"I saw few die of hunger; of eating, a hundred thousand." -Ben Franklin

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My Psych Class and Bogus Science

I once again apologize for not updating much these last few months. This semester has been a lot more hectic than I had anticipated, but it'll be over in two weeks! I'll hopefully update much more frequently over my holiday break.

I'm currently taking Intro to Psychology to fulfill one of my gen-ed requirements, and the class has been okay up until now-- some of the topics I found really interesting (evolutionary psych!), and others I just kind of suffered through (I'm not a science person, so the neuropsychology stuff wasn't exactly my cup of tea). But in all of the topics covered thus far, the information was scientifically proven-- we know, for example, which parts of the brain control which processes. So even though if I didn't understand everything perfectly, there was at least scientifically proven research to back up this information, and I can accept that it's all true.

So why am I talking about my psych class? For the past two lectures, my professor has been talking about food. The second he announced the topic, I said to myself, "Uh oh, get ready for a ton of Conventional Wisdom crap." And I was, unfortunately, correct. He lectured about the calories in/calories out theory (which is false-- watch this link from Fat Head and pick up Good Calories, Bad Calories and/or Why We Get Fat), that fat is unhealthy (also false-- click here, here, here, and watch this clip from Fat Head), that the BMI system is a good indicator of a person's health (also false-- click, and remember that BMI doesn't take into account muscle), and that the obesity crisis wouldn't exist if everyone ate the equivalent of three apples less per week (um...... WHAT!?!??!?!?). Needless to way, it was a very frustrating few days in psych. Where was any of the science behind this!?!? How can someone actually spread that information without having the facts?

What really baffled me was that my professor also acknowledged that people have no training health and nutrition, yet lectured about this topic and made no sense at all. Well, yeah, of course people don't have training-- the movie Food Matters said that only 6% of doctors have nutritional training, so why would anyone else be informed when they can just get information from the equally uninformed (i.e. the other 94%)? It's so sad that people are clueless about health and nutrition; instead, they rely on Conventional Wisdom, uninformed doctors, and Dr. Oz, and don't have the science to back up their choices. (It also doesn't help that the government is spewing crap to us too-- tomato paste on pizza can now count as a serving of vegetables!) I really don't blame my professor for lecturing Conventional Wisdom BS-- it's probably what was fed to him and no one ever pointed out the flawed science. (I raised my hand to comment on the things he was saying, but the class is in a huge lecture hall and he never saw me. Ugh!!)

The information about evolutionary nutrition is out there and makes sense! Humans aren't adapted to eat grains, legumes, chemical-heavy food products, or low-fat anything. We didn't evolve to count calories or carbs or have other people tell us that we need to be a certain weight for our height in order to be considered healthy. And we certainly didn't evolve to take meds for things that can be cured by simply eating the way our ancestors did. Read any of the literature available-- Loren Cordain, Robb Wolf, Mark Sisson, Nora Gedgaudas, Weston Price, Gary Taubes, and a host of brilliant Paleo/Primal/ancestral bloggers (Chris Kresser, Jack Kruse, Stephan Guyanet, Denise Minger, and Chris Masterjohn, just to name a few) all can back up claims about this lifestyle with real science. Although all of their views may differ slightly, the basics are still there: eat the food that we were evolved to eat, and check out the science to prove it.

Here's Mark Sisson's new food pyramid, as one example of what real food is:

But would people knowing the science really change anything? Sadly, I doubt it-- people know junk food is bad for them, yet still eat it anyway. However, it would still be a huge step in the right direction if A) doctors were trained in evolutionary nutrition, B) the government got rid of the ridiculous food plate and actually learned evolutionary nutrition as well, and C) some type of Paleo/Primal/ancestral literature became required reading in schools/health classes. While people would probably still make poor dietary choices, at least they'd know which foods are actually good (read: NOT LOW FAT) so they can make educated decisions if/when they decide to embark on a journey to better health.

Quote of the Day:
"Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it." -The Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama


  1. Sounds about right for the CW-speak during psych. Of course, we talked about that on Twitter... haha It's painful to see the misinformation so blithely presented to - and accepted by! - people these days.

  2. Psych professor should talk about disordered eating, not about the BMI! My prof in college was Loren Cordain, sorry to say but I often sat in his class and pondered how he could be a professor and have such a poor basic understanding of biochemistry and basic science, now after having read his book, I see that he still does not have a good understanding of the basics. I don't disagree with the book, and I like anything that helps a person eat healthier and be aware of their health. But he is presenting theories, not science. RD in Colorado.

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