November 15, 2018 | David F. Coppedge

Health Advice Keeps Changing

Many things the experts told us were good for us or bad for us have “evolved” – sometimes into opposite counsel.

Health is of huge concern in science, because the only organisms doing science are human beings. We can watch what happens to us and others when we eat certain things. This should be one of the easiest, most repeatable subjects in science. Why can’t the experts get it right?

Components of heart healthy diet may differ from what was previously thought (Medical Xpress). Dairy products and meat are back on the table. Much of the advice from a huge study of 218,000 people from 50 countries remains, like limiting carbohydrates, but meat and dairy is OK again. “Our results appeared to apply to people from different parts of the world and so the findings are globally applicable.”

Vitamin D—a pseudo-vitamin for a pseudo-disease (Medical Xpress). It wasn’t long ago that the media strongly encouraged most of us to take vitamin D:

We are still in love with vitamins a century after they were discovered, with half the US and UK population taking a supplement. Vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin – is the favourite and is believed to have the most proven benefits. Governments, including the UK government, have said that the evidence for vitamin D’s health benefits is so overwhelming that every adult should take it as a supplement for at least six months of the year.

Now, that advice is being called into question by a study involving 500,000 participants. Vitamin D’s alleged benefits to strengthen bones seems spurious. Scientists don’t know how to characterize vitamin D deficiency. Some are not even sure it should be called a vitamin at all.

We have created another pseudo-disease that is encouraged by vitamin companies, patient groups, food manufacturers public health departments and charities. Everyone likes to believe in a miracle vitamin pill and feels “they are doing something”.

How vitamin D and fish oil affect risk of heart attack, stroke and cancer (Medical Xpress). After reading the previous article, here’s one to confuse you again. Another big study is trying to figure out if vitamin D and fish oil really do some good. So before taking them off your daily supplement routine, wait for this study to see if these popular pills actually have some science behind their purported benefits (or not).

Massive trial shows limited value for popular supplements (Nature). The world’s leading journal weighs in on the controversy, saying, “No evidence found to indicate that vitamin D and fish oil fight cancer.” Both popular supplements also failed to show any benefit for preventing heart disease. This from a 5-year controlled trial involving 25,000 healthy men and women in their fifties and older.

Is a low carb diet dangerous? (Medical Xpress). Athletes and the health conscious assiduously cutting their carbs to get fit might want to reconsider. Low carb diets might not only be useless; they could even be dangerous.

Pasta. Sourdough. Mashed potatoes. If you are one of the legions of dieters out there who have been religiously cutting carbs in an attempt to get lean and fit, you may be surprised by a recent study that showed that low carb diets may not be healthy after all. In fact, they may be unsafe.

Research presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Germany found that diets very low in carbohydrates may actually increase the risk of premature death over time. Yikes.

Read the article to see why this is. Those tempted by the low-carb fad sometimes compensate by eating too much fat.

Can chocolate, tea, coffee and zinc help make you more healthy? Scientists discover new protection against oxidative stress (Science Daily). Chocolate and caffeine used to be twin bogeymen of a poor diet. This article resuscitates them somewhat, arguing that adding zinc to the polyphenols in these foods could have a beneficial effect.

No such thing as sugar highs, says pediatric endocrinologist (Medical Xpress). Parents who wish to argue with this expert might have to reconsider whether it’s really the sugar that makes kids hyper. It might be the excitement of Halloween candy and birthday parties that is doing it – not the sugar.

It’s a myth,” said Elizabeth Rosolowsky, a pediatric endocrinologist in the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.

“Parents may observe more energy in their kids after eating sugar, but it’s one of those self-fulfilling notions—a belief that comes true because we are acting like it’s true,” she said.

Rosolowsky busts another myth, that sugar causes diabetes. It’s not the sugar, but the excess of carbs that gets stored as fat that predisposes some to become diabetics, she says.

Food activates brown fat: How brown adipose tissue reacts to a carbohydrate-rich meal (Science Daily). Not all fat is bad. Brown fat is the “good fat,” experts think, because it produces energy instead of just storing it. The question is how to activate it. Believe it or not, exposure to cold, or a meal of carbohydrates, might be the key. Read the article before trusting it; the bottom line is that “further studies” are needed.

Update 11/16/18: An article on Science Daily basically admits that scientists still do not know if dietary fat is good or bad.

Jonathan Wells jokes in Zombie Science about evolving dietary advice. He likes eggs, but remembers when the experts all said that eggs are bad for you. Now, they are respectable again. He didn’t stop eating eggs, but now can feel less guilty about it. Have you had a similar experience? You try to eat what’s healthy, only to find out that something you believed was good for you is actually bad for you, or vice versa. Years ago the government pushed the “Food Pyramid.” It was posted in most schools. Recently, scientists exposed special interests behind the iconic diagram, and some think the pyramid should be inverted.

If scientists cannot be sure about something as close to home as our bodies and our health, how can they pontificate about what the world and the universe were doing millions and billions of years ago? Let this be a lesson about science; it is always tentative. You can count on future findings to overturn some of the things that are taught as gospel truth today.

In the meantime, it’s probably best to trust some of your common sense. Eat a variety of foods, don’t eat anything to excess, exercise as well as watching your diet, avoid fads, and remember that attitude is probably just as important as what you eat.

 

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