health food nutrition LabelTo help Americans bombarded with multiple messages on what constitutes healthy eating, Oldways — the non-profit nutrition organization best known for creating the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid and the Whole Grain Stamp — will organize Finding Common Ground in Boston on November 17 and 18. The two-day summit will ask an international group of top nutrition scientists and medical experts to come to a consensus on the healthiest, most sustainable ways of eating.

With scientific co-chairs, Dr Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health, and Dr David Katz, Founding Director of the Yale Prevention Research Center, the conference will bring together scientific and medical experts on diets ranging from Paleo to Vegan, and Gluten-free to Low-GI, to agree on a common core of nutrition facts.

As Harvard’s Nutrition Chair, Dr Willett emphasizes that the discussion will be grounded in science. “Our goal is to carefully evaluate the flood of new scientific and, sometimes pseudo-scientific, information coming out from all directions and craft a unified message about eating well.”

The conference’s goal is to make clear recommendations to alleviate the confusion that is rampant among Americans. “Consumers need to understand that it’s not chocolate for breakfast or wine at bedtime that will help them live a long, healthy life or lose weight — despite the headlines they see daily. Basic principles of good eating and nutrition are widely shared by many cultures,” says Sara Baer-Sinnott, President of Oldways. “This ground-breaking summit is a way of determining where we find common ground and then uniting scientists and journalists in a positive campaign for better health.”

Finding Common Ground will also evaluate the role of the media in contributing to Americans’ health and nutritional information and misinformation, with leading journalists in the industry contributing to the discussion on how — and why — nutrition messages get distorted.

The conference is the first to work with the media to identify tools by which journalists can educate themselves before disseminating news to the public. “We also want to address ways the media can cover new research going forward, without getting caught up in sensationalism and fads,” says Baer-Sinnott.

Additional participants in the conference will include scientists such as Dr Dean Ornish of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute and prominent media such as Dr Kathleen Zelman of WebMD, as well as experts from Princeton, Stanford, Cornell, Tufts, Emory and the Universities of Toronto, Athens and Navarra. Also presenting will be speakers from Boston Children’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine.