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Ask HN: Where to get reliable information on nutrition/health?
31 points by jmstfv on June 25, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 24 comments
Given amount of information on nutrition it is hard to wrap your head around it. On top of that, I constantly question the veracity of claims that are being made [0]

Which sources do you use to learn more about health & nutrition (anything from podcasts to papers will do)?

[0] https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/13/well/eat/how-the-sugar-industry-shifted-blame-to-fat.html

The author Michael Pollan summed it up fairly well with "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

When in doubt, try to think what humans evolved to do and to process, and try to mimic that.

For nutrition, did we evolve with enormous servings of fast food, donuts, and spend millions of years eating highly refined highly concentrated packaged garbage packed full of preservatives, chemicals, and mystery substances, all consumed in absurd quantities? Or did we evolve to eat a diverse range of plants with occasional proteins and meats?

For health and exercise, did we spend millions of years sitting around watching TV and being screen sloths? Or did we spend millions of years walking dozens of miles every day, with near constant physical activity in some form or another?

As for studies and raw data, NIH pubmed https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/, NHS, EU, all have interesting raw largely non-opinionated information to scan through.

> When in doubt, try to think what humans evolved to do and to process, and try to mimic that.

You mean die at age 30? Sorry for being sarcastic, but that's actually really horrible advice, and exactly the type of advice OP is trying to avoid. Please back up your claims with scientific evidence, not conjecture.

I think part of the reason that there is so little reliable and definitive science is that people living long enough for nutrition to be a problem is a relatively new thing. Just 100 years ago the average person in the US died in their early 50's. And during that time our medical knowledge has been increasing rapidly. So it's really hard to isolate a person's diet from everything else that's changing.

You could argue that evolution will adapt to processed white food as a dietary staple.

I dare say the diabetes and heart disease epidemic is the start of natural selection weeding out the genes less tolerant of high carb, high fat diets.

Sure, give in a few million years and I am sure we will be optimized for packaged donuts.

I'm a co-founder of a company doing science-based tailored meal plans for people here in Shanghai, China, and over a few years of pre-study on this, we developed a framework to sift through the body of nutritional knowledge.

As a part of it, we're also making something similar to SpamAssassin for articles. "A friend of mine" is co-hosting SciHub mirror, so we parse and index an extensive collection of papers.

We ban for any "toxins", "detox.+", "mycotoxin", juicing, for anything "leaky gut"-related, any "meso-/ecto-/whatever-"-morph (somehow this stuff is popular here in China), any trademark mention, all Bulletproof® Coffee™ and such; ban most "doctors" mentioned on quackwatch.org + our own blacklist (Mercola, Osprey, Taubes etc).

Generally, we don't trust anything from the Internet, double-check the books, and re-check the scientific papers. Many papers study very small cohorts (N=10-20) or miss important correlation issues (like the famous Blue Zones study or China study).

Learn to recognize that ~30% of current proven knowledge will be disproven in the future, like cholesterol.

Personally, I trust Dr. David Katz, examine.com, to less degree consumerlab.com, healthnewsreview.org, sciencebasedmedicine.org, nutritionfacts.org.

Thanks for the reply! What is your take on foundmyfitness.com and Dr. Rhonda Patrick in general?

Happy if it helped. IMO Dr. Rhonda Patrick is good, even if she is a biochemist. Her nutrition advice is mostly based on others' work and is well researched and solid. I'm skeptical about the whole cryo thing, and we do not support smoothie movement, so we mostly ignore that part. She's certainly worth to listen/read.

This sounds fantastic; best of luck to you!

http://dietdoctor.com/ is my primary source of information on both nutrition and health. zaptheimpaler makes a good point to listen to your own body. Some years ago, I wasn't, and I felt like crap a lot of the time, with something that sounds a lot like IBS.

I switched my diet over to something more closely to what diet doctor advocates, and have gotten slighly more strict with every year, becauase I _feel_ a little better. To me, the "proof" that the information is accurate is that I feel good.

I have the impression, though this may be dated information, that a lot of science on the topic has been primarily focused on measuring the number of calories in/out, because that's easy to measure. When you try to measure _quality_ of your calories, everything becomes magnitudes more complicated to prove, so there's far less reliable science on the topic.

If you want a reputable look at health stories in the press (admittedly with a strong UK focus), the NHS website has an excellent section called 'Behind the headlines'. It looks at health stories in the news and examines them in more detail, debunking misleading claims. You can trust that the information is reputable and there is no commercial conflict of interest.

The health articles are written for the layperson and go to the source of the research - explaining the methodology and limitations of a particular study.

It's an excellent resource and one that deserves a wider audience in my view:


Here's how they reported on a recent story about bread: Is white bread just as healthy as brown?


And here's one from 2015: Sugar intake should be drastically reduced, says report


I'm trying to solve this exact problem, since I had/have it too. Not just for nutrition but for all habits.

I read directly from scientific articles. And I'm also trying to come up with a methodology to select the best and most useful ones, that can provide actionable guidance in terms of which lifestyle changes to adopt.

You can find more about my habits and the papers I've selected in one of my answers on reddit [0] or you can also check a prototype I created to help me find which lifestyle changes would most improve my health/longevity [1]

Let me know if I can help in any other way

[0] https://www.reddit.com/r/longevity/comments/5isp2r/what_thin...

[1] https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.healthylab...

Thanks for the links! Reading from a source and weeding out "low-quality stuff" is a valuable skill to have. Not so long ago a study on telomere length was lambasted by HN community for having low sample size [0]

How do you choose which papers to follow? Any rules of thumb/red flags for assessing a paper?

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14575361

Yes, definitely!

First, I start with a clear goal/question in mind: e.g. which lifestyle changes could help me live longer? Then there are several things I look for when assessing a specific paper:

a) Sample size is key. Small samples are not very reliable as you can reach almost any conclusion you want. I also prefer looking at meta-analysis (this is when scientists look at all the studies that analysed a given topic). This means more data (larger samples) and less risk of biases.

b) Low P-value (below 5% is what you're looking for). This is the probability that the effect found was due to randomness. If this is too high, then you cannot rely on your conclusions.

c) Adjusting for other variables that could explain the effect that was found in the study. E.g. if you want to find if eating more vegetables is healthy, you should adjust for exercise, so you can compare people that do the same amount of exercise but eat different amounts of vegetables. Otherwise the effect found could be explained by other variables not adjusted for.

d) No funding bias. Is this a study stating that eating X is good but funded by the Association of X Producers? Avoid those :)

e) No publication bias (this only applies to meta-analysis). This is when scientists don't publish their findings (e.g. because they did a small study, or found an insignificant effect, or found an effect they or their funders "didn't like"). Most good meta-analysis will comment on this (it's also called Funnel test/analysis).

f) Human studies. I tend to ignore studies that aren't done with humans as the probability the conclusions will hold in humans is actually very low (probably less than 10%). It's also preferable to have intervention studies (when you get two groups of people that receive two different interventions - e.g. eating beets juice and placebo - and compare outcomes; they generally don't know which intervention they're getting) vs. observational studies (when you study a group of people and try to assess if differences in what they say they do lead to different health outcomes). But in this field, most studies are actually observational, hence the importance of all the other things I've mentioned.

Hope this helps!

As a long time DIY Soylent aficionado I use examine.com[0] as my go to source on supplements and USDA Food Composition Databases[1] to look up nutrition info on food. When and if I need community input on stuff, I usually go to the DIY section of Soylent forum[2].




Harvard's Nutrition Source web site [0] is the best source I've found. It has a wealth of evidence-based information. The accompanying book "Eat Drink and Be Healthy" discusses what features make a study reliable or not. The web site will be more up-to-date on specific dietary advice.

The Harvard School of Public Health are behind 2 of the biggest ongoing studies on diet, the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study[1], which has followed 50,000 men for over 30 years, and the Nurses' Health Study which has included 275,000 people over 40 years.

[0] https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/

[1] https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hpfs/

[2] http://www.nurseshealthstudy.org/

Hear hear.

I have been watching the videos on nutritionfacts.org for years. If you want to see nutrition information backed up by scientific studies, that's the place to go. In a nutshell, the website and the science espouses a whole foods plant based diet.

I find the information they provide so valuable that I developed and currently maintain their Daily Dozen Android app that helps you track that you're eating the correct foods for good health. Check it out here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.nutritionf...

Start with "Whole" from T.Colin Campbell.

Then there is Greger's work mentioned already somewhere above. And McDougall and Fuhrmann are worth your time.

If you "supplement" this information with Graham (811rv is the keyword) you'll get a pretty broad picture which includes discussion of all fashion diets like Paleo etc.

Bottom line is that for over thirty years it's pretty clear that animal protein is a problem fur the human body. Whole foods plant based it's the answer. Or the alternative is Western diet plus drugs. Pretty much the "truth" you can see all around you these days. If you dare to look objectively..

I went to several nutritionists with a similar quest after watching a video that explained all foods only have 7 things in them. It was money poorley spent. None of them could answer my simple questions. And all of them wanted to develop a meal plan for me. This was a classic buy what I'm selling not what you're asking for situation. I was going to go to the local college bookstore and get a book on it.

I listen closely to my body, my parents and my doctor in roughly that order.

Old knowledge is better than new when it comes to health - statistically too it has "survived" longer without being debunked.

Forget fads and realize there are always economic incentives at play to promote information on health.

Excessive attention to health could be called stress, which itself is horribly bad for health.

You can't. Every faction has their own truth. And since people vary so widely, you might need to experiment to find your truth.

Your best bet is do do N=1 experiments on yourself. Find what works, and do that.

Just go to http://www.dannyroddy.com/ and start from there.

www.Examine.com, slam dunk.

The deeper analytical stuff by NYTimes and NHS is strong too.

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