There is no limit to the amount of health advice on the web and in other media nowadays. However most of the advice unfortunately is carefully created by vested interests, which include government, the food industry, the diet industry and Big Pharma.
Many nutrition myths get repeated endlessly, to the point where they become accepted as doctrine e.g. the UK government's Eatwell Plate, which is outdated dogma; the advice follows the low fat/high starchy carb dietary guidelines, which is actually a recipe for weight gain and sub optimal health.
Below are 10 health myths, which help to dismiss some of the falsely held beliefs.
Myth 1: Saturated fats cause heart disease
This saturated fat/heart disease hypothesis originated from the infamous 7 country study by Ancel Keys, into saturated fat and the link to high cholesterol and heart disease.
The truth is saturated fats from animal and vegetable sources provide the building blocks for your cell membranes and a variety of hormones and hormone-like substances, without which your body cannot function optimally.
Fats also serve as carriers for the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K and are required for converting carotene into vitamin A, absorbing minerals and a wide range of other important biological processes. Saturated fat is also the preferred fuel for your heart!
In actual fact fats should form at least 50% of your diet because they provide a much better health profile than carbs as well as effective weight management; in fact there are 23 high quality studies comparing low carb and low fat diets, which confirm this.
Myth 2: You should always eat breakfast and many meals a day
Our mothers and grandmothers passed on much wisdom to their children, but always eating breakfast is not as wise as it may seem. In fact skipping breakfast, akin to intermittent fasting, mimics the benefits of calorie restriction and more.
Many meals a day does seem intuitive; keeping your energy up, portion control, stabilising blood sugar. However this is not the case; in fact many meals a day is more akin to snacking and snacking disrupts leptin signalling, leptin being a key hormone for appetite regulation, metabolism and insulin's effectiveness.
Myth 3: High Omega 6 Seed and Vegetable Oils Are Good for You
These oils have been put through a heat and chemical extraction process as result have been chemically altered, leading to an inflammatory reaction when ingested; couple this with the fact that they are found in many processed, packaged goods including non-butter spreads and spreadable butters e.g. sunflower oil, and you have many disease causing products on the market. Here are some reasons why they cause disease.
Coconut oil, butter or lard should be used for high temperature cooking and cold pressed oils for dressings and drizzling.
Myth 4: Artificial Sweeteners Help Promote Weight Loss
The irony with artificial sweeteners is that they actually induce weight as concluded in this study.
Apart from weight gain they are also associated with many other health problems.
Myth 5: Whole Grains Are Good for Everyone
I have another blog about whole grains here, discussing the falsely held beliefs surrounding their apparent "health" benefits.
Grains interfere with insulin and leptin function, two crucial hormones for weight control and general health.
Myth 6: Soy Is a Health Food
The marketing of soy as a "health food" once again demonstrates the ability of big business to influence the mass market with false claims.
With the exception of fermented soy products in moderation, soy is unfit for purpose and is not a food for anyone's consumption and has been linked to various diseases.
Also most soy has been genetically modified, which raises a whole new set of disease issues.
Myth 7: Genetically Engineered Foods Are Safe
Genetically engineered or genetically modified crops enter Britain mainly as animal feed. There is no commercial growing, but there have been experimental trials of GM potatoes and wheat in recent years.
GM crops and food can enter Europe as food, animal feed or biofuels. GM food and feed must be approved by EU regulators and must be labelled, but meat and dairy products produced from animals fed on GM feed are not required to be labelled. In 2011, the EU decided to allow low levels of unapproved GM crops in animal feed. GM crops can be grown experimentally with approval from national regulators, or commercially if approved by the EU.
Here are 10 studies refuting the claimed safety of GM crops.
Not only are the crops GM, but they are sprayed with one of the most dangerous herbicides on the market, glyphosphate. Here is the lowdown on this poison.
Myth 8: Eggs Are Bad for Your Heart
A Yale University study showed that eggs had no negative effect on cholesterol levels or endothelial function, a marker for heart disease.
Eggs have many benefits; here are 10 key benefits.
Choose free range, organic eggs to reap the maximum benefits and try to have some raw egg yolks, which help to preserve the range of B vitamins, which can be destroyed by heat. Include raw eggs, yolks only in smoothies.
Myth 9: Low Fat Foods Prevent Obesity and Heart Disease
This fat aversion message has been perpetrated for the past 40 years. The first dietary guidelines for Americans were published in 1977, almost at the exact same time the obesity epidemic started. Of course, this doesn't prove anything (correlation does not equal causation), but it makes sense that this could be more than just a mere coincidence.
The anti-fat message essentially put the blame on saturated fat and cholesterol (harmless), while giving sugar and refined carbs (very unhealthy) a free pass. Since the guidelines were published, many massive studies have been conducted on the low fat diet. It is no better at preventing heart disease, obesity or cancer than the standard Western diet, which is as unhealthy a diet you will come across.
Let's face it, if low fat diets worked, the UK and the US would be the healthiest nations on the planet; millions have been following them since the late 1970s! Unfortunately the waistlines of Brits and Americans have done nothing but expand since then. There's no telling how many people have been prematurely killed by following these flawed guidelines. Yet, despite mounting research to the contrary, low fat diets are still being pushed as "heart healthy" by the majority of nutritionists, cardiologists and the like, when the actual truth is the contrary i.e. high fat, low cab diets with moderate protein are by far the best for health and long term weight control. Here are various studies, which compare low carb to low fat diets.
Myth 10: Carbs Should Be Your Biggest Source of Calories
A diet high in non-fibre carbohydrates, particularly processed grains and sugar, leads directly to insulin and leptin resistance, two conditions responsible for the onset of most diseases, including type 2 diabetes, obesity and cancers.
When your highest percentage of calories comes from healthful fats, these problems just don't exist.
I know it seems counter intuitive that fats don't make you fat and this is probably one of the reasons why the low fat dogma has stood the test of time. Here is a great article on what it means in a metabolic sense, to be a sugar burner versus a fat burner and why it is so important for general health and weight control.
There are huge industries at play here and they are not about to give up the high carb dogma because there is too much money involved.