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The evolution of nutrition science

Watch Simone talk about the ways nutrition science is evolving and how these changes affect nutrition guidelines and recommendations, and you.
SIMONE GIBSON: It’s really easy for people to get confused with all of the mixed messages out there. I think people are often hearing that they’re told to eat one thing one minute and then told to avoid it the next minute. And so it leaves consumers finding it very difficult knowing who to trust, what information to follow. One of the reasons that this information is often changing is science is evolving. There is so much nutrition information out there. And there’s a lot of mixed messages, because one minute we’re being told that something is good for you and the next minute we’re told to avoid it. And then a couple of years later we’re told to eat it again.
So yeah, it is really hard to follow. Now one of the reasons for this is that science is emerging. We now have better technology, better designed experiments, and we’re building on previous knowledge. Back in the 1920s malnutrition was probably more of an issue. So we were recommending different things compared to today’s problems of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers. So also we’ve got to remember that our lifestyles are changing. We’re not as active as what we were 50 years ago. And the food supply is very different to what it was 50 years ago. So of course we’re going to have to start adapting what we need to eat as opposed to what our requirements were.
In the past pregnant women were advised to liver because it was a really good source of iron and that might help with the baby’s development. However we’ve now found that liver is a storage organ for vitamin A, which is actually toxic at high levels. So therefore we no longer recommend pregnant women eat high amounts of foods like liver. So the guidelines are constantly changing for when we’re meant to introduce certain foods to infants. And that’s partly due to the rise of allergies that we’re finding in children these days.
So it’s really important to talk to your health professional about when to introduce certain foods and not just rely on what your mum says, because that’s what she did, and you’re perfectly fine. So eggs have always being considered healthy and beneficial, high in protein, high in energy. But then in the ’70s there was a bit of a backlash against them because they contain cholesterol. And everybody was trying to not eat cholesterol because cholesterol was believed to make your blood cholesterol high, therefore increasing your risk of having a heart attack. Now we’ve found that it’s actually saturated fat that more influences cholesterol levels rather than cholesterol intake itself.
And therefore we’ve re-evaluated our advice about eggs and we see that eggs are actually OK. They have a good spectrum of healthy fats. They’re high in protein. They’re low in saturated fat. So we do recommend that people have them. So it is important to pay attention to the latest guidelines. By knowing the latest information it means that you’ve got the most up to date recommendations that are based on where our population is at now, the kind of food supply that we’re getting our food from, and the kinds of diseases we’re trying to fight against.

Watch Simone talk about the ways nutrition science is evolving and how these changes affect nutrition guidelines and recommendations, and the food you eat.

Find out more

For an example of how dietary advice evolves in response to ongoing research, consider reading the following resources.

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Food as Medicine

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