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Am Fam Physician. 2015 May 1;91(9):634-8.

Nutrition myths and healthy dietary advice in clinical practice.

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Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute, Palo Alto, CA, USA.
Stanford Clinical Excellence Research Center, Stanford, CA, USA.
Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY, USA.


Healthy dietary intake is important for the maintenance of general health and wellness, the prevention of chronic illness, the optimization of life expectancy, and the clinical management of virtually all disease states. Dietary myths (i.e., concepts about nutrition that are poorly supported or contradicted by scientific evidence) may stand in the way of healthy dietary intake. Dietary myths exist about micronutrients, macronutrients, non-nutrients, and food energy. Representative myths of each type include that patients need to focus on consuming enough calcium to ensure bone health, dietary fat leads to obesity and is detrimental to vascular health, all fiber (whether naturally occurring or artificially added) is beneficial, and food calories translate to pounds of body weight through a linear relationship and simple arithmetic. A common theme for dietary myths is a reductionist view of diet that emphasizes selected food constituents as opposed to whole foods. Healthy dietary advice takes a more holistic view; consistent evidence supports recommendations to limit the consumption of ultraprocessed foods and to eat whole or minimally processed foods, generally in a form that is as close to what occurs in nature as possible. Family physicians can help dispel myths for patients and give sound nutritional advice by focusing on actual foods and broader dietary patterns.

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