Palo Alto Medical Foundation Newsroom

Nutrition Myths & Healthy Dietary Advice in Clinical Practice

American Academy of Family Medicine publishes
PAMF, Stanford, Einstein College of Medicine study findings

Much of the dietary information presented as fact is actually myth, according to an article co-authored by a researchers at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute (PAMFRI), Stanford and Albert Einstein College of Medicine. An article describing the study findings, is published in the May 1 issue of  American Family Physician, the American Academy of Family Physician’s peer-reviewed and evidence-based clinical journal for physicians and others in primary care.

The researchers studied dietary myths about vitamins and minerals (micronutrients); carbohydrates, proteins, and fats (macronutrients); dietary fibers; and how calories relate to weight loss. They found that the best diets share common features and a consistent theme: limit ultra-processed foods and eat whole or minimally processed foods – as close to what occurs in nature as possible.

Lenny Lesser, M.D.

Lenny Lesser, M.D.

“Myths usually take a simplified view of eating, and emphasize a focus on select food constituents as opposed to whole foods,” said Lenard Lesser, M.D., MSHS,  a family medicine physician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) and research physician at PAMFRI. “For instance, if people consume ultra-processed foods that are altered, to add calcium and fiber and/or to remove saturated fats and calories, they will not necessarily be healthier, as myths imply. What we conclude is that dietary myths may stand in the way of healthy dietary choices for patients.”

Among the findings discussed in the article are:

  • Diets higher in fat may produce and sustain as much or more weight loss than lower-fat or calorie-restricted diets, and diets higher in saturated fat do not necessarily increase mortality.
  • Fibers added to processed food do not have the health benefits of foods naturally high in fiber like fruits and vegetables.
  • Eating 3,500 calories less per week will not result in losing a pound of body fat per week.

This new research supports recommendations for people to limit the consumption of ultra-processed foods and to eat whole or minimally processed foods – generally in a form that is as close to what occurs in nature as possible.

“Physicians can help dispel myths for patients and give sound nutritional advice by focusing on actual foods and broader dietary patterns,” said Dr. Lesser.

The research was conducted by Lenard Lesser, M.D., MSHS, PAMF Research Institute, Mary Carol Mazza, Ph.D., PAMF Research Institute and Stanford Clinical Excellence Research Center, and Sean Lucan, M.D., MPH, MS, Albert Einstein College of Medicine.