Cognitive Dissonance: “an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously.”
When faced with facts that are hard to explain or inconvenient, many of our leading health experts take an approach of willfully sticking their fingers into their ears or repeating their pet theory over-and-over, as if that will make it true. Unfortunately this approach doesn’t advance our knowledge and understanding and limits our ability to deal with many modern day health problems.
Below are a few examples where conventional wisdom doesn’t seem to match all of the facts.
“Eating 6-11 servings of bread, rice, and cereal each day is part of a healthy diet.”
So maybe the folks at the USDA didn’t get the memo that diabetes is on the rise. Let me explain. We know that when we digest certain foods (carbohydrates), they are converted primarily into sugars. These sugars cause a rapid rise in blood glucose levels, which leads to a release of insulin. Over time, your body can lose the ability to produce enough insulin to handle the glucose, and this can lead to diabetes and/or a range of nasty health problems (see this previous post).
Do we really need to eat 6-11 servings per day of grain carbohydrates or can we find healthier alternatives?
“Saturated fats clog your arteries.”
If this is correct, please help me with the following:
If you are skinny, “normal”, or overweight, your body stores many excess calories you ingest as fat. This body fat is created not just from dietary fat, but from all of those heart-healthy carbohydrates you ate. Care to guess how your body stores much of the fat? As Saturated Fat!
Now, suppose you want to lose a few pounds? Are you being told not to lose that fat because it will “clog your arteries?” I didn’t think so because that would be really BAD advice.
Well guess what? That stored saturated fat is going to be metabolized the same as the saturated fat you ate.
Perhaps we need to trust the wisdom of our bodies (and millions of years of evolutionary adaptation) and realize that saturated fat (stored or digested) isn’t likely the cause of clogged arteries.
“Statins save lives by lowering serum cholesterol levels.”
Since conventional wisdom tells us that high cholesterol is the cause of heart disease (a topic for a future post), we can be thankful that our generation has been blessed with a class of pharmaceuticals called statins. Statins are proven to reduce “LDL cholesterol” and total cholesterol.
But hold your horses – “In men, across the entire age range… and in women from the age of 50 onward only, low cholesterol was significantly associated with all-cause mortality, showing significant associations with death through cancer, liver diseases, and mental diseases.” (From a study of 149,650 people published in the Journal of Women’s Health).
I am not a medical professional, but doesn’t it make sense to have interventions that reduce the overall chance of dying, not just dying from a single cause?
“Plants are healthy, and processed meats are dangerous.”
According to the director of the World Cancer Research Fund, there is no safe amount of processed meat. Why? Because they contain nitrites and we all know that nitrites cause cancer – duh!
As an example, the much maligned hot dog contains an average nitrite level of 10ppm (outrageous right?). But what about those health-giving vegetables that form the base of the USDA food pyramid? How do they compare? Arugula 4,677ppm, butterhead lettuce 2,292ppm, celery 1,103ppm, and pumpkin 874ppm.
I personally enjoy vegetables (especially with butter) and in no way am I saying you should not eat them. However as these vegetables contain around 100x the amount of nitrites in hot dogs, it seems pretty likely to me that nitrites aren’t causing cancer at normal dietary levels.
What’s the takeaway?
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