Diet Research Is Deeply Flawed. Here’s What You Should Know to Eat Healthy.
Elemental asks nutrition expert Dr. David Ludwig why there’s so much confusion around what’s good for you and what’s not
It seems like every other week a new study comes out questioning long-held wisdom about food and nutrition. First fat was vilified; now it’s considered a part of a healthy diet. Eggs used to be off-limits for people with heart problems due to the high amount of cholesterol, but that’s no longer the case.
Dr. David Ludwig is a professor of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and author of the number one New York Times bestseller Always Hungry?, a book that explores the dietary drivers of hunger, obesity, and metabolic disease. In a new “Viewpoint” paper published in August in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Ludwig and his co-authors explain the problems with current approaches to dietary research and why this leads to so much nutrition confusion.
Here, Elemental asks Ludwig to elaborate on some of these problematic approaches and to share advice for people who feel conflicted about what and how to eat.
Elemental: What was the impetus for the JAMA viewpoint you co-authored?
Dr. David Ludwig: In the course of a week, almost every person will see headlines on diet and health that come to opposing conclusions. And we’ve seen through the years how what is believed to be an established fact in nutrition is later questioned or reversed. We wanted to address the causes of this confusion and the challenges facing nutrition research in comparison to other fields that have more established track records of assuring research quality.
You compare nutrition research to drug research. What do you view as the key differences?
Pharmaceutical research receives lots of financial support, because drugs can be highly profitable. A major clinical trial might cost several hundreds of millions of dollars, but a successful drug can earn many billions in profits. So the pharmaceutical industry is motivated to do these studies right —…