Pretty much every other day a new ‘study’ pops up to tell us the latest finding on whether certain foods are good or bad for you or which diet is best.
And opinions on some foods can literally change daily; like one day butter is the devil and the next day it is fine.
I often read these headlines with morbid curiosity, sort of like when you see a terrible accident and just can’t look away.
But, a lot of people will (understandably) place faith in the authority of ‘science’ and take the reporting seriously.
There are 3 MAJOR reasons why ‘studies’ generally suck-ass:
#1 The Media Factor
The majority of the studies which generally make their way into media headlines come from epidemiological studies.
Wiki tells us – Epidemiology studies the patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations.
So basically researchers will bring up data and look for specific patterns.
For example, they could grab a bunch of data on the consumption of bananas in different countries and then measure this against their rate of heart disease. From their analysis, they may find that countries with higher rates of heart disease eat more bananas.
Of course, this does not mean that eating more bananas will give you heart disease.
Just because two things occur together does not mean that one causes the other. Pretty obvious right?
Correlation does not equal causation
HOWEVER, the media loves a good story and these kind of links can make for a pretty sensational headline, so the media will jump on these findings and make the crazy-ass leap to:
Banana’s Could Cause Heart Disease!!
Even more confusion about what healthy eating is.
#2 The Science is Tainted
In order for a study to be run, someone needs to to finance it.
Scientists don’t work for free.
A lot of studies are actually sponsored by food companies. Can you guess why food companies would cough up?
To support science? Yeah right.
To help market their own products? Bingo!
Ultimately, companies are in the business of making money; any money they spend is an investment. So, if a food company finances a study, they can decide exactly what is studied, how it is analysed, the parameters and how conclusions will be drawn.
In fact, they can arrange for the study to be conducted in a way which will draw the conclusions which benefit them i.e. their product is great for you.
They make their product look good = more people buy it = their profits go up.
And it is easy to skew the results of a study – check this out.
#3 The Science Doesn’t Work
Studies can be massively conflicting; it is not unusual to have two have studies showing completely opposite results.
Studies are set up to test a specific theory within set parameters, which may hold little merit in the real world.
Health is a delicate balance with SO many variables; it is nearly impossible to account for all the factors at play.
A study may offer an insight, but rarely an over-arching, definitive truth.
The solution is simple – throw the studies out the window.
First and foremost, focus on finding out what works for you.
What foods makes you feel satisfied, healthy and energised?
We are all unique in our genetic make-up and the lives we lead; therefore, there is no one-size-fits-all diet. What works for someone else will not necessarily work for you. likewise the findings of a study may not apply to you at all.
Don’t force yourself to chow down on food which you are told is good for you if you don’t feel the benefits. For instance, I don’t eat broccoli, like it’s a freaking awesome vegetable with tonnes of health benefits, BUT I don’t digest it well and it tends to makes me bloated. So screw that, it doesn’t work for me.
Likewise don’t avoid good food because some study implies that it may not be good for you; there is plenty of bad science out there. Use your common sense first; if you are eating good food which is working for you, don’t ditch it purely because a study pulls a link to a health problem out of its ass.
Bottom line. Studies are often BS, at best take them with a hearty pinch of salt.
Focus on putting eating good food and your body will tell you what works best.