Nutrition Research 101 with Micaela Karlsen


Because TFF is so dedicated to science and approaching nutrition and lifestyle through an evidence-based lens, understanding and utilizing scientific research is absolutely essential to what we do. It’s also critical for maintaining reason and the anti-dogmatic and non judgmental perspective we believe in, and is integral to many of our episodes. We understand not everyone has training in things like statistics, study design, and interpreting research findings to make educated and practical decisions about health and nutrition, so we felt compelled to bring on an expert to help aid you in understanding this stuff better. It is our responsibility and duty as science educators to make a more science literate community. We want you to become badass #science warriors.

Today’s guest is perfect to aid us in this mission. Micaela Karlsen is in the final stages of her PhD at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, specializing in Nutritional Epidemiology. She holds a Masters of Science and Public Health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a Bachelors in Psychology from Cornell.


Micaela also co-launched the T. Colin Campbell Foundation, which is now known as the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, contributing to the creation and launch of the Plant-Based Nutrition Certification Course that is part of the center. She serves on the Expert and Medical Advisory Board for the International Plant-Based Nutrition Healthcare Conference and the board of directors for the Plant Based Prevention of Disease Conference. To top it all off, she founded the exceptional site, an online database of peer-reviewed, scientific research and other resources relevant to plant-based nutrition, as well as Habits of Health.

She recently wrote a book titled “A Plant Based Life” which is a strategic guide to practical plant-based living. Most importantly, however, she just finished teaching Jackson’s latest graduate school course, called “Nutrition Practice for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention”. We’re seriously honored to have her on the show.

Think of this episode as an undergraduate level lecture on the basics of scientific research as it applies to nutrition science. We discuss study design, pros and cons of meta-analysis, the process of reading and analyzing research papers, wading through and having a critical eye about health news in the media, and more. It will answer questions many of you have sent in regarding things like what makes a good study? What is a p-value? It was awesome, and will likely teach you a thing or two about thinking more like a scientist and help you as you learn more about nutrition.

Let us know what you think about the episode, and if you’d like us to bring Micaela back on for round 2, and go into more depth or go through more specific studies. We think this is a super important topic to share because it’s such a critical component to science literacy and understanding how to make conclusions about diet and lifestyle. Thanks for listening!

-Jackson and Aaron

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Show Notes

Connect with Micaela:

Book: A Plant-Based Life

Plant Based Research:

Twitter: @plantbasedresea

Laymen’s Guide to Reading Research Papers

Roadmap for Evaluating Health News

Studies Referenced:

Position Paper on Vegetarian/Vegan Diets

Adventist Health Study

Plant-Based Diets: A Physician’s Guide

Epic-Oxford Cohort Study

ADAPT Study (Micaela’s research)

Connect with TFF:
Thought For Food Club:

Music by: David Cutter Music –

One Reply to “Nutrition Research 101 with Micaela Karlsen”

  1. I went vegan for environmental reasons, inspired by my son. At 5, and after discussions about animal agriculture, he decided he didn’t want anything dying for his meals. That was over a year ago, and those discussions were with me. At a certain point I couldn’t have those chats and still consume animal products.

    At the time I was doing a course in health sciences, ready to begin physiotherapy training, and an unintended consequence was reading lots of scientific papers. I suddenly became a lot more discerning about my information sources. I was working as a bike messenger at the time (still am!), and realised I should look into how to properly fuel 30-50hr weeks on a bike – suddenly the blogosphere simply wasn’t enough, or at least, I wanted to hear from doctors and researchers themselves, as on this podcast!

    I wish I’d had this podcast back in those times – its like a cliff notes of research critique!

    Lets hope it reaches plenty of ears and encourages a higher critical judgment of information.

    (Though it turns out that the fueling loads of physical activity question was pretty simple in the end: eat lots and lots!)

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