I read an excellent editorial in The New York Times today called, “Relax, You Don’t Need to ‘Eat Clean,’” by Aaron E. Carroll, MD. It was a voice of reason in the wilderness of public opinion.
Carroll is a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, and is a regular contributor to The Upshot. He also is the author of “The Bad Food Bible: How and Why to Eat Sinfully,” from which his New York Times essay was adapted.
He says the effects of worrying about what to eat or not eat are far “more insidious than any overindulgent amount of ‘bad food’ can ever be. By fretting about food, we turn occasions for comfort and joy into sources of fear and anxiety,” Carroll says. “And when we avoid certain foods, we usually compensate by consuming too much of others.”
Carroll explains that many of the doctors and nutritionists who recommend avoiding certain foods fail to properly explain the magnitude of their risks.
“In some studies, processed red meat in large amounts is associated with an increased relative risk of developing cancer,” he says. “The absolute risk, however, is often quite small. If I ate an extra serving of bacon a day, every day, my lifetime risk of colon cancer would go up less than one-half of 1 percent. Even then, it’s debatable.”
Advice about food is becoming more and more confusing, partly because some of the people telling us what we should and shouldn’t eat have ulterior motives. For example, it’s common knowledge that Dr. Oz receives compensation for many of the products he regularly recommends, and there are many similar examples.
“Experts” seem to agree on one thing: Some ingredients—often the most enjoyable ones—are bad for you, whether you eat them in moderation or not. But as Carroll explains, these oversimplifications are both wrong and dangerous: if we stop consuming some of our most demonized ingredients altogether, it may actually hurt us.
I encourage you to read the article for yourself. Share your thoughts on the comment section below and, more importantly, share it with your friends, neighbors and the teachers at your children’s schools. Perhaps we can help the pendulum to swing back toward reason.