Have you been enjoying your red wine and dark chocolate every evening, amassing their health benefits along the way? Or have you been slowly subtracting days from your life via the same practice? It’s hard to know what to make of the torrent of health and nutrition advice that comes our way, and that’s the subject of this conversation on EconTalk.

We know that excessive drinking is bad for your health, as would be eating 10-12 pounds of broccoli everyday… But how can we determine “the right amount” of anything? To what extent are we able to change our body’s metabolic rate? Why couldn’t the contestants on The Biggest Loser keep the weight they lost on the show off?

1- The conversation begins with Melluz relating the Lancet article that concluded that the only safe number of drinks per day for ling term health was zero. Why doesn’t Belluz buy that conclusion, and how does this illustrate the general difficulty of figuring out the truth in epidemiology? Even if the Lancet conclusion is faulty, what can we learn from this study?

2- What does Belluz mean when she says,  “Our food environment here is a nightmare.” What are some of the subtle environmental cues that make you eat less or eat more? To what extent do you find you are able to control these cues?

3- How has your diet changed over time in response to health claims you’ve come across? Have you followed a particular course of advice, like that offered by Gary Taubes? What’s worked and/or not worked? Is Belluz’s skepticism regarding nutritional claims generally too much?

4- Roberts reminds us that, like the economy, nutrition is a complex system. How does Roberts draw an analogy from nutritional to policy intervention? What sort of unintended consequences do we inflict on our bodies, and how might these be mitigated?

“Are there any lessons for losing weight other than eating a little bit less every day?”