Fads Versus Facts: Busting Myths about Nutrition and Exercise

 

People’s feelings about nutrition are bordering on religion rather than science.

Christie Aschwanden Journalist; Author, Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Lear...
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Fads Versus Facts: Busting Myths about Nutrition and Exercise

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For decades, diet and exercise fads have promised to shrink waistlines, build muscle, detoxify, and so on. But evidence is mounting that there’s no one diet or routine that works for everyone. Researchers are experimenting with AI to determine personalized nutrition algorithms based on an individual’s health, lifestyle, physiology, and immune system. Christie Aschwanden, author of "Good to Go," sits down with Eric Topol, executive vice president of Scripps Research, and Corby Kummer, executive director of the Food and Society program at the Aspen Institute, to debunk long-standing myths surrounding diet and exercise recovery. Are you ready to rethink your regimen?

Athletes (and everyone): prioritize sleep!
Athletes (and everyone): prioritize sleep!
Stretching isn’t what it’s cracked up to be
The Guisinger “Farmacy” is using food as medicine
Science is often wrong on the way to being right
1.

Athletes (and everyone): prioritize sleep!

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01:54

Journalist Christie Aschwanden wrote a book about how athletes should recover from training so that they can perform at their best. “Spoiler alert,” she told an audience at Aspen Ideas. “The number one thing athletes can do for recovery is sleep.” Aschwanden, a former cycling champion and elite nordic skier, says nothing else comes close to the power of a good night’s rest.

Journalist Christie Aschwanden wrote the book "Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery."

Good sleep isn’t just for athletes, Aschwanden says, it’s important for any kind of performance including political debates. She recalls a piece in The New York Times that explains how much sleep the democratic presidential candidates receive. “So many of them were saying they got four or five hours of sleep, which is just terrible...It shows a lack of priorities.”

2.

Stretching isn’t what it’s cracked up to be

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07:22

Sure, stretching feels good and it’s a nice ritual before or after exercise but science shows it doesn’t reduce the risk of injury. In fact, research on runners shows stretching before an athletic event may reduce performance slightly, says Christie Aschwanden. “So many people are stretching in hopes that they will be less sore or reduce their chance of injury and it turns out that that doesn’t hold up.” Stretching will help your flexibility, she says. “So if you are stretching to be able to touch your toes better, continue to do so.”

Scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara analysed 70 studies on running and performance and discovered this about stretching (BBC): “While it can help improve flexibility...If you are stretching in the hope of gaining boosts in performance during your run, you are wasting your time.”
3.

The Guisinger “Farmacy” is using food as medicine

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17:05

The doctors at Guisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania are seeing their patients become healthier thanks to food. Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine, says the hospital created a program to address high levels of food insecurity in its region. Food insecurity — a lack of nutritious food — can lead to diabetes and obesity. Guisinger’s “Fresh Food Farmacy” doles out prescriptions for healthy, diabetes-appropriate food to patients with type 2 diabetes. “[The patients] had a remarkable improvement of glucose regulation and a big reduction in their need for emergency room visits and hospitalizations...You wonder why we don’t do this more,” says Topol.

Eric Topol is one of the ten most cited researchers in medicine. He commends a hospital in Pennsylvania for its innovative way to treat diabetes.

4.

Science is often wrong on the way to being right

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26:15

In the summer of 2000, President Clinton announced that the Human Genome Project had assembled a working draft of the sequence of the human genome. Eric Topol says after that, the expectations for the genome to improve health were high, but “we didn’t understand how important the gut microbiome was.” Now, new findings are emerging about how the microbiome impacts drug effectiveness, for example. Christie Aschwanden, though, urges caution.

This exchange has been lightly edited for clarity

  • Christie Aschwanden: I don’t think the public always has a good understanding of how science works and how it progresses. Science is a process of uncertainty reduction. Too often, the public has been given this view that science is a magic wand that turns everything it touches into truth, but it turns out that science is often wrong on the way to being right ...The microbiome stuff is so exciting and we know it’s very important. But, I think it’s important to understand that these are early days …[What we] see again and again are times when there’s one small study that had some really enticing and interesting finding and everyone jumps on the bandwagon — everyone’s doing this thing, taking this drug, or eating this food. Then, more studies come out and it turns out we had things completely wrong.

  • Eric Topol: Coffee and everything that we take in — there are studies that show that it’s either good or bad. In my book ("Deep Medicine"), I include a graphic that shows hundreds of studies [around one product] that show it will either kill you or make you healthier. The thing is, there may be some truth to that because we are all so individualized in our response. So, for some people a Keto diet may be really good for them. The excitement I have, and I agree about the science and the need for replication and uncertainty, is that we’re making some headway here. No one had expected that the gut microbiome was going to be such a big driver in our nutritional response.

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