Dealing with conflicting information
Wait…so are eggs bad for you again? But I thought you couldn’t have coffee while pregnant, now it’s OK? OK, I’ve got it, now. So red wine is good for you…except when it’s not?
These are such classic examples of the tennis match head flip we have to do as consumers reading headlines around diet and nutrition. One day a food is good for you and the next you shouldn’t eat it. With all this conflicting nutrition information, what is a health conscious consumer to do?
If there is one thing the media is really good at, it’s taking the slightest possibility and running with it as though it is unequivocal truth. One study can come out suggesting that people who eat potatoes 3 times a week are more likely to have inverted nipples and the next thing you know every outlet is reporting you should never ever eat potatoes.
But here’s the thing: correlation does not equal causation. There may be an environmental factor causing inverted nipples in a certain region and potatoes might just happen to be common and affordable in that region, thereby skewing the results. Or maybe there is a genetic factor that causes inverted nipples and also creates a taste for potatoes.
This is a silly example but the point is that just because 2 things are happening does not mean they are related.
Furthermore, just because one study had a particular finding, doesn’t mean that finding holds true. That study may have been poorly constructed, its results might not be able to be reproduced, it could have been funded by someone with skin in the game – a whole lot of different issues. So what should you do?
- Don’t stress about it
Getting stressed out about whether or not you should put stock in a new study isn’t helpful. Chances are, whatever those findings are won’t merit your dropping a habit immediately. By all means, give the story a read, but don’t let it drive you into a panic.
2. Keep an open mind
Remember, one study doesn’t prove anything conclusively. It needs to be peer-reviewed and the findings need to be able to be replicated. We still have SO MUCH to learn about the human body and nutrition – what we think we know now is bound to change as we learn more.
3. Talk to a professional
If you’re really concerned about the findings you’re reading, talk to your doctor or your nutrition professional about it. They should be able to let you know whether or not you need to make changes.
4. Focus on balance
At the end of the day, if you’re eating a wide variety of foods and eating more of the “healthy stuff” than the “less healthy stuff,” you probably don’t need to worry much. Too much of anything can be a problem, including information. So focus on finding your balance and don’t get sucked into the back and forth media coverage of these studies.