How to judge a health practice

A diet, or any other practice or therapy (supplements, drugs, surgeries, meditation, sleep practices, exercise, etc.), should be judged on three dimensions:

  • What are the potential benefits?
  • How probable is it that those benefits are real?
  • How practical is it to follow?

What are the potential benefits?

There are a variety of benefits that you could hope to gain by a diet, or by any other practice or therapy.

Possible benefits include protection against various diseases or ills, or the treatment or cure of a disease that has already beset you (and count obesity as a disease that may, or already has, beset you).

Another possible benefit is longer life—or better longer youth. Rather than living longer while aging at the same rate, what we really want is to age slower.

We’re looking for the big wins. We’ll try to direct your attention to things that have great potential. Life’s too short for small wins.

How probable is it that those benefits are real?

Some things are long shots. In fact, most things are long shots. If you can find a therapy or practice which has a good probability of offering real benefits, you should recognize that as quite different from almost all ideas which are alleged to improve health.

We’ll try not to waste time investigating ideas that don’t have solid evidence behind them—that are mere speculation. There are too many.

How practical is it to follow?

For most of us, no matter how wonderful the potential benefits are, and even if it is probable that they are real, we’re not really going to follow through with something if it is too time-consuming, uncomfortable, or incompatible with the other parts of how we live.

Practicality matters! The only health practice that is going to benefit you is one that you can live with, day after day, for the long-term. We’ll focus on things you really can do in your own life.

How to judge a health practice

If a proposed health practice falls short in any of these three dimensions, then you shouldn’t invest your precious time and resources in pursuing it. If a health practice excels in all three dimensions, then it is a rare and valuable thing that you should actively investigate. In these pages we hope to persuade you that we’ve spotted an idea of that kind.

2 Replies to “How to judge a health practice”

  1. You could also judge the risks, for example diets based around high-PUFA vegetable oils, or fructose, or that avoid some essential micronutrient, probably seem less desirable today than they might have done in the 1970s.
    I am thinking of what itsthewoo said about ketosis today: "The best thing that can happen is it HELPS, the worst thing that can happen is they don't eat any candy or chips or soda for a few weeks."

  2. Hi George. Thank you for the comment. Your suggestion is really a good one — health practices come with risks as well as rewards.

    I guess our plan is to document the various ways that a keto diet is *not* risky (see the "Myths" section of this site, which is really just a placeholder for all the content that we hope to write there someday! http://www.ketotic.org/p/myths.html ).

    I like the snappy quote from itsthewoo. ☺ Of course, marshalling all the evidence to justify the claim that this is the worst that could happen… that's a lot of work.

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