The following food myths are some of the most persistent in American culture. If I asked 10 people on the street whether these statements were true, I’d bet 9 out of 10 would say yes. Do you believe these myths too?
Food Myth 1: Salt is bad for you.
Truth: In 1996, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a meta-analysis of 56 clinical trials done since 1980 in people with normal blood pressure, and found that extreme salt reduction had little effect on lowering blood pressure.
In another recent study, the investigators found that the less salt people ate, the more likely they were to die of heart disease. Here’s an article about another recent study which shows that eating less salt increases triglycerides and other hormones in the blood, which increases blood pressure and heart attack risk.
And in a review of another meta-analysis in 2011, an article in Scientific American discussing the analysis stated
“This week a meta-analysis of seven studies involving a total of 6,250 subjects in the American Journal of Hypertension found no strong evidence that cutting salt intake reduces the risk for heart attacks, strokes or death in people with normal or high blood pressure.
In addition, recent studies have discussed a growing state of iodine deficiency in the United States, which may be the result of the US government’s unsound advice that all Americans avoid eggs and lower salt intake. Worse, there is also evidence that iodine deficiencies contribute to atherosclerosis and heart disease.
Food Myth 2: Eggs are bad for your health.
Truth: Eggs are a perfect food, providing protein, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, the B vitamin choline, which is critical for a healthy liver, and important fatty acids that contribute to the health of the brain and nervous system. The consumption of eggs has been shown to reduce systemic inflammation markers such as C-Reactive Protein, indicating that they have an anti-inflammatory effect.
Food Myth 3: Butter is full of saturated fat that will clog your arteries, so margarine is a better choice.
Truth: People who eat margarine have twice the rate of heart disease as those who eat butter. (Nutrition Week 3/22/91 21:12). The process of making margarine involves several toxic chemicals and specialized equipment. To make butter, you only need a food mixer and a quart of cream. Personally, I prefer food that is closer to nature. In addition, the scientific evidence, honestly evaluated, does not support the hypothesis that saturated fats cause atherosclerosis or heart disease.
Food Myth 4: Heart disease in America is caused by the consumption of cholesterol and saturated fat found in animal products such as butter, bacon, and lard, and tropical fats such as coconut oil and palm oils.
Truth: No scientifically valid study has ever shown a link between saturated fat consumption and heart disease. A recent meta-analysis concluded, “that there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of Coronary Heart Disease or Coronary Vascular Disease.”
Throughout the years that heart disease was on the rise in America (1920-1960), the consumption of animal and tropical fats declined, while the consumption of highly inflammatory hydrogenated and refined vegetable oils increased dramatically. This correlates to the now widely accepted theory that unchecked and chronic inflammation is the underlying, unifying cause of heart disease, atherosclerosis, diabetes and a host of other health issues.
Note that the fat in animal products is not all saturated. About 51% of the fat in a steak is monosaturated (like olive oil). About 45% of the fat is saturated fat, but of that, a third is a type of fat called stearic acid, which has been shown to increase the good HDL cholesterol and leave LDL unchanged. The remaining 4% is polyunsaturated fat which has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol. So in summary, 70% of the fat in a steak or in bacon or lard will improve your levels of HDL and LDL cholesterol.
Food Myth 5: Blood cholesterol levels should be less than 180 mg/dl for good heart health.
Truth: This editorial in the journal Circulation discusses the fact that the rates of death from all causes are higher in those populations with cholesterol levels lower than 180 mg/dl. This study concluded that “The relative risk of non-cardiac death was 2ยท27 times higher in the low cholesterol group than in the controls.”
Food Myth 6: Children should be fed a low-fat diet to avoid health problems later in life.
Truth: Children need rich nutrition found in saturated fats to grow and develop normally. It is for this reason that healthy human breast milk is on average about 60% fat.
Food Myth 7: Red meat consumption causes cancer.
Truth: Two 1990 studies on red meat found a higher risk of colon cancer among those who eat red meat. However, no study done in Europe has ever shown an association between meat consumption and cancer. This suggests that European sausage and luncheon meat, included in the label of “meat consumption,” is prepared by traditional methods that require few additives, while the similar products in the United States contain many carcinogenic preservatives and flavorings. In addition, many other studies have shown that a vegetarian diet, and in particular, refined vegetable oils are more carcinogenic than red meat.
There are several studies that support this hypothesis. In 1975, Rowland Philips compared Seventh-Day Adventists physicians, who do not eat meat, with non-Seventh Day Adventist physicians, and found that the vegetarian doctors had higher rates of gastrointestinal and colon-rectal cancer deaths. National Cancer Institute data show that in Argentina, where high levels of beef are consumed, the rates of colon cancer are significantly lower than in other western countries where less beef is consumed.
Red meat from cattle that have been raised humanely is a rich source of nutrients that protect the heart and nervous system including vitamins B12 and B6, zinc, phosphorus, carnitine and Coenzyme Q10, and should be a part of a healthy diet. Just be sure to buy pastured, grass-fed meat.
Food Myth 8: Whole grains are good for you.
In addition, grains, even whole ones, are very high in carbohydrates. There is a huge and growing volume of research which implicates high carb consumption in the epidemics of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and a host of other health problems in the United States.
In the raw state, whole grains are poisonous and cannot be digested by humans, as we don’t have 4 stomachs like ruminant animals to break these foods down. They must be processed in some way for human consumption.
Food Myth 9: You should avoid foods containing cholesterol if you want to lower your cholesterol levels.
Truth: Your body makes about 1 gram of cholesterol each day. That’s double the amount of what a typical Western diet provides from food, which is about 500mg/day.
In addition, eating foods that contain cholesterol (i.e., meat, eggs, and saturated fat) has the biochemical effect of reducing cholesterol production in the body.
In contrast, eating foods that turn into sugar in the body (i.e., carbs) turns on the cholesterol making processes in the body. Hence, if you want to lower your blood cholesterol levels, you have to eat less carbohydrate, because cholesterol is made from the chemical products of glucose metabolism. Any medical biochemistry text will confirm that fact.
Food Myth 10: Foods made from soy are healthy and nutritious.
Truth: Most modern soy foods are unhealthy foods for humans. Modern soy products are not cooked or fermented properly to neutralize the abundant natural toxins in soybeans, and they are processed in a way that damages the proteins and increases the levels of carcinogens. Read Kaayla Daniel’s The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America’s Favorite Health Food for more information.
Food Myth 11: Lowering your fat intake and eating lots of fruits and vegetables will help you lower your risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
Truth: The Women’s Health Initiative Study results, which were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2006, clearly showed that over time, a dietary intervention that reduces total fat intake and increased intakes of vegetables, fruits, and grains does NOT significantly reduce the risk of CHD, stroke, or CVD.
In fact, other studies have shown that when study participants stopped eating fruits and vegetables for a period of 10 weeks, damage to DNA and blood lipids DECREASED. In other words, a diet high in vegetables and fruit increases oxidative damage to cellular DNA.
Food Myth 12: The low fat, low cholesterol diet recommended by the American Heart Association is the healthiest way to eat.
Truth: The link between low fat, low cholesterol diet, and better health has never been proven by any scientific study. The low-fat diet-heart health hypothesis was the outcome of several non-scientific factors driven by aggressive, arrogant personalities and newly financed medical organizations.
The real results of this “low fats are good, eat more grains” advice can be seen in the state of health enjoyed by the average American and the care given to us by our health system.
After following the low-fat diet advice given by the American Heart Association and other government agencies for the past 30 years, the United States has one of the highest adult and infant mortality rates of any modern industrialized country.
The skyrocketing rates of diabetes in the US and the rates of chronic disease, in general, are overwhelming our health care system. The rates of heart disease and cancer have not diminished despite millions of dollars spent on research.
However, the pharmaceutical companies and the medical establishments are doing well financially, as the AHA and other Federal agencies continue to promote the high carb, low-fat diet that has caused serious health problems for millions of American citizens.
Food Myth 13: My doctor is the best source of credible scientific information about nutrition and health.
Truth: Medical schools do not teach nutrition to doctors; they teach doctors how to treat symptoms with drugs. On average, doctors get about 2 weeks of nutritional training.
Food Myth 14: The USDA Food Pyramid is the best guide to follow for learning about what to eat for good health.
Truth: The modern USDA Food Pyramid is based on principles that have never been proven in any scientific study, and it is heavily influenced by food supply politics, and food manufacturing and agricultural lobbying. You can read about the history of the USDA Food Pyramid here.
Food Myth 15: Carbohydrates are essential nutrients and must be included in a healthy diet.
Truth: An essential nutrient is one that must be obtained from the food supply because the human body is unable to make it internally. There are only four essential nutrients needed by the human body to thrive:
- Essential fatty acids from dietary fats
- Essential amino acids from animal-based protein foods
- A few vitamins
- Dietary minerals.
Any carbohydrate (glucose or blood sugar) the body needs can be generated internally. Your liver can make all the glucose it needs from the glycogen stored in the liver tissue and muscles. And if need be, the body can also make glucose from the protein in your food. In fact, about 56% of the protein you eat is turned directly into glucose in the body. Hence, carbohydrates are NOT essential nutrients, and many people, such as the Inuit, live without them for long periods of time without any effect on health and well-being.
Food Myth 16: The American Diabetes Association is the best source of dietary advice for diabetics.
Truth: The diet that the American Diabetes Association recommends actually makes diabetics sicker by advocating the consumption of too many carbohydrates. Multiple studies have shown that higher carbohydrate consumption makes diabetic blood sugar control worse, elevates HbA1c levels and worsens blood lipid panel numbers.