This week, researchers published two studies on meat consumption and health. And they have somewhat contradictory messages: According to the latest study (a classic punchline), meat consumption prevents strokes, but can increase your chances of cancer. So do you pick up that grilled chicken wing or put it down? The real question is whether we should base our diet on each new individual study that comes out.
This latest contradiction follows the about-face made earlier this week by the Food and Drug Administration in its new recommendations for pregnant women, calling on them to eat more fish. This follows years of scaremongering warning them to eat less. And the list of nutrients and foods that have been the basis for similar contradictory recommendations stretches as long as the grocer’s aisle: Coffee, butter, eggs, and avocado are just a few of the foods that have been called both unhealthy and healthy in recent years.
Such contradictory findings paradoxically affirm the classic model of nutrition: the calorie-in vs. calorie-out model based on variation and moderation. A few nutrition-obsessed narcissists will follow the incessant day-to-day nutrition headlines, searching in vain for a nutritional Truth that seems to never come. In fact, this tendency has driven a very profitable diet book industry. The bottom line is that there are no “good” or “bad” foods, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. That doesn’t make for scary headlines or best-selling books, however.
Meanwhile, the mainstream tunes out the media noise. A recent study in the Journal of Health Communication finds conflicting news about nutrition results in “backlash against nutritional recommendations,” leading people to ignore them altogether. Maybe that’s something that’s newsworthy.