Be Your Own Nutrition Advocate- Research

Be Your Own Nutritional Advocate

Albert Einstein- Information is not Power

This might seem an odd place to be quoting Albert Einstein, especially THIS quote AND considering my intention for NourishYourLife.org™ IS to provide nutritional information and research. You see, it’s my hope that the information I provide DOES help you in your journey to a healthier relationship to food.

But I want more for you. I want you to use this nutritional information to discover YOUR Nourishment Blueprint™. I don’t want you to just “take my word for it”. I want you to discover how knowing the science and research coupled with really tuning in to you and your experiences, can help you make better choices for yourself.  After all, you know YOU better than anyone else!

I believe that all the information provided through NourishYourLife.org™ should be deeply rooted in science and good, solid research. We have been over-stuffed with contradictory information for decades, with some credibility within the medical community and nutritional world lost along the way. This coupled with overzealous journalists eager to write the next viral headline, with little regard to understanding the methodologies used in research, creates confusion among everyone just trying to eat the next “right food”.

Yesterday butter equaled death; today butter is a “health food” and may lower your risk of diabetes. Ok, so this may sound a bit extreme, but I think this is how it FEELS. It FEELS extreme. It FEELS impossible. It FEELS defeating. Not all the time but certainly at times.

This is why it’s important to have a basic understanding of nutrition research. By understanding these strategies, you will be able to view the next big nutritional break-through with a new lens. As important as research is, it isn’t the end-all-be-all. Research is the starting point to finding your north, discovering what works for you.

So if you don’t read anything more beyond this point, SKIP to the section “INDIVIDUAL RESULTS BASED ON EXPERIENCE” and read it!!! It’s important. I saved the BEST for last! But it’s all REALLY good if you ask me! 😉

NUTRITION research and science

Here’s my take on this. There IS good, solid science out there. And I promise I will make EVERY effort that my sources are deeply rooted in good scientific research. Here are three things I look for when I consider research.

Biases

Biases should be minimized and that means carefully reviewing studies that are funded by big name food manufacturers and question whether the conclusion could have been bought and paid for by big business, for big business. There are also situations where the researchers themselves could be biased based on their original hypothesis. I mean we all want to be “right”! Check out this article on why the Low-Fat Diet was widely promoted with very little evidence.

CONFOUNDING Variables

I remember in my senior year of college, I took a course on how to examine research objectively and look for “confounding variables”. This is just a fancy term for “other variables that cannot be ruled out.” For example, the old paradigm of nutrition garnered a belief that low-fat diets reduce heart disease. However, researchers did not consider that those same health conscious people that ate low-fat diets were also less likely to smoke and more likely to exercise. We now know smoking and lack of exercise, independently, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. So was it really the low-fat diet or was it the low incidence of smoking or the high incidence of exercise? We have to look at the evidence in it’s entirety.

Correlation does NOT equal causation

This is one of my BIGGEST pet peeves. I know I am a dork, but this is right up there with the mis-use of the word “epic”. (For the record, WWII was “epic”, NOT the party a 17 your old had last weekend.) Ok, rant over! Correlation does NOT equal causation.

All kinds of crazy things can correlate but it does not mean that one CAUSES the other. Here’s some funny proof.

Image result for causation not correlation examples

Ok, some of you might be questioning my sense of humor, but I find this funny. If correlation equals causation then margarine causes divorce…at least in Maine!

 

Does it seem reasonable?

And that brings me to my next point! Does the conclusion seem reasonable?

I have met dietitians and clinicians that get so invested in the science, that they lose sight of “does this seem reasonable?” It’s funny because just the other night I was reviewing my 2nd graders’ math homework and noticed she had an incorrect answer. I suggested that when she goes back to check her work, if something looks amiss, ask yourself “is the answer reasonable”? If it’s not, re-work the problem. It’s that simple.

Example

As I did earlier, let’s look at the Low-Fat diet. For hundreds of years, our ancestors, generation after generation ate diets rich in saturated fat and protein from wild animals, and during this time there was very little evidence of heart disease. We were able to SURVIVE for THOUSANDS of years this way. Why would this suddenly be a problem now? We need to take a step back and view modern research with this evolutionary lens.

This did not happen in reference to the low-fat diet. The question wasn’t asked. Without knowing the causation, the solution was found. Suddenly in the 1940’s scientists and physician’s alike decided that refined vegetable oils, never before eaten by mankind and developed in a test tube, was the answer to heart disease. Does this seem reasonable based on the history of mankind? NOPE!

Like my Daddy says, “butter” (ie. margarine) that doesn’t melt on your toast and looks like plastic can NOT be good for you. I agree.

Individual results based on Experience

If there is one take-away, one bottom-line, it’s this! Your experience TRUMPS scientific research. Information is not knowledge. The only source of knowledge is experience. Discovering how certain foods nourish all bodies is important; but exploring how foods nourish YOUR body is what REALLY matters.

Example:

There is a community of health professionals out there that are adamant if people do not have a diagnosed food allergy, then they do not need to unnecessarily eliminate certain foods from their diet.

I fall somewhere in the middle. I agree that nobody NEEDS to eliminate foods if they do not have a food allergy; however, I know how uncomfortable my body feels when I eat foods that “don’t agree with me”. I don’t think people need a piece of paper that shows the presence of IgE antibodies to specific foods to “prove they need to avoid” foods that cause them digestive upset.

The research states that the inclusion of whole grains in the diet, including whole grain wheat, can lower the incidence of heart disease. But let’s say, you discover that your Nourishment Blueprint™ requires eliminating wheat from your diet. You feel healthier, have more energy, and less digestive upset; your experience TRUMPS information and knowledge.

 Bottom line

As important as research is, it is NOT the end-all-be-all. Research is the starting point to finding your north, to discovering what works for you, to discovering your Nourishment Blueprint™. When looking at the research try viewing it with an evolutionary lens, and ask yourself is this reasonable? And if you were wondering… the grapefruit diet, cookie diet, raw egg and milk diet, baby food diet and anything that has the word “cleanse” in it are considered UNreasonable! You can’t find your north at the bottom of a 3-day juice cleanse. It doesn’t work that way.

Discovering your Nourishment Blueprint™ will take some investigative work. It will take some time. And there will be ups and downs and highs and lows. But it IS possible! Let me know if I can help.

All my best to you, Sarah

 


 

Comment below! Tell me about a time you have felt like “the research” didn’t match your experience. And tell me what feels like the biggest challenge you would face in discovering your Nourishment Blueprint™. 

 

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