My name is Mario Kratz, and I am the founder of Nourished by Science. Welcome to this very first blog post on our website.
I am a clinical nutrition researcher with Master’s and PhD degrees in Nutrition. I quit my 20+ year career in academic nutrition research last year to devote my work to providing high-quality information about how our diet is linked to our health and to the development of chronic disease. You can find more details about my education, background, and experience here.
I am building this website, and an associated YouTube channel, to create a platform that provides reliable, trustworthy, unbiased information about nutrition, health, and chronic disease that is strictly based on scientific evidence.
A core question that we will be trying to find answers for on this site is: how should we eat for optimal health?
There are numerous books, websites, and YouTube channels that claim to have the answer to this question.
Some claim that the best way to stay lean and prevent chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes or heart disease is to follow a diet low in fat. Instead, they argue, our diet should be high in carbohydrates from whole foods such as vegetables, fruit, legumes, and whole grains. According to these sources, what we should and should not be eating for optimal health is something like this here:
Oftentimes, these claims are supported by citations of the scientific literature or compelling anecdotes of people who have lost weight or have reversed a disease such as diabetes. If you spend a bit of time with the content that is presented, you get the impression that we should all eat a low-fat vegetarian or even vegan diet, and that this is our only hope if we want to stay healthy.
Well, if you have spent any time in a bookstore or on the internet, you will know that a similarly large number of bestselling books, popular websites, and YouTube channels claim the exact opposite: that we should be eating a high-fat diet, suggesting that high-carb foods such as legumes and grains are actually the very cause of obesity and chronic disease. These sources often express strong convictions that carbohydrates in plant foods or antinutrients such as lectins, phytates, or goitrogens are major health hazards, and that we’d do best if we minimized our consumption of plant foods.
How is it possible that different groups of people look at the scientific evidence and come to opposing conclusions?
Confusing to say the least.
Yet again other authors suggest that chronic disease has nothing to do with whether we eat mostly carbs or mostly fat, but is the result of vitamin D deficiency, a ‘leaky’ gut, or an eating pattern that is not in sync with our circadian rhythms.
Confusion reigns supreme in literally all areas of nutrition these days. Some people see meat and eggs as unhealthy sources of cholesterol and saturated fat, while others present them as nutrient-rich whole foods that should form the basis of our diet. Another major battleground is dairy: whereas some people claim that dairy is pro-inflammatory and a cause of cancer, others emphasize that dairy foods are rich sources of nutrients and protein that protect us against osteoporosis. I could go on and on with all of the conflicting claims that are out there …
If this has left you scratching your head, I invite you to follow this blog as well as our associated YouTube channel. We will be looking at exactly these types of issues in every detail.
What motivated me to start this website?
There are several factors that motivated me to start this website.
The first is that currently, much of the content about nutrition, health, and chronic disease that one may find in a book, a magazine, or on the internet is rarely based on a balanced review of the entirety of the scientific evidence. In fact, a common recipe for a successful nutrition book is to take, say, an emerging hypothesis or idea based on animal studies and write it up as THE proven solution for a common health problem. Once you have seen the pattern, it’s almost ridiculous that this works again and again, but the truth is that it’s really sad, because these types of books exploit the desperation of people who are suffering and seeking help.
It’s similar in most magazine articles or YouTube videos: the author makes a point (“blueberries prevent dementia”, “red meat causes colon cancer”, “lectins are the cause of autoimmune disease”), and then cites one or two papers or shares a personal anecdote in support of the point. That’s interesting, if we want to be generous, but it’s not rigorous science. The scientific approach is to consider the totality of the evidence on any given topic, not an isolated publication. For example, I recently reviewed the evidence about lectins in relation to health and disease as part of a review of the book The Plant Paradox for the website Red Pen Reviews, and I carefully read several dozen papers and skimmed through hundreds more to get the full picture.
That’s why it’s so important to be comprehensive and provide in-depth information. Looking at any scientific issue through a narrow lens by considering only one aspect is what often causes us to get confused. To use one of the examples above, could it be that legumes are a rich source of nutrients, fiber, and protein with potential health benefits and – at the same time – a source of antinutrients that could be harmful to certain people or under certain circumstances? Of course it’s possible that any given food has some health benefits and also carries some health risks. Why would that be mutually exclusive? To really understand the health effects of our food, we, therefore, need to consider and communicate the entirety of the evidence. We should not be trying to win an argument about whether food x or nutrient y is healthy or unhealthy. It’s all about acknowledging the complexity of the biology we are dealing with and aiming to get a deeper understanding of how our food affects our health. That also means that we are not going to base our conclusions on a single paper, and particularly not the anecdotal experience of a few people. Science does not mean that we pick the one or two pieces of evidence that fit our narrative or the sexy story we’d like to convey; it means that we need to grapple with the totality of the evidence that is available on any given topic, weighting strengths and limitations of each piece of evidence.
And this gets me to the second point that has made me want to create this website, and that is the current state of the nutritional and healthcare environment most of us are living in. In most countries, a large percentage of the population gets ever sicker as a result of their poor diet and lifestyle, and then our medical system addresses this by … prescribing ever more pills. Again and again, I have heard from frustrated research participants how every year or two, their doctor would diagnose another health issue or risk factor that would require them to take another prescription medication. The result is that once they cross into their 50s and particularly their 60s, many people are on several different prescription medications daily.
Now, modern medicine has many blessings, and I do not want to dissuade you from seeking out professional care or taking prescribed medications. In fact, I explicitly recommend that you discuss any major change in your diet or lifestyle with a qualified healthcare provider. However, the current system where we get sicker and sicker due to our unhealthy diet and lifestyle and then address our health issues with ever more prescription medications while continuing the very diet and lifestyle that has made us sick in the first place, that has never made much sense to me.
Let me add explicitly that I am not saying this to criticize physicians. I understand that many are trying their best within a system that does not typically make it easy for them to give guidance around lifestyle changes. I also know that many medical doctors are frustrated by the lack of training they receive in nutrition. We don’t need different doctors; we need a different system, a different approach in healthcare that actually makes it easier for people and their doctors to address the root causes of many of their health issues. Obviously, we also need a different food system that makes it easier for people to stay away from unhealthy foods, but let’s leave that extensive discussion for another day …
Some of the favorite moments in my career conducting clinical trials were whenever research participants shared that learning about healthy eating, how to implement it, and how to stick to it in the long run, has changed their life for the better. Many felt empowered to be more actively involved in their own healthcare when they realized that eating well was doable for them, and in many cases actually reversed chronic health issues they had been struggling with. Repeatedly hearing the frustration from people taking 6, 7, 8, or more different types of prescription medications every day, and then seeing the concrete improvements in their health that resulted from sustainable changes in their diet and lifestyle, I decided that I wanted to create a platform that would provide high-quality science-based information to more people, along with a space for a community of like-minded folks to work together towards the common goal of better health. This website is, partly, the result of that decision.
Who is this website for?
This website is for anyone who is sincerely interested in maintaining or improving their health by adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle. Someone who really wants to understand how our bodies work, and how it is affected by the food we eat. Someone who believes that scientific evidence, flawed as it sometimes may be, is still the best way to gain knowledge, not anecdotes, stories, and opinions.
What kind of content can you expect on this website?
We will comprehensively cover the topic of nutrition as it relates to health and chronic disease. A focus will be on obesity and body weight regulation, metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. These are the conditions where we have the strongest evidence that diet matters. We’ll also occasionally touch on areas where so far we have fewer data points on the role of nutrition in the development of disease, such as neurodegenerative and autoimmune diseases.
It is my goal to provide information about these topics in an unbiased way, strictly focused on scientific evidence, and in a way that provides comprehensive and in-depth coverage.
In general, I will do my best to not be influenced by factors other than scientific evidence. Whenever there are biases that could affect my judgment, I will make sure to disclose these. This also means that this website will not promote one particular way of eating or represent one particular diet tribe. I think this is really critical because – let’s face it – if I spent the next few years creating content around the benefits of, say, a ketogenic diet, and eventually became known as “the keto guy”, how open would I be to accurately share new data about long-term health concerns associated with the ketogenic diet? There are some good people out there who have a clear focus on one particular way of eating while still presenting a balanced view of the scientific evidence, but this is rather rare. Usually, once someone has made up their mind, has been eating a certain way for a few years, and has become part of a specific diet tribe or even a leader within that tribe, it’s incredibly difficult to be open to new and potentially conflicting evidence.
That’s why I think it’s so important to have a strict focus on the most rigorous and transparent scientific process. The tribe I am asking you to join is not one based on a specific diet but based on a search for science-based knowledge. I believe strongly that we will all benefit from an open discussion of the entirety of the science, as long as we are willing to deal with new data, particularly if they conflict with what we thought we already knew. And I invite you to be critical of everything I say as well, and to let me know in the comments section below each post (or the associated video) if you disagree, ideally backed up by a specific paper that you think I may have overlooked or may have misinterpreted. I strongly believe in a courteous discussion of conflicting data and differences in the interpretations of data, and that we should all be engaged in this discourse rather than blindly believing and following self-appointed “experts”. That applies to me as it does to anyone else: I’d like you to learn and form an opinion on something because the data I present are convincing, not because I have a bunch of academic credentials, or because I have a website and a YouTube channel …;-)
So, again, let me welcome you to this website. I invite you to work with me to build a community around the science of nutrition to help us live better, healthier, and happier lives. Please consider signing up for our newsletter below, or find us on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. What I am building is my attempt to help those of you who want to play a larger role in maintaining or improving your health, and who are willing to put in a bit of work to understand the science behind how our body works, rather than relying on oversimplified promises of a quick fix. It is my sincere hope that you will find this content useful and that it will improve your life – and your health – in some way.