Common Ground: What the World’s Top Nutrition Experts Agree On
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From Naomi Imatome-Yun,
February 2016

It turns out there is a lot of agreement between the world’s top nutrition experts, even though they come from very different philosophies and methodologies.

Learn more about the Common Ground consensus here.

Some of the world’s top nutrition scientists and experts came together at the Oldways Finding Common Ground conference in Boston at the end of last year. The lineup of twenty experts comprised the best of the best, including researchers, scientists, and doctors from Stanford, Harvard, and Cornell Universities. The co-chairs were Dr. Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health and Dr. David Katz, founding director of the Yale Prevention Research Center. Despite widely divergent philosophies ranging from Paleo to vegan to Mediterranean, this array of luminaries reached a consensus on some basic points of healthy eating.

Organized by nutrition nonprofit Oldways, the goal of the conference was to gather the world’s top nutrition scientists into one place, let them discuss, and ask them to reach a consensus on good nutrition. Given the current climate of sensationalized media headlines, there couldn’t be a better time to cut through all the pseudo-science and nutrition confusion. This confusion helps sell diet pills, plans, and magazines, but it doesn’t offer any practical help to people.

It turns out there is a lot of agreement between the world’s top nutrition experts, even though they come from very different philosophies and methodologies. Co-chair Dr. Willett stated:

“The foods that define a healthy diet include abundant fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes and minimal amounts of refined starch, sugar and red meat, especially keeping processed red meat intake low. When you put it all together, that’s a lot of common ground.”

Besides a plant-centered diet, the scientists and nutrition experts also agreed that sustainability is important:

“Food insecurity cannot be solved without sustainable food systems. Inattention to sustainability is willful disregard for the quality and quantity of food available to the next generation, i.e., our own children.” Even Boyd Eaton, one of the founders of the Paleo diet movement, stated: “Red meat is incompatible with environmental health in a sustainable world. We need a diet that equals the nutrition of our Paleo ancestors, but is sustainable.”

The expert group also agreed on some other key topics, including these core principles:

  • Nutrition advice should be free of politics
  • Finding common ground among experts is important for public health
  • The basics of good nutrition don’t change every time a new study makes the headlines
  • Accurate reporting by health journalists is important
  • Food literacy is important

Learn more about the Common Ground consensus here.

Naomi Imatome-Yun is the managing editor of Forks Over Knives. She has been a food, health, and wellness editor for over 15 years, and her work appears in USA Today, Dining Out, and Art Culinaire. Naomi is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author, and was a food expert for for 8 years. 

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