We have often been told we are what we eat. Are we?
After years of eating something, we are always suddenly warned about how that product is bad for both our physical and mental health.
Take liquor, for example.
Although benefitting from shrewd marketing and advertising, liquor has, over the decades, gone through rough times and worries about what happened to tobacco, a product that had shrewd world wide marketing and advertising.
Road carnages have become anti-liquor’s favourite placard.
Caught by scientific investigations, liquor manufacturers now temper their promotions with “if taken moderately.”
After decades of battering from pulpits, brain surgeons, health fanatics and parents, beer suddenly got a reprieve.
“Drinking an occasional beer with dinner may help reduce the risk of heart disease,” say Dutch researchers, TNO Nutrition and Food Research.
But just what is “an occasional beer?” I still have to see a doctor’s prescription to that effect.
They say an anti-inflammatory action of alcohol may help explain the link between moderate alcohol consumption and lower cardiovascular disease risk.
Again, they do not say what “moderate alcohol consumption” is.
“Beer in moderation can deliver protection against heart attacks, stroke, hypertension, diabetes and dementia,” said Dr Norman Kaplan on CBS News’ Morning Show.
“All forms of alcohol,” Kaplan continued, “have benefits in moderation, but beer data has been submerged because beer drinkers tend to have unhealthy habits like binge drinking and smoking as well.”
Taking a bitter swig of this, winemakers got on the bandwagon too.
Researchers from New York University at Buffalo (UB) in the US ‘discovered’ that “wine, and white varieties in particular, contains nutrients which can help protect the tissues of the lungs.” In other words, white wine helps you to breathe better.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Thoracic Society, Holger Schunemann, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Social and Preventive Medicine at the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, told society members that drinking wine is associated with better lung function.
So should we give beer and wine to our toddlers to ensure a good heart and clear lungs? Surely, we can’t leave our kids out of such a windfall?
“Most experts agree that we should not encourage drinking among a young population for health benefits,” warned Kaplan. Apparently, good health is only for adults.
Then there is marijuana or dagga, scientifically known as cannabis. It has a compound that “helps to stop diabetic retinopathy.”
Researchers said a compound found in marijuana, cannabidiol, “won’t make you high but it may help keep your eyes healthy if you’re a diabetic.”
In August last year, Dr. Gregory Liou, Molecular Biologist at the Medical College of Georgia, revealed their studies indicated that cannabidiol works as “a consummate multi-tasker, protecting the eye from growing a plethora of leaky blood vessels, the hallmark of diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults.”
Meanwhile, chocolates, once surprisingly maligned as sinful and decadent, also made a sudden life-saving re-entry.
“Studies have shown that the heart benefits from increased blood flow, less platelet stickiness and clotting, and improved bad cholesterol,” said Mary Engler, Ph.D., a chocolate researcher and director of the Cardiovascular and Genomics Graduate Program at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Nursing.
This collaborated findings from Harvard University School of Public Health, published in the European journal, Nutrition and Metabolism, that “chocolate does seem to boost heart health.”
But there is always the danger of getting carried away. Researchers at West Virginia’s Wheeling Jesuit University popped up claiming that their findings suggested that “chocolate may boost your memory, attention span, reaction time, and problem-solving skills by increasing blood flow to the brain.”
Why do we leave our kids to flank exams when chocolates are all over the place?
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) dismissed all the findings. “Advising people to eat chocolate regularly for their hearts’ sake is a reckless message that people should ignore,” said Belinda Linden, Head of Medical Information at the BHF. “Yes, chocolate contains flavonoids, which may be good for the heart. However, most chocolate bars contain high levels of saturated fats and sugar that contribute to high cholesterol levels, obesity and coronary heart disease.”
The Banana Industry is not to be caught napping either. They say that their findings indicate that two bananas a day will keep blood pressure at bay.
“Two bananas a day can help control high blood pressure, offering a cheap alternative to expensive drugs,” the Banana Industry advises.
There are so many good things that are good for the heart but I wonder why there are so many people with heart problems. Cocoa producers came up with their diagnosis too, saying cocoa ‘cuts heart disease risk.’
Scientists, of course, ‘produced more compelling evidence that cocoa is good for your heart.’
Apparently, Dutch scientists found that ‘elderly men who consumed cocoa had lower blood pressure levels, and were less likely to die from cardiovascular problems.’
“Men who consumed more cocoa,” said the report, “were also less likely to die of any cause.” Mama Mia!
What about salt? We have been warned so often that it contributes to high blood pressure yet no diner table is complete without that salt shaker.
David McCarron, of the Oregon Health Sciences University, in Oregon, says recent large scale research “suggests too few minerals – rather than too much salt – may be to blame for high blood pressure.”
“An adequate intake of minerals, rather than the restriction of sodium (salt), should be the focus of dietary recommendations for the general population.”
McCarron says what has changed in recent years is the level of nutrients people get from their food.
Yet some experts argue that there is irrefutable evidence that salt raises blood pressure and that the increase in the amount of salt in our diet in recent decades is due to the level of salt in processed foods.
Those who argue against it, they say, are acting on behalf of the salt industry.
The icing on the cake, however, comes from UK nutritionists who actually published their findings in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition claiming that “tea is a ‘healthier’ drink than water.”
But tea is made with water.
“Drinking three or more cups of tea a day,” insist the researchers, “is as good for you as drinking plenty of water and may even have extra health benefits.”
Tea not only rehydrates as well as water does, the researchers say, but it also protects against heart disease and some cancers.
“Tea replaces fluids,” said Public Health nutritionist, Dr Carrie Ruxton, the lead author of the study at London’s King’s College in August 2006. “It contains antioxidants so it’s got two things going for it.”
Ruxton said she found clear evidence that drinking three to four cups of tea a day can cut the chances of having a heart attack.
The same study, however, revealed that “tea can impair the body’s ability to absorb iron from food, meaning that people at risk of anaemia should avoid drinking tea around mealtimes.”
“In terms of fluid intake,” says Claire Williamson of the British Nutrition Foundation, “we recommend 1.5-2 litres per day and that can include tea. Tea is not dehydrating. It is a healthy drink.”
Although the (British) Tea Council provided funding for the work, Williams and Dr Ruxton stressed that the work was independent.
Women’s rights groups might also want to know that even equality is a health hazard.
The BBC, which is increasingly becoming a custodian of weird but accurate information, revealed results of a study that concluded that equality is a health risk.
“Arguments may lead to divorce, but they could also damage health,” the BBC quoted a study by the University of Utah. “More equal relationships may lead to raised blood pressure.”
The research found that couples where one partner is significantly more dominant than the other are less likely to see their blood pressure soar when they argue.
The report said researchers found that arguing with a spouse who was seen as relatively dominant caused blood pressure to rise more than arguing with one who was seen as relatively submissive.
But, the report said, if the spouse was seen as clearly dominant and the argument considered not worth the effort, blood pressure only increased by a small amount.
“Every day there is another story about what is good for you and what is not,” says a woman identifying herself only as Kediemetse. ”I am so tired of all these studies; how about a cure for terminal illnesses and diseases that kids and the elderly are suffering from? We should eat whatever we want.”