Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Brody - Mixed Bag

Jane Brody is an established health and wellness blogger, but when I read her posts I'm always surprised by the mixed bag of science and myth she brings to the table. The general pattern is that she will ask an expert about some topic or another, and report his/her opinions on various matters. In this column, she cites several and their views are what I think of as liberating myth busting.  
A top tip - trans fats generated during the hydrogenation process by which non-fats are transformed into "vegetable oils" are in fact very suspect. By contrast, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a naturally occurring trans-fat found in grass fed meat and dairy products, is thought to be a health booster (however, tests of pill based CLA supplementation have not proved beneficial).

I like the fact that she points out that the nitrite scare is just a scare - there's no evidence to support the conjecture that nitrites are particularly injurious to the body. But she concludes with this puzzler:
"If you're really concerned about your health, you'd be wise to steer clear of processed meats - organic, nitrite-free or otherwise. High saturated fat and salt content place them low on the nutritional totem pole." I wonder if she meant that comment about saturated fat and salt as the double entendre I see, which is the kind of science that supports the conjecture that saturated fats and/or salt is bad for you is about as "scientific" as a totem pole.  At this point, even the suggestion that these two essential human nutrients should be avoided by all humans is beyond comprehension.
It made sense to make broad brush nutritional recommendations 30 years ago when:
- The government wanted general guidelines that would help a person of an average IQ sort out what to do to stay healthy
- Testing for health markers was expensive; it wasn't smart "health policy" to say "base your dietary modifications off of your current health markers."
- They didn't know diddly  We still have not proved what will or will not kill you over the term of a human life, so the best thing one can do is to experiment with diets to see which works best for you. If you can down saturated fat by the pound and still look, feel and perform well - and your lipid profile doesn't scare the bejesus out of your doc - then you'd be silly to eschew saturated fat based on the absurdly inadequate science on the topic that has been completed to date.
Ditto for salt. If you don't have high blood pressure, you have no reason whatsoever to limit salt/sodium intake - none. Except for its mythical status as a "bad" thing. AND, even those folks who have high blood pressure can treat their blood pressure more effectively via carb restriction than via salt restriction.
These are facts, and can be tested by you on yourself. Do yourself a favor and stop taking her word for it about salt and sat fat.  
Mike Eades' examination (search for Brody at and summary of Brody's cognitive dissonance with regard to her lipid profile and experimentation with fat restriction is a great read for anyone who is still invested in the conjecture that saturated fats are a health risk.  
(Minor edits, Jan 9)

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