I'm a person who likes to eat. When not eating, I read about food.
I read studies that say drink red wine, eat goji berries, toss down vitamin C, E and D. Coffee's good for us, and so is chocolate, and then there's green tea and kale and real butter.
I bought 'em, both the ideas and the things, whether pills, drinks or leaves.
Now, I'm backing away from all that, going it on my own, shopping My Secret Solution.
I'm turning my back on studies frequently sponsored by the industry that's going to make money from them.
"[Food company] sponsorship [of studies] perverts science. [It's] not about seeking truth or adding to public knowledge. It is about obtaining evidence to … sell the sponsor's product, undermine research that might suggest a product is unhealthy, head off regulation and allow the product to be marketed with health claims.… It's stunningly easy to design studies that accomplish these goals and conduct them in ways that meet the scientific criteria of peer reviewers."
Yikes. Who sponsored the 2011 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics symposium? National Cattlemen's Beef Assn., ConAgra, General Mills, National Dairy Council, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Kraft. You bet each is publishing studies to talk me into buyin' what they're sellin'.
Further reason to be suspicious of food news comes from Nutrition Action Healthletter's April issue, "What's the Catch?" It's not about fish, but about poorly designed studies.
Here's Nutrition Action's bottom line: "Headlines can deceive when they play up the earthshaking findings and play down the dull humdrum caveats."
I fell for one study that said diet soda made people as fat as the sugary kind. That study mixed up cause and effect. Heavier people gravitate to diet drinks, don't gain weight from them.
Lower risk of disease if you take antioxidants? Probably not, because researchers didn't design the study to eliminate all the side reasons. People with high blood levels of beta-carotene were healthier. But did they eat more fruits and vegetables, exercise or follow other healthy practices?
Do low-carb diets take off 300 more calories a day than low-fat diets, and 150 more than low glycemic diets? Actually, "the diets didn't make a difference in pounds lost, so results were reported way too early," says Frank Sacks, Harvard School of Public Health professor. "Ignore all the hype about diets that make pounds melt away. Losing weight comes down to how much you put in your mouth."
So what do you do if you have an interest in health and a healthy skepticism about the latest food fad?
Easy. My Secret No-Fail Research Solution: Take your shopping cart to the perimeter of the store. Fill it with fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish. Develop an allergy to prepackaged "foods." Eat moderate servings of anything else you want.
Get out and take a brisk walk. My own solid research supports it.
Newport Beach resident CARRIE LUGER SLAYBACK is a retired teacher who ran the Los Angeles Marathon at age 70, winning first place in her age group. Her blog is email@example.com.