Why Is Understanding Nutrition So Difficult?

Why Is Understanding Nutrition So Difficult?

There is a lot of conflicting health information out there.
Learn how to figure out what’s best for you.

Many people today are more worried about their health than ever before. One reason may be that there is so much talk about the rising rates of health problems like obesity and diabetes. It’s hard to read a newspaper or watch the news without seeing a story about one of these diseases. Health experts agree that diabetes and obesity are more common today than they were in the past.

However, the experts can’t agree on why these diseases are becoming so much more common or on the best ways to treat or prevent these conditions.

Understanding Obesity And Diabetes

An example of what makes things so confusing. is that many people think eating too much leads to obesity. This can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. This is true for most people, but not everyone. You probably know a few people who can eat whatever they want but they never seem to gain weight. The same goes for diabetes: Some obese people get diabetes, but many do not.

Health experts have worked very hard to figure out why diabetes and obesity seem to affect some people but not others. To do this, they try many different types of studies.

The problem with good studies is that they can take a very long time and cost a lot of money. On top of that, it is very hard to study diseases like diabetes and obesity because so many different factors can affect who gets them. For example, getting diabetes could be affected by many things, including:


Plus, all these factors interact in complex ways, so getting an answer isn’t always easy.

What to make of the studies you hear about

It’s common to hear how the results of a new study seem to show something that is different from, or the opposite of, what was found in a prior study. You might wonder which study is right, and why this happens?

You’re not alone in being confused. Health experts aren’t always sure what the right answer is, either. The reason this happens is that it’s nearly impossible to do studies on complicated conditions like diabetes or obesity that give answers that are 100% clear.

When doctors want to study a new blood pressure medicine, they find two large groups of very similar people. One group gets the medicine and the other doesn’t. Then, the doctors compare the blood pressure numbers between the two groups. If the blood pressure is lower in the group that took the medicine, it is assumed that this is because they took the medicine and not something else.

It’s not possible to do this kind of study for all the factors that could cause diabetes or obesity. So, doctors do the best they can with the studies that are possible. For example, a study might find that people who drink more soda are at a higher risk of getting diabetes. But, this doesn’t prove that drinking soda causes diabetes. Doctors would say that drinking soda is associated with getting diabetes, which is a different way of explaining things.

What this means for your health

If this all sounds a little overwhelming, don’t worry: You’re not alone. Even healthcare providers aren’t exactly sure how to make sense of all the different information that’s out there.

So, what can you do to keep yourself healthy and lower your risk of getting diabetes or obesity? Despite all the confusion out there, health experts do agree on a few simple ideas on how to reduce your risk:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight lowers your risk for getting diabetes.
  • Being physically active burns calories, which can help you maintain a healthy weight. It also helps keep your blood glucose in a healthy range.
  • There is no guarantee that eating certain foods or avoiding certain foods will keep you healthy. However, making certain lifestyle choices like getting plenty of exercise, and eating less sugar and more vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains is a great place to start.


 By Robert Erhman, MD

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