Biased Research Fueling Nutritionism

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Michael Pollan’s concept and advice to “just eat food” is an interesting claim to make, as the average person who isn’t as conscious or educated on what they are putting into their bodies may think that this is an obvious and pointless statement. What he means by this is that it is important that what are consuming on a daily basis is composed of real, whole foods, and that we avoid consuming foods that have been manufactured to serve a specific “dietary need”

Nutritional science is a very complex field of study, studying how one specific nutrient on its own affects health can be a dangerous path to follow as shown by newer studies that have debunked past beliefs. However, the actual science is not the only issue arising with nutritional science. Many studies that are being published today have the potential to be completely biased, as stakeholders in the food industry are providing funding in order to prove that the food or nutrient they are promoting will be represented in good light and painted as beneficial to the human body. For example, as reported by NPR1, Harvard scientists were paid by individuals from the sugar industry to conduct a study that downplayed any links between sugar and heart disease fifty years ago. The concerning thing is that this is not the only study like this. Bias in studies that are conducted to help individuals decide what they should and should not eat is a dangerous problem that can cause many people harm.

When looking for nutritional advice and reading studies that have been published, it is important to take into consideration what organizations are performing the research and where the funding is coming from. On a more simple and day to day level, we can follow Michael Pollan’s advice of eating real food, and sticking to “mom’s way” in order to get nutrition in ways that has lasted for hundreds of thousands of years.

1 Godoy, Maria, and Rhitu Chatterjee. “The Food Industry’s Influence In NutritionResearch.” NPR, NPR, 17 Sept. 2016, influence-in-nutrition-research.

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