PerspectivePhysiology

Challenges of human nutrition research

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Science  20 Mar 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6484, pp. 1298-1300
DOI: 10.1126/science.aba3807

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Summary

Nutrition is fundamentally important for human health (1), but there is widespread public confusion about what constitutes a healthy diet. Flip-flopping headlines report conflicting information about whether individual foods (e.g., butter, eggs, meat), nutrients (e.g., saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium), or eating patterns (e.g., Mediterranean versus ketogenic diets) result in improved, worsened, or unchanged health. However, public confusion about nutrition belies expert consensus regarding important aspects of healthy diets. For example, it is widely agreed that Western diets high in ultra-processed food are deleterious and that considerable health improvements would likely result from shifting the population toward eating mostly minimally processed foods (2). But expert consensus erodes when discussing detailed questions of optimal human nutrition or the physiological mechanisms underlying the body's response to diet changes. Rigorous controlled feeding studies would help to address such questions and advance human nutrition science, a field whose overall veracity has recently been questioned (3, 4).

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