Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thinking matters, even in Condé Nast magazines

I'm on a quest to get healthier despite my programmer ways, and I do a fair bit of researching. To that end, I review medical literature from databases like PubMed/Medline, and look for the reasons supporting or conflicting with pop-culture (including government) recommendations.

In my perusing, I came across a nutritional site about the Fructose content of various foods, operated by SELF Magazine.  That's good, because fructose acts like alcohol to the liver, leading to cirrosis, insulin resistance and diabetes, which is bad.

SELF is one of those Condé Nast periodicals aimed squarely at the well-off-but-otherwise-insecure-young-female crowd.  I'm trying to limit the intake of high fructose foods in my lifestyle, and if is informative to hot, wealthy, young women surely I can use it too.

Except it doesn't matter if we guys have almost all the same genes as gals and fructose doesn't seem to respect any of the differences...

...because as presented the site offers utterly bogus information. In fact, the data is often upside-down.

Let's take a look and make some conclusions based on the site's rankings:

  • Molasses has half the fructose content of iceberg lettuce
  • Applesauce is ranked higher (worse) than honey
  • Plums and onions are almost the same
  • Celery is at #179, within the top 200, having 6.4 grams of Fructose
  • Cabbage is ranked higher than Raisin Bran cereal

By ranking the foods based on a fixed calorie count, rather than on a realistic volume or weight basis, the Condé Nast list implies utterly terrible lifestyle advice. It can't be that hard to figure out that foods like cabbage contribute a tiny amount of fructose to the diet.   People who rely upon SELF for nutritional information are not at all well-served by such a poorly designed guideline. Clearly, the folks over at Condé Nast aren't very serious about presenting good nutritional information to women.

If I were Sarah Chubb (president of Condé Nast Digital) I'd order the nutrition site taken down immediately and replace the person who had editorial responsibility for it.  Chubb should find people who can reason quantitatively, and think about the content, not just about how it is presented.

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