By Mario Kratz, PhD
I started Nourished by Science to share evidence-based information about nutrition as it relates to the prevention of chronic disease.
Over more than 25 years of conducting clinical nutrition research, I have met countless individuals who were struggling in one way or another with their health. I have also seen the profound transformations that can result from adopting a healthier diet and lifestyle. It is my sincere hope that this website can provide information, motivation, and community to help you minimize your risk of chronic disease so that you can enjoy everything life has to offer.
Empowering You to To Take Care of Your Health
When we talk about healthcare these days, it is usually meant as a service that we receive. My primary goal with this website is to give you the information, the tools, and the belief that you can be a major player in your own healthcare. There is little doubt that nutrition plays a major role in most chronic diseases, and that many are preventable, treatable, or manageable by adopting a healthier diet and lifestyle.
This Website Is Based on Scientific Evidence
Understanding how the food we eat affects our long-term health is surprisingly difficult to figure out. This field, unfortunately, has a history of drawing conclusions based on fairly poor evidence that later turned out to be at least partly wrong. The resulting back and forth between different diet approaches, each only weakly supported by scientific evidence, has led to confusion about how to eat. As a result, many have abandoned scientific evidence, with the argument that science hasn’t really provided the answers we need to understand how diet affects long-term health. And that abandonment has led to a rise in pseudo-scientific approaches to eating, superficial views that attribute complex diseases to a single food or dietary factor, and sales pitches for dubious diet programs or supplements.
I have drawn a very different conclusion from the mistakes of the past. Yes, nutrition science is a difficult science, often forced to work with weak evidence. And yes, we have often drawn conclusions based on this weak evidence that later had to be revised. However, that does not mean that a non-scientific approach will be more likely to lead us to answers that are truly helpful for our health. It simply means that we need to apply scientific principles more rigorously. This relates to the conduct of the research, but particularly how we interpret the available data. My goal is to use this platform to raise the standard of rigor in how we read the scientific literature and the conclusions we draw from it.
Deep, Complete, and Balanced Information
Doing justice to a complex science means that a real understanding can only be achieved by diving below the surface. All too often, the conversation about certain foods reminds me of the metaphor of the blind men and the elephant. It is easy to make a compelling argument if we focus just on one clear and convincing aspect of a complex issue. So of course the blindfolded person below who stands next to the tail can claim, full of conviction, that what they are dealing with here is a rope, while others are certain that it’s a wall, a snake, or a tube. To figure out the full truth means that they all need to be willing to listen to each other, to consider the entirety of the ‘evidence’, and realize that their one piece of ‘data’ is only a small piece of a complex puzzle.
My goal is to look at an issue from all sides and to consider all available evidence. That includes imperfect evidence, anecdotes, ideas, and hypotheses. Oftentimes, plausible ideas are disregarded by the scientific community because no hard evidence exists in the form of randomized controlled trials. I believe this is shortsighted, and that it is important to acknowledge anecdotes, hypotheses, or inconclusive evidence, as long as these are clearly presented as such.
Independent, Transparent, and Unbiased (as Much as Possible)
Having worked in academic research for more than 25 years, I certainly have my share of biases. That starts with certain convictions about diet based on how I eat myself, but is also related to the type of research I have conducted, the kinds of papers I have published, and the sources of funding that I have received. I pledge to always be transparent with my biases, as much as possible, and keep the information presented here, on our YouTube channel, and on other platforms free of commercial interests.
This means that I will
- not engage in brand sponsorships with companies in the food, supplement, or pharmaceutical industries;
- not engage in affiliate marketing of foods, supplements, or nutritional products;
- not consult for the nutritional, supplement, or pharmaceutical industry; and
- not accept honoraria, payments, or reimbursements from businesses in, or interests related to, the food, supplement, or pharmaceutical industries.
This policy applies to all employees and contractors of Nourished by Science, and all business activities of Nourished by Science LLC, including but not limited to this website, the Nourished by Science YouTube channel, and our activities on social media.
An Open, Inclusive, and Respectful Community
I feel that too often the discussion about ‘the best diet’ is more similar to a wrestling match than a curious and interested conversation. Eager to win the argument that their diet is ‘best’ (whatever that means), principles of scientific rigor are commonly seen as an obstacle that needs to be circumvented. Wherever it fits the narrative, weak pieces of evidence such as anecdotes, cell culture experiments, or animal experiments are held high, while at the same time discounting stronger evidence that is inconvenient. Data from observational studies are a great example: such studies show associations between foods and disease endpoints, not cause-effect relationships, and they are therefore easy to discount. Oftentimes, however, data from observational studies are used to try to win an argument while in the next sentence discounting observational studies as non-scientific.
With this website and our YouTube channel, I’d like to help make the conversation more focused on scientific evidence. It is fine to consider all pieces of evidence, including anecdotes, cell culture studies, animal studies, observational studies, and randomized controlled trials, but these need to be interpreted and communicated in a way that is consistent with the strengths and limitations of these approaches.
On this site, I am hoping we can discuss controversial issues in a way that is kind, open-minded, and tolerant. I am not trying to win a trophy for eating or promoting the ‘best diet’; I simply try to live a long, healthy, and happy life and help others do the same.
One problem contributing to the confusion about how to eat is that our bodies and our foods are incredibly complex and that it is surprisingly difficult to establish conclusive scientific evidence on how we should be eating to prevent – or treat – chronic diseases. We’ve all heard strong statements such as there here:
“Dairy is important for healthy bones!”, but also:
“Dairy causes inflammation and autoimmune disease!”
“Saturated fat and cholesterol cause heart disease!”, but also:
“Saturated fat and cholesterol are key to a healthy brain!”
“A low-fat diet is best.”, and certainly also:
“A high-fat low-carb diet is best!”
“The cause of autoimmune diseases is vitamin D deficiency!” vs.
“The cause of autoimmune diseases are the lectins in beans.”
What is frustrating about all of these claims is that it’s easy to find at least some support for each somewhere in the huge scientific literature. That’s not how science should work, however. That’s similar to describing an elephant as a rope or a wall. Instead, we should carefully and critically consider the entirety of the evidence, and communicate it as such.
I do not claim to have fully conclusive answers on everything, simply because the field has in many cases not generated the types of data we would need to really know the answers to many questions. What I will try my best to do, however, is to provide clarity on where the field stands. I will outline clearly what is known, what is not known, and what some of the theories, hypotheses, and open questions are.
The fact that you found your way to this site suggests that we share a common passion for nutrition and health. More than ever do I believe that nutrition is one of the pillars of health, and I am hoping to convince you that in spite of all the problems in this field, there is a lot of reason to feel optimistic about the potential of a proper diet to prevent – and potentially treat – many chronic diseases. I invite you to share your thoughts on any of the content on the site, or share with me specific experiences with food or diets that seem pertinent. Also, please feel encouraged to contact me if you’d like to see a specific book, paper, or topic covered.
My hope is that an active, inclusive, and respectful discussion around the topics of nutrition and health will develop, such that everyone will benefit from it. Thank you very much for being interested in being a part of this community.
Last updated: November 28, 2022