Role of staple cereals in human nutrition: separating the wheat from the chaff in the infodemics age
Background: Staple cereals always have been important dietary components, yet recent debates on their role in human diets are riddled with myths and misinformation. Scope and approach: This article examines the informational controversies, particularly about wheat, and reviews the evidence. The discussion centers on three nutritional cereal debates: i) ‘empty calories’, ii) over-consumption, and iii) how ‘free-from’ fads confound dietary transitions. Key findings and conclusions: This article makes two principal points, that i) advances in nutrition are a complex, slow process, and that ii) they can be easily confounded and undone by misinformation. Hence we suggest that more consumer-oriented work is needed—including behavioral approaches and political economy—in order to improve the quality of information, communication and dietary decision making. There is a clear need to tackle nutritional misinformation given the costs of inaction and the need to formulate a coherent agri-nutrition agenda.