When it comes to nutrition many people will favor studies or books that support their personal ideologies on diet and nutrition. I on the other hand came from one side of the spectrum and ended up on the other end based on my research not because people friends, culture or specific individuals tried to influence me to make a change.
I ate the Western diet for 29 years of my life. I began researching nutrition because one day at work after a large meal I became tired and was curious to know why the food I ate was causing my body to become fatigued. You name it I pretty much ate it other than strange exotic foods other than a pig ear once at a happy hour when I lived in Spain. I rarely ate any fruit and vegetables. I pretty much hated them all other than Iceberg lettuce, bananas, and onions.
In the last seven years the scientific evidence has led me to remove many of these unhealthy foods from my diet and my health soon improved. I then went on a high protein diet because that is what muscle magazines had recommended and got terrible heart burn and broke out in terrible hives. I then switched a lean organic meat Mediterranean low processed food diet. Yet still did not feel that it I was feeling all that healthy. I then took it a step further and switched to a high carb plant based diet. This has created amazing results. I had lost the extra fat that was sitting around my belly, my pollen allergies which had bothered me since fourth grade for many years had gone away. My hives on a high protein diet stopped appearing and my chronic heart burn had gone away. I had full reconstructive knee surgery at age 25 on one of my knees and had terrible arthritic pain for many years and had to take glucosamine and Advil to reduce the pain which subside once I had made the switch to plant nutrition. Today I have endless amounts of energy which has allowed me to become even more fit and keep up with people ten years younger than me. I hit my own running record of 6:34 minute mile and I don’t often run. I got more cut and built muscle without protein powders or special supplements.
So my lifestyle change was built off of the scientific research and medical lectures that brought me to this path, even when I myself would have never imagined eating this way. I think most people think I ate like this most of my life but the truth is I did not it has only been about 5.5 years. I can totally understand why the foods I use to eat appeal to people because I ate this way for decades. Switching to a plant based diet was the best thing I have ever did for my health.
Why should we respect science?
Most of the scientific evidence shows a correlation, rather than being able to prove without reasonable doubt that certain things occur. Situations and not always can give a definite causation since there are so many variables that need to be accounted for. In my years of research I spent time reading each study as a skeptic to see what the large body of evidence was saying. Some of these studies were industry funded, some were conducted because of personal bias, some government funded, and others were independently done. When it comes to diet and lifestyle we observe what the general population does in their lives. Many of these population observations can come to a conclusion because many countries follow the same customary lifestyle habits. There will always be outlying variables when it comes to research but as a whole you will begin to notice similar patterns that raise red flags that can lead us to a larger body of evidence in helping us identify causes of disease.
Dismissal of Science all together
I have noticed that those who are fad diet followers or foodies will make the claim that the unhealthy food they eat is healthful and that those foods cause no harm. The will often claim as well that there is no evidence proving that these foods cause any harm. They do this by quickly pointing out an individual or a small population of people where those foods did not harm them, sometimes even looking back millions of years ago for scientific proof of how humans were designed to eat and live. This becomes the foundation of their argument.
When scientific studies criticize those foods as harmful to their health, the foodies will resort to defending their habits by make a bold statement that says “Correlation is Not Causation.” They will repeat this like a broken record refusing to look at the large body of evidence and research and listen to others who nitpick the science to favor their results. Then this becomes the gospel of the movement and others follow along claiming foods like bacon are healthful. I say show me the large body of evidence where bacon diet reversed heart disease where caloric restriction was not part of the picture.
I agree that we may not be able to prove most things as empirical evidence because so many variables can be manipulated to prove a particular outcome and result or we can dismiss a study easily if by pointing out a few minor flaws in the collection or handling of data. This even after the most important portions of the study were well controlled. These critics will dismiss the entire study as a flawed study. Although correlates can lead us to see more conclusive patterns we begin to see a larger body of evidence pointing science to reach a more accurate conclusion.
We also can see now with the powerful microscopes and other micro-technology how cells are directly being damaged by specific substances in vitro and in vivo. Yet with all this large body of evidence many still don’t want to accept these obvious patterns. They fall back on making statements like “I don’t believe in the scientific evidence” as if it were a religious belief or personal belief. This belittles the hours of lab work, scientific credentials and field work done in attempts to prove and make a direct and larger connection between diet, lifestyle and disease.
We all have biases. To truly be neutral is impossible since our environment forms us and makes us lean towards specific body of evidence but even so there are enough scientists out there who conduct these studies from different countries, cultures, and backgrounds who are interpreting the data as best they can which should create a neutral playing field for many of the same cultural biases. For example: Japan doing research on fish and its health effects. Since Japan has a huge fishing industry then they are more likely to promote fish as healthy but other countries scientist that do not may have a more objective perspective. We can look at all these studies as a whole and attempt to reach some sort of conclusion. So in the end in the large body of evidence starts to push certain patterns out there that start to make sense both scientifically and logically. This may not convince us 100 percent but it should raise enough flags to make a more accurate decision than just plain belief or speculation.
“Correlation is not Causation”
“For example, the tobacco industry abused this fallacy to argue that simply because smoking correlates with lung cancer that does not mean that smoking causes lung cancer. The simple correlation is not enough to arrive at a conclusion of causation, but multiple correlations all triangulating on the conclusion that smoking causes lung cancer, combined with biological plausibility, does.” (Science Based Medicine)
This is what has been taken by some low carb anti grain people in the movement. They believe saturated fat is good for you. They claim that saturated fat is good for your health. They also claim that when they gave up the Western diet and went low carb now they had a improvement in health. Never mind that the amount of vegetables and some fruits they eat has largely increase in their diet and the fact that they have given up many of the processed and junk foods in the process. Then they will make the claim that bacon and processed like beef jerky are healthful, when in opposition the body of scientific research points otherwise.
So these people are making their statements based on the trend and diet they want to follow and base their decisions on faith, not well supported studies and low carb books. These books are based off of pseudo-science or short term studies with very little data and it seems to be a common pattern that when these individuals when they argue on the subject sound quite the same in the forms of evidence they use. This is primarily regurgitated evidence from these low carb books.
In connecting with people in the low carb movement I have found that many not only have never looked at the large body of evidence out there but prefer to not think critically in the process. These individuals settle on any evidence written or spoken by low carb gurus who write books on the subject and claim their information out-weighs the years of large scientific evidence published in peer reviewed journals and largely accepted by most of the scientific community.
I am sure that many cigarette smokers had easily dismissed the large scientific evidence that was being published about the dangers of smoking and smokers personally claimed that it did not cause lung disease. I am not being critical on the goodness of individuals but merely on the stance that they take on their claims of what is good eating and lifestyle habits. I have a pretty common sense approach to nutrition to identify if something is healthy or not. Donuts plant based or non-plant based are not healthful foods.
I don’t think we can look at science from a belief stand point. We need to look at the big picture. Isolated cases are not enough evidence to prove or relate an illness to a particular food but when patterns in the scientific community starts to raise red flags to dismiss this seems to a bad decision and a risk that I am not willing to take. Some individuals will never be affected by these unhealthy foods or get the illnesses that most of the average population will get, but it does not dismiss that these foods for the majority of people will cause illness.
Are you the one who will be affected or will you be unaffected? I will lean towards avoiding the risk all together if I can which is why I am looking out for what the large body of the scientist in the world seems to be looking out for. I will continue to follow the science and not just favor those foods because they taste good or because they are accepted by the general public as normal. I continue look at things critically as I have been doing this from the start of this journey into an improved lifestyle for better health and nutrition.
*I do not represent any group or organization that would lead me to any of these conclusions. This is purely observational. This post also in no way is to demean or criticize any individual but to create awareness to think critically and too look at the large body of evidence and not just play the skeptic and dismiss the evidence because it does not agree with your taste buds or culture.
This article helped me write on the subject.