Disease Proof

Food Research Revealed

Ever wonder what’s involved in food research? Well look no further. Stephen Smith of The Boston Globe examines the process:
Now, gold-standard studies into food and its effects on our health require culinary mastery rivaling anything whipped up by a five-star restaurant, with dietitians spending months perfecting research menus that are both palatable and scientifically sound. (That means, for instance, not including too many olives or too much tarragon. People, it turns out, don't want olives and tarragon every day.)

Then there are the volunteers. They must pledge to never indulge their weaknesses and to always clean their plates, and, along the way, yield samples of blood, stool, or urine to measure the consequences of a particular vitamin or a whole diet.

"All of a sudden, you can't grab your favorite food anymore. They hate us because we did that to them," said Helen Rasmussen, a gregarious dietitian at Tufts whose job is to make science tasty. "I ask them how they respond to nagging from their mother -- at least they appreciate the warning."

Typically, the studies begin with a well-informed hunch. Researchers might know, for instance, that a certain nutrient has been shown in the lab or anecdotally to provide a health benefit.
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