by Robert Waltz
Not for the faint of art.
|Today's article talks about something I've harped on before -- the unreliability of food science studies and reporting.
Here’s Why It’s So Impossible to Get Reliable Diet Advice From the News
What’s good for you seems to change every week. Maybe we should stop blaming the media and look at the studies underneath the stories, too.
And maybe we should stop blaming ourselves and being so damn neurotic about these things.
It is easy, especially as someone who is on the research side of things most of the time, to fault the media for sensational coverage of individual studies that fails to consider the broader context. And certainly there is a healthy dose of that all around us (for example, why write a headline like “Do Tomatoes Cause Heart Attacks?” when the answer is “no”?).
Uh, I know that was a rhetorical question, but the answer is "for clicks." It's best to assume that the answer to any headline in the form of a question is "No."
I would argue the main problem is that the studies that underlie this reporting are themselves subject to significant bias.
I've been saying this for years. If you've been following along, you're probably sick of hearing me go on about it.
Take coffee as an example. On the one hand, coffee drinkers are more educated on average, and they exercise more.
How do you know that? A study? But didn't you just say that studies are biased? And of course coffee drinkers want to think they're smarter, but if they're so smart, how did they get addicted to caffeine? I should commission a study that shows how guys with long hair who wear Birkenstocks and Hawaiian shirts are far, far sexier than average.
I set out to analyze—using a top-notch data set and standard analysis techniques—a simple question: “Which foods make you thin?”
None. None foods make you thin. Lack of food makes you thin. Duh.
In the data, eating quinoa is associated with a whopping 4.2 point reduction in BMI, whereas eating breakfast sandwiches is associated with more than a 2 point BMI increase.
So if you eat a quinoa breakfast sandwich, it balances out.
There are other issues with quinoa, cultural ones. But this isn't a post about American cultural imperialism.
The article goes on to describe kind of a study of studies, with lots of bar graphs and explanation. It's worth at least glancing through if you're interested in this sort of thing.
But if not, here's the bottom line: Educated rich people are healthier than ignorant poor ones. (Educated people who wear Birkenstocks and Hawaiian shirts are also way more attractive.)
Or something like that. Honestly, she loses me about halfway through, but that's probably because I have a bit of a mind fog right now. No, I haven't been drinking; I got my second Trump Mumps shot yesterday and, while I'm generally feeling pretty good, my brain's kinda wonky.
In any case, it's pretty well established that eating vegetables is better for your health than eating candy bars. I don't think any of us need a study to know that, but since candy bars taste way better than any vegetable, it helps to be reminded from time to time.