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There was an article this weekend in the New York Times that questions conventional wisdom about the harms of salt. I know that my husband will be delighted to read this news, as I believe that he thinks salt should be included as its own food group.
This article is another example of the mixed messages in the media regarding the health consequences of overindulging in one food or another. It is also another example where it seems the wise advice of “everything in moderation” probably applies.
I wrote a blog post last month about how difficult it is to know what health-conscious people are supposed to be eating with all of the mixed messages we get in the media.
One of my readers, Maketheworldworkbetter wrote a fantastic response that really helped me understand the complexities involved with releasing these types of study data and the complexities involved with showing that eating a certain food causes a specific health consequence. His analysis was thorough and informative, so I wanted to share it here.
This article does make me think about the ethical issues surrounding scientific studies, which is a subject I would like to understand more fully. For example, when a study comes out which questions climate change and is touted as hard science, but upon further exploration, is determined to have been funded by the oil and gas industry, should there be a requirement to disclose this information?
What do you think? Do you think the media does a good job critically analyzing studies which they report on? Should there be a requirement that the media disclose who funded a particular study? Or do you think that the public simply does not look with critical enough eyes at these types of reports? Do you look at who funded a study before deciding how much credit to give that study? Do you think that who funds a study impacts the findings of the study? Should it?
I would love to hear your thoughts. I know that this is a complex issue and that I have only briefly opened the door for a conversation here, so I hope readers will help expand the discussion. Thanks so much for reading.
In today’s New York Times, there is one article discussing the benefits of drinking coffee and one article questioning the positive health impacts of high levels of good cholesterol. It was comical to observe that one of the studies made me cheer – yay, more coffee! – and one of the studies made me frown – boo, less guacamole!
I try to stay on top of the latest health research but it seems like there is a different study coming out every week touting the benefits of one food over another. I seem to be more willing to believe the studies that tell me that things that I like are good for me.
For example, when the studies came out saying that red wine and dark chocolate are good for you, I stood up and paid attention. And rushed to the food store!
Health advice seems to change at a rapid pace. One day researchers are telling us that something is good for us but it is likely that, within a year, that same food item will be on the cover of a weekly magazine reporting the hazards of eating that particular food.
Eggs are a perfect example. I can’t keep track of whether I am supposed to be eating more eggs or less eggs. All I know is that my grandmother ate a lot of eggs and died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 92.
Maybe that is the health advice we should really follow – we could look at what worked for our elders and emulate that. My grandmother ate some delicious foods, so that is a health plan I think I could follow!
What do you think? Do you follow the latest research on which foods are good for you and which are not? Are there certain authorities that you wait to hear from before you make a change in what you eat? What food advice did you learn from your elders?
I would love to hear your thoughts. And thanks for reading.
The article that jumps out at me today is entitled “Studies Question the Pairing of Food Deserts and Obesity.” It was written by Gina Kolata and can be found here. Many of my friends work in public health and I will be very interested to hear their thoughts on this article. The article calls into question the hypothesis that a lack of access to healthy foods leads to obesity in low income neighborhoods.
The article sites two recent studies. The first study shows that, in the low income neighborhoods examined for the study, grocery stores were actually more prevalent than in wealthy neighborhoods, which contradicts the long-held belief of many policymakers and public health experts. The lead author for this study is quoted as saying, “‘you can get basically any type of food’ within a few miles of almost any urban neighborhood.”
The second study found that, in 13,000 teenagers who self-reported their weight, height and diet, there was no relationship between what people said they ate, what types of foods they were able to access and their weight.
Obesity in the United States has become an epidemic and is a leading cause of the astronomical increase in health care costs in this country. Michelle Obama has helped elevate this issue recently, but people still seem to see this through a personal freedom and liberty lens, rather than as a public health issue.
There are laws in place around the country to require food establishments to list the calorie counts on their menus; or to eliminate trans-fats; or to improve nutrition in school lunches – there is certainly a lot of advocacy going on in the public health arena. But this feels like an issue that will be complicated to address in the United States, perhaps due to the individualistic nature of our American culture. It reminds me of the debates around smoking – the arguments that people make that they have a personal right or freedom to do harm to their own body, balanced against the public health arguments about the impact smoking has on health care costs.
Questions that come to mind: Aside from the fact that “a few miles” from home can be quite a distance when a person has to take the bus and has children, I can’t help wondering why it is so hard to get people’s attention on this issue. Is it because healthy food is more expensive and so healthy food is seen as a luxury item? Is it that emotions are heavily involved when it comes to food? My family always gathers around a big meal to celebrate any event and I can’t imagine not partaking in the Baltimore crab cakes and mashed potatoes. And if I’m lucky, strawberry shortcake or a Vaccaro’s cannoli for dessert! How much do you think family, and culture and tradition plays a part in what we eat or whether we exercise? And do you think that policy efforts or advocacy efforts can make a difference to stem the tide of the problem? What do you think will help bring about change in this area?
Please share your thoughts or expertise here I would love to hear from you! And thanks for reading.
Filed under Health, Policy