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Guarantee It Could

 

Understanding Food Studies

A few months ago I went to a senior citizen seminar on how to invest your money for a worry-free retirement.  The financial company sponsoring the seminar provided free dinner at a very nice restaurant.

Five minutes into the seminar the host uttered these words, “I guarantee you could earn 90% interest on your money by investing in this plan,” which included purchasing  one of the financial company’s products.

If you didn’t catch it when you first read it, let’s look at that statement again:  I guarantee you could…………………

Well, hon, I guarantee you the sun COULD rise in the west tomorrow morning too. Not likely.  But it COULD.

This ridiculous statement got me to thinking about food studies. Today’s blog post is a continuation of Monday’s post on foods that used to be bad for you but are now healthy for you.

Food studies and food research studies are not so different from the statement the salesman made during the seminar I attended. In many ways, food studies guarantee you COULD be healthy if you lower your fat intake, eat oats, consume blueberries., or whatever the food or nutrient du jour is.

We are constantly being bombarded by food news based on some study or other: what you should eat, what you shouldn’t eat, what food is healthy, what is food is unhealthy; lower your fat intake, lower your salt intake, eggs are bad for you, etc., etc., etc., ad nauseam.

Then years later after we have been scared to near-death and have adjusted our diets a new study comes saying, Ooooppps. So Sorry. Eggs are now healthy for you. In fact, they have essential nutrients your body must have in order to survive.

The very healthy for you potato seems to be the whipping boy these days. Never mind the historical fact they kept the Irish peasants alive during a famine! They are the new bad food of the day.

Why are there all these contradictory studies and information out there?

There are a several reasons why.

How Food Studies Are Conducted
Observational Studies

Many if not most of these food ‘studies’ are only observational and risk factor studies.

Most Food Studies Are Not  Scientific Studies

Food Studies very seldom utilizie the more rigorous standards of the Scientific Method that yield scientific evidence. They are not controlled studies like those that the pharmaceutical industry conducts to see if certain medicines work or not. They do not necessarily compare like groups to like groups where only the one factor under study is different.

And one of the reasons food studies are seldom scientific studies is that it would not be ethical to have someone eat food that might be detrimental or harmful to them.

So food researchers often simply interview people or have them fill out questionnaires. There are inherent problems with interviews and questionnaires as regards food studies. How honest are people? How well do people remember what they ate last week or last month, let alone last year?

After the interviews the researchers then look to see how many people in their interview group develop some disease or not. In other words, what is the risk factor of eating this food and developing a disease? Often times the number who develop some disease is very, very small. Certainly not large enough to make wild sweeping generalizations about what foods are healthy for you and those that might not be.

 Small Sample Size

Another problem is the number of people participating in these many of interviews and questionnaire type studies is often very small.  The larger the sample size is the smaller the margin of error. A small sample size often means a larger margin of error. Small sample size makes it difficult to know where the truth lies.

Yet the researcher concludes and shouts to everyone that eating this or eating that particular food leads to colon cancer or some other equally deadly disease without stating any of these qualifiers.

And the media reporting on these studies do not share how the research was done or sample size or margin of error, or much of anything else. That would not sell airtime.

In Summary
What we too often have are small studies that yield a narrow finding blown out of all proportion by the people paying for and/or conducting the study and by the media.
Genetic Differences

Another flaw in these types of studies is that people have different genetic makeups that could account for differences in how they react to certain foods.

Therefore, a particular food could [there’s that word again, did you catch it – COULD] be bad for them, but not bad for someone else.

It just is not that easy to study the relationship between the foods you eat and your health.
The long and short of it is that the findings of studies like these are often very weak.

More often than not, the information they yield is only speculative in nature.

These studies can identify associations. However, they cannot determine causation. That is: that eating carrots can or will cause hair to grow on your chest.

In a court of law, these findings would not be admissible. They would be considered circumstantial evidence.

Therefore, I do not make my food choices based on circumstantial evidence.

It is also why I do not run out and buy the latest new miracle food or supplement that will help me look younger and live forever.

I am going to stick with my basic diet tenets:

1. I eat what I want to eat.

2. I eat a varied diet.

3. I eat in moderation.

CAVEAT: This is in no way an exhaustive look at why there are so many contradictions in food studies. There are other issues including using a bully pulpit by researchers and the funding of these studies with  grant money from interested parties.   They all play a roll. I only singled out a few for today’s post.

I also thank my lucky stars I did not have to bring up statistics and the difference between correlation and causation. They are not equal by the way.

Featured Recipe                    Fall Salad

Today’s recipe is like a magic trick. How can you take one apple and one pear and feed four people? Easy. Make a fall salad and cut the fruit up into small diced pieces.

Today’s recipe is my version of a Waldorf Salad. I do not care for Waldorf Salads simply because I am not a big fan of mayonnaise.

Instead, I make a dressing of honey and lemon juice.

This salad is so easy to make. It will take longer for me to explain how to make it than it will take you to actually make.

Best part; it is super inexpensive.

This is what you need for 4 people:

1 apple

1 pear

2-3 tablespoons dried cranberries

2-3 tablespoons walnut pieces

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Here is what you do:

Wash the fruit and then cut into a small dice.

Here is how I dice fruit:

First cut each kind of fruit into half then cut each half in half again.

Then cut each of these pieces into thirds or fourths depending on size.

 Then cut each of these pieces in half and then cut into a dice.

Dump the diced pieces into a bowl as you go along.

After all of the apple pieces are in the bowl squirt a bit of lemon juice on top and using your hands stir the pieces till they all have a bit of juice on them. This will slow down browning.

Then do the same thing with the pear, including add a squirt more of fresh lemon juice.

Then add the walnuts.

NOTE: Since I had walnut halves I gave them a rough chop before adding to the salad.

Then add the cranberries.

Using your hands or salad tongs gently mix the salad ingredients together.

Place in a salad or serving bowl. Doesn’t that look refreshing?

For the Dressing:

Add two tablespoons of honey and two tablespoons of lemon juice in a measuring cup or small bowl and whisk till well mixed. If you want a runnier dressing add more lemon juice. If you want a thicker dressing add more honey.

Pour over the entire salad if you will be eating all the salad at one sitting. If not, pour the dressing over individual salads.

Bon appétit!!!

Cost

1 apple                                        $0.94

1 pear                                         $0.91

2-3 tbspns dried cranberries          $0.68

2-3 tbspns walnut pieces               $1.08

2 tablespoons honey                     $0.43

2-3 tablespoons lemon juice          $0.39

Total cost = $4.43
Cost per person = $1.11

Quote of the Day

If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?

Albert Einstein

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