Episode 3: Christopher Gardner, Ph.D. - Balancing scientific rigor and generalizability in research

DR. Christopher Gardner, Ph.D.

In this conversation, we talk about the importance and difficulty in research in balancing scientific rigor and generalizability. We delve into the many nutrition avenues he's examined, and we discuss the common ground in varying dietary regimes.

Dr. Christopher Gardner is a professor of Medicine at Stanford University, and for the past 25 years has been studying different nutritional aspects of health and disease; running rigorous (and generalizable!) nutrition research studies. His goal is to help individuals eat for optimal health, so he not only looks into what foods to eat and which to avoid, but also what motivational factors are inherent in making these dietary choices and how to encourage better ones. 

In our conversation, we talk about the many different nutrition aspects he's examined in research- the "what to eat/what not to eat" common ground in varying dietary regimes, and the main challenges with running nutrition research studies.

Show notes:

0:20 - His evolution into academia (it was a fascinating one!)

6:30 - Why he moved from epidemiological studies to Randomized Control trials. 

9:10 - The balance between scientific rigor and generalizability - how science is sometimes difficult. Garlic study example- knowing the answer to "Is garlic good for me?", is not necessarily what a study result shows.

18:55 - What he strives for when designing and running a study- rigor or generalizability?

19:45  - How he balances rigor and generalizability in a study.

21:30 - Challenges of research trials and how to make a generalizable study more rigorous.

28:00 - Study looking at Atkins, Zone, and LEARN with weight loss- A look at variability.

31:00 - Underlying principles most researchers agree upon in nutrition. If someone was to ask him which food is best for health, what would he say?

36:00 - His collaboration with Justin and Erica Sonnenberg and the microbiome addition to their studies.

45:00 - Different types of diets and headlines- Tsimane, Virta, and Omada. 

48:00 - His heuristics to food choice, and meal from the previous day.