Scott H Young

Does Health Information Need to Be Complicated?


Not according to Michael Pollan, recent author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. As he writes in this fantastic NYTimes article, most of the science aimed at getting us to eat healthier has steered us away from what really matters. With the money being invested in getting us to eat healthier, science and capitalism have steered us away from eating healthier foods to what Pollan calls “nutritionalism”. This advice seemed to be echoed in Steve Pavlina’s recent article, “Health Studies Are Worthless to Those Who Care About Their Health”.

A lot of health focus recently has been on reducing the components of a diet down to specific elements (omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, amino acids) and away from general health advice (eat less processed foods, eat more vegetables and less meat). If there is one fact that I think we can agree on about health information it is that science really doesn’t fully understand all the complex interactions nutrients make within our bodies.

Because of this ignorance of the human body by science and due to the high amount of corporate corruption that our health information is subjected to, I feel Pollan’s basic advice rings true. Eat more veggies and less meat (if you choose to eat meat at all, it should be a side dish, not the main course). Eat less processed food. Eat a greater variety of foods.

Worry less about whether you are getting the right amount of omega-3’s or carotene. Due to the almost infinite complexity of the human body, following those simplified rules makes a lot more sense.

Hat tip to Ben Casnocha.


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3 Responses to “Does Health Information Need to Be Complicated?”

  1. Liara Covert says:

    This is a great posting. It draws our attention to the fact that the results of scientific food studies are always changing. Experts often disagree about what is good or bad for us, though its hard to find a study that tells you to reduce fruit and veggie intake. The diet craze grew into a multi-billion dollar industry that seeks to shape our thinking. Going back to the basics without additives seems very good advice. My grandmother is almost 95. She would tell you to eat real butter and the natural foods (including fats) to keep your body well.

  2. Scott Young says:

    Liara,

    The biggest problem is that we don’t really understand how all the different nutrients in food interact towards our health. They don’t work in isolation but with each other, so the traditional approach just isn’t working. Following more general health advice, however, is possible for all of us.

  3. Lacey Cook says:

    I am just concerned about the main source of Omega 3 which is the liver of fish. as you can see, fishes can accumulate mercury and pcb. ~”,

Debate is fine, flaming is not. Pretend that this comment form is a discussion taking place in my house. That means I enjoy constructive criticism and polite suggestions. Personal attacks, insults and all-purpose nastiness will be removed especially if it is directed at other readers.

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