The Bad Food Bible

Book review: The Bad Food Bible

I first heard about this book in a food-related podcast (can’t remember which one). The full name of the book – The Bad Food Bible: How and Why to Eat Sinfully – was totally unappealing to me but somehow the book showed in my Audible list of suggestions and I decided to give it a listen.

The book was written by paediatrician Aaron Carroll. I have some bias against doctors who think they know more about nutrition than everyone else, especially knowing that they don’t get much nutrition education in uni. However, I decided to chill out and just listen to what he had to say.

Turns out that Carroll is not a regular doctor. He does not rely on textbook information that is taken as gospel even though is based on outdated or unreliable research.

In this respect, the most valuable takeaway of The Bad Food Bible for the lay reader/listener is that not all studies are created equal. The author explains in an approachable way how to critically appraise a research depending on the study design (e.g. randomised controlled trial > observational study), the study subjects (e.g. humans > mice), etc. I think this is important information that everyone should be aware of because of the way research gets portrayed (and sometimes misrepresented) in the media.

For the bulk of the book, Carroll talks the foods/ingredients that are generally considered as poison. These foods tend to be highly controversial and polarising. One of the reasons the author gives is the fact that there is research published for and against many foods. He cites the article Is everything we eat associated with cancer? A systematic cookbook review, in which the authors selected 50 ingredients from a cookbook and found that 40 of them were associated with cancer risk. The problem is that associations went in both directions, i.e. increased or decreased risk and that evidence was weak or non-statistically significant for most of the studies.

The author also mentions other sources of noise in research, including researcher bias, the placebo/