So often lately, published studies about nutrition contradict each other, which can make it rather challenging, even frustrating, to cut through all the research and be able to confidently answer the question: What should I be eating?

Some of the most popular diets right now directly contradict each other (vegan vs. paleo, for example) as do many new and old scientific studies.  

butter

 

The New York Times recently reported on research conducted in 1967, funded by what is known today as the Sugar Association. This trade group paid three Harvard University scientists today’s equivalent of approximately $50,000 to publish research on fat, sugar, and heart disease. Of no coincidence, the research included in the review minimized the link between sugar and heart disease, and vilified the role of saturated fat.  This caused a shift in health expert thinking, by encouraging Americans to reduce their fat intake, which steered many people to consume a low-fat, high-sugar diet.

In addition, another profile in The New York Times, challenged the long-accepted idea that saturated fat causes heart disease. The study found no evidence that linked saturated fats (such as butter, cheese, or animal fat) increase risk of heart disease, nor evidence connecting unsaturated fats (such as olive oil or nuts) to a reduced risk.

With so much confusing research out there, how do consumers know how to proceed? Is this simply our green light to add a knob of butter to everything our hearts’ desire?  Maybe in moderation. One of the biggest flaws in a low-fat diet is the tendency to replace “fatty foods” with carbohydrates, more often than not highly processed carbohydrates such as cereal and white breads (foods often made with “hidden” sugar).  A diet high in these kinds of sugary foods actually has a more pronounced effect on the “bad cholesterol” that compromises heart health. What this shows us is that eating real (whole, unprocessed) foods is more important to our health than controlling quantities of specific macronutrients or food groups.

These are the big ideas to take away from these studies and that are helpful to keep in mind when trying to make the most healthful choice of what to eat:

  • Eat real, whole, unprocessed foods
  • Limit dietary sugar, including refined carbohydrates
  • Enjoy saturated fats in moderation
  • Still try to favor unsaturated fats found in olive oil, fish and avocados because they are have more anti-inflammatory properties

Written by Flannery N., Bastyr University student intern

Edited by Qwyn S., Administrative Assistant, Starkel Nutrition

References

  1. O’Connor, A. (2016, September 12). How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat. The New York Times. p. A1. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com
  2. O’Connor, A. (2014, March 17). Study Questions Fat and Heart Disease Link. The New York Times. p. A3. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com

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