Modern ideas about healthy food so much baloney FREE to media members
VANCOUVER, BC, Feb 15, 2015/ Troy Media/ – Everybody believes that diet influences health, that we are threatened by an epidemic of obesity and diabetes caused by too much junk food, that salt is a silent killer and that eating food produced on farms close to where you live will set you free from the satanic tyranny of food multinationals.
But where, really, did these ideas come from? The average person believes they are proven by medical science, but medical science, which we imagine is reliable and clear, can get a bit slippery when we examine it really carefully.
No scientific basis for healthy food fad
I’ve recently looked over in detail the best evidence available from 50 years of scientific studies. What I found out (and it surprised me as much as I think it will surprise you) is that the scientific reasons for “healthy eating” don’t meet the standard of reliability that conservative health experts would normally call reasonable.
Again and again, I found that scientific studies and reviews supporting all the common healthy eating beliefs come very close to amounting to hot air.
When I took a closer look, I found that, even if healthy eating were supported by good-quality scientific evidence, the benefits of dieting are by any reasonable standards pretty well imaginary. The difference between healthy eating and eating at McDonald’s turns out to be a matter of only few minutes longer or shorter life, on average. But even that conclusion is supported only by failing-grade research.
But still we keep on practicing “orthorexia,” that is, eating right. In fact, the food on our tables and on supermarket shelves, and sometimes even mandated by law, reflects the mythology of rescue by diet. There are hundreds of books, newspaper articles, columns by physicians and nutritionists, and appearances by experts in the media to reassure us that we are on the right track.
I read an article recently, written by respected researchers, which examined how much science is actually behind the recommendations – many of which concerned diet – made by physicians and which appeared in the media. According to the article approximately half of the recommendations, by people like Dr. Oz, were completely free of even the lowest level of evidence.
So how come eating healthy has become so universally accepted? Why do we believe in it even when there’s no reason to?
I believe our beliefs about food are genetically hard-wired into us.
Food is probably the most powerful survival-enhancer. Getting it and ensuring we eat only nourishing as opposed to poisonous foods may have gradually become imprinted in our brains, the same way feeding behaviour comes naturally to animals.
While tribal people all over the world – and even some mainstream cultural food attitudes like Jewish kosher – may practice what we believe is some very weird food beliefs and prohibitions, we tend to believe we ourselves are more rational about food because of science. We have simply evolved into a need to believe in ideas about food.
However, we are still victims of unreasonable beliefs about food.
Whereas other cultures’ food rituals may be based on “superstition,” ours are based on “science” even when there is nothing to support them.
While we hear claims all the time that we are addicted to things like junk food, sugar, and salt, the truth is we are actually addicted to food ideology. We can’t help but accept our own tribe’s common cultural wisdom about what to eat.
Modern healthy food won’t help you live longer
Whatever the real reason for our beliefs in modern healthy food, the plain truth is that, scientifically, they don’t hold water. We are deluding ourselves if we expect to live longer or suffer less illness by buying into them. Fifty years of science trying to prove the opposite has failed. The only bad food is food that tastes bad, or more generally food that doesn’t bring us inner delight.
It therefore makes sense to enjoy whatever food that satisfies us. If there’s no good science behind healthy eating, life is simply too short to try to prolong it by wrecking one of its greatest pleasures.
John Sloan is a family physician whose practice is confined to home care of frail elderly people, and avoiding institutional care of these patients. He has published numerous articles and several books on healthcare. His most recent ebook, Forbidden Food: How Science Says you can Eat what you Like and Like what you Eat (Kindle) is available on Amazon.com. He lives with his family in Vancouver.
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