Nutrition is the study of the link between diet and health. In dietary terms this has very little to do with individual nutrients. Nutrition therefore has very little in common with dietary wonder stories as reported in newspapers or popular magazines. The subject of nutrition represents a more complex analysis of ‘food’ and since we generally eat food groups together within meals it is the study of the value of food and dietary patterns on health.

In the past many western societies fell into the trap of either talking up or denigrating the value of individual nutrients. Discussing macronutrients in the form of protein, fats and carbohydrates or micronutrients in the form of vitamins and minerals will create misunderstandings if the aim is to promote an understanding of good health. By assuming that these individual elements could constitute the complexity of our diet is a big misconception.

Nutrition is about the complex interaction of food with our equally complex biological functions. We know quite a lot about individual components but relatively little about how these processes interact with each other. We know even less about the role of food in health or how culture and society superimposes their own influential effects on the human body.

What has been clear is that individual nutrient stories catch the eye. It seems easy to write headlines about how one vitamin would do this to you or how another might do that. Sensationalism is easy to cobble up and even easier to swallow. Mass hysteria in response to marketing often promotes buying of the latest food fad to epidemic proportions. Stories about them get plastered all over the health pages or in glossy magazines.

Even though this is not nutrition, nutrient promotions are often advertised unashamedly by self professed experts and unqualified TV nutritionists. As doctors we have a responsibility to present considered information for our patients. This is especially so for people with diabetes who have a great need to review their nutrition professionally. It is unhelpful therefore for celebrities to associate themselves in any way with these nutritional scams.







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