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July 13, 2015 1:38 PM   Subscribe

Can someone point to good resources for real science-based nutrition?

I’ve been making changes to my (admittedly awful) diet. Goal: lose weight and don’t die young.

The dietary changes are working great, but I find I’m having to operate in a sort of permanent cognitive dissonance when it comes to WHY. IE my diet works, in so much as I lose weight, because diets don’t include things like candy and McDonalds. But the “Science” behind so many (all?) diets is such obvious bullshit: Terrible studies, wild extrapolations, armchair anthropology as dietary chemistry etc etc.

Are there sources where real science around nutrition is available? If so were?

Are there diets, meal plans, based on science that wasn’t commissioned by the company trying to sell me said diet?
posted by French Fry to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
I loved this book in particular: The Cure for Everything by Tim Caulfield. It's not about nutrition exactly but does a lot of meta-analysis about fitness, food and health. From the blurb "In The Cure for Everything, health-policy expert and fitness enthusiast Timothy Caulfield debunks the mythologies of the one-step health crazes, reveals the truths behind misleading data, and discredits the charlatans in a quest to sort out real, reliable health advice. He takes us along as he navigates the maze of facts, findings, and fears associated with emerging health technologies, drugs, and disease-prevention strategies, and he presents an impressively researched, accessible take on the production and spread of information in the health sciences."

It's nice and wonky and very accessible and readable.
posted by jessamyn at 1:42 PM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

In that vein, Good Calories, Bad Calories, is, despite the name, *not* a cheesy diet book, it's a science-journalism look at the history of nutrition science in the 20th century that should give you some decent footing with which to approach things. It's dense rather than super-accessible, although I very much enjoyed it.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:47 PM on July 13, 2015 [6 favorites]

WebMD reviews diets from a medical perspective. Worth a look.
posted by LonnieK at 1:57 PM on July 13, 2015

This article, The Basics of Losing Body Fat, is an excellent, sane, easy to understand summary of diets and nutrition. It matches up 100% with what I've read elsewhere and also what I've personally experienced in trying to get stronger and build sustainable eating and fitness habits.

In particular, it gets this really important thing right: all diets that result in weight loss are based on calorie restriction, BUT you shouldn't restrict calories forever (or even for a long time) because your body develops metabolic adaptations that eventually make it harder and harder to keep losing fat. And the longer you restrict calories after reaching a plateau weight, the fatter you'll end up when you return to eating more normally. The solution is to only restrict calories for short periods of time, about 6 weeks or until you plateau (whichever happens first) and spend the rest of the time maintaining your overall weight. This approach is called calorie cycling and is generally very sustainable.
posted by Questolicious at 2:28 PM on July 13, 2015 [4 favorites]

Food Rules by Michael Pollan.
posted by whiterteeth at 2:55 PM on July 13, 2015

this article is shorter than a book, comes from a reliable source, and is quite careful to provide evidence-based answers to the controversies (eg is it calories, or the kind of food?). the only drawback i can see is that, because the answers are not always simple, it takes some time and care to read.
posted by andrewcooke at 3:20 PM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yoni Freedhoff is the founder of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa and he has a blog where he writes on topics including weight management and many other food-related issues. He also wrote a book called The Diet Fix which is very reasonable.
posted by synecdoche at 4:36 PM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

I recommend nutritionfacts.org. A lot. It's created by an MD and all he does is read scientific studies and carefully report the conclusions. He definitely understands the difference between correlation and causation, and the difference between big population studies and smaller anecdotal studies (which many nutrition studies are).

His bias is evident: vegetables and fruits are the healthiest foods. But then again, it's probably his bias because of all of the evidence supporting that thesis. I'll admit that I share this bias and eat about 60% or 70% of my calories from raw fruits and vegetables. But if you always wanted a really smart doctor to walk you through all of the back issues of JAMA, Nutrition and other journals, and show you only the helpful charts, this is *your jam*

Here's a few videos I've liked over the past year or so:

Big population study on vegetarian diets

IGF-1 studies

Why americans get too much protein and 98% don’t get enough fiber (this one also includes some stuff on kids and teens I think…)

Many cancers *cannot* live / thrive without an animal protein intake (methionine)
posted by zpousman at 4:57 PM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Perhaps this is further down the rabbit hole than you wanted to go, but nowadays a lot of scientific journal articles are freely accessible. I am highly skeptical of most science journalism so if I read something in the news that sounds too good/weird to be true I'll go back to the primary literature (i.e. the people who actually did the research) by searching PubMed. You'll see all the stuff the media left out about correlations, sample size, assumptions, controls, etc.

No offense to previous posters, but nutritionfacts.org way oversimplified a few things I looked up there (e.g., referring to "farmed fish" as if they're all the same. They're most definitely not.) I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt that these were over simplifications, not outright omissions, but I'd be cautious.
posted by estelahe at 11:50 PM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

You'll at least get a laugh out of this: Is everything we eat associated with cancer? A systematic cookbook review. (tl;dr, "Our findings support previous evidence suggesting that effect sizes are likely to trend closer to the null as more data are accumulated (55).")
posted by en forme de poire at 12:37 AM on July 14, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks everyone these are great!

As a nerd on a meat light paleo-ish diet, there is a lot of biting my tongue I have to do when people talk about ancient man and natural eating. I love the diet, but not the pop-archaeology explanations of it.

Happy to have so much reading to do.
posted by French Fry at 7:41 AM on July 14, 2015

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is my go-to favorite for science and nutrition. They have a Nutrition action newsletter (no adverts) that they mail to you free if you make a bequest to them in your will. (Neat!)
Here is a recent article on the paleo diet entitled "Pondering Paleo"
posted by storybored at 8:15 PM on July 14, 2015

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