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

Nutrition

In Elemental. More on Medium.

Good Question

New research intensifies the debate

Photo: Promodhya Abeysekara/Unsplash

Americans are inveterate snackers.

More than 90% of the U.S. population eats at least one snack a day, and most of us eat several. Some experts have called snacking “a hallmark of the American dietary pattern.”

Our enthusiasm for snacking isn’t new. Between the early 1970s and the late 2000s, the average number of snacks we consumed hardly budged; we ate two or three snacks a day back then, and that’s about how many we eat now.

While we may not be snacking more frequently than we used to, there’s some evidence that our snacks have gotten bigger.

Measured in…


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? …


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…


During the holidays, the liver tends to work overtime digesting food and cocktails. As Angela Lashbrook reports for Elemental, “like an office manager who remembers everyone’s birthdays and duties while their own contributions are forgotten, the liver keeps the rest of the body’s functions running smoothly.” The liver is a critical body detoxifier and also one of the only irreplaceable organs. Yet it doesn’t always get the credit it deserves. Lashbrook writes:

Luckily for holiday revelers everywhere, the liver is the salamander’s tail of the human body: It’s the only internal organ with regenerative abilities. Scientists aren’t totally sure why…


There are many metrics that are currently used to assess human health that aren’t based in sound science, and yet they persist. The body mass index (BMI) is one of them. Even the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the BMI “can be used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems but it is not diagnostic of the body fatness or health of an individual.”

Writer Annaliese Griffin spoke to health experts and came up with five new metrics to assess your health that have nothing to do with measurements like weight…


Staying healthy in a pandemic means both avoiding infection and shoring up our immune systems

Photo: Bozhin Karaivanov/Unsplash

In medicine, as in other realms of life, the Covid-19 pandemic continues to unfold as a dark chapter of human history. Physicians have now treated scores of patients with every imaginable permutation of this infection. As unrelenting as this virus is, we have seen infectious disease epidemics before, and we know how to mitigate their spread.

The measures that physicians and public health agencies continue to advocate for — mask-wearing, physical distancing, hand-washing, avoiding large gatherings, and limiting travel — are based on decades of public health outcomes research. And we know they work.

While it is clear that these…


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

Studies highlight potential life-saving benefits. But some experts aren’t convinced.

The study’s findings were significant — “spectacular” even, in the words of at least one expert commenter.

A team of doctors at Reina Sofía University Hospital in Córdoba, Spain, split 76 newly admitted Covid-19 patients into two groups. One group got the standard treatment at the time, which included a cocktail of antibiotics and immunosuppressant drugs. The second group got the same standard treatment — plus a drug designed to raise vitamin D levels in the blood.

Among the 26 hospitalized people who received standard care alone, fully half went on to the intensive care unit (ICU) because their disease…

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

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