People are confused about diet and health, we often hear. One reason: the steady drumbeat of surprising news about the latest study—often about chocolate, cheese, sugar, ultra-processed foods, or some popular diet. Sometimes, it’s not a new study, but advice on news websites that muddies the picture. Here’s a sampling of the latest.

Screenshot of Fox news headline that says "be well: add an egg (or 3) to your daily diet for heart health"

“Eggs used to get a bad rap because of their high cholesterol content,” said the article on in February. “Yet a new study shows they may actually be good for heart health.”

The study, reported Fox, “found that eating one to three eggs per week could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 60%. Those who consumed four to seven eggs cut their risk of heart disease by 75%.”

Sounds impressive...until you read the study.

The researchers saw those 60 and 75 percent lower risks before they took into account the usual “confounders”—like smoking, weight, exercise, family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and saturated fat intake.

Once they accounted for those factors, egg eaters no longer had a lower risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other cardio­vascular “event” over 10 years.

What’s more, the study was done in Greece, where most people eat a Mediterranean diet. Even the most frequent egg eaters consumed only 4 to 7 eggs a week. Few, if any, were heeding advice to “add an egg (or 3) to your daily diet for heart health.”

Bottom line 

The cholesterol in egg yolks raises LDL (“bad”) blood cholesterol, but for most people, the saturated fat in foods like meat, cheese, and butter has a bigger impact on LDL. Follow the American Heart Association’s advice for most healthy people: Eat no more than one whole egg a day.

screenshot of NBC News headline that says "Intermittent fasting wasn't associated with weight loss over 6 years, a new study"

“When it comes to losing weight, how much food you eat likely matters more than the timing of your meals,” reported in January.

After 547 people used an app to record the size of their meals for six months, “the researchers did not find a link between weight change and the practice of limiting food intake to a specific time window—often referred to as intermittent fasting.”

Hold on. Were the participants practicing intermittent fasting?

On average, they finished their last meal 11½ hours after starting their first. It’s not clear if anyone limited their eating to the 8-hour window often used in trials that randomly assign people to restrict their eating time or eat whenever they want.

To its credit, NBC noted that “to better test whether intermittent fasting can help with weight loss...researchers have to directly compare people who limit their food intake to a specific window to those who do not in a controlled trial.” Indeed. (As it turns out, in most trials, people lose no more weight with intermittent fasting than with other diets.)

What did matter in the study? “Participants who ate the most large and medium meals gained weight over six years, whereas those who ate fewer, smaller meals lost weight,” noted NBC.

That’s a no one.

What’s more, the app didn’t ask people to record what foods they ate. The volun­teers only noted if they ate a “small” (under 500 calories), “medium” (500 to 1,000 calories), or “large” (over 1,000 calories) meal, along with “small” or “large” snacks and if we all can tell at a glance how many calories we’re eating.

Bottom line

If a narrow eating window helps you lose or not gain weight, go for it.

Screenshot of New York Post headline that says "Why eating more cheese- and other 'bad' foods- could be good for you"

“Feeling guilty about already ditching your New Year’s resolution to give up chocolate or cheese?” asked the New York Post in January.

“Fear not. Many foods we assume to be bad for us—including cheddar and candy bars—can actually provide our bodies with significant health benefits.”

Maybe. Maybe not. Take cheese.

“Those who consume cheese and full-fat dairy have also been found to lower their likelihood of developing diabetes or hypertension,” said the Post.

“A 2020 study—which surveyed more than 145,000 people in 21 countries—found consuming two daily servings of dairy of any kind reduced the risk posed by either condition by 11% to 24%.”

In fact, people in the study—it was partly funded by the dairy industry—who ate more than 2 servings a day had an 11 percent lower risk of hypertension and no significantly lower risk of diabetes compared to those who ate none.

And that type of study can’t be sure that something else about people who eat more dairy explains their lower risk, especially because 40 percent of the participants came from countries like China and Malaysia, where dairy is more likely to be eaten by people with higher incomes and better health care.

In contrast, when other researchers (also partly funded by the dairy industry) randomly assigned people with the metabolic syndrome (which can include high blood sugar or blood pressure) to eat roughly three daily servings of low-fat or full-fat dairy or not much dairy for 12 weeks, insulin sensitivity got worse in both daily dairy groups, and those told to eat full-fat dairy gained 2 pounds.

As for candy bars: “A study published in the journal BMJ Heart in 2017 found that those who consumed chocolate in small amounts—roughly once a week—were less likely to be diagnosed with atrial fibrillation,” noted the Post.

Again, that kind of study can’t prove that chocolate (rather than something else about the once-a-week eaters) explains their lower risk.

And when the COSMOS trial randomly assigned people to take a placebo or cocoa flavanols (chocolate’s presumed protective constituent) at doses far higher than you’d get in dark chocolate, there was no slam-dunk benefit for heart attacks and other cardiovascular events. (The study didn’t look at atrial fibrillation.) And candy bars are sugar-laden and chocolate-poor.

Bottom line

Enjoy some cheese or chocolate...but not because they’ll lower your risk of diabetes or heart problems.

Screen shot of CNN headline that says "Sleep this way to add almost 5 years to your life"

“Want to live longer? Then prioritize sleep in your life,” reported in February.

“Following five good sleep habits added nearly five years to a man’s life expectancy and almost 2.5 years to a woman’s life, a new study found.”

Did researchers see what happened after they told people to “prioritize” sleep or “follow good sleep habits”? Nope. They simply asked people if they:

  1. Slept for seven to eight hours a night,
  2. Had difficulty falling asleep no more than twice a week,
  3. Had trouble staying asleep no more than twice a week,
  4. Were not using any sleep medication, or
  5. Felt well-rested after waking up at least five days a week.

After four years, the scientists reported that those with all five “sleep habits” lived longer than those with one or none.

But are those five factors “sleep habits”?

That’s what a press release about the study called them. (The full study hadn’t been published yet.)

Is it a habit to have trouble staying asleep or to not feel well-rested when you wake up? What if sleep apnea, other causes of poor sleep, or something else about people who sleep less shortens lives?

“The good news is that you can easily train your brain to better sleep by following what is called good ‘sleep hygiene,’” said CNN.

To anyone who has trouble falling or staying asleep or feeling well-rested, that may seem a tad simplistic.

Bottom line

Limiting caffeine and alcohol or keeping your bedroom cool and dark may help you sleep. But will that sort of “good sleep hygiene“ add “almost five years to your life”? That’s a reach.

screenshot of GMA headline that says "'Keto-like' diet linked to higher risk of heart disease, new research shows"

“People who follow a ‘keto-like’ diet of high fat and low carbohydrate foods may be at greater risk for cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes, according to a new study,” reported in March.

“The study, presented over the weekend at the American College of Cardiology’s annual meeting, looked at over 300 participants who reported following a diet consisting of 25% or less of daily calories from carbohydrates and more than 45% of calories from fat.”

Presented at a meeting? In most cases (like this one), that means the full study hasn’t been published. So no one can thoroughly size it up.

Compared to roughly 1,200 people who ate more carbs, added GMA, “participants on a ‘keto-like’ diet had increased levels of LDL, or ‘bad’ cholesterol, and a higher risk of heart disease.”

To its credit, GMA noted that the study “only showed a correlation between a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet and elevated ‘bad’ cholesterol, not a direct link, indicating more research needs to be done.”

But the article left out some key facts. For example, it didn’t explain that the best way to see how a “keto-like” diet affects LDL—a primary goal of the study—would be a randomized trial that fed people a lower- or higher-carb diet and measured their LDL.

What’s more, neither GMA nor the study’s abstract mentioned what kind of fat the participants ate. It’s abundantly clear—from over 80 trials—that saturated fats raise LDL levels while unsaturated fats lower LDL.

And it’s no surprise that the “keto-like” eaters with higher LDL had a higher risk of heart disease. In numerous trials, lowering LDL (often with statins) cut the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and more.

Bottom line

Whether a “keto-like” diet raises LDL depends on whether you replace carbs with saturated fats (in meat, dairy, coconut oil, etc.) or with unsaturated fats (in nuts, fish, avocado, or other oils).

screenshot of CNBC headline that says "A Harvard nutritionist and brain expert says avoid these 5 foods to keep your 'memory and focus sharp'"

“Below are five foods to avoid if you want to keep your memory and focus sharp,” noted Dr. Uma Naidoo, a contributor to, in December.

  1. Highly processed oils are often extracted from soybeans, corn, rapeseed (the source of canola oil), cottonseed, sunflower and safflower seeds, and contain a lot of omega-6 fatty acids,” said CNBC. “Excess consumption of omega-6s can trigger the body to produce chemicals that can lead to inflammation in the brain.” Can it? CNBC links to advice from the UK’s National Health Service, which describes a mouse study. “The news coverage of this study might lead some people to believe that it proves that Omega 6 increases the risk of Alzheimer’s,” notes the NHS. “This is not the case for a number of reasons.” Among them: The study “did not involve mice or humans being fed fatty acids.”
  2. “A high sugar diet can lead to excess glucose in the brain,” and that “can cause memory impairments,” warned CNBC, which linked to a study that did memory tests  in rats fed a sugary diet starting early in life. Adult humans? Who knows?
  3. In a 2022 study, said CNBC, “participants who consumed high amounts of ultra-processed foods like baked goods and sodas were more likely to experience mild depression compared to those who consumed the least.” But that kind of study—a snapshot in time—can’t tell if the foods led to depression or vice versa.
  4. “When you use artificial sweeteners that have no nutritional value, they can increase ‘bad’ gut bacteria which can negatively affect your mood,” said CNBC, which linked to a study that doesn’t mention how sweeteners affect gut bacteria or mood.
  5. “A study of over 18,000 people found that a diet high in fried foods was linked to lower scores of memory and cognition,” said CNBC. But only when the study took a snapshot in time. Fried foods weren’t linked to cognitive decline over seven years.

Bottom line

Eat a heart-healthy diet to protect your brain. Stay tuned for the results of clinical trials testing diet and memory.

Screenshot of Fox News that says "Nutrition tips that make great sense and are delicious, too"

“As millions of Americans observe National Cancer Month in February, it’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest information on how to avoid the deadly disease,” told its readers. Some of its advice:

  • Sprouts. “A cup and a half of broccoli sprouts per day can reduce the chances of cancer by 50%,” Susan Smith Jones, a “California-based nutritionist and health expert,” told Fox. That’s a tad premature. Early clinical trials are only testing extracts on cell or gene changes in people with cancers like prostate, head, or neck.
  • Green vegetables. “All types of greens, such as spinach, kale, romaine, broccoli, turnips and collard greens, offer a bit of extra protection against cancer,” noted Fox. Maybe, but it’s not just greens. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), there is “probable” evidence that all “non-starchy vegetables” and fruit lower the risk of several cancers.
  • Tomatoes. “There’s no better fruit for men to eat than tomatoes in terms of preventing prostate cancer,” said Fox. “The nutrition lies in the tomato’s lycopene.” But as the National Cancer Institute notes, in the largest study done so far, blood lycopene levels were not linked to prostate cancer risk.
  • Green tea. “Green tea may not only help prevent cancer, but it also has antiviral and antibacterial properties,” said Fox. But according to the AICR, there is only “limited” evidence suggesting that green tea may lower the risk of bladder cancer and too little evidence to draw conclusions about other cancers.
  • Nuts & seeds. “Flax seeds provide a plethora of nutrients to help prevent cancer, such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E,” noted Fox. But in clinical trials, giving people omega-3s and vitamin E hasn’t cut their cancer risk.
Bottom line

Enjoy veggies, nuts, seeds, and tea. But beware of overly optimistic claims about foods that prevent cancer.

Screenshot of U.S. News headline that says "The healthiest chocolate breakfasts to try now"

“February is a month to celebrate your love of chocolate,” noted the U.S. News & World Report website in February.

“Your morning meal is great to enjoy whole-grain carbohydrates, fruit and other sources of simple carbohydrates, and even chocolate,” noted U.S. News. “One study reported in the journal Metabolism found that hormones for optimal carbohydrate metabolism peak in the morning.”

Got it. So what are some of U.S. News’s “best chocolates for breakfast”?

First up: Magic Spoon Cocoa Grain-Free Cereal, which has “no added sugar and just 4 grams net carbs.” Wait. It’s good to eat carbs in the morning so try a low-carb cereal?

Another “best” breakfast: Quest Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Protein Cookie. “Each 220-calorie cookie has and [sic] a whopping 15 grams of protein (the equivalent of 2.5 medium-sized eggs) and 12 grams of fiber (about 50% of the total fiber you need in a day) to keep my cravings and appetite in check.”

But that fiber is mostly processed soluble corn fiber, which counts as “fiber” only because it boosts calcium absorption. Looking for fiber to, say, curb your appetite? This cookie is unlikely to help.

And 15 grams of protein is high compared to an egg (6 grams), but not, say, to Greek yogurt (15 grams per 5 oz.) or Silk Original Protein (10 grams per cup). Also, it’s not clear if protein curbs appetite.

What happened to whole grains and fruit for breakfast?

You do get whole grains in two cereals on the list—KIND Soft Baked Dark Chocolate Chunk Chewy Granola Clusters and some other chocolate oatmeals. But U.S. News goes overboard.

“No one can argue how healthful oats and oatmeal is for your heart health, to keep weight in check, improve heart health, reduce risk for Type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer and much more.” Oats do help lower harmful LDL cholesterol. The rest? Too iffy.

Bottom line

Don’t believe everything you hear about chocolate, breakfast, or chocolate breakfasts. 

More behind the headlines