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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Diet

In Elemental. More on Medium.

How exposure to misinformation inoculation sometimes makes things worse

Image: Cathy Scola/Getty Images

While on vacation, Marcial Conte, the Brazilian publisher of my first book, met a woman who asked about his work. Upon learning he was responsible for A Mentira do Glutén: E Outros Mitos Sobre O Que Voce Comê (The Gluten Lie: And Other Myths About What You Eat), she lit up.

Her husband, she said, had followed my revolutionary diet protocol and changed his life. Pounds melted away. Myriad health problems resolved themselves.

“She told me to thank you for saving her husband’s life with the ‘UNpacked Diet,’” Conte grinned at me. “Incredible, no? …


The Nuance

Experts say a range of factors — including how we eat — may explain the rise of IBD and other gut disorders

Illustration by Kieran Blakey for Elemental

Gut health in America is poor and seems to be getting worse. According to a 2020 study led by researchers at the University of North Carolina, roughly one in four U.S. adults regularly experiences diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, or other symptoms of gastrointestinal dysfunction.

Meanwhile, about the same proportion of Americans — one in four— has gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition in which the stomach’s contents migrate up into the throat and food pipe, causing heartburn and other symptoms. …


PANDEMIC WINTER HEALTH HACKS

Fiber is your friend

Illustration: Sophi Gullbrants

My primary care doctor is a keeper. Sharp, gracious, and no-nonsense, she frequently impresses me with how well she’s kept her human shine intact after a long career in clinical medicine. After all, as many docs will readily acknowledge, the grind of patient care and ensuing burnout can suck the gentle goodwill right out of you.

Six months ago, Dr. Amazing enlightened me about something I won’t soon forget: “We should all be pooping about a pound a day.” Okkkkay. Because she’s so cool, I listened as she got excited about the topic — nodding slowly and repressing my urge…


There’s a scientific reason to just eat what you want

Illustration: Avalon Nuovo

If history tells us anything, we are on the edge of a new age of extreme dieting, disordered exercising, and systemic size bias. It’s a long-held cultural pattern: Periods of hardship and uncertainty tend to yield extreme diet fads and a general rise in disordered eating. As dietary historian Susan Yager notes, some of our most bizarre and restrictive diet trends emerged in the middle of the Great Depression. A century later, we find ourselves one year into a devastating pandemic, slogging through an economic crisis, and at the start of a winter of uncertainty. We are vulnerable and stressed…


The new year can spur the urge to make changes to your lifestyle. Diet advice tends to be heavily marketed this time of year with claims of benefits to health and self-esteem. But diets are often restrictive and exclusionary, and even if they provide short-term benefits, they tend to be unsustainable in the long term and in some cases can lead to disordered eating. Scientists and nutrition experts recommend looser, more inclusive approaches to eating, such as the pesco-Mediterranean diet, an eating pattern that’s high in plants, nuts, whole grains, extra-virgin olive oil, and fish or seafood. …


New study shows time-restricted eating can cause weight loss, but no more than a healthy diet

Photo: erdikocak/Getty Images

In a blow to the latest dietary darling, a recent study found that people who practiced time-restricted eating (also known as intermittent fasting) didn’t experience any significant weight loss compared to a control group. The paper undermines one of the most popular and seemingly simplest diet and optimization fads of the past decade — eat whatever you want during a specific time window, and you’ll lose weight, achieve mental clarity, and simplify your life.

“It seemed like the ideal intervention,” says Ethan Weiss, MD, lead author of the new study and an associate professor at the University of California, San…


A physician traces one boy’s story and unpacks the research

Photo: Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

Six years ago on a spring day in Indiana, suddenly and without warning, Will had his first seizure. Shortly thereafter, the previously healthy 5-year-old was diagnosed with generalized epilepsy. Despite starting treatment, Will’s epilepsy continued to worsen.

His mother, Sarah Ackerman, recalls, “We tried medicine after medicine, upping the doses and combining it with others only to see his condition drastically decline. He went from having just a few generalized myoclonic seizures to over 100 a day within the first two months. His numbers continually increased as the months went on with no reprieve.”

Will’s epilepsy was preventing him from…


It can be hard to keep up with ever-changing guidelines. Marion Nestle shares a few principles to help steer you right.

Photo: Kseniya Ovchinnikova/Getty Images

Everyone eats. Everyone can claim firsthand experience and expertise. Whose experience and expertise should you trust? “Mine, of course,” is my standard (slightly facetious) answer. I can understand why people trust celebrities more than scientists or nutritionists; they feel like friends, even if the relationship is unreal. It doesn’t help that nutritionists have impenetrably confusing credentials, ranging from none beyond personal experience to years of graduate and post-graduate study.

It also doesn’t help that nutrition science is so extraordinarily difficult to do. Just think of what it would take to show whether eggs, the largest dietary source of cholesterol, raise…


Illustration: Kieran Blakey

The Nuance

A combination of several popular approaches could yield the best long-term health benefits

Americans are notoriously unhealthy eaters. The so-called Western diet—one that adores meat, abhors fat, and can’t get enough of processed food — has dominated menus and mealtimes for nearly half a century and has become synonymous with obesity and metabolic dysfunction. Short of swallowing actual poison, it’s hard to imagine a more ruinous approach to eating than the one practiced by many U.S. adults.

If this story has a silver lining, it’s that the dreadful state of the average American’s diet has helped clarify the central role of nutrition in human health. A poor diet like the one popular in…


Give yourself a break and embrace these five new health metrics (that have nothing to do with weight)

Illustration: Carolyn Figel

Late this spring I woke up and realized I felt like crap. I had slept, but not soundly and I didn’t feel rested. I was sluggish and grumpy. No amount of body-positive affirmations could make me happy about the fact that the seasons were changing and my summer pants didn’t really fit. I wasn’t sick, but I was not well.

Although under lockdown my family had avoided the normally inevitable parade of runny noses and stomach bugs that ordinarily punctuate the school year with small children, I found myself deeply affected by the indirect health effects of the pandemic. …

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