A Kerfuffle in the Office Yesterday

Interesting day yesterday here at the Meal Garden HQ...

Over the weekend I read a very interesting op-ed in the Globe and Mail titled 'Never Mind the Nutrition Nannies' written by Margaret Wente. Now, I LOVED the article.  I always find it interesting when people start poking holes in nutritional research.  I'm a pragmatic person when it comes to research and stats, I listen, reflect and generally accept new perspectives.  In situations where I have some existing knowledge, I'll sometimes question, but lightly. After all, generally speaking, someone went to great lengths to do the research (either first person or secondary) and put together their findings and post them for everyone to read, discuss, comment, etc.

My take on the above article?

1. Diet's are trendy and marketing focused (i.e. at the very beginning, some sort of commercial goal drove their creation).

2. Research is flip-floppy in many area's of food and nutrition.  That is, there is research that supports one view and research that refutes that view and supports a different, often competing view.

3. At the end of the day, 'balance' is very personal and complex.  It's not easy to figure out and your best bet comes down to so some general ABC's for eating healthy.

So, the kerfuffle started when I introduced the article to my co-worker Hiwot (a recent nutritional sciences graduate from UofT). Let's just say she didn't agree with the article or my opinion.  I'm going to let her provide some of her insight here, because I think it's valuable and an interesting dialogue. Hopefully, some of our readers will weigh in here and we can all have a dialogue about the article and the concepts of healthy eating in general.

Take it away Hiwot...


After reading that article, I will admit I was irritated. Partly because I come from a research based nutrition background but also because Wente's piece was heavily one-sided.

Here's my take on the article and some things to consider regarding nutritional research:

1) First thing is first: nutritional research (or any kind of scientific research for that matter) is not perfect.  This is what creates the seemingly "flip-floppiness" of research findings. However, most people do not take into consideration that published research papers differ in quality - the weight a research paper holds depends on the quality of the research methodology, compliance of the subjects, the statistical significance of the outcome and many, many other criteria.

2)  The media is all too quick to publish bold headlines with little analysis or consideration of the strength of the research - i.e. "Eating Red Meat is Now Good for You!"  Is it really? What does the scientific community say about this research paper? Has it been included in any meta-analyses or systematic reviews? What other research is out there on this topic?

3) The author of this article is however right in cautioning readers to be skeptical of new diet fads and any research findings that guarantee anything. After all, universal truths cannot be drawn from one (or more) research papers. But telling people to stop eating all carbohydrates and to go instead to go nuts with cheese is a bit of a stretch!

I do however agree with Jeff that developing healthy eating habits is very personal and complex - what suits my lifestyle and taste may not suit yours. However, we need to turn to reliable sources of nutritional information (i.e. from registered dieticians, HON certified websites, and government websites) to understand the basics of healthy eating and find our own way of incorporating those habits into our daily lives.


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