All the news that’s fit to eat: Top Nutrition Stories of 2013

I know, I know, it’s that time (at the end) of the year when everyone’s doing best/worst/something-ist lists.

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But 2013 was a year full of important food and nutrition news, so I’d be remiss if I let us party into 2014 without a quick look back at some key stories.

Multi-vites are a multi-fail

Several studies released toward year’s end reached a similar conclusion: multi-vitamins don’t do much to prevent disease, and we’re probably just wasting our money.

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To be fair, there are contrarians who take issue with study(ies) design and continue to recommend multi-nutrient supplements. But my opinion still follows those of most dietetics experts, which is that even the vegetable-poor, fat-and-sugar-rich standard American diet provides adequate amounts of the majority of nutrients, and over-consumption of some nutrients can actually do you harm. Personally, I’ll keep taking specific nutrient supplements to plug gaps where needed, but I’ll continue to forgo the multi.

Too much of a good thing: omega-3 fatty acids

Maybe you’ve noticed how omega-3 fatty acids are cropping up in everything short of envelopes.

Full disclosure: this is from our pantry

Full disclosure: this is from our pantry

Well, research from Oregon State University suggests we should be cautious about getting too much of a good thing, because high omega-3 FA intake from multiple sources (say, a supplement, plus fish, plus fortified foods) could alter the function of the immune system in negative ways. If you’re already eating a lot of omega-3-rich foods, you might consider laying off the fish oil pills.

Steer clear of dia-meat-es

Wow, sorry, lots of punning there. But hopefully it draws attention to the findings of several studies this year, which showed that meat-heavy diets increase our risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. So even if you’re not going to go full-bore vegetarian like me, it’s probably a good idea to cut back your meat intake. Need a place to start? Meatless Monday is a relatively easy, one-day-a-week way to make a difference.

Transparency prevailed while ag-gag laws failed

In response to an increasing number of high-profile, disturbing videos of livestock conditions produced by animal-rights organizations, industry organizations went into high gear trying to get laws passed that would criminalize those kinds of videos. But as NPR’s The Salt blog explains, not one of 15 ag-gag bills filed in 11 U.S. states passed in 2013, thanks to the coordinated grass-roots efforts of people opposed to those bills. The upshot is good news for livestock animals, and good news for people who eat them – the more transparency we have, the safer our food supply is.

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The Farm Bill (or lack thereof)

The U.S. legislature has spent more than a year bickering and dithering about renewing the Farm Bill, which is putting farmers in limbo, threatening to cause big price spikes at the grocery store, and treating poor, hungry people like ping pong balls. The House and Senate can’t agree on how many billions of dollars they’d like to cut from SNAP (aka food stamps), or what to do about catfish inspections, so we’re going into 2014 without a new bill to guide farm subsidies or aid programs.

What do you think were the top nutrition stories of 2013? Stay tuned in 2014, because nutrition news & science are ever-evolving!

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