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What is the most controversial issue in nutrition

I teach college nutrition, mostly to heath care workers. It seems every topic we discuss has a controversial component - usually mentioned in the textbook but in little detail.

What do you think is the most controversial issue in nutrition today?

  • Jan 12 2013: The ability to digest milk (or lactose) throughout the life span, not just as an infant, was a mutation which arose and probably proved to be of survival value for some groups. The ability is called lactase persistence (for the enzyme which persists in some, but becomes inoperative in other folks after about the time of weaning.)

    I think nutritional controversies are rampant, and the other posters have hit on some of the major ones. My list includes these (some already mentioned): paleo or some variant of low carb vs. broader ingestion of things we call foods; whether sugar or fat is the primary culprit in all sorts of ailments from diabetes to heart disease; whether gluten sensitivity is a spectrum disorder that may be afflicting more people than we imagine; how our bodies might react to GMO foods; the whole arena of nutroceuticals (foods as medicines), and then, possibly of interest to those involved in social policies, especially "food stamps," just what is a FOOD, and what should EBT be allowed to buy as a "food." to promote nutrition.
  • Jan 12 2013: This conversation surely shows that it is controversial.
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    Jan 12 2013: Carbohydrates and diabetes. If people with diabetes have a problem metabolizing carbohydrates, why are they instructed to eat 75 grams of the stuff every day? That is like telling someone who is lactose intolerant to drink 4 glasses of milk a day but take lactaid. They are just better off not drinking milk.

    Eating fat has minimal impact on cholesterol. Everyone knows this so why are doctors still sighting bad biased research and telling people to not eat fat? Low fat this low fat that, and all that low fat stuff has way more sugar just to make it palatable.

    And we wonder why Americans are overweight and dying sooner than third world countries.
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    Jan 12 2013: Gee, I don't see much controversy. Pretty much everything seems to be saying eat more fruit and vegetables.lynne, I've been talking on another conversation by Kate Blake ("What is your purpose in life?") about my unique diet. For five years, I have lived on milk. Every day I drink between one and two gallons of organic nonfat milk, and don't eat or drink anything else. For me it's been fantastic. My weight has gone from 240 to 170, and maintained, high cholesterol vanished, eyes feel better, energy way up. If it intrigues you, check out the other conversation.
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    Gail .

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    Jan 12 2013: I think that the most controversial is the argument about high carb v. low carbs diets.

    For example, the Institute of Medicine recommends between 45% and 65% of a diet be composed of carbohydrates. But I know for a fact that if I take in that many carbs, I'd expand like a frightened blowfish.

    A person with a 2500 caloric requirement would have to take in between 312 and 406 grams of carbohydrate. I gain weight at the rate of .3 to .5 pounds per WEEK if I stay above only 25. Yet there are NO studies that I have found that have looked into the extremely low carb eating plan. How can there be a recommendation when parts of the whole haven't even been studied? You can't give a fair recommendation based on only the studies that confirm your preference.

    the NIH suggests that protein intake be between 50-60grams. But if an athlete, a very active person, or an obese person were to do this, they would do a lot of harm to their bodies. Because of muscle loss, an obese person using this guideline would actually gain weight.

    The NIH suggests that calories from fat be limit to 10% of caloric intake. But as I understand it, this is only when taken in conjunction with the high levels of carbs they recommend. Fat is biochemically inert, Carbs increase insulin. Protein increases glycogen. High carb diets create extra insulin that can cause insulinemia (or eventually diabetes) that causes strokes, heart problems, high blood pressure, etc. Low carb diets reverse this trend. Yet too many doctors still prescribe high carbs/low fat diets as a health preventative of the very things that the diet causes.

    The NIH (U. S. National Institute of Health) speaks of the "average" person's dietary requirements, but it neglects - in any study that I have read - to define what an "average" person is. As I see it, an average person can be an infant or a senior, obese or anorexic, and athlete or a sedate artist.

    Before one recommends an eating plan, one should have more informa
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    Jan 12 2013: The tendency of some food producers to buy some experts of nutrition who would produce research that would proclaim that a particular food product is a very important part of a healthy diet.
    • Jan 12 2013: That's a problem, but I don't think it's controversial since everyone condemns it.
  • Jan 12 2013: Wow, that's a new one for me. Milk is correlated with a number of disorders - most of us certainly don't have enough of the enzyme lactase to break it down. Plus much of the calcium in milk is leached out in the urine. Recall no other mammal on earth drinks dairy past weaning age (never see a giraffe nursing as an adult:).

    I'm intrigued. You say you feel good? What other article are your referring to? Thanks!
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    Jan 12 2013: Lynne, as you are the college lecturer in this field, I would guess you know a lot better than most of us what are actually the most controversial issues in nutrition. Could you share the knowledge you have in this area with the rest of us?

    Molly Crickett in the TED talk you linked was, I think, less concerned with nutrition per se than with the way those who have something to sell, be it a food or supplement or an ideology, attempt to commandere science, and if they can pull it off scientists, to market their wares.

    It is no wonder that the general public gets confused about what conclusions science truly supports.
  • Jan 12 2013: I'd say the question of whether or not switching from a hunter-gatherer diet to a grain and dairy based diet has negative effects on humans. So in other words: whole-weat bread and milk are often promoted as healthy food, and of course they are compared to candy and fried bacon, but they might just be very unhealthy compared to a diet of vegetables, fruit, nuts, fish and low fat meat (a diet that may not be feasible for 7 billion people, but still), there are some who say grains are the reason even healthy, active people develop diabetes, bad teeth and cardiovascular disease at high age.

    There's probably a lot of controversy about anti-oxydants too, but that's just because people are choosing sides before enough research has been done.
  • Jan 12 2013: Less fat - but loads of sugar.

    Products that contains high sugar contents, eventhough fat contents would have been part of the product was never the major contributor to the overall kilojules/calories. Most consumers see the words "less fat" on the package and by default think that the food is healthy.