The Problem with Nutrition Research, and an Easy Workaround

There’s so much we still don’t understand about how to live longer while maintaining quality of life. Whether you want to look and feel better, or you’re concerned about the USA’s absurd healthcare costs, it’s a topic worth thinking about.

One approach to this problem is to scour the available scientific literature on the subject and make educated guesses wherever the research is lacking. Unfortunately, conflicting studies in the sphere of nutrition (e.g. studies on saturated fat consumption) are often twisted or cherry-picked to fit the agenda of dogmatic groups claiming to possess the true formula for optimal health. Should you follow a paleo diet, or finally commit to being a vegan? Are eggs good for you if eaten daily, or is the high cholesterol content slowly killing you?

In addition, nutrition researchers themselves often fall prey to influences that hinder unbiased research (e.g. clinging to old beliefs or ties to big business), as The Guardian reported on earlier this year.

When the research is unclear about how to best live a healthy life, another approach is to identify communities across the globe that already live significantly longer than us and look for common factors that they share. Yes, it’s possible that some factors are missing or misunderstood, but this perspective is still a valuable one, as the TED talk below demonstrates.

When the research regarding a food or lifestyle habit is open to interpretation, I’ll happily defer to the healthiest societies on the planet. (If you have another approach that has worked well for you, please do share in the comments below.)

If you enjoy the TED talk and want to learn more, here’s a follow-up on the nine commonalities attributed to longevity.