It seems to me that our society is in the midst of information overload, that is, we are being exposed to more information than we can handle. My computer is constantly providing all sorts of announcements about some “breaking news” item such as a traffic tie-up on an Interstate highway some forty miles away. Why a computer alert? Are drivers watching a computer screen?
Most of the stuff is transitory (that means of short duration, vanishing in a short time) and often is incomplete and incorrect in the bargain. I suppose that’s why lots of the “news” gets ignored around here, but there are some reports that catch our attention - particularly those containing messages about our health and nutrition.
I recently saw a report describing a study that essentially says the long-held “gospel truth” about how red meat, butter, cheese, and other fatty foods cause heart disease is based on “personal ambition, bad science, and politics”. Yep, this most recent study attacks the basic cornerstone of dietary advice for generations that these foods clog the arteries. In fact, it states there has never been a positive correlation between consumption of these fats and heart disease.
It points to serious flaws in the basic work which led to the campaign against saturated fat - claiming that the research “cherry-picked” the data by selecting those points supporting the premise and discarding those which did not. Why am I not surprised when we’ve seen so many other contradictions and inconsistencies in nutrition advice?
When I was a youngster we were told to drink milk - a nutritious food full of good stuff essential for our health. Nowadays, we are told milk should be avoided because it’s full of bad stuff harmful to our health.
Recall how margarine was touted as the healthy alternative to that unhealthy “high-priced spread” — only to find out that margarine contains stuff reportedly even more unhealthy and often costs more than the “high-priced spread?” I’m not sure whether peanut butter is currently on the “good” list or “bad” list but I understand that the old reliable PB&J (peanut butter and jelly) sandwich is not acceptable in lunches school kids carry from home.
Too much fat, sugar, and white bread according to current nutrition gurus. And while on the subject of white bread I recently saw a report condemning wheat as the culprit guilty of many of our physical ills.
Oh, yes, wheat, a mainstay of nutrition ever since humans started growing grain, has now been branded as unhealthy by this school of thought. Kinda reminds me of another bit of dietary advice my Sweetheart-for-Life came across not long ago. This particular nutrition philosophy claims we should never eat anything white — that’s right, we should eat only foods that have color.
According to this notion, white foods are inherently detrimental to our health - makes me think of how one of our grandsons, now grown up, still refuses to eat any green colored vegetable such as broccoli or spinach.
OK, moving on to vitamins and supplements - a multi-billion dollar business in this country. Scientists learned many years ago that scurvy, a horrible, deadly disease, was caused by the lack of certain types of food — food which turned out to contain what is now known as Vitamin C. But do you remember how taking large amounts of Vitamin C was proclaimed as a means of preventing and curing colds — a claim later refuted? Vitamin E was touted as an effective way of addressing heart disease — but there was another “oops” when large doses of Vitamin E were found to cause heart problems. There are more examples, but the point is clear.
Nowadays vitamins and supplements are packaged in ways to fit any segment of the population from infants to “mature” adults. I recently compared the list of vitamins and minerals in containers labeled “mature men” and “mature women” and could find no difference in the amounts or percentages of daily requirements. Hmm.
So what are we to do about this information overload concerning nutrition and our health? My resident expert on domestic matters has two suggestions. First, we should avoid these fad diets and eat a variety of foods including dairy products, meat, poultry, fish, grains, vegetables - and particularly peanut butter. The key, however, is consuming these foods in moderation and avoiding overindulgence.
Second, it’s fine if we continue reading these spectacular revelations about how some new nutrition theory has popped up or another has been repudiated. The key is enjoying them for their entertainment value and not taking them as “gospel truth.”
Sounds like a plan. At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.