I would like to consider myself a scientist – or at the very least a man of science. I do science for a living, although admittedly I don’t actually know what science is.
“Eat fat,” I say, “preferably saturated fat. Butter is great. Avoid sugar and eat proteins. In fact, just make sure that most of what you are eating was also once eating something. Don’t eat grains, at least no wheat. If you don’t like seafood you might want to supplement with omega 3.” You get the picture.
At this point, a hovering hand usually catches my attention.
“Are you telling us the government is wrong?”
“Yes, that is correct,” I think to myself. But I don’t say it.
Instead I try my best at working around question and feeling very much like a greased up politician I effectively avoid the question by saying something about how scientific results are often disagreed upon, how it takes time to change scientific paradigms, how textbooks are slowly updated, how science is not immune to the ways of money and how even scientists rarely admit to being wrong even though the evidence calls for it.
But, what I would like to say is, “Yes, that is correct.” In fact, what I would like to say that it is hard to be more wrong than the official guidelines.
I dodge the question, because I know I will lose credibility by asserting myself. Claiming to possess a knowledge that has escaped most everybody but me will drive my audience away and luckily so. It is after all a sign of healthy skepticism in my audience.
If I succeed in getting across the message that even the government might get it wrong, there invariably is a follow-up question.
“Who then should we listen to?”
“Me,” I think.
But I don’t say it.
Instead I talk about how, if you really want to know the truth, if you really want to know about nutrition and health, you have to read. You have to read and study and accumulate your own knowledge. Only then can you make sensible decisions about whom to listen to.
If however, you don’t want to spend your time learning about nutrition and navigating the maze of confusing information, you’ve got three more or less sensible choices:
1. You can trust your experience and the experience of those around you. A lot can be learned from listening to the body, cleaning out the senses and having a keen eye for the obvious. Humans however, are prone to deceiving themselves.
2. Find any random person or organization that promote a dietary strategy and follow it. This strategy is commonly used in religion and judging by the number of religious people around, I would say it’s an easily followable approach.
3. Don’t give a crap and eat whatever you want to eat.
I hate that there are no better options. When asked about whom to trust I would like to give people a name. Preferably the government, as it should be their responsibility to make correct and important knowledge available to the public. But I can’t give a name. In truth, the only option for those who really seek the truth is to find it themselves.
And how bloody ineffective it all is. But as I claim that those who should be trusted can’t be trusted there is no way people will or should blindly trust me.
And who’s to blame for this sticky situation? Much of the blame lies with scientists; the very group of people I would like to consider myself a part of.
Scientists have disagreed far more than the evidence permits. They have been led by money, fame and feelings and are in general guilty of being just like ordinary humans.
I do not think nor hope that the day comes when I can teach a nutrition- and health approach that everybody agrees upon. After all, the progress of science rests entirely on disagreement. But it should be possible to agree about the important issues. It is possible, but agreement honors us with its absence. And in the meantime everything is so much more difficult than it has to be and the obvious question poses a dilemma where there should be none.