Flailing in the swell of bestselling diet books, infomercials for cleanses, and secret tips in glossy magazines, is the credibility of nutrition science. Watching thoroughly-credentialed medical experts tout the addition or subtraction of one nutrient as deliverance—only to change the channel and hear someone equally-thoroughly-credentialed touting the opposite—it can be tempting to write off nutrition advice altogether. This month we hear something is good, and next we almost expect to hear it’s bad. Why not assume the latest research will all eventually be nullified, and just close our eyes and eat whatever tastes best?
That notion is at once relatable and tragic, in that diet is inextricable from the amount of healthy time we spend on Earth. Improvements in diet are clearly associated with significant lengthening of lifespan and dramatic decreases in risk of most chronic diseases. Combining disease and longevity into the concept of healthspan, the number of healthy years of life—fundamentally more important but less readily quantifiable than lifespan—the data in favor of optimizing our diets are even more compelling. No one is arguing that diet is less than extremely important to health and well-being, but seemingly everyone is arguing as to what constitutes the best diet.