureaucrats who influence policies that impact everyone’s freedom of choice.

“Nutrition without an understanding of science and the nature of the human personality is crap.”

The practice of nutrition is complicated; as a practitioner of 20 years, I have learned that each person has a unique relationship with food and their own body. Science tells us that obesity is a complex condition influenced by genetics, food choices, portion sizes, personality traits, physical activity and sometimes a disease process or other physical ailment. Yet there are those eager to simplify this complex condition and blame a particular food as the sole cause. A few examples: wheat, fruit, soda, “liquid” sugar, gluten, protein, fat, meat, starch, potatoes, fast food, high fructose corn syrup etc. etc. The result is that Charlatans promoting scientific-sounding diets have gained the upper hand on science, practicality and common sense. Granted, many of these diet plans trigger weight loss and most do no harm, but few promote lasting weight loss or the overall health of the individual.

Calling All Common Sense Dietitians and Nutrition Professionals

Dietitians and other nutrition professionals have quietly voiced their frustrations with the TV Doctor and Celebrity Diet culture, but few have spoken out. For too long, celebrities, bureaucrats and those with little or no experience with direct patient interaction/nutritional counseling have silenced opposing views and dictated the application of nutritional science. Their efforts have done little to curb the obesity epidemic.

I invite other “Common Sense” dietitians and nutrition professionals to join me, so together we might challenge the “quick fix” crowd and promote nutrition education strategies that empower true, long-term behavioral changes. Our agenda would be simple: foster the science of nutrition education and encourage people to make their own nutrition decisions based on scientific fact, individuality and common sense. Together we can educate, instead of mandate healthier habits that last.

 

 

 

 

 

Martina M. Cartwright, Ph.D., R.D., is an adjunct professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Arizona and an independent biomedical consultant.

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