Why is it that nutrition is always so confusing and conflicting? Could it be in today’s world of nutrition, everybody is selling something?
The nutrition industry is just that: an industry. As pointed out in a 2016 U.S. News report, people in this industry are trying to make money, just like everyone else. That holds true for credible, well-educated doctors, researchers, academic institutions, dietitians, trainers and other professionals. It certainly holds true for food manufacturers with their hard-to-define labels designed to boost sales and their ability to skirt health concerns.
Aaron E. Carroll of the New York Times recently pointed out that medical scientists and academics must publish their research to advance. Medical organizations must release health recommendations to remain relevant. News organizations feel they must report on research and recommendations as they are released; the more provocative the content, the better.
With so much nutrition content being produced and flooding media channels, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds consumers that no single nutrition study is the be-all, end-all. Reliable scientific conclusions depend on many studies turning up the same results repeatedly. Based on this higher standard, I am happy to report some good news for coffee-drinkers, chocolate-eaters and cheese-lovers.
A review by British scientists of more than 200 studies on coffee consumption and health recently verified its significant health rewards. According to the researchers, people who drink three to four cups of coffee a day are more likely to see health benefits than harm, experience lower rates of premature death, as well as lower rates of cardiovascular disease and liver disease. Drinking more coffee is also associated with a decrease in several types of cancer and lower rates of type 2 diabetes, gallstones and dementia.
Another study, which analyzed information from nearly 150,000 U.S. veterans, found that eating chocolate on a regular basis may reduce people’s risk of heart problems, particularly among those with obesity. The findings suggest that eating chocolate could reduce the risk of both heart disease and stroke. It is important to note that the daily serving size used in the study was a single ounce of chocolate. The new study did not distinguish between dark and milk chocolate in receiving these health benefits.
New to the list of once frowned-upon indulgences is cheese. According to a new paper published in the European Journal of Nutrition, people in the analysis who ate a little bit of cheese every day were less likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke, compared to those who rarely or never ate cheese.
A study analyzed data from 15 observational studies including more than 200,000 people and found that people who consumed cheese daily had a 14 percent lower risk of developing coronary heart disease and were 10 percent less likely to have a stroke than those who rarely or never ate cheese. For this study, participants consumed 40 grams of cheese a day. This amounts to a slice of cheese about the size of a matchbook.
In November, in the “not so good news” category, I talked about the dangers people face when combining multiple medications; known as “polypharmacy.” This practice, which is defined as taking five or more drugs concurrently, has become a common occurrence.
According to an article published in JAMA Internal Medicine, more than a third of people 62 to 85 surveyed were taking at least five prescription medications. But older people don’t just take prescription drugs. Of those surveyed, almost two-thirds were using dietary supplements and nearly 40 percent took over-the-counter drugs, increasing the chance of dangerous side effects.
While it has become routine for doctors to ask patients what medications they are taking, when was the last time a doctor asked you what vitamins you were taking?
If we needed more reasons why this information is important, we can look to a statement released in November by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. An ingredient commonly found in multivitamins, prenatal vitamins and supplements called biotin (also known as vitamin B7 or vitamin H) has been shown to cause errors in some medical lab tests that can potentially lead to a medical misdiagnosis. These errors can occur in a variety of lab tests, including tests to measure hormone levels and tests that can reveal signs of a heart attack. The statement notes that the false test results could also potentially make a healthy patient appear to have thyroid disease. It is unclear exactly what amount of biotin causes lab test errors.
The intent of the Food and Drug Administration is not necessarily to stop people from taking biotin. The purpose is to alert the public to be mindful of this issue and inform their doctor if taking multivitamins and supplements that contain biotin.
Write to Chuck Norris with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at ChuckNorrisNews.blogspot.com.