Why is nutrition science so confusing?

Science means putting all the ideas — good, bad, otherwise — to the test over hundreds of years, using a particular method to determine the best.

And that’s why nutrition science is so confusing at times. We haven’t yet had the hundreds, even thousands, of years for the best ones to emerge.

For example, macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates, and protein) weren’t discovered until the mid-1800s. Vitamins weren’t discovered until the 1900s.

Some reasons why it’s confusing:

      • Most health funding goes to epidemic research such as cancer, heart, lung, and blood diseases. As well as diabetes, obesity digestive and kidney diseases. (Not which carb is “better” or the most efficient way to gain lean muscle. Epidemic research takes precedence.)
      • Where the funding for studies comes from can impact the results. Corporate pressures can influence study design so that research is more likely to show what the company wants.
      • Even in well-controlled trials, it’s hard to isolate the effects of nutrition from the rest of the factors affecting your health. (For example, in one study, when scientists asked subjects who normally eat breakfast to stop and asked those who don’t usually eat breakfast to start, both groups lost weight. It was the dietary change that created the weight loss, not breakfast itself.)
      • Correlation isn’t causation. Does red meat cause heart disease and cancer or do people with these chronic diseases happen to eat more red meat. Observational studies (which lots of nutritional studies are), can’t account for many variables because subjects self-report incorrectly frequently. Not on purpose, humans are just really bad at remembering what we’ve eaten and done recently.
      • Calories and measurements have their limitations. Calorie counts on food labels can be off by up to 50% (legally). AND we don’t actually absorb all of the energy we consume. There’s no standard for absorption because all individuals are unique. Your history of dieting and body composition will impact how much energy you’ll use and your absorption rate so calorie burn and intake estimates can be off anywhere from 3-45%.
      • Journalists aren’t trained research scientists. This means they often misunderstand study conclusions or exaggerate single study findings. They also struggle to see how single studies fit in the big picture. Remember it takes 100s of years of science to determine positive or negative outcomes.


You can’t assume studies are based on people like you. See the graphic below.

Holistic Mystic Nutrition Guide
Author: Holistic Mystic Nutrition Guide

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