Spring cleaning, truth and disagreements

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Spring cleaning. All freshened up – away with bricks and Banksy and bombing.

The truth 
We are all confused (some more than others) about what to eat – which foods are good for us and which are not. We’d all like to know this, to learn once and for all which foods give us the best health. It’s all just so bloody confusing.

There is one thing, though, that we have to keep in mind if we want to know the truth about healthy foods. Or rather, there is something to realize. And here it is:

Some things are right and some things are wrong. Sometimes there is only one right answer, and when one thing is right, everything else is wrong. Sometimes things are either black or white with no shades of grey. There are such things as truths.

Only very narrow minded people think that there are always more nuances. They are narrow minded because they exclude the possibility of non gradation. This is a problem. It is a problem because this idea of there always being more sides to a story gives rise to the idea of everything in moderation – the golden mean. There is nothing strange about this response to confusing information. We are not all experts and most of us do not have the time to dig into the literature and by ourselves solve any disagreements. So we keep away from extremes. It’s a balancing act.

But if your goal is optimal nutrition and optimal health, the middle way is the wrong way. Nothing in nutritional science indicates that this is an effective way to reach our goals. Most likely you will end up eating too little of some nutrients and too much of others. And I know many nutrients are essential in one dose, optimal in another and toxic in higher doses. Still, this does not in any way indicate the middle way to be a good general rule. For optimal health you need the right amount of nutrients, nothing more nothing less.

Unfortunately, government nutritional guidelines are a version of “everything in moderation.” Not too much fat, a little sugar, some fiber and some protein and a little salt. This means that if your diet is utter crap, starting eating as official guidelines recommends, will likely improve your health. However, you will never have an optimal diet. This requires rather more rationality than what is offered by the official guidelines.

The disagreements
What appear to be scientific disagreements confuse us into dietary mediocrity. But the disagreements themselves are rarely scientific. Whenever you see two “experts” arguing about what constitutes a good diet, remember that any scientific data by itself is objective. It is what it is. But the data has to be interpreted by people, thus making it subjective. It is interpreted by people with very different amounts of total and subject specific knowledge, and with varying potential for rational thinking.

This means that whenever “experts” disagree on basic knowledge there are two likely scenarios. Either one of them is right, which means the other is wrong. Or they are both wrong. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. We cannot disagree more than the evidence permits. A disagreement is not a matter of opinion. There is no room for opinion in science. A disagreement is either a sign of lack of knowledge in one or more of the disagreeing parts or a sign of an underlying agenda not related to science in one or more of the parts.

Taubes and Oz disagreed about the dangers of saturated fat. They might both be wrong, but they can’t both be right.

3 kommentarer

  1. Haha. I really enjoyed this blog post because understanding this topic, is crucial obviously to interpreting information correctly.

    However there are SOOO MANY more nuances to this. Yes, I disagree completely with you. With how some things are right and wrong, and how two people cannot be right and how nuances cannot exist.

    Why cannot saturated fat in moderation (what Oz probably recommends) be good for some people, and higher amounts of sat fat (taubes) be great for others? In that sense they would both be right and wrong at the same exact time. Indeed this is exactly why they probably are. And then what the hell goes the word «good for me» mean. It's so arbitrary and generalized.

    So the reason why I do not think things are right, wrong, or truths, better yet, knowledge is the term I prefer to use, is because the sciences are segregated. Now that's a lie. I do beleive there are truths, (the sky is blue), pythagorean's theorem. But medicine, nutrition are soft sciences and proof does not exist for very long, therefore there is no proof.

    TO understand the truth it must be looked at holistically with all the sciences and trains of thought. This is absolutely impossible. THe human mind cannot conceptualize everything going on. Most nutritional scientific studies represent I'd say 1/20th at least of everything going on, and that's such a generalized weak statement it is essentially useless, the point still being, nutritional science cannot prove anything at all ever without looking at other sciences, most notably, quantum physics. These nuances, are too diffucult for one brain to process simultaneously.

    THe role of the mind is the last thing I will leave you to consider. Emotions and mind states are not quantifiable. IQ, EQ Meyers-Briggs personality test try to quantify states of mind. But the biochemical impacts of thoughts emotions are so difficult to measure, but they do have an impact on the body that could easily contradict what a reduced to its parts scientific study says on some ingredient. Many people do not believe this; they are all ignorant, like everyone else, including myself. Ignorant meaning, the innate inability to understand the truth, because the truth is full of too many nuances for the mind to process. It's a fair statement.

    I don't beleive in knowledge because I admit that things that I do not understand could skew my ideas of knowledge incredulously. That's about it.


  2. Glad you liked it Avishek. You read my mind. Strictly speaking there are no truths in science. But I believe we need the concept of truths in our language. Too much sugar is bad for you, cholesterol doesn't kill you, insulin affects the fat cells, never mind the concept of soft science, the unexplored parts of our mind or metaphysical considerations. It is so true we should consider it true. Scientific lingo can easily become a wall of bullshit. People need a clear answer. The right answer.


  3. Thanks for making us think. For me the fat question is simple, we make saturated fat; therefore, saturated fat is safe, assuming we would not make poison for ourselves.

    It is my opinion only that humans can survive on a wide range of diets, from nearly all animal to nearly all plant with a little fish and some oils. The ideal is between Taubes and Oz, more to the Taubes end. Humans survived by being able to eat what was in their environment. Transportation of food was limited to what they could carry, and how far can you carry a days supply of fruit?

    As long we eat real whole foods with a bit of fish, we will survive to reproduce. Our commitment to survival of the species is met.

    but what do I know


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