Why is Nutrition Confusion?
I recently posted a blog post about the role parents play in fussy eating. This was never designed to blame parents. It was to show parents why treatment for fussy eating needs to look at both the child and the parents. When I first released it, I some good comments. A week later something happened. A researcher working in his area disagreed with a couple of points in this article. As a researcher I love good debate as I think that makes me a better researcher. She also posted the article in a fussy eating group disagreeing with my view. After that I had quite a few negative comments about the blog post
It's OK to disagree with me!
I am all for comments about my posts and I am happy for people to disagree with me. What was interesting what that all the comments were negative. This got me thinking. Why had I not got any negative comments before the post went into the group but now I was getting quite a few comments disagreeing with my post.
What I realised is that they were reading my blog post which was posted in the fussy eating group with a bias. The person had disagreed with my views and posted this in the group so everyone else’s natural reaction was to disagree as well. As human’s we don’t like to be different and like to follow the majority. This really got me thinking about how we view nutrition and nutrition research.
It is easy for us to be biased when we read nutrition information. This is not something we know is happening and is called implicit bias. This is where we have our views and we look for research that agrees with our point of view, ignoring the research that doesn’t. Especially in nutrition research, you will find studies both agreeing and disagreeing with our point of view.
Nutrition is confusing because many of the tools we use to measure a person’s nutrition intake are not completely accurate. We can’t follow people around 24 hours a day to see what they are eating. There is also so many things in food it is hard to pick out a single nutrient and say that is good or bad for your health. Our own genetics will also change how we react to food. We all have some friends that get bloated just by looking at a food and another has a cast-iron stomach.
Animals don't equal humans
One of the other reasons nutrition is confusion is that animal studies are not always going to mean the same thing in a person. There is a great article from The Conversation all about this which you can read. Did you know that the drug Thalidomide did not cause birth defects in animal studies but did in humans. It's very scary. Nutrition is a fast-moving world and very hard to study. Every person is very different, and our genes are very different. No amount of animal studies out there can replace humans. We also know that one study on a human does not prove anything.
I Also Have Bias
I also have to work hard as a researcher to make sure my bias doesn’t affect my judgement. I just came back from an American nutrition conference. There was a workshop all about intermittent fasting. This is where you have a longer time where you don’t eat in a day. When I went to university, this was not something that was talked about. I was taught that fasting can lower our metabolism and is the reason we should eat small frequent meals. There is new research coming out challenging my earlier learnings. I will write about this in a later blog post, I promise! The research is really interesting to me and I have to keep an open mind about intermittent fasting as it may just be good for us! If I let my bias get in the way then I will never be open to new ideas and new research.
Who Should you Listen to?
I guess you are wondering what this all means for you as a parent? How do you know what the right and wrong things to give your kids to eat? Are you so confused about what to eat? Why is nutrition so confusing? What I ask of you is to be aware that you may have a bias when you read any nutrition information, coming from bloggers like me, researchers, instagrammers and your friends and family. Even if a friend or celebratory whole heartedly believes it to be true, you need to think about your own thoughts and bias and be free to challenge them.
What Can You Do?
My Pledge to You
The conference I have just been also had a pledge of civility. This said that I don’t have to agree but I always have to be civil. My pledge to you is that I will aim to keep out my bias from any nutrition topics I write about and please challenge me when you don’t agree. I love a good debate as it keeps me on my toes. I also pledge to you to keep bringing you new nutrition information as it is studied, even if it challenges my beliefs. I want to help stop the nutrition confusion.
Let me know in the comments below what nutrition topics you would like me to write about?