Apr 26, 2017
By Neil Hedley
If you read the comments in the stories linked below, you’ll see comments like, “Can we just be clear? Make up your minds!” And that seems to ring true for a lot of us. We’re told to eat low-fat food, then we learn that most low-fat food is crammed full of sugar. We’re told to lay off the eggs, then we’re told that eggs don’t really move your cholesterol numbers, and even that keeping track of your dietary cholesterol intake is a waste of time. For those of us who are trying to make some responsible choices toward a healthier life, it feels like the goal posts keep moving.
With all that taken into consideration, you might want to take the following two articles with a grain of salt. In fact, if the first one is true, you might want to consider adding several grains of salt.
You read that right. And if you click the link below, there’s a graph about a third of the way down the page that makes the point in pretty stark fashion: Less salt can lead to higher blood pressure, according to a new report from the Framingham Offspring Study.
In Canada, we’re told that people over the age of 14 shouldn’t consume more than 2300mg of sodium per day. That’s about a teaspoon. And it’s the same number the American Heart Association gives out. Except that this new study says that after being tracked for 16 years, people who consumed less than 2500mg had significantly higher blood pressure than people who consumed more than 4000mg.
The first red flag for me shows up when sweeping generalizations are made based on age – for example, to me, suggesting that every human over the age of 14 should eat ‘x’ amount of salt is just silly. That’s a dietary recommendation for hundreds of millions of people based on one thing, and one thing only – age. And as we Zoomers know, age doesn’t really count for much.
Digest this new sodium study at will. And stick around til the end to see why I’m gonna suggest that you shouldn’t necessarily run to check this with your doctor.
This second article looks at the claim that saturated fat clogs your arteries – and that’s something we’ve been hearing for ages now. If memory serves, saturated fat became the culprit after dietary cholesterol was taken out of the food police crosshairs. The problem is, two internationally renowned cardiologists – one from San Francisco and another from London – say that “evidence suggests no association between saturated fat and heightened risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes or death.”
Yeah. Think about that one while you’re chewing on your next rice cake.
Spoiler alert: They’re claiming that if you just eat real food (remember that?) and get 22 minutes of exercise a day, you’re good to go.
Almost twenty years ago now, I was part of a study that surveyed a rather large group of family doctors, talking to them about a number of health issues. One of the things they almost universally agreed on was that they hate when patients ask them about how to lose weight. As one doctor put it: “I don’t really have much to tell them, beyond ‘eat less, exercise more’, because nutrition is a whole different branch of medicine. Med school taught me just as much about nutrition and exercise as it did about psychiatry.”
So by all means, check with your doctor- in fact, I’d say that making big changes without talking to your doctor first is usually a bad idea. But maybe hold off on calling the doctor about these studies today – the information seems new, and flies in the face of conventional wisdom, which means it might take a while before your friendly-neighborhood family doctor is up to speed on whether these studies turn out to pass the sniff test.