What diet and healthy habits are supported by science?  There is a tool for that

coffee? Keto? olive oil? New tool highlights science behind diet and habits

Does eating red meat increase the risk of heart disease? Does eating more vegetables help? Is leaving high blood pressure untreated really a death wish? The answers may vary, depending on who the person asks, which TikTok friend or nurse, and when. Researchers at the University of Washington want to make it easier to find current, evidence-based health advice.

A new tool from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Unveiled Monday in Nature Medicine, uses a 5-star rating system to show how much evidence there is to support certain diet and lifestyle changes. Researchers have analyzed hundreds of studies hoping to help consumers, clinicians and policymakers — mired in the landscape of wellness influencers, nutritional lobbyists, and quack advice — break through the conversations and learn the scientific consensus. The result is what they call the ‘burden of proof studies’, as it is all about research to prove the legitimacy of something.

Other such reviews exist, and the Cochrane Library is a repository of many of them. The authors say that this new tool is complementary to what is there, but also slightly different. Many epidemiologists assume that the risk increases by the same amount regardless of how many grams of vegetables a person eats per day, for example. “The burden of proof allows us to better understand how risks actually change with consumption,” the authors said.


“There has always been some skepticism” about how changes in people’s behaviors affect their health in the long term, especially when it comes to recommending certain foods or activities, said Christopher Murray, senior author of the research papers and founder of the IHME Institute, in Medicine.

Clickbait titles and grocery cart contents reflect the uncertainty. Cow’s milk is bad, and then it is good. Butter – no, all fat – should go away, but then come back. Once the cart is full, Mediterranean, keto, paleo, and South Beach meals vie for supremacy over the magazine covers in the checkout line. Looming peanut butter cups. (Is chocolate good or bad? Wait what about peanut butter?)


“Diet research is a real challenge,” said Jeffrey Stanaway, associate professor of global health and lead author of the group’s analysis of the vegetable health studies. It’s hard for researchers to measure how much people are eating, to do so over time, and to separate their diet from other health factors (people who eat a lot of fruits and vegetables are more likely to exercise, for example).

However, diet and other behaviors play an important role in disease prevention. About half of the US population has a chronic condition, and long-term illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer are major drivers of disability and death worldwide. “The vast majority of what makes you healthy happens outside of the doctor’s office,” said George Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association.

By evaluating the available data for any association between vegetable intake and five different health outcomes, Stanway can come to the conclusion: “The evidence for vegetables is very good,” he said. Even the conservative interpretation of the evidence that IHME Tool Uses: Eating more vegetables has been shown to be associated with a lower risk of chronic disease, although future studies could influence this. The team said the model is meant to be updated, and will be, with additional research available.

The three-star association between increased consumption of non-starchy fibrous vegetables and ischemic stroke was the strongest link between the group. Data show that increasing vegetable consumption from one to four servings per day resulted in a 23% reduction in the risk of stroke. Analysis It also showed a two-star rating for eating vegetables and heart disease (two are about three, Stanway said). The study did not include starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes or corn, and also excluded processed and pickled vegetables (kimchi, sauerkraut).

For the most part, dietary habits landed between one and three stars, indicating the need for more careful research. “I was very surprised by the number of diet-risk relationships that were much weaker” than expected, Murray said. He said he had a slightly greater tolerance for eating red meat after seeing these results.

everybody Evidence for red meat His links with the disease were weak. That was not unexpected for Benjamin, who was not involved in the research. “Things that have always been kind of mysterious still seem kind of mysterious,” he said.

The strongest ratings were for the meat-rich diets with two stars, for colorectal cancer, breast cancer, ischemic heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. In the case of strokes, researchers have found that a diet rich in red meat can actually have some protective effects, and they provide this evidence with a one-star rating. The IHME team said low star ratings should be seen as areas for research investment – a large, well-designed study on people eating a diet rich in red meat could have a huge impact.

Tobacco is often where all the fiery controversy ends. There is a broad consensus among health professionals that smoking tobacco is harmful to humans. IHME Tool I found clues For strong or very strong links across eight diseases or outcomes, including laryngeal cancer, aortic aneurysm, peripheral arterial disease of the lower extremities, trachea, bronchi, lung cancer, COPD, and others.

“It is indisputable that tobacco poses a significant health risk and indeed has a wide range of effects across multiple outcomes for cardiovascular disease and cancer,” Murray said.

However, there was less strong evidence for the relationship between smoking and many other diseases, including ischemic heart disease, esophageal cancer, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and others. Oddly enough, there was a one-star association between smoking and asthma, a finding that surprised researchers. Cannabis smoking was not included in the analysis.

The risk of ischemic heart disease was It is strongly associated with high systolic blood pressure Five-star rating Validating both the common doctrine among clinicians and the accuracy of the IHME tool, researchers said at a press conference.

The IHME team has already analyzed nearly 200 other combinations of risks and outcomes, from drinking alcohol, air pollution and high body mass index, to other diet factors, such as eating whole grains and legumes. Murray said these results will be published in the future.

Benjamin said it will take some time for clinicians, policymakers and patients to learn the value of this tool — the data alone may not be enough to influence the public’s understanding of the risks.

Where a rating system can be useful in the long run is the doctor’s office, when the doctor makes a plan of care for a patient with multiple risk factors (eg smoking, high blood pressure, low vegetable consumption). If what we know about these risks can be weighed against each other, Benjamin said, the doctor and patient might have a better sense of what to prioritize. “The less things you give people to do,” he said, “the better, and the more likely they are to comply.”

STAT coverage of chronic health issues is supported by a grant from Bloomberg Charity. our financial backers Do not participate in any decisions about our press.

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