by Kristina Lewis, MD
The results of this survey are certainly subject to limitations of its methodology, which is somewhat hard to assess with the available information on the surveyor’s website. For example, the wording of the survey questions was less than ideal in many cases and could have led to different interpretations by respondents. Additionally, there was no information provided on sampling strategy or whether they felt they got a group that was representative of the American public. Available co-variates were limited, probably due to brevity of the poll, and did not include any health-related data points such as weight status or chronic illnesses. The survey website highlights “statistically significant” responses in bold but does not specify which statistical test was used, the threshold for statistical significance, or what groups were being compared.
Despite the methodological limitations of this poll – which, in fairness, did not aim to be a peer-reviewed research study – it is interesting that most surveyed Americans were not remotely familiar with one of the most widely publicized aspects of the 2015 DGA. This may be reflective of the public’s fatigue with ever-changing recommendations of nutrition experts. Perhaps people are so tired of overhauling their diets every few years that they have just stopped listening? Or perhaps the guidelines were so vast that some of these changes simply didn’t register? Either way, it’s possible that the majority of Americans now think that they are eating healthy diets, report that they are not confused about topics such as dietary fat, and yet have apparently tuned out any updates from the nutrition science community. Moving forward, it will be important for experts to consider how to re-engage the public with this topic, streamline their messaging, and provide a clear justification for any changes in dietary recommendations (and this cannot just be “we got it wrong before”). Otherwise, all that Americans will hear when we speak is: “Wah wah wah, wah wah wah…..”