Intended for healthcare professionals


Are there bad foods or just bad diets?

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 17 May 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i2442
  1. M F Harris, professor of general practice and director1,
  2. R A Laws, research fellow2
  1. 1Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity (CPHCE) and Centre for Obesity Management and Prevention Research Excellence in Primary Health Care (COMPaRE-PHC), University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  2. 2Deakin University Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
  1. Correspondence to: M Harris m.f.harris{at}

Dietary patterns matter more than isolated food items, and that’s what we should be studying

We seem to be constantly assailed by media reports of studies and (sometimes conflicting) recommendations about the risk posed by specific dietary foods. This is a major challenge for clinicians, not only in responding to patients’ questions but also in giving advice about what diet to follow to lower the risk of disease.

The linked study by Borgi and colleagues (doi:10.1136/bmj.i2351) reports an association between potato consumption and hypertension in three large cohorts of women and men in the United States.1 Dietary intake was assessed using a questionnaire that included the frequency of potato consumption in the previous year in the form of baked, boiled, or mashed potatoes, French fries, and potato chips (crisps). Assessment of hypertension was self reported by participants but based on diagnosis by a health professional. …

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