Media coverage of nutrition is based largely on the need for more readers. The public appetite for nutrition advice, news and suggestions is insatiable. Despite the overwhelming evidence that diets don't work, reputable news outlets can't help but report on new diet fads. Nutrition experts all agree that eating advice needs to be very simple, yet the media jumps on the newest nutritional bandwagon for fears of losing ground in the marketplace.
To clarify for readers of this blog, when research shows that diets don't work, the conclusion isn't that weight loss is impossible. It means that low calorie, short-term diets ignore medical knowledge about weight and set point ranges. Successful weight loss means slow, steady changes in what someone eats combined with regular activity. These steady changes lead to overall health improvement and a shift in one's weight range downward and allows one's actual weight to decrease as well.
With regards to the newest media trend, it appears that a new generation of food villain has officially arrived. In the eighties, the first official villain was fat, largely propagated by fear of cardiac problems. The nineties and into the aughts left behind fat for carbs, in large part because of the media powerhouse Atkins diet. Currently, the newest villain is sugar based on newfangled information about glycemic index and medical research into gastrointestinal endocrinology. However, like the other villains, medicine is still struggling to prove what is actually true.
The best way to approach these fads is to acknowledge that food is best eaten in a large variety and primarily whole foods. Our bodies are designed to eat this way and function best when given food that match what humans have eaten for centuries.
People with eating disorders or disordered eating tend to eat by strictly following the latest unsubstantiated guidelines and avoiding the newest fear foods. In extreme cases, people eat very strict and often unhealthy diets. Avoiding fat or carbs almost exclusively can cause significant health problems from malnutrition. For example, it is often shocking to someone with anorexia how much damage their body withstands from avoiding fat for years.
The newest villain is likely to inspire similar unexpected medical effects from people who assiduously avoid sugar. There is no way to predict the effect other than to know that food is meant to be eaten and not overanalyzed. We are designed to eat a variety of food and to eat mostly regular food, not items made in factories. The more we ignore media coverage of the latest diet or food villain, the freer we all are to live our lives fully.