A Positive Contribution from Newsweek on All the Studies about Supplements and Diet

Newsweek must be monitoring this blog. No, I won't flatter myself. But its March 13 cover story is "Diet Hype: Confused? From Fat to Calcium, How the Media Collides with Science", which takes off nicely from items I've posted here over the last month. The main article does a credible job of explaining why we read and hear so much seemingly contradictory information about the effects of nutritional supplements and diet on our health.

Newsweek points out that media coverage of medical studies has exploded. "Too much information," it concludes. Newsweek itself has devoted 20% of its cover stories over the last year to health issues. With poorly educated writers and pressured headline writers, the coverage is often inaccurate and contradictory.

But other factors are at work, like the design of the studies and the size of the study groups.One study suggesting chocolate is good for us had only 23 patricipants. Perhaps most significant, the interaction between health and diet is likely more complex than can be captured in a study of a single nutritional supplement, and the effects, both positive and negative, occur over a longer period of time than the studies can capture. "The biggest challenge in dietary research is that nobody eats only one thing," notes Newsweek. Moreover, "Everyone's looking for an immediate solution, but science takes time."

Ignore the asides about being able to "rush out and gorge on cheeseburgers," and you've got some clear-headed analysis here.