Dieting is a phenomenon that has become embedded in our collective psyche as being an essential part of the way we should live in the modern world. The promotion of slimness and healthiness is a ubiquitous feature in glossy magazines that disingenuously feature airbrushed models alongside articles promoting whatever dietary fad is currently in vogue. These pieces cause a huge amount of pressure for people to lose weight, with some critics blaming the obsession with dieting as being behind a rise in eating disorders. At the very least, these lifestyle articles have helped promote what is now a culturally accepted norm – we need to watch what we eat.
So how much truth is contained in these articles? Is there a supreme diet that is better than all the others? It is hardly surprising that we are confused. One day a particular type of food is bad for us, the next day it is being hailed as a ‘superfood’ that possesses a vast array of health benefits. The information we are given in these media articles can at times seem completely contradictory.
I would suggest that it is important to realise that the primary function of these dietary features is to sell magazines, not to provide valuable information relating to nutrition. I would also say that if we really want to know what we should and shouldn’t be eating, we need to look at more scholarly pieces that are the result of serious research and peer review. The conclusions from these articles carry much more weight than lifestyle text that has been designed to create interest and shift magazine copies.
In one such in-depth study, Yale colleagues Dr. David Katz and Stephanie Meller compared the major diets of the day; Low carbohydrate, low fat, low glycaemic, Mediterranean, mixed/balanced, Paleolithic, vegan and elements of other regimes. They published their findings in a paper titled: ‘Can We Say What Diet Is Best for Health?’ which appeared in the scientific journal Annual Review.
The authors’ findings were that, despite the pervasiveness of diets in the media, no one was clearly the best. This, they said, was because “There have been no rigorous, long-term studies comparing contenders for best diet laurels using methodology that precludes bias and confounding.” They concluded by saying that that “A diet of minimally processed foods, close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”
So there you have it. The best diet according to rigorous scientific study summed up in a single, tidy sentence. Happy eating!