December 13, 2005

All that oat bran was for nothing.

A study shows that eating a lot of fiber doesn't do a damned thing to protect you from colon cancer. I wonder what other health advice we're going to a lot of trouble to follow or feeling bad about not following we'll be told eventually really doesn't help at all.


Dizzie Diva said...

I'm not sure what we will have wasted our time doing, but I'm pretty sure Lileks will write a book about that list. :-)

gmierz said...

An honest doctor will tell you that medical studies can be sorry guidelines for people living real lives.

Case in point: Sixteen years ago, in my late 30s, I had my first real complete physical, and the cholesterol test showed a reading of 248. For the next 365+ days, I completely eschewed beef, pork, eggs and cheese; my only entrees were poultry and fish, never fried. I also started walking up to 1 1/2 miles a day. So in 1990, my cholesterol level dropped all the way to 246.

I asked my doctor about the 1990 reading, and he shook his head and said, "In 20 years, we might know the true meaning of cholesterol levels and the threat they pose to health."

That was a signal that nobody knows nothing, and I threw caution to the wind.

Two weeks ago, after years of consuming every bad food known to man and beast, plus being as sedentary as a brick wall due to a very painful arthritic condition, my cholesterol level was recorded at 189.

The message I got? Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Or maybe we don't.

Dave said...

Tomorrow, they're releasing a study which concludes that cigarettes prevent cancer and stop emphysema in its tracks.

I'm long Altria, and I just bought a dozen cartons of Marlboro Reds.

Joan said...

Well, I know for sure that butter has been unjustly vilified, as has red meat. The main studies that showed saturated fats as being very damaging to the arteries unfortunately mixed saturated with trans fats -- that's a big no-no, and as we know now, it's the trans fats that should be avoided at all costs.

Common sense goes a long way, here. Before fake fats and the recommendation to eat less meat, people had way fewer heart attacks...

The cholesterol boondoggle is another one. At least one long term study (The Framingham Nurses study, maybe? I can't remember the specifics) actually shows a protective effect for higher cholesterol, but nobody in the drug industry talks about it.

Eat real (unprocessed, unadulterated) food. Move. Use your brain. Live a good life, die when you're supposed to. It's not that complicated.

Kirk Parker said...

"It's not that complicated."

You're right, it's not--but I'd add one more thing to your formula. One very significant factor in leading a satisfying life is abolishing this kind of thinking:

feeling bad about not following...

Uhh, if you want to take somebody's advice and live a certain way, fine. If you want to ignore the conventional health wisdom, that's fine, too. But to worry about the stuff you aren't in fact gonna do? You can't tell me that's not a waste of time!

(I know, all the Jewish mothers in the audience hate me now...)

Brian O'Connell said...

No deep fat? No hot fudge?

EddieP said...

Another myth foisted on us by the health Nazis is second hand cigarette smoke. I used to sell life insurance, and there are higher rates for smokers than non-smokers. If there were any actuarial case for second hand smoke being a danger, no one living with a smoker could get the preferred non-smoker rates. It might be nasty, but it's not a health hazard.

John A said...

Heh. Grains have for years been "associated" with lessening incidence of colorectal cancer. The authors of this study say this is most likely wrong. But they nonetheless advocate keeping up high intake because of similar "association" with heart disease[s] and diabetes.

MD said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MD said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mrbungle2103 said...

If anybody (and I mean anybody) tries to come between me and chocolate, then they will see a sudden trough in their standard of health. Chocolate is my insulin. And none of this Hershey pish either. That's not chocolate - that's a decades long practical joke.

brylin said...

For the longest time, medical science told us that peptic ulcers were caused by stress or spicy food.

In 1982, Australian physicians Barry Marshall and Robin Warren discovered that H. Pylori bacteria caused these ulcers. In 2005 they won the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

brylin said...

Is heart disease really caused by oral infections? There is some evidence of this, but the jury is still out, I think.

Barry said...

brian o'connell alludes to this, but I'm going to make it explicit: Woody Allen made the definitive comment on this over 30 years ago, in his science-fiction spoof Sleeper.

In the following snippet of dialog, two medical doctors, two hundred years into the future, are examining the grocery list of the man from the 1970s whom they've just thawed out:

Dr. Melik: [puzzling over list of items sold at Miles' old health-food store] ... wheat germ, organic honey and... tiger's milk.

Dr. Aragon: Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.

Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or... hot fudge?

Dr. Aragon: [chuckling] Those were thought to be unhealthy... precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.

Dr. Melik: Incredible!

Pogo said...

Good health as an end in itself has become for many life's highest virtue. Pursuit of longevity has become law in many countries, where smoking is increasingly banned, and previously private concerns have transformed into "public health" matters.

The director of the NIH has declared that obesity is a “public health emergency,” and in England there is a proposal for a “national nutrition strategy”, including an independent agency with regulatory powers. A “fat tax” and legislation on the food industry controlling product development, marketing and pricing goals has been proposed.

In an increasingly medically intolerant culture, the information on fiber ought to worry people. Our new state religion, Good Health, has lots of "facts" that simply aren't true.

HaloJonesFan said...

"Eat only meat and fat! Don't eat any carbohydrates at all! Magic Fat Power will kick in and the pounds will just melt away! Buy my book!"

"Don't meat and fat have fewer calories per volume than carbohydrates? And won't that mean you're effectively eating less food? It's not surprising that you'd lose weight!"

"Who's the dietician here, you or me? URK" (dies of a heart attack)

skeneogden said...

Reminds me of Woody Allen's character in Sleeper when he finds out in the future that candy bars are health food.

I guess the old maxim "moderation in all things" still has some validity.

Joan said...

HaloJonesFan: ha, ha. Only not.

If you, or anyone in the mainstream media, or most medical professionals, actually did buy the book, and then bothered to read it, you'd see that low carb diets only restrict carbohydrates severely for a very brief period (2 week "induction"), followed by a period in which high fiber (there it is again), low sugar vegetables and fruits are staples of the diet.

And Dr. Atkins' heart attack was the result of an infection he had had years earlier, and was not the result of arteriosclerosis or high cholesterol.

I'll step off the soapbox now; as someone who has been following a low carb diet on the advice of my doctors for about 6-7 years now, I tend to get uppity when people spout off about them without knowing what they're talking about.

Simon Kenton said...

If you spend 45 minutes a day panting hard, five days a week, your body will eat what it needs.

jeff said...

I figure I'm gonna die someday. Personally I'd like to die reasonably healthy, if you understand what I mean by that.

So I'll skip the tobacco, addictive drugs and the vast majority of alcohol.

The rest... I'm gonna enjoy life. I've personally thought the whole cholesterol thing was a boondoggle for quite awhile now.

brylin said...

Around 700 B.C., the Greek poet Hesiod, in "Works and Days," wrote: "Moderation is best in all things."

Euripides the playwright in his work “Medea” produced in Athens in 431 B.C.: “Moderation is best, above all in love.”

Plato advised in 'Gorgias' (c. 375 B.C.), “We should pursue and practice moderation.”

brylin said...

Should I have used "B.C.E." instead, so not to offend?

brylin said...

On the other hand, who can complain? Just look at life expectancies:

"This news has been routine for more than a hundred years, but it's still good to hear: Americans are living longer than ever. A baby born in 2003 can expect a record lifespan of 77.6 years, up from 77.3 the year before and up over two years from the life expectancy in 1990."

k said...

Actually, what if I said "B.C.E." offends me? Would you stop using it?

Anyway - can we not just agree that moderation has always been the standard? And focus on any single factor is just bound to be wrong? And most journalists don't know how to read scientific studies anyway, in order to analyze them and report them to us?

Not to mention, most of these "XXX is good for you" or "XXX can prevent YYY" studies are done in reverse. You ask people with various health conditions to recount, in retrospect, what and how they eat. Or, you look at a group of people who live in some other area of the world (I'm thinking yogurt and the 'stans relating to very old age attainment) and derive conclusions about what "caused" their health to be the way it is. None of this is easily translatable to real life, in any part of the world. And yet we let ourselves be taken in by the reports.

Eh. W/E. I'm staying balanced and eating, in moderation, about anything I want to. I think I'll be ok.