We are no strangers to a dizzying array of distorted headlines about diet. But the last couple of weeks took it to a whole new level.
I found myself reflecting on, then laughing at, the image of a world that takes seriously the idea that what we know about the basics of eating well changes every day.
So, imagine if upon hearing in headlines, based on a study that actually had nothing to do with the Mediterranean diet but generated just such headlines anyway, that the Mediterranean diet is no longer good for us today, that the Blue Zonians in Ikaria and Sardinia abandoned it. Imagine they had the perspicacity to know the headlines must be right, and the appearance of longevity, vitality, and contentment all around them -- generation after generation -- must be wrong.
So, imagine they all packed in their obviously misguided, Mediterranean diet follies, packed up their belongings, and moved to, say, Loma Linda, California to join the vegetarians there.
Except then headlines told them all that vegetarian diets were bad for them now.
So, then, obviously, the larger cohort of conjoined Blue Zonians, now encompassing the Ikarians, the Sardians, and the original Loma Lindians to whom they had glommed on -- recognizing again that the headlines must be right, and the evidence accumulated over lifetimes obviously wrong -- now packs everything up and moves to, say, the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica.
But then the news breaks that dairy fat is what's actually good for us today, and since the Nicoyans don't eat much of that, the growing tribe of migrant Blue Zonians, waving encouragement at the Okinawans, who generally don't eat dairy either, to get on the boat -- all move to Finland.
Alas, they get to Finland, a land of traditional dairy intake, only to discover that courtesy of efforts over decades, dairy fat intake has plummeted there -- and in tandem with it, cardiovascular disease and premature death.
Now, hopelessly confused, and both tired and dizzy from all this running around, the Blue Zonians try to go home, only to discover that no one is accepting immigrants these days, except Canada. So, they all settle in Canada -- where they eat a lot like their American neighbors to the South, and become one of the fattest, sickest populations on the planet. They no longer have much hope of living to 102 and dying peacefully in their sleep, but they have some hope that physician assisted suicide will be legalized before things get too much worse.
Well, it started out funny.
Of course, the alternative to "them" acting like us (i.e., a large horde of fickle, naïve nincompoops), might be "us" acting like them. We might consider: embracing the fundamentals of healthful eating that have stood the tests of both time and clinical trials, that enjoy the endorsement of a diverse, global coalition of experts ranging from vegan to Paleo -- practicing them at the level of our culture, and sticking with them despite the temptations of the titillating headlines du jour.
Yeah, like THAT'S gonna happen.
Back in the real world, this whole thing seems like a macabre game of musical chairs. The nonsensical headlines are the lyrics; and the music is played by the Big Food, Big Pharma, Big Media, Big Publishing band. When the music stops, the only chair anybody gets is in the endocrinologist's waiting room.
Where, of course, you will find a bunch of magazines, and the next batch of headlines.
Director, Yale University Prevention Research Center; Griffin Hospital
President, American College of Lifestyle Medicine
Founder, The True Health Initiative