Is Bacon the Enemy of Good Health? Five Herbalife Nutrition Experts Weigh in On the Findings of a New Study

March 21, 2017

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) singles out 10 foods and nutrients that, when over or under consumed, may contribute to almost half of all deaths in the United States. According to the study, we are not eating enough nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables, whole grains and some seafood while at the same time we’re over consuming salt, processed meats and sugary drinks. The research is based on U.S. government data and national health surveys that asked participants about their eating habits.

Five Herbalife experts in nutrition and nutrition policy have shared their opinions on the new study.


David Heber, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.S.N., chairman, Herbalife Nutrition Institute

My general advice to the public is based on nutritional context. A handful of almonds after a workout are fine as a snack but eating peanuts out of a dish at a bar in the company of wine or scotch is a different context and is a form of unconscious eating and blind snacking. As far as bacon is concerned, bacon bits in a salad are different than two slices of bacon and a Spanish omelet with two pieces of buttered toast. I do believe that there are “trigger foods” based on fMRI evidence, which doesn’t make the food bad, but does say something negative about the behavior of the dieters that needs to be countered.


Andrew Shao, Ph.D., vice president, Global Government Affairs

In my view, the overall dietary pattern is what is most important. Yes, “good” diets tend to incorporate many of the foods and ingredients associated with positive health benefits. But too much of anything can be harmful. While well intentioned, the reductionist approach of demonizing or glamorizing specific nutrients or foods is a slippery slope, which tends to be inaccurate in the long run, and one we should avoid.


Susan Bowerman, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., F.A.N.D., director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training

I agree with my colleagues that both context and overall dietary patterns need to be considered. I understand that demonizing certain foods and ingredients CAN be a slippery slope, but – on the other hand – I’ve also never been totally comfortable with the “everything fits/variety, balance, moderation” approach, either, because it can be an equally slippery slope.


The “everything fits” approach suggests that you can eat a fast food lunch and then somehow “balance it out” with a healthy lunch and dinner. While that may look fine on paper, I’ll bet few people actually eat that way. I would expect that someone who chooses a fast food lunch is going to look for something pretty similar for dinner, and that someone who chooses yogurt and fruit for breakfast is unlikely to hit the drive-through at lunchtime.


Simon Sum, D.C.N., R.D.N., A.C.S.M.-C.P.T., F.A.N.D., manager, Product Science, Worldwide R&D and Scientific Affairs

In my opinion, different nutrients have different functions, and too much or too little of a specific nutrient intake will not do good to our body. Therefore, a “good” food or “bad” food approach may not be ideal. It is important for people to learn about what a healthy diet should be and take action to change their eating behavior. High sugar, high salt and large/ uncontrolled portion sizes are some common problematic issues nowadays. Besides, diet alone cannot make us healthy, an active lifestyle with regular physical activity is equally important to maintain a healthy weight, improve our body composition and thus prevent a wide range of health problems.


Dana Ryan, Ph.D., M.A., senior manager, Sports Performance and Education

I think that as Simon said you cannot eliminate physical activity and lifestyle from this equation. You may have the “healthiest” diet but if you never exercise you will not be optimizing your health. Also, I think from a psychological perspective, focusing on good vs. bad is not the best approach. With a list of “bad” foods you can end up focusing on the things you can’t have, which can become frustrating and counterproductive.

Ultimately small, incremental changes in eating habits and physical activity are the key to long-term lifestyle change. Focusing on eliminating or adding a few foods most likely won’t result in helping you achieve your desired outcome.