Breaking News on Food & Beverage Development - EuropeUS edition | Asian edition

Headlines > Science & Nutrition

Cutting carbs, gluten or fat? The 'utter nonsense' behind claims to be the best diet

By Nathan Gray+

17-Apr-2014
Last updated the 17-Apr-2014 at 15:25 GMT

Cutting carbs, gluten or fat? The 'utter nonsense' behind claims to be the best diet
Cutting carbs, gluten or fat? The 'utter nonsense' behind claims to be the best diet
Loading...

From the benefits of gluten-free to those of Mediterranean and Palaeolithic diets, many claims that one dietary strategy are better than another for health and weight loss are simply 'unjustified' and 'sometimes utter nonsense', according to a new review.

Mixed messages in media headlines and competing claims over which dietary strategies are 'the best' for weight management and health routinely refute both the conventional wisdom and one another, warns Dr David Katz - the author of a review that aims to unravel the scientific basis for a variety of claims made by proponents of different dietary strategies.

The invited review, titled 'Can We Say What Diet Is Best for Health?' appears in the Annual Review of Public Health, in which Katz asserts that such claims are almost entirely unsubstantiated and often 'nonsense'.

“The basic theme of optimal eating for human health and weight control is very strongly supported by a vast and diverse literature,” explained Katz, who is director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. “But arguments about the best variant on that theme are mostly unfounded, sometimes utter nonsense, and often about attempts to sell something to a public that is particularly gullible on this topic. 

"Most of the competing claims about diet invoke either a particular scapegoat or panacea, and that seems to conform to the prevailing variety of wishful thinking.”

Competing claims, but the same basic themes

Katz noted that while many of the 'competing' claims of being the best dietary strategy seem to be at odds with each other - in fact, most of the diets are variations of the same basic nutrition patterns - which are all linked to health benefits.

“From altitude, it’s pretty clear that Michael Pollan pretty much nailed the description of an optimal diet when he recommended eating ‘food, not too much, mostly plants'," he said. "But importantly, that theme can be represented by a diet low or high in fat, low or high in carbohydrate, lower or higher in protein. It can be represented by a Mediterranean diet, a traditional Asian diet, a Paleo diet, a vegetarian diet, or a vegan diet." 

"If any one of these is ‘best’ we lack the evidence to say so; there are, not surprisingly, no lifelong studies that randomly assigned people to optimized vegan or Paleo diets.  Who would sign up?" said Katz.

What about grains, and gluten free?

The Yale expert also refuted the currently popular concept that wheat or grains are particularly to blame for weight or health problems. 

“People with celiac disease or lesser forms of gluten sensitivity clearly need to avoid gluten and its sources, just as people with peanut allergies need to avoid peanuts," said Katz. "But whole grains figure in the diets of some of the longest-lived, healthiest people on the planet, as highlighted by the Blue Zones project."

"Like most other competing claims about diet, these seem convincing because the authors only cite the work that supports their point of view, ignoring a vast literature that refutes it.”

Related products

'People don't break windows': Second Glass boss on US Wine Riots

'People don't throw chairs and break windows': Second Glass boss on starting US Wine Riots

Dubbed the 'Prince of Boston's Wine Revolution' by Stuff magazine, Second Glass founder Tyler...

Bread innovation needed amid carb, additive backlash: Mintel

Additives and carb backlash stumps bread innovation, says Mintel

Stephanie Pauk and Pam Yates

Analysts, Mintel

Drinks manufacturers play a key role in sugar reduction

Drinks manufacturers must reduce sugars: PHE

Drinks manufacturers must work to reduce the amount of sugars in their products to...

Sainsbury's listings at 19, sports drinks at 24: Overly comes of age

Sainsbury's listings at 19, a sports drink launch at 24: Overly entrepreneur on guessing Justin King's email and casting off wide-eyed innocence

Young entrepreneur Chris Hannaway and childhood friend Will Hammersley launched frozen yogurt brand Arctic...

Mooted novel food changes will open exotic fruit doors in EU

Mooted novel food changes will open exotic fruit doors in EU

Dr John Wilkinson

Consultant and EU Novel Foods expert

DrinkPreneur Live 2014: OOb takes Tesco prize in final shootout

DrinkPreneur Live 2014: OOb takes Tesco prize in final shootout

Green-tea based drinks brand OOb took first prize at the inaugural DrinkPreneur event in...

Candy innovation: Miniature, flavors but little on health, Euromonitor

Sweet innovation? Candy makers are sticking to what they know, says Euromonitor

For the most part, confectioners have continued to innovate in known areas like flavor,...

Supermarkets told to take risks with ready meals

Own-label ready meals lack innovation, Bingham and Jones

Retailers need to be bolder with their own-label ready meals and stop relying on...

Cocoa flavanol health claim milk drinks 'could soon be on the market': Barry Callebaut

Cocoa flavanol health claim milk drinks 'could soon be on the market': Barry Callebaut

Ieme Blondeel

Product and Process Development Engineer, Barry Callebaut

Better-for-you chocolate still a niche after cocoa flavanol health claim: Euromonitor

Better-for-you chocolate still a niche after cocoa flavanol health claim: Euromonitor

Lauren Bandy

Ingredients Analyst, Euromonitor International

Tesco soft drinks buyer warns brands PowerPoint can be painful

'PowerPoint can be painful!’ Tesco soft drinks buyer warns entrepreneurs

The head of Tesco’s soft drinks buying team David Beardmore has urged aspiring brands...

Taste genetics: A new way to look at policy and segment consumers?

Taste genetics: A new way to look at policy and segment consumers?

Can new research in to the genetic basis of taste could help manufacturers and...

Delicious disasters: Marketing expert warns manufacturers on 'disruptive innovation' and learning from mistakes

Delicious disasters: Marketing expert warns manufacturers on 'disruptive innovation' and learning from mistakes

Everybody is chasing innovation and the next big idea, but when it comes to...

Global ID: 'Demand for Non-GMO-Project verification doubled after Whole Foods put its GMO cards on the table...'

Global ID: 'Demand for Non-GMO-Project verification doubled after Whole Foods put its GMO cards on the table...'

The growth of the Non-GMO Project verification scheme has been nothing short of explosive...

Merging industries: Top chefs and the food companies can learn a lot from each other, says chef

Merging industries: Top chefs and the food companies can learn a lot from each other, says chef

While there are some differences between high end catering and the large scale manufacturing...

Breakfast cereal decline: Mintel talks opportunities, challenges

Crunch time: Is breakfast cereal doomed to sink?

The global breakfast cereal market faces increasing competition as consumers turn to convenient alternatives,...

Fortified foods vs naturally healthy: IFIC says consumers like both

Fortified foods vs naturally functional: Consumers consider both ‘worthwhile’, says IFIC

Consumers are open to fortified foods just as much as those that contain naturally...

Gluten-free fueled by food skepticism & fad diets: Packaged Facts

Gluten-free: A ‘perfect storm’ fueled by food skepticism and fad diets

Processed food skepticism and fad dieting played a big part in the gluten-free boom,...

On demand Supplier Webinars

Colouring Foods: Market trends and technical challenges
DIANA, FOOD DIVISION
All supplier webinars