20 Nutrition Facts That Should Be Common Sense (But Aren’t)
Common sense is surprisingly rare in nutrition.
All sorts of myths and misconceptions are being spread around, even by so-called experts.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Here are 20 nutrition facts that should be common sense (but clearly aren’t).
1. Artificial Trans Fats Are Not Suitable For Human Consumption
Trans fats are nasty.
Producing them involves high pressure, heat and hydrogen gas in the presence of a metal catalyst.
This process turns liquid vegetable oils into a thick, toxic sludge that is solid at room temperature.
You have to wonder what was going through the head of the person who actually thought of putting this stuff in food and selling it to humans. It is baffling, really.
2. You Don’t Need to Eat Every 2-3 Hours
You really don’t need to be constantly eating in order to lose weight.
Eating every 2-3 hours is inconvenient and completely unnecessary for the majority of people. Just eat when you’re hungry and make sure to choose healthy and nutritious foods.
3. The Mainstream Media Should Never be Trusted For Nutrition Information
The mainstream media is part of the reason for all the nutrition confusion out there.
It seems like every week there is a new study making headlines, often contradicting another study that came out just a few months earlier.
These stories often get a lot of attention, but when you look past the headlines and read the actual studies, you find that they are taken way out of context.
In many cases, there are other higher quality studies that directly contradict the media frenzy (which rarely get mentioned).
4. Meat Does Not Rot in Your Colon
It is completely false that meat rots in the colon.
The human body is well equipped to digest and absorb all the important nutrients found in meat.
The protein gets broken down in the stomach by stomach acids, then the rest of it gets broken down in the small intestine by powerful digestive enzymes.
All the fats, proteins and nutrients are then moved past the digestive wall and into the body. There is simply nothing left to “rot” in the colon.
5. Eggs Are Among The Healthiest Foods You Can Eat
Eggs were unfairly demonized because the yolks are high in cholesterol.
New studies that include hundreds of thousands of people show that eggs have no effect on heart disease in otherwise healthy individuals (6).
The truth is, eggs are among the healthiest and most nutritious foods you can eat.
Almost all the nutrients are found in the yolk, and telling people to avoid the yolks (or eggs altogether) is one of the biggest mistakes in the history of nutrition.
6. Sugary Drinks Are The Most Fattening Aspect of The Modern Diet
Added sugar is a disaster, and getting it in liquid form is even worse.
The problem with liquid sugar, is that your brain doesn’t compensate for the calories by eating less of other foods (7).
In other words, these calories don’t get “registered” by the brain, making you eat more calories overall (8).
Of all the junk foods, sugar-sweetened beverages are the most fattening of all, and that is saying something.
7. Low-Fat Does Not Equal Healthy
The “low-fat” diet promoted by the mainstream nutrition guidelines is a miserable failure.
What’s more, it led to a plethora of processed “low-fat” foods to be brought to the market. Because foods taste bad without the fat, the food manufacturers added a whole bunch of sugar to them instead.
Foods that are naturally low-fat (like fruits and vegetables) are great, but processed foods with “low-fat” on the label are usually loaded with unhealthy ingredients.
8. Fruit Juice is Not That Different From Sugary Soft Drinks
A lot of people believe that fruit juices are healthy.
It seems to make sense, because they come from fruit.
However, fruit juices contain just as much sugar as sugary soft drinks like coca cola (12)!
There is no fiber in them and no chewing resistance, making it very easy to consume massive amounts of sugar.
If you’re trying to avoid sugar for health reasons, then you should avoid fruit juice as well. It is just as bad, and the small amounts of antioxidants do not make up for the large amounts of sugar.
9. Feeding Your Gut Bugs is Critical
Did you know that you are actually just 10 percent human?
The bacteria in the intestine, known as the gut flora, actually outnumber human cells 10 to 1!
This may be the most important reason to include plenty of fiber in your diet, to feed the little guys in the intestine.
10. “Cholesterol” is Not The Enemy
What people generally refer to as “cholesterol” isn’t really cholesterol.
When people talk about the so-called “bad” and “good” cholesterol, they’re actually referring to the proteins that carry cholesterol around.
LDL stands for Low Density Lipoprotein and HDL stands for High Density Lipoprotein.
The truth is, cholesterol is not the enemy. The main determinant of heart disease risk is the type of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol around, not cholesterol itself.
11. Weight Loss Supplements Almost Never Work
There are tons of different weight loss supplements on the market.
The problem is that they almost never work. They are claimed to lead to magical results, but fail when put to the test in actual studies.
Even the ones who do work, the effect is too small to really make a noticeable difference.
People who promote magic solutions like weight loss supplements are actually causing harm, because this distracts people from the things that actually matter.
The truth is that the only way to lose weight and keep it off, is to adopt a lifestyle change.
12. Health is About Way More Than How Much You Weigh
People focus way too much on just weight gain/loss. The truth is that health goes way beyond that.
Focusing just on body weight is counterproductive. It is possible to improve health without causing weight loss, and vice versa.
It appears that the area where fat builds up is important. The fat in the abdominal cavity (belly fat) is associated with metabolic problems, while the fat under the skin is mostly a cosmetic problem (21).
Therefore, reducing belly fat should be a priority for health improvement, the fat under the skin and the number on the scale don’t matter as much.
13. Calories Count, But You Don’t Necessarily Need to Count Them
Calories are important, that is a fact.
Obesity is a matter of excess stored energy (calories) accumulating in the form of body fat.
However, this does not mean that people need to track or count calories, or monitor everything that enters their bodies.
Although calorie counting works for a lot of people, there are many things that people can do to lose weight, without ever having to count a single calorie.
14. People With High Blood Sugar and/or Type 2 Diabetes Should Not be Eating a High-Carb Diet
For decades, people have been advised to eat a low-fat diet with carbs at 50-60 percent of calories.
Surprisingly, this advice was extended to include people with type 2 diabetes, which can not tolerate a lot of carbs.
People with type 2 diabetes are resistant to insulin and any carbs they eat will cause a big rise in blood sugar levels.
For this reason, they need to take blood sugar lowering drugs to bring their levels down.
If anyone benefits from a low-carb diet, it is diabetic patients. In one study, a low-carb diet for only 6 months allowed 95.2 percent of patients to reduce or eliminate their blood sugar medication (24).
Although the advice is changing (slowly), many “mainstream” organizations around the world are still telling diabetics to eat a high-carb diet.
15. Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat, but Neither Does Carbohydrate
Fat has often been blamed for obesity, because fat contains more calories per gram than protein and carbs.
However, this doesn’t really have any practical meaning.
This has conversely led many people to blame carbs for obesity, but this is a mistake as well. Plenty of populations have eaten high-carb diets but remained healthy.
As with everything in nutrition, this depends on the context.
Fat can be fattening, carbs can be fattening. It all depends on the rest of the stuff you are eating and your overall lifestyle.
16. Junk Food Can be Addictive
In the past 100 years or so, food has changed.
People are eating more processed food than ever, and the technologies used to engineer foods have become more elaborate.
These days, food engineers have found ways to make food so “rewarding” that the brain gets flooded with dopamine (27).
This is the same mechanism employed by drugs of abuse (28).
17. Health Claims on Packaging Should Never be Trusted
People are more health conscious than ever.
The food manufacturers are well aware of this, and have found ways to market the same old junk to the health conscious people as well.
They do this by adding misleading labels like “whole grain” or “low fat” on their foods.
You will now find all sorts of seriously unhealthy junk food with health claims on the label, such as “whole grain” fruit loops and cocoa puffs.
These labels are almost always misleading, and are used to trick people into thinking that they’re making the right choice for themselves (and their children).
If the packaging of a food tells you that it is healthy, then it probably isn’t.
18. Refined Vegetable Oils Should be Avoided
Vegetable oils, like soybean, corn and canola oils, are extracted from seeds using harsh processing methods.
These oils contain large amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids, which are biologically active and humans never consumed in large amounts during evolution (31).
19. “Organic” or “Gluten-Free” Does Not Equal Healthy
There are many health trends in the world these days.
However, just because something is organic or gluten-free, it doesn’t mean that it is healthy. For example, you can make all sorts of junk foods out of organic ingredients.
Foods that are naturally gluten-free are fine, but gluten-free processed foods are often made with seriously harmful ingredients that are even worse than their gluten-containing counterparts.
The truth is, organic sugar is still sugar and gluten-free junk food is still junk food.
20. Blaming New Health Problems on Old Foods Doesn’t Make Sense
Heart disease didn’t become a problem until about a hundred years ago.
The obesity epidemic started around 1980 and the type 2 diabetes epidemic followed soon after.
These are the biggest health problems in the world, and it seems pretty clear that diet has a lot to do with them.
For some very strange reason, the health authorities started blaming them on foods like red meat, eggs and butter.
But we’ve been eating these natural foods for thousands of years, while these health problems are relatively new.
Doesn’t it make more sense to suspect all the new stuff instead? Such as all the processed foods, added sugar, refined grains and vegetable oils?
Blaming new health problems on old foods simply doesn’t make sense.
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Low Levels Lead to Generational Impacts<p>Researchers exposed inland silverside fish to bifenthrin, levonorgestrel, ethinylestradiol, and trenbolone to levels currently found in waterways.</p><p>"Our concentrations were actually on the low end" of what is found in the wild, DeCourten said, adding that it was low amounts of chemicals in parts per trillion.</p><p>Bifenthrin is a pesticide; levonorgestrel and ethinylestradiol are synthetic hormones used in birth controls; and trenbolone is a synthetic steroid often given to cattle to bulk them up.</p><p>Such endocrine-disruptors have already been linked to a variety of health problems in directly exposed fish including altered growth, reduced survival, lowered egg production, skewed sex ratios, and negative impacts to immune systems. But what remains less clear is how the exposure may impact future generations.</p><p>For their study, DeCourten and colleagues started the exposure when the fish were embryos and continued it for 21 days.</p><p>They then tracked effects on the exposed fish, and the next two generations.</p>
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Poor eating habits, lack of exercise, genetics, and a bunch of other things are known to be behind excessive weight gain. But, did you know that how much sleep you get each night can also determine how much weight you gain or lose?
By Laura Beil
Consumers have long turned to vitamins and herbs to try to protect themselves from disease. This pandemic is no different — especially with headlines that scream "This supplement could save you from coronavirus."
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By Elliot Douglas
In early October, Britain's Prince William teamed up with conservationist David Attenborough to launch the Earthshot Prize, a new award for environmentalist innovation. The Earthshot brands itself the "most prestigious global environment prize in history."
The world-famous wildlife broadcaster and his royal sidekick appear to have played an active role in the prize's inception, and media coverage has focused largely on them as the faces of the campaign.
“Rather than a Moonshot 🌕, we need Earthshots 🌍 for this decade.” Watch Prince William’s @Tedtalks talk in full:… https://t.co/m5NCj6TQzH— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge)1602408749.0
But the pair are only the frontmen of a much larger movement which has been in development for several years. In addition to a panel of experts who will decide on the winners, the prize's formation took advice from the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace and the Jack Ma Foundation.
With more and more global attention on the climate crisis, celebrity endorsement of environmental causes has become more common. But why do environmental causes recruit famous faces for their campaigns? And what difference can it make?
'Count Me In'
"We need celebrities to reach those people who we cannot reach ourselves," says Sarah Marchildon from the United Nations Climate Change secretariat (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany.
Marchildon is a proponent of the use of celebrities to raise awareness of environmental causes. In addition to promoting a selection of climate ambassadors who represent the UN on sustainability issues, Marchildon's team has produced videos with well-known narrators from the entertainment world: among them, Morgan Freeman and Mark Ruffalo.
"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," Marchildon explains.
"Sometimes they reach out to us themselves, as David Attenborough did recently. And then they can promote the videos on their own social channels which reach more people than we do — for example, if they have 20 million followers and we have 750,000."
Environmental groups focused on their own domestic markets are also taking this approach. One Germany-based organization that uses celebrities in campaigns is the German Zero NGO. Set up in 2019, it advocates for a climate-neutral Germany by 2035.
German Zero produced a video in March 2020 introducing the campaign with "66 celebrities" that supported the campaign, among them Deutschland 83 actor Jonas Nay and former professional footballer Andre Schürrle. They solicit support as well as financial contributions from viewers.
"Count me in," they say, pointing toward the camera. "You too?"
"We are incredibly grateful for the VIPs in our videos," says German Zero spokeswoman Eva-Maria McCormack.
Assessing Success Is Complex
But quantifying the effectiveness of celebrity endorsement of campaigns is not a straightforward process.
"In order to measure effectiveness, first of all you need to define what is meant by success," says Alegria Olmedo, a researcher at the Zoology Department at the University of Oxford.
Olmedo is the author of a study looking at a range of campaigns concerning pangolin consumption, fronted by local and Western celebrities, in Vietnam and China. But she says her biggest stumbling block was knowing how to measure a campaign's success.
"You need a clear theory of change," explains Olmedo. "Have the celebrities actually helped in achieving the campaign's goals? And how do you quantify these goals? Maybe it is increased donations or higher engagement with a cause."
A popular campaign in China in recent years saw famous chefs Zhao Danian and Shu Yi pledge to abstain from cooking endangered wildlife. While the pledge achieved widespread recognition, both Olmedo and Marchildon say it's difficult to know whether it made any difference to people's actions.
"In life we see a thousand messages every day, and it is very hard to pinpoint whether one campaign has actually made a difference in people's behavior," she explains.
Awareness Is Not Enough
Many campaigns that feature celebrities focus on raising awareness rather than on concrete action — which, for researcher Olmedo, raises a further problem in identifying effectiveness.
"Reach should never be a success outcome," she says. "Many campaigns say they reached a certain number of people on social media. But there has been a lot of research that shows that simply giving people information does not mean they are actually going to remember it or act upon it."
But anecdotal evidence from campaigns may suggest reach can make an active difference.
"Our VIP video is by far the most watched on our social media channels," McCormack from German Zero says. "People respond to it very directly. A lot of volunteers of all ages heard about us through that video."
However, some marketing studies have shown that celebrity endorsement of a cause or product can distract from the issue itself, as people only remember the person, not the content of what they were saying.
Choosing the Right Celebrity
Celebrity choice is also very important. Campaigns that use famous faces are often aiming to appeal to members of the public who do not necessarily follow green issues.
For certain campaigns with clear target audiences, choosing a climate scientist or well-known environmentalist rather than a celebrity could be more appealing — Attenborough is a classic example. For others, images and videos involving cute animals may be more likely to get a message heard than attaching a famous face.
"We choose celebrities who have a lifestyle where they are already talking about these issues," says Marchildon from the UN. "You need figures with credibility."
McCormack cites the example of Katharine Hayhoe, an environmental scientist who is also an evangelical Christian. In the southern United States, Hayhoe has become a celebrity in her own right, appealing to an audience that might not normally be interested in the messages of climate scientists.
But as soon as you get a celebrity involved, campaigns also put themselves at risk of the whims of that celebrity. Prince William and younger members of the royal family have come under fire in recent years for alleged hypocrisy for their backing of environmental campaigns while simultaneously using private jets to fly around the world.
But Does It Really Work?
While environmental campaigns hope that endorsement from well-known figures can boost a campaign, there is little research to back this up.
"The biggest finding [from my study] was that we were unable to produce any evidence that shows that celebrity endorsement of environmental causes makes any difference," says Olmedo.
This will come as a blow to many campaigns that have invested time and effort into relationships with celebrity ambassadors. But for many, the personal message that many celebrities offer in videos like that produced by German Zero and campaigns like the Earthshot Prize are what counts.
The research may not prove this conclusively — but if the public believes a person they respect deeply personally cares about an important issue, they are perhaps more likely to care too.
"I personally believe in the power this can have," says Marchildon. "And if having a celebrity involved can get a single 16-year-old future leader thinking about environmentalist issues — that is enough."
Reposted with permission from DW.
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