Why nutrition science is so confusing. [Infographic] 9 reasons eating well isn’t as straightforward as we’d like it to be.

From a certain perspective, nutrition science can seem like a mess. From another, it illustrates the very nature (and beauty) of the scientific process. Here we’ll explain why nutrition science is so confusing at times. We’ll also explain why, in the grand scheme of things, that’s okay.

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I recently participated in a health and fitness roundtable at a large event.

During the discussion, one smart, educated, PhD-trained expert complained about the state of nutrition science.

“You nutrition people make me mad!”
“Why so much conflicting information?”
“Why so much nonsense?”
“Why can’t you make it clear and simple?”

I can totally empathize.

From a certain perspective, nutrition science can seem like a mess.

Lots of competing theories. One study seems to suggest one thing. The very next study seems to say the opposite.

People interested in health, fitness and wellness are stuck in the middle. Confused. Directionless.

From another point of view, that “mess” of competing ideas demonstrates the real beauty of science.

You see, science means putting all the ideas — good, bad, otherwise — into the ring and letting them fight it out over hundreds of years, using a particular method to determine the winners.

And that’s precisely why nutrition science is so confusing at times. We haven’t yet had the hundreds, even thousands, of years for the best ones to emerge.

For example, macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates, and protein) weren’t even discovered until the mid-1800s. Vitamins weren’t discovered until the 1900s.

And that’s just the study of what’s in food, driven by problems — malnutrition and starvation — that we don’t face as often today in industrialized countries. (They’re still a problem in many parts of the world, though.)

It’s only in the last 20 years that we’ve begun studying newer problems, such as what’s healthy in a world full of tasty processed food and very little movement.

Just so you know, all scientific disciplines begin with confusion, dead ends, frustration, and silliness. (Before humans understood weather patterns, a tornado happened because someone angered the wind gods.)

But what’s young is destined to mature.

Nutrition science will eventually grow up.

Perhaps not as quickly as we’d like. Yet over time, the scientific method will cut and prune and do its work.

Meanwhile, here’s a nice summary of 9 main reasons why nutrition science can be so confusing at times.

And why (sometimes) the media screws up reporting it.

There you have it: Why nutrition science is so confusing at times. And why (sometimes) the media screws up reporting it.

Print out or save the infographic as a reminder when you’re feeling frustrated with nutrition research. And please share with a friend, client, or colleague who might benefit from it.

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References

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National Institutes of Health: History of Congressional Appropriations, Fiscal Years 2000-2016 [ONLINE] Available at:
https://officeofbudget.od.nih.gov/pdfs/FY16/Approp%20History%20by%20IC%20FY%202000%20-%20FY%202016.pdf [Accessed October 2016]

Bes-Rastrollo M, Schulze MB, Ruiz-Canela M, Martinez-Gonzalez MA. Financial conflicts of interest and reporting bias regarding the association between sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain: a systematic review of systematic reviews. PLoS Med. 2013 Dec;10(12):e1001578; discussion e1001578. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001578. Epub 2013 Dec 31. Review.

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College Park, MD: U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Section 23CRF101.9(g)

Cornelis MC, El-Sohemy A, Kabagambe EK, Campos H. Coffee, CYP1A2 genotype, and risk of myocardial infarction. JAMA. 2006 Mar 8;295(10):1135-41.

Guevara C, Cook C, Herback N, Pietrobon R, Jacobs DO, Vail TP. Gender, racial, and ethnic disclosure in NIH K-Award funded diabetes and obesity clinical trials. Account Res. 2006 Oct-Dec;13(4):311-24.

Livesey G. Metabolizable energy of macronutrients. Am J Clin Nutr. 1995 Nov;62(5 Suppl):1135S-1142S. Review.

Novotny JA, Gebauer SK, Baer DJ. Discrepancy between the Atwater factor predicted and empirically measured energy values of almonds in human diets. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Aug;96(2):296-301.

Ropella K (Author), Enderle JD (Editor). Introduction to Statistics for Biomedical Engineers Paperback. Morgan & Claypool Publishers; 1 edition (Oct. 1 2007)

Rosenbaum M, Leibel RL. Adaptive thermogenesis in humans. International journal of obesity (2005). 2010;34(0 1):S47-S55.

Simonson DC, DeFronzo RA. Indirect calorimetry: methodological and interpretative problems. Am J Physiol. 1990 Mar;258(3 Pt 1):E399-412. Review.

Westerterp KR, Goris AH. Validity of the assessment of dietary intake:
problems of misreporting. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2002 Sep;5(5):489-93. Review.

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