On Kneeling and Standing for Nutrition Principles: Are We That Confused?

The words of Margaret Mead ring true in 2017: “It is easier to change a man’s religion than it is to change his diet”. The battles for the hearts and plates of the consumer remain loud and somewhat ugly at times. I beg the question though, is there NO common ground that all can agree upon, even if it is “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”?

With this is mind, I was surprised and disappointed to read the words of a journalist famous for her views that our diets are lacking meat, butter and cheese post on Twitter an admonishment for those “relentlessly promoting “consensus” on unsettled nutrition science such as @TrueHealthINIT. The warning came attached to a quote by Richard Feynman that “I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned”. Is it impossible for consensus and unanswered questions to co-exist? Have the thousands of scientific studies on nutrition not yielded some lessons all can agree upon?

In case you are not familiar, @TrueHealthINIT is the handle for the True Health Initiative (THI) an international congress of over 300 diverse health and nutrition experts that have a mission of creating “a culture free of preventable chronic disease by demonstrating and disseminating the global consensus of the fundamental, evidence-based truths of lifestyle as medicine”. Hardly words that should require a warning for the uninitiated in the ways of these “relentless” promoters of disease prevention. Members are not asked to sign an endorsement of one dietary pattern or another but all have agreed to promote a consensus of what is a healthy diet for the human species in 2017, packed on a planet busting at its sustainable seams.

What is the agenda being “pushed” by the THI that provoked words on Twitter? Succinctly stated it is that:

“Decades of published research support six core lifestyle principles that most effectively add years to lives, and life to years.

• A diet comprised mostly of minimally processed, generally plant-predominant foods in time-honored, balanced combinations (e.g., traditional diets of certain Mediterranean populations, certain Asian populations, etc.);

• Routine physical activity at moderate intensity, frequency and duration;

• The avoidance of toxins, particularly tobacco and excess alcohol;

• Sleep adequate in both quantity and quality;

• The effective mitigation of psychological stress;

• The cultivation of meaningful, supportive relationships and strong social bonds.”

Consider for a minute if you find these 6 principles offensive, or pushy, or even likely to be wrong a decade or two from now? Could they form a consensus for behavior at your work place, your place of worship, or even in your kitchen? A review of recent postings by the True Health Initiative on social media include reports on health concerns and air pollution, sperm quality, sedentary lifestyles, salt intake, and medical school nutrition education. Hardly relentless promotion of the THI consensus.

Understanding that Twitter and the halls of academia can be quite far apart, the author of the Tweet dissing the THI has recently received praise in respected medical journals. Is there no responsibility on her part to maintain objectivity when you are providing dietary advice that impacts both the quality and quantity of life? Just as the sports world is torn by whether to stand or kneel during the National Anthem, so too is the nutrition world torn in terms of recommending one dietary pattern or another. Unlike games of pigskin and diamonds, the prevention of heart disease, cancer and diabetes is hardly a game and a consensus of core foods and activities is exactly what is needed now more than ever.

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