SUBSCRIBE

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

News > Science

Read more breaking news

 

 

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

By Nathan Gray+

17-Apr-2014
Last updated on 17-Apr-2014 at 15:25 GMT2014-04-17T15:25:16Z

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 the player...

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

UK sugar tax: The big questions

UK sugar tax: The big questions

The UK has announced a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. But how hard will it...

FiE 2015: Our best bits

FiE 2015: Our best bits

Our teams of journalists were out in force at Food Ingredients Europe (FiE) last...

New tech on EFSA’s horizon: Crowdsourcing and cyber assistants

New tech on EFSA’s horizon: Crowdsourcing and cyber assistants

New technology like crowdsourcing and artificial intelligence computers is the future of risk assessment,...

Lab meat, plant proteins and insects: Which alternative proteins will feed the world?

Lab meat, plant proteins and insects: Which alternative proteins will feed the world?

The quest for alternatives to animal-derived proteins has led to a huge amount of...

Food firms should prepare for pre-recession spending

Prepare for pre-recession spend – top economist

Food manufacturers should prepare for a positive three years ahead, as the changing economy...

Creepy proteins will be hot

New proteins are creeping on trend

Alternative proteins are a “hot area” of interest and products such as sandwich spreads...

Salt reduction not a priority for UK consumers: LoSalt survey

Salt reduction not a priority for UK consumers, finds LoSalt survey

Caroline Klinge

sales and marketing manager, LoSalt

‘Nice wine, no corkscrew?’ Mirabeau En Provence wins 8m+ YouTube views

‘Nice wine, no corkscrew?’ Mirabeau En Provence solution strikes YouTube gold with 8 million+ views

Mirabeau En Provence owner Stephen Cronk says the desire for a direct consumer connection...

DSM claims craft brewer interest in gluten-free beer enzyme

DSM claims craft brewer interest in gluten-free beer enzyme

DSM Food Specialities claims that, far from being cautious, craft brewers are embracing the...

Smoothie brand Froosh warns of ‘social washing’ within supply chain

Smoothie brand Froosh warns of ‘social washing’ on supply chain sustainability

Scandinavia’s top-selling smoothie manufacturer Froosh has called for ‘trade not aid’ in developing countries...

Stealth carrots and vegetable ingredients

Stealth carrots: How veggies are finding victory in F&B

Carrots might look dull compared to trendy super fruits and leafy vegetables, but the...

Sustainability and farming: SVZ Ingredients

What does sustainability mean to you?

Successful sustainability initiatives need to consider how farmers work and think, and involve co-operation...

Cornelius’ future suite-smelling as new lab opens for business

Cornelius’ future suite-smelling as new lab opens for business

Darren Spiby, Joy Thomas

CEO, Business technical development manager, Cornelius

From 'good sugar' to reformulation R&D: The companies that welcome sugar taxes

From 'good sugar' to reformulation R&D: The companies that welcome sugar taxes

A sugar tax might be bad news for some manufacturers but for others it's...

Video: If Donald Trump becomes US president, would it be good for your business?

Video: If Donald Trump becomes US president, would it be good for your business?

Presidential hopeful Donald Trump has vowed to bring back jobs to America by ripping...

Trends in fats and oils: It's all about minimal processing, novel ingredients & changing the plant's genetic profile

Trends in fats and oils: It's all about minimal processing, novel ingredients & changing the plant's genetic profile

Consumers are confused over the healthiness of saturated fats, worried about chemical contaminants in...

Lycored survey says consumers will pay more for natural colors

Lycored survey says consumers will pay more for natural colors

Christiane Lippert

Head of marketing (food), Lycored

Heard of himanthalia? Dutch start-up aims to replace carb-heavy pasta with seaweed

Heard of himanthalia? Dutch start-up aims to replace carb-heavy pasta with seaweed

Himanthalia - or sea spaghetti - may not be commonly known. But as a...

Key Industry Events

On demand Supplier Webinars

Look inside the clean label trend
Ingredion
All supplier webinars