— Put 20 of the world’s top nutrition scientists in a room
together and what do you get? A 90-minute debate about what a
vegetable is and, specifically, whether tubers such as
potatoes fit in that category.
the scientists couldn’t come to a consensus on potatoes at
the recent Oldways conference, they did — finally —
provide clarity overall on what we’re supposed to eat as
part of a healthful diet: more vegetables, fruits, whole
grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes and nuts. The
group also recommended moderate alcohol consumption, with
lower consumption of red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened
drinks and refined grains.
this pattern should help people avoid spikes in blood sugar,
clogged arteries, digestive disorders and chronic disease, it
group also agreed with the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory
Committee’s endorsement of the Mediterranean Diet, the
Vegetarian Diet and the Healthy American Diet.
a Boston-based nutrition information nonprofit headed by Sara
Baer-Sinnott, led the charge in seeking common ground on which
foods and food groups are healthful and which ones people
should limit or avoid.
problem she sees is the daily barrage of media reports about
bacon and butter being good, or kale being toxic, or meat
diets being the ultimate in good health. This prompted her to
invite 20 of the leading nutrition scientists — Walter
Willett, David Katz, Dean Ornish, Neal Barnard, T. Colin
Campbell and S. Boyd Eaton among them — to work on a
consensus of what foods can extend longevity and prevent
chronic disease to benefit people and the planet.
nutrition journalists and bloggers also were invited to
discuss how and why the science so often is distorted by
reports extolling the virtues of foods long deemed unhealthful
while condemning foods scientifically proven to be beneficial.
The often noted example was Time magazine’s June 2014 cover
story, "Bacon is back."
wonder people say they are confused and have no idea how they
should eat and therefore just give up," Oldways stated in
its conference introduction. "Adding to the confusion,
public perception is that nutrition advice changes every day,
leaving many of us scratching our heads and saying, ‘Can’t
those experts agree on anything?’ "
Eaton, the Harvard scientist who is known as the father of the
Paleo Diet, surprised the other scientists by noting that
whole plant foods were healthiest, and that he recommended
meat consumption only a few times a month, with fish being the
most healthful meat. The consensus was that meat consumption
should focus mostly on fish and less so, poultry. Beef and
processed meats should be limited or avoided.
Common Ground conference, held Nov. 17-18, wasn’t a
cakewalk. It was more of a food fight, with advocates for
various diets, including vegans, Paleo and Mediterranean
diets, convening with others advocating the benefits of meat
and dairy in one room for many hours.
the sizzling debate about the healthfulness of potatoes.
"There was not common ground on including potatoes,"
said Dr. Willett, the Harvard University who helped lead the
addition to offering general support for the Dietary
Guidelines Advisory Committee recommendations issued in
February, it opposed Congress’ decision to censor that
committee’s recommendations advocating sustainability.
insecurity cannot be solved without sustainable food
systems," states the Common Ground report.
"Inattention to sustainability is willful disregard for
the quality and quantity of food available to the next
generation, i.e., our own children."
is establishing a network of scientists, including many
involved in the conference, as a media resource for stories
about food, nutrition, including those rogue scientific
studies that counter more established nutritional science
without regard for the methodology or quality of the study.
The news-making studies often lack supportive studies.
Sara contacted me, we were working on parallel paths,"
said Dr. Katz, a Yale University nutritionist who is founding
director of its Prevention Research Center and president of
the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.
consensus statement can be read here: