Top 5 nutrition stories of 2011, and some predictions for 2012

Prediction: 2012 will bring nutrition news every day

The top nutrition stories for 2011 didn’t have any history-making ramifications.  No preconceived notions were overturned.  Research mostly reconfirmed what we already thought.  Here’s my list of the Top 5 nutrition-related stories, and some predictions for 2012:

  1. The USDA’s MyPlate program, including the new plate graphic, was intended to create a more meaningful healthy diet teaching tool.  Most nutrition experts welcomed the new emphasis on vegetable and fruit intake, which is still seriously lagging.  Whether a cute graphic makes any difference in how people actually eat remains to be seen.
  2.  Celebrities lost weight.  Again.  Why is celebrity weight loss considered newsworthy?  Because most normal people fail at it.  So, when celebrities lose weight we wonder how they did it.  Keep this in mind: celebrities can hire an army of personal aides to help them in their efforts: cooks, nannies, assistants, shoppers and trainers.  They can hire someone to police everything that goes into their stomachs.  They have entire gyms in their homes.  Making their weight loss programs a whole lot easier to stick with.  Plus they have the added incentive of public scrutiny if they fail or re-gain.  The other 100 million people who need to lose weight don’t have those luxuries or incentives.  We’re just out there plugging away on our own.
  3.  Supplements may not always be a good thing: the link between vitamin E and prostate cancer risk underscores the point that vitamins aren’t benign agents of wholesome naturalness.  They’re biologically active chemicals and should be treated with respect.  Would you overdose on aspirin?  Water?  Diabetes medication?  Then why overdose on vitamins?
  4.  Gluten hysteria continues and, unfortunately, spreads.  The vast majority of gluten avoiders (1) aren’t gluten sensitive and (2) have no idea what gluten actually is.  They read something about avoiding gluten and jumped to the conclusion that it’s bad.  When  food labels scream “Gluten Free!”, you start to believe the hype — why would something be gluten free if gluten wasn’t dangerous?  Tell it to the French or Italians, dedicated gluten consumers for several thousand years, who don’t have the obesity and chronic disease problems we have in the USA, thanks to not overeating calories.
  5.  Obesity continues to increase worldwide.  In the US, the problem of childhood obesity just gets worse.  Medical experts increasingly find children suffering from chronic diseases of adulthood, like hypertension and Type 2 diabetes.  The hunt for What To Blame continued: fast food, high fructose corn syrup, Happy Meal toys, school lunch, junk food, saturated fat, too much screen time.

Coming up in 2012?  I can safely predict the following:

  1.  New nutrition research findings will be published daily, a few of which will challenge treasured beliefs of medical professionals, nutrition experts, supplement manufacturers, alternative medicine true believers, food policy bureaucrats, Food Police and the general public.  Whatever the results may be, food manufacturers will rush to turn them into a marketing advantage.
  2. More fad diets will appear, causing people to add to their enormous collection of failed diet books.
  3. Celebrities will claim to be following certain fad diets, leading average people to believe they work.  Remember, celebrity weight loss has little to do with the actual diet; it’s mostly about that army of personal assistants + the demands of fame.
  4.  The gluten hysteria will linger, despite my best efforts to point out how silly it all is.
  5.  Calorie counts on menus will come to a restaurant near you.  The Big Question: will anyone pay attention to all this new clutter?  Does anyone other than a tiny minority of nutrition experts and calorie-obsessed Food Police know what those numbers mean to the average person?  Will the general public abandon the tendency to choose food based on taste and price, and start Eating By Numbers?  My educated guess: No.  However, one small segment of the population will benefit: businesses that design menu systems that accommodate all these new numbers.
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