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Debate question: should science matter in weight loss decisions?

(71 Posts)
OliviaD68 Wed 04-Oct-17 12:14:17

In the past few months, I have read and contributed to a number of interesting topics.

I am interested in science - biochemistry - and how the body responds to certain foods. By science I mean both theory and practical testing / validation of said theory. It seems much progress has been made in the past 20 years in understanding such things, possibly as a result of the obesity epidemic in developed countries. Almost 40% of the US population is obese (BMI >= 30)

But my interest in this subject is not shared by all (and nor should it be).

Question: Assuming a 'scientific basis' for health and weight loss can be established beyond a reasonable doubt (this is an important assumption):

1) should we care about what conclusions science is drawing?

2) should we therefore take such basis into account in deciding how to go about weight loss /maintenance?

3) how does one go about sifting through the noise on the internet to get at the truth?

Let's ignore for the moment that everyone will have different situations requiring slightly different approaches - talking 'averages' here.

Thanks for your thoughts.

OwlinaTree Wed 04-Oct-17 19:51:56

I feel this is an issue very close to your heart, having read your contributions over the last week or so!

The reality is most people want to eat a varied diet, don't want to cut masses of stuff out of their diets and want to enjoy eating meals as a family. It might be scientifically wonderful to eat a lump of butter and a fillet steak for every meal but frankly it's boring.

Tweaks to the menu you enjoy is more likely to end in long term success imho.

OliviaD68 Wed 04-Oct-17 20:39:05

@owlinatree. Thanks for this. I think I understand your viewpoint.

Stopbarkingdamndog Wed 04-Oct-17 20:41:19

I agree with Owlina. I find it interesting and all but there's a wide variety of weight loss methods and I think people are best finding the method that suits them and their lifestyle best. Some people like the group support of Weight Watchers or Slimming World. I would hate it and I also have no desire to track my food so closely. Likewise, I have no interest in doing low carb- I don't want to restrict my carbs and I need to restrict fat for medical reasons. I would go batty on 5:2 - I would go batty on most of the current popular approaches.

I think your mental health while dieting is more important than finding the optimal scientific way to diet. There's no such thing as "average". Dieting is a very personal and individual activity. I personally prefer a slow and steady approach and feel while the science is nice and interesting, it doesn't generally take human emotion/emotional reactions into account.

PostNotInHaste Wed 04-Oct-17 20:49:02

I'm with Owlina and Stopbarking with this. Personally I think it is more important to find something that fits with your life and the way your mind works. Different things appeal to different people and finding something that 'clicks' with the way your mind works is really important as more likely to result in longer term change of habits.

NoTractorsAtTheTable Wed 04-Oct-17 20:49:40

My science career is behind me now, but Olivia you might be interested in the work done by Sense about Science link to website who run a number of initiatives, such as Ask for Evidence, to find the basis of claims made in the media.

I'm not sure there's a 'truth' that exists about weight loss, nor am I sure I really understand the question you are posing, so I won't comment any further, but you might like that website, and the work they do.

QuiteLikely5 Wed 04-Oct-17 20:54:23

Does science matter in weight loss? It would if it knew what the hell it was talking about!

Science is becoming more and more ridiculous these days with various studies stating contradicting facts. I mean how is that possible? Science is supposed to be objective and sure is it not?

Isn't there supposed to be a obesity gene now too?

thenewaveragebear1983 Wed 04-Oct-17 20:57:33

I have also read some of your posts. I have also seen how in some cases they have 'riled' people. I think it's because, if someone is struggling to stick to a diet, it doesn't necessarily help to have the 'facts'- for example, someone talking about my pancreas doesn't Make me want to put down the bar of galaxy. People, me included, are hugely emotionally invested in their diets, their weightloss, and their food habits. It's not always as simple as 'science'

Lenl Wed 04-Oct-17 20:59:40

I think the science is really important. Nutritional science is in its infancy really, and there are an awful lot of poorly constructed studies. It's very difficult to study it well as there are so many variables in human life.

I now eat low carb. I never thought I could but it's actually easy. The reason I find it easy is because the science makes sense to me. The hormonal implications, the role of insulin and to an extent cortisol - I feel able to understand it and understand what happens to my body when I eat certain foods. Unlike say slimming world which was this weird magical thing that allowed sugary muller lights but not other sugary things. Nonsensical in other words.

It is crazy that as humans we can know so much but not know the optimum fuel for our bodies but as I say the science is in its infancy. The studies coming out around but bacteria and mental health are fascinating and I'm looking forward to this seeing increased understanding in this area particularly.

Lenl Wed 04-Oct-17 21:00:24

Not but bacteria haha. Gut bacteria.

OliviaD68 Wed 04-Oct-17 21:42:11

Thanks all. It’s great to read the variety of viewpoints. I think I can relate to all.

@NoTractorsAtTheTable : the question is really about whether people should know how body biochemistry works in making decisions about what to eat. There is a ton of confusing and contradictory information on the internet.

Different food impacts the body in different ways. @Lenl has shared some of her knowledge - it is indeed about the hormones. I do agree it’s somewhat early days in terms our understanding of nutrition but the science has been moving very fast since about 10 years ago. There are already many things that have been proven beyond doubt.

The confusion lies - I think - in past assertions made without research which are now being disproved rather robustly. I agree it’s confusing to hear fat is bad one day and fat is good the next. Wouldn’t it be useful to know definitively which statement is true ? Answer as far as I know: neither and both; it depends.

To my mind this helps in devising the tactics we all need to keep our weight in check and health optimised as @OwlinaTree intimated.

@NoTractorsAtTheTable : put another way, if you felt you knew human biochemistry well and felt confident about the science would you still for example knowingly eat foods that did damage to your body or would it impact you enough to change your lifestyle?

OliviaD68 Wed 04-Oct-17 21:43:10

@NoTractorsAtTheTable : reading the link now. Many thanks!

PostNotInHaste Wed 04-Oct-17 22:05:08

If you look at smoking and drug use it shows there are people who will still do things knowing they will damage their bodies. We're in an era where we're told by politicians that people are tired of experts .

I can see you're really passionate about the subject which is great but weight loss and obesity are complicated and giving people facts won't necessarily result in behaviour change. I'm aware of the studies you have cited on threads but at 4 months post gallbladder removal if I try LCHF I'm going to be on the toilet non stop. I can eat some fat, more than before but eggs set me off and anything more than small amounts of cream and butter do. So it's kind of irrelevant to me currently due to circumstances and I've found an alternative way that works for me to achieve a large weight loss and a system that I am confident can lead me through to maintaining successfully. Time will tell on that front though.

OliviaD68 Wed 04-Oct-17 22:11:26


Completely agree.

Stopbarkingdamndog Wed 04-Oct-17 22:13:37

Ditto. That's why I have to restrict fats but I'm 9 months on. grin

"Damage" needs to be defined anyway. I know my Saturday night dessert splurge isn't good for me but whilst I am otherwise on a healthy diet, have healthy fitness levels and am of a healthy weight, I'm not particularly concerned by what I would guess is a limited amount of "damage" in the grand scheme of things.

Lotsofsausage Wed 04-Oct-17 22:16:08

I think there is too much to it, to just 'understand the science and crack on'.. if it was that easy everyone would look like Davina mcCall. Different body types (ectomorph, endomorph, metamorph) respond differently to certain food groups. Then throw in habits, lifestyle, mental health etc, it's a very complex issue. There is also the issue of whether 'thin' equals 'healthy'. I have friends who weigh less than me and don't exercise and exist on a diet of toast and cereal. Their blood sugar must be all over the place, despite being thin. I tend to find LCHF works best for me to keep weight and energy stable.

OliviaD68 Wed 04-Oct-17 22:17:11

@PostNotInHaste :

Actually I posted in haste.

There’s a difference between smoking and weight loss I think. Stop smoking and remove a negative. Lose weight and get a positive.

So would the incentive not be different? Would that not be sufficient to change behaviour (agree that’s the essence of it)?

Let me know you thought?

Out2pasture Wed 04-Oct-17 22:22:07

I believe there is more to the weight gain and loss than the "calories" I feel in 20-50 years it will come to light that we have been wrong all along. not sure what. I say this as someone with a good grasp (beyond basic) of biology.

OliviaD68 Wed 04-Oct-17 22:23:52


Disagree with the first part of your post. There is a lot we already know. It’s not easy to access but most of the way the body works is there on the internet. Sure there’s still more to research but the basics are known.

Agree completely with your comment that thin is not necessarily healthy. Tons of angles to look at to define health. But being fat is unlikely to be good for you either.

Also agree LCHF is very effective. And very healthy. And so do a lot of peer reviewed studies.

OliviaD68 Wed 04-Oct-17 22:28:22


Why do you say that about calories? Why 25 years?

BIWI Wed 04-Oct-17 22:35:55

What I'd like to see is science being separated - TOTALLY - from the commercial world.

Stop studies being sponsored by those with vested interests. Ensure it's totally objective.

However, I'm aware that is unfortunately too idealistic, as too few institutions can afford the studies and experiments that they need to do without sponsorship of some kind from industry.

But there's precious little science that isn't biased by those who are sponsoring it.

Oh, and then there's the little matter of the media and the bias (as well as bad reporting) that goes on there.

It's no wonder people are confused and no-one knows what to do for the best!

Lotsofsausage Wed 04-Oct-17 22:37:00

Sorry yes I mean an educated and intelligent person with a good grasp of biology can do the research into body types and macros etc to find out what will be most effective for them.
Your average Barbara down at slimming world (i.e. the majority of women who wish to lose weight) will not do this. The fact that they'll pay for a generic diet plan shows this.

Out2pasture Wed 04-Oct-17 22:37:21

I think the interest in decreasing morbid obesity is there and possibly the money to fund the research hence the relatively short timeline of 20-50 years.
as to why the calories in and out is not the answer, personal experience. I weigh, measure, calculate, limited rare store bought products live on 1200-1500 calories per in day alcohol and maintain a lovely rubanesque morbidly obese figure sad.

OliviaD68 Wed 04-Oct-17 22:40:08


Yeah. Agree with that.

Have you watched What the health? Ignoring the obvious errors in the movie, the parts on the conflicts of interest between industry and health organisations are shocking and likely true.

PostNotInHaste Wed 04-Oct-17 22:45:04

I see what you're saying about weight loss and smoking but don't think everyone sees it that way. I find it hard to believe that any of my DD's generation can think of taking up smoking but they still do it, ignoring all the science.

My friend is a diabetes nurse and knows the science well as does the nurse who takes blood at my surgery but they still struggle with their weight as the knowledge hasn't translated in behaviour change.

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