Good Morning folks,
I wasn’t planning on a post until tomorrow, but the recent hysteria with coconut oil, warranted a post. After all, as a nutritionist it’s my job to inform my readers and to help them wade through data and research.
I wanted to share an article that was published a week ago on coconut oil and the USA Today article stating that “Coconut Oil isn’t Healthy. It’s Never Been Healthy.” I question if the journalists even read through the study before making such a bold statement, because as I read through the study myself quoted by USA Today, and researched the study authors and the plethora of conflict of interests, I found very little detail on the connection to heart disease and coconut oil. The American Heart Association (AHA) was in charge of the study. To date NO study has even been done to show the connection between heart disease and coconut oil.
It’s important to note that the AHA has always been against fat, they started the whole trend of low fat diets, and “fat is bad.” They receive monies from big Pharma, industrial food giants (including the makers of sugary cereals), and vegetable oil industries. This raises red flags: We really want to trust a study done by the AHA, as they receive money from companies that would be in conflict with the use of coconut oil? Why? It’s simple, because coconut oil makes their food look bad and they lose money if we aren’t buying the other junk.
Most journalists don’t read through research, instead they make bold headlines, which often times don’t even match the study data. And most readers don’t get past the headlines themselves. Remember, I am a journalist major so I know how this works.
To read more on this important topic read Dr. Hyman’s take down article here. Also, this article describes the AHA for who they really are, if you are interested in further reading. Bottom line, it’s all political and plagued with dollar signs. The AHA is in bed with pharmaceutical companies and vegetable oil manufacturers. I would be leery of most studies down by the AHA, especially as it pertains to fats.
You might be wondering who you can trust? How do I know what studies are good studies? I took a whole course on research studies and data analysis, as well as evidence based nutrition, in my masters program. As a nutritionist, I know what to look for when it comes to a quality study. I look for possible bias and conflict of interest. Whom do the authors work for? Whom is giving funding to the medical research, nutritional research, etc? Whom is funding the study? Finally, what organizations do the study authors have ties to?
For example, if a study author is funded by an industry producing almonds, and the study research depicts how almonds are healthy and can decrease your risk of heart disease, a possible conflict of interest arises. Why would the study author, who is getting paid by the almond industry, show data that is against almonds? I don’t think the almond industry would like that too much.
Also, good research study’s try to account for any group or selection bias. This simply means they try to make the study groups the same, same age range, same lifestyle, same diets, health history is taken into account. There are a lot of confounding factors to watch out for. While it’s impossible to account for all bias, it’s also important that the study authors state possible bias. If they don’t, they haven’t covered their bases. They should ALWAYS, state how they tried to account for confounding factors in the study groups and in the study. Then there’s the placebo effect to watch out for.
Your head might be spinning by now and you might be thinking, who can I trust? When I read through research, I try to find non-for profits that aren’t receiving public monies from big companies. Those that don’t want to be in bed with any industry, to help lessen conflict of interest. You might be wondering, do these even exist? They do. Here are some organizations that can be more trusted, as far as I know:
- National Institutes of Health
- Children’s Medical Safety Research Institute
- Institute of Medicine
- Institute for Functional Medicine
- The New England Journal of Medicine
- American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Health
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
I would look for nongovernmental companies when possible and I am constantly looking for industries and organizations to trust. Make note that soda companies fund over 90 health companies, now if that isn’t reason for concern, I don’t know what is.
The problem is that most American’s don’t read through the research themselves. They rely on journalists to do this for them. This is a concern, because most journalists aren’t educated in medical and nutritional speech and don’t read the research themselves, this takes too much time. Also, most news sources are being paid by big money too.
This makes me infuriated, because medical research and study’s are lengthy, and hard to digest for most. We need more nutritionists and those in the medical profession weeding through the data for us, and helping to raise red flags. We need journalists to do their jobs thoroughly. Helping to spot the bias and take down big Pharma and corrupt policy holders, government officials, and medical professionals.
Our health depends on it. As a nutritionist, I want to keep my readers informed and help them wade through the confusion. If ever you have questions, please email me or comment below if have you have questions. Clients always tell me they read this or that about fill in the blank. I always ask, “where did you get this information?” and I also send them to trusted sources and encourage them to read through the research or ask a medical professional before making any major health changes.
I hope this helps!!
Until Next Time Be Whole and Be Fit