Fads and Fallacies about Health and Nutrition

Avoid all saturated fats. This is not only foolish but close to impossible. However it is a handy way to disqualify those who issue such sweeping nonsense. Every one of your 50 trillion cell membranes needs enough saturated fat and cholesterol for a firm, protective surround and enough unsaturated fat for flexibility. It is the quality of your fats that is most critical and the proportion of one type of fat to another in relation to your body-type and symptoms.

Most foods which contain fat include some that is saturated. Olive oil for example is about 10% saturated fat. The type that deserves to be pilloried is the #1 source of saturated fat in the New Zealand diet: hydrogenated fat. Here the food industry takes a plant fat and over hours of high heat bubbles atoms of hydrogen through it to make it shelf-stable, and if desired, firm like butter. This is in most commercial cakes, biscuits, muesli bars, confectionary, pastry, snack foods; packet drinks, sauces, soups and more (often termed ‘vegetable oil’; see website TIPS page: The Fats of Life).

If you need a supplement such as vitamin C: the more the better. An excess of any vitamin or mineral (food or behaviour) will put something else out of balance. For example, high vitamin C lowers Zinc (TIPS) – as critical for immunity, healing and other tasks as vitamin C. This ‘bring out the big guns’ approach is the medical and military model and very useful when lives are threatened. But it is not conducive to daily life or treating long term or chronic conditions. By using small to moderate dosages of exactly the right supportive team players, you get a job done safely with many side benefits. Natural health practitioners who prescribe high doses – or more than about 3 bottles of Supplements (TIPS) – do not know how to prioritise effectively. They are just throwing rocks at the problem and hoping something hits it.

Follow the dietary advice your doctor gives you. In medical schools there is usually from zero to a few hours of nutrition training. Leave nutrition advice to those who specialise in the field.

If this health/nutrition/allergy advice was true surely my specialist would know about it. Most health professionals are caring and committed, but every human being has a bias (see next section). Scientists are particularly bombarded with research updates, conferences and continuing education within what have become highly specialised fields. Most do not know of, nor have time to discover the transformative findings in other, even associated areas. Busy medicos often rely on pharmaceutical reps to learn about new drugs, meal replacement powders and like products. Natural foods and nutrients can not be patented so they have no big profit lure for huge corporations. Synthetic components can be patented and are promoted instead.

All you need to know about health is on the internet. This might be true, but appropriate selection from among that galaxy of material is critical. Here are 3 key factors to consider.

1) Is the material credible? Check the author’s training; their experience – such as with large numbers of patients over many years; ongoing education; membership in related bodies that vet education, practice skills and ethics. Be wary of sweeping, unsubstantiated statements (see top section).

2) What is the authorship bias? Are they schooled only in the conservative medical model, which focuses on surgery, medications and the alleviation of symptoms such as pain (excellent for crisis management)? Or are they appreciative of the holistic model, which focuses on discovering the systemic cause of the problem and utilises the cumulative teamwork effect of many natural therapies such as diet, supplements and lifestyle (excellent for chronic conditions)? Among natural health practitioners, watch out for a rigid version of the one-diet (instead of one drug) fits-all approach. Do they suggest everyone needs to eat or avoid animal protein, grains or any other natural food; only eat raw food etc?

3) Does it suit your unique composite of factors? Among the sites that qualify well with points 1 and 2 there is still the question of which individual pieces of information will work optimally for you. For example should you eat high protein or low fat? You may need magnesium but in which form? Essential Fatty Acids: should you supplement with one or both? All this requires individual tailoring by a skilled nutritionist who takes your detailed history and uses numerous diagnostic methods.

Products with the Heart Foundation Tick are good for you. Well intentioned health agencies usually consider only a few aspects such as saturated fat and sodium content. Manufacturers therefore target these stipulations but disregard equally deserving factors. Eta Lite & Free Mayonnaise carries the Tick for being 98% fat-free. However it serves up 6 grams of sugar: about the same as a Toffee Pop. Kellogg’s Crispix cereal is 99% fat-free but 32% sugar: almost 10 grams in each serving; similar to a small glass of Coke. Some mainstream companies now make bread that is Gluten-free (TIPS) but full of highly processed sugars, starches, proteins and artificial additives. This kind of branding is a marketing deception. It motivates people to look for what is missing from a product rather than evaluating it in its wholeness – which is how it is eaten. Question similar assumptions: “My toiletries/cleaning agents/foods are natural because they state ‘hypo-allergenic’ or ‘no preservatives’.” READ ALL LABELS to check overall quality, not just one feature. Consumers have power. Everything you buy is intently monitored by industry. Their governing ideology is profit so that is how you will influence them. Eating is like voting 3 times a day.

You need milk for healthy bones. What a brilliantly successful ad campaign this has been. Marketers and lobbyists with big budgets have successfully implanted public and government mindsets with this false logic. Calcium is critical for bones: fact. Dairy products contain calcium: fact. Therefore everyone needs milk for their bones: falsity. Yale University researchers reviewed 34 published studies in 16 countries and found that countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis (weak bones) “…are those in which people consume the most milk”.

See TIPS for CALCIUM: A Marketing-Hype Success Story for the far higher food sources of calcium and the practices that maximise absorption and minimise loss. Another clever sales strategy has been to strip milk of (‘bad’) fat and add (‘good’) extra calcium from milk powder. Astoundingly, 100 litres of milk can be dried into 10 kilos of powder in one second. Imagine the intensity of heat involved. High heat creates damage in the form of oxidised fats, cross-linked proteins and glycated sugars (TIPS: Modern Milk). Fat isn’t the problem. It is the good guy/bad guy mindset that isolates and tackles one supposed problem, while creating many more (TIPS: The Dark Side of Science).

Soy is high in estrogen and will lead the men in your life to wear high heels. Yeah right. Anyone can be intolerant to any natural food. However, the populations of Japan and China suggest no large scale mating or fertility problems due to tofu. Phytoestrogens in soy (also high in linseed and legumes which don’t get demonised) can help prevent hormonal imbalances (TIPS: Soyburban Myths). Phytoestrogens (meaning plant-based) can lodge in hormone sensitive receptors such as in breast and prostate and block the stimulation of abnormal growth by the real manipulators. These are the excess internally produced estrogens, and the external mimics or xenoestrogens (meaning from outside sources).

For evidence of gross ‘estrogenation’, turn to Professor Sumpter’s work at Brunel University, UK. He and scientists elsewhere have exhibited male fish with testes overgrown with eggs, and crocodiles with penises so small they cannot mate. The cause: Chemicals (TIPS) in waterways from the likes of detergents, plastics; oral contraceptive and HRT residues. These insidious hormone disruptors are a likely contributor to the growing incidence of low Fertility (TIPS) in both men and women. The highest food source of xenoestrogens – fat soluble so they get stored in animal and human fat – are high-fat forms of modern dairy products followed by beef. An incontrovertible way of producing your own excess estrogen – whether male or female – is to be overweight or under-muscled. Body fat produces estrogen. Alcohol (TIPS) too can raise levels in as little as 10 minutes after the equivalent of half a glass of wine.

Animal protein is bad because it is acidic; rice and potatoes are bad because they are high carb/GI. One natural food may contain thousands of constituents with many, often contrasting qualities. The sum experience of each meal will be characterised by more than just one of its parts. Meals usually include more than one food. So meat or fish accompanied with lots of salad can be alkaline. Or a small amount of rice or potato served with sufficient protein, a little fat and other regulating factors (soluble fibre, vinegar, crunchiness etc) will be low GI: sushi is an example.

In school people learn to memorise fixed answers. This holds true regarding the capital of Brazil but not as to whether you should eat brazil nuts, how often or how many. While some people are keen to find absolutes of ‘evil’, others look for ‘saviours’ like acai berries, resveratrol, or detoxing as the ultimate answer. Yet how many absolutes are there in life compared to how many grey areas? The answer to most health and nutrition questions is, “It depends”.

Small amounts of any one food or drink can’t possibly be harmful. For most people, most of the time, balancing dietary factors (such as above with protein and carbs) provides sufficient management. However you will also experience periods (few absolutes, remember) when you must take particular care or painful consequences ensue. If you took cocaine, rat poison or chemotherapy drugs would they have no effect because the amounts were small? If you have a wound on your arm and scratch it each day how well will it heal? It can be the same intestinally. Small amounts of poorly tolerated food can be enough to maintain Inflammation; poor absorption of nutrients; impaired immunity, metabolic and Sex Hormone levels; troubled Moods and exhausting toxicity (TIPS). Work with your clinically assessed list of substances to avoid and experience the difference. When sufficient Gut repair (TIPS) is accomplished these can usually be reintroduced on an occasional basis.

The real treat is not to overindulge, but to feel great. When a food or drink is had occasionally rather than consistently, enjoyment can be heightened as it is savoured more rewardingly. Eating happens as much in the mind as in the mouth (TIPS: Your Weight).

Maria Middlestead Reg.Clinical Nutritionist, Auckland Call Today!

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