Top Nutritionists Fight Over Defining Healthy Diet

Top Nutritionists Fight Over Defining Healthy Diet

Their job was simple: Define a healthy diet.

But when 21 of the top nutrition scientists in the world gathered in Boston last week to agree upon universal principles for sound eating, more than one described their final dinner together as a cage fight.

Paleo diet partisans called for more meat. Mediterranean diet advocates argued for olive oil. Low-fat faced off against high-fat. And on. And on.

“Ninety minutes into the meeting, we were still trying to agree what the hell a vegetable was,” said Dr. David Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. “That was a dark moment.”

Oldways, a food education non-profit based in Boston, had convened a two-day conference, including what turned into a four-hour dinner debate, to craft a single, clear message on healthy eating.

In the media, diet headlines flip-flop regularly — Butter is bad! No, good! No, bad! — leading to whiplash in the public and the perception that no two nutrition experts agree. Those experts worry consumers might not understand that for all the disputes, there are core principles for healthy eating, backed by solid evidence.

“We disagree about details, but we affirm that experts with very diverse perspective do have common ground,” said Katz, who co-chaired the Oldways Finding Common Ground Conference.

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