Pity the nutrition scientist. Everyone lies when they tell them what they ate. Even registered dieticians can’t accurately recount what they ate for a week. People are just terrible at it.¹ So when scientists try to compare the effects of various dietary patterns to health outcomes they often get a foggy picture.
Sometimes scientists don’t just ask what people ate, they tell them what to eat. People are even worse at doing what they’re told than reporting what they did. Those studies end up with poor results because, for example, the high fat group at 41% and the low fat group at 37%, were for all intents and purposes eating the same thing.² Sticking people in metabolic wards for extended periods of time is not only expensive, but frowned upon by ethics departments.
The double-blind randomized control trial is difficult to do in a nutrition context, because most people are quite able to detect whether they have been assigned to the cheeseburger or lentil group.
All of this makes the Nutritarian Women’s Health Study, currently underway, by The Nutritional Research Foundation and Northern Arizona University all the more ambitious in its scope. This study will address the effects of a nutrient dense, plant-rich (Nutritarian) diet on the long-term risks of cancer and other chronic diseases. They hope to recruit and follow 10,000 women for a minimum of 10 years to determine what effect there is from consuming a rather strict whole food, plant-based diet. The diet is based on Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s work. From the study’s website:
The diet is based in a nutrient dense, plant rich meal plan, consisting of foods typically found at grocery stores: unlimited fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts. In addition, you will be advised to transition away from low nutrient processed foods and to use animal products discriminately. Nutrient dense diets, such as the dietary pattern used for this program, have been proven to be safe and effective in clinical applications and have been associated with: weight reduction, lipid management, diabetes management, reduction of chronic inflammation, perceptions of hunger, and overall health and longevity.
To begin, follow this Nutritarian checklist:Enjoy Every Day…
- A large salad including raw onion, cruciferous vegetables and tomatoes
- At least ½ cup cooked beans or lentils in a salad, soup, or stew
- At least 3 or more fresh fruits, especially berries, cherries, plums, or oranges
- At least 1 ounce raw nuts and/or seeds (walnuts, hemp, flax, chia for Omega-3’s)
- At least 2 servings of steamed greens with mushrooms and onions
When I first became aware of this study I was extremely excited to sign up. Unfortunately, the study is only open to U.S. residents so my excitement was short lived, but I would encourage anyone in the U.S. to take a serious look at the study and its requirements for participation. More than anything, we need good information to guide our actions, government policy and standards of health care, and anything that we as individuals can do to help is worth doing.
Of course, the big advantage to anyone participating in the study is the improvement in health and the prevention of future illnesses.
Have a good look at the study’s website and give some serious thought to participating. Here are the criteria for participation:
- Females only
- Age 18 and over
- Willing and able to make positive lifestyle changes that include a whole food, plant rich, nutrient dense diet.
- Must have internet access
- Willing and able to answer extensive questionnaires, submit blood samples (kits provided) and body measurements as requested and interact with researchers.
Training materials are provided and there is a 30 day trial period before being entered into the study.
Nutritarian Women’s Health Study
Nutritional Research Foundation
²http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc1306659 – letter from Dr. Dean Ornish