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Why Nutrition Is So Difficult To Study

Nutrition is shrouded in multiple perplexities. Why is it so tough to determine if a certain food is good or bad for our health? Proving any theory, at least in medical science, is as difficult as it could be. Here, we shall outline a few issues that nutrition scientists often face. Even if it’s hard work, knowing which foods are beneficial or detrimental to our health is essential.

Perfection in nutritional studies

In an ideal world, in order to conduct an experiment, scientists would have to recruit almost 10,000 participants to study the intake of some food like goji berries in the form of smoothies, for example. The whole study would take at least 10 years, and participants will have to stop consuming alcohol and tobacco. Also, they’ll have to work out for exactly the same amount of time every day.

Scientists will have to continually monitor the health of participants during the entire duration of the experiment, which means running routine blood tests and medical imaging. The astronomical cost of the whole project would be the first roadblock in the whole process, and this is one of the main reasons why it is completely impossible to have a full-scale nutritional study.

An alternative to the ideal

Because the perfect study is still unattainable, scientists have resorted to observational studies, where they search for ties between what someone eats and their current or future state of health. Through this kind of study, they were able to prove that tobacco leads to lung cancer, and exercising is good for us.

Still, these studies are not perfect. One problem with this method is the researchers’ dependence on self-reported food consumption. Participants are asked to take note of all the foods they eat for a fixed amount of time, or to recall what they had eaten in the past—either yesterday or months before. But here’s the catch: Human memory can be faulty.

Plunging into complexity

Another issue that appears to trouble nutrition research is complexity. It usually happens that a study will concentrate on the effects of just one particular food item or compound and its outcome on health, which can be easier to handle.

Often, however, nutritional scientists will try to study a particular diet’s impact. The Mediterranean diet, for example, has been all the buzz in recent years. The struggle here is that one person’s version of this diet can be quite different from somebody else’s version.

There’s no denying that people are just as diverse as the foods they eat. Snacking on peanuts might be beneficial to one person but could be deadly for someone with an allergy.

What can be done?

As for now, scientists should keep developing their study methods and appending to what is already known. Overall, there are no instant answers in the realm of nutrition. But because it is necessary for us to eat for survival, interest in nutritional study won’t likely disappear, and science will proceed to forge onward.

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