Here’s an interesting article (I don’t know how it came to me; it was one of the many tabs open in Safari on my iPad, but I have no idea whether it was emailed to me, or linked on twitter, or what). It’s a discussion by David H. Freeman of the problems to be found in health journalism:
Survival of the Wrongest
It’s worth a read, I think (just skip the comments, which become pointlessly argumentative from the first). Freeman is correct to point out the high rate of wrongness in medical research (have a look on Science Based Medicine for more on that), and he illustrates some of the discussion with reporting about obesity and weight loss.
On that note, I think one of the best things I’ve read recently on diet was on the Barefoot in Arizona blog (Ha! I’ve just created an infinite loop; cue giant sucking sound as the Universe implodes… It was that Barefoot in Arizona post that linked to the Freeman article. xP )… Anyway, what BFinAZ said, essentially, was that we all know what things are good for us (fruit, veges, exercise…) and what’s bad (processed food, lard, high fructose corn syrup,tobacco, inactivity…). Do more of the former, and less of the latter.
I think he puts it nicely:
"Now, assuming you’re with me so far, we have two lists that we can all agree on, one of things we know are good for us, and one of things we know are bad for us. Guess what? That’s really all you need to know to be healthy. The only secret to feeling better, weighing less, getting fitter and living longer is to get more of the first category and less of the second. It’s really that simple.
Now, obviously there are a lot of foods that don’t fall into our two groups, and aside from a few crackpot studies and diets (cough, Atkins, cough) it’s those other foods that are the subject of most of the health debate. It’s tempting to join in the fray, but first you really need to ask yourself this question: are you getting lots of our first group–are you eating tons of fruit and veggies and exercising regularly–and avoiding the second? Because if you aren’t bothering to do that, you have no business arguing the details of an optimum diet. Go finish learning arithmetic, and then we’ll talk trig."
The details are murky, yes, but the basics really are where most people seem to fall down, and are probably more useful to focus on.