I’ve been reading a lot of diet blogs and books recently. And there’s something that almost all of them do that’s really starting to bug me. (I do it, too.)
They (we) extrapolate way, way too much based on not enough evidence.
Science is only really useful for proving things wrong. It’s far less useful for proving things right. You can use science, for instance, to disprove notions like “eating saturated fat causes heart disease.” (Although the methods for doing so are complicated and harder than you might think.)
But when it comes to positive messages — telling us what we SHOULD be eating and doing with ourselves — science often proves to be a clunky and cumbersome instrument.
“Cancer Fighting” This-and-That
How many times a day do we get bombarded with positive messages that are marketed to us as “grounded in science”?
- Eat these 45 fruits, because science proves they all contain XYZ antioxidants and other health-promoting compounds.
- Do this ABC exercise regimen, because science proves that it’s the best ever in the history of the universe at obliterating thigh fat.
- Take these 15 pills, ointments, powders and supplements, because science proves that they’re the best 15 pills, ointments, powders and supplements ever made because they’re derived from willow seeds, Amazonian frogs, and the nose hair of a real genuine witch! Therefore, they HAVE to be good for you!
Nonsense! Science proves nothing. It only FAILS to DISPROVE.
That’s a subtle, sly distinction. But it’s an important one.
The moral is: the next time you encounter diet advice that appears overly extravagant in its conclusions, be skeptical. Taken as a whole, the diet might work. It might work wonderfully, in fact. But even still, ask yourself: what components of this diet are ACTUALLY driving the results? What components are doing nothing? What components may actually be counterproductive or even harmful?
Science is a blunt instrument. It generally does not permit or celebrate extravagances!