Saturday, August 30, 2014

Scientific Nutrition

During the race expo at the Vancouver Marathon back in May, I noticed a disturbing trend. The increase in nutritional products is no real surprise, but the claims being made seem to be changing.

Not knowing who I was, or whether I was running the marathon or not, I could tell the demo reps selling different products had been instructed to stroke my "athlete's" ego. Then, they would go on to explain how I needed their product. Because of how athletic I am...

Here was one conversation:

"It's greens powder. It is the equivalent of (however many) servings of vegetables. You should drink it first thing because as an athlete you are very acidic in the morning. So this will alkalize you."

Hmmm. The alkaline-acid diet hasn't got a lot of scientific research behind it. ( isn't to say that the so-called alkaline diet isn't good for you. It recommends a lot of leafy greens, which definitely seem to be good for you. And perhaps because your pH balancing systems don't need to work as hard to keep you in balance, there will be long term benefits. But at no point are you "acidic"- your blood pH is tightly regulated. So you don't die.

Another rep selling coconut water/juice blends described how coconut oils fat is used for energy, not as fat. Again, sort of... Coconut is about 60% medium chain triglycerides, which can be used as energy more quickly than other fats. If you aren't consuming too many calories. And that leaves another 40% as fat that isn't quickly used as energy.

But I find myself falling for it all too. We want to believe that we need a special diet, whether it is for exercise or to lose weight. It is tempting to believe that with the right combination of nutrients, in the exact right amounts, will help us accomplish whatever our dreams are. Unfortunately, nutrition is extremely complex. Nutrients interact with each other and within our bodies they react differently depending on many factors, including how active we've been, how much sleep we've had, how much we ate, etc. With so many factors, we may never know exactly what each person needs and when.

With all the claims out there, and websites and articles and "experts" telling you specific formulas for your unique situation, I think the industry will always be there. But if you want sound advice based on real science, there are places you can turn. Registered Dietitians are bound by a code of ethics and governed by a regulating body, so the information they give to you will be sound. The Centre for Science in the Public Interest, and their health letter ( Nutrition Action ) is another wonderful source of info. Another great article: (Nutrition Misinformation).

There are days I want to become someone who claims my product will save you. I'd make a lot more money and work a lot less. But then I sit down to whatever real food I've made for supper and I know I need to keep spreading the word. Real food is better, it tastes better and it satisfies more than just a need for calories and our need for the nutrients we think we understand. Real food energizes, it bonds families, it builds communities and it protects the environment. So I'll keep on choosing it and I hope you will too. 

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