by Joseph Mercola
- Many mainstream nutritionists are guilty of spreading dietary myths and misconceptions that lead to poor health outcomes. Here, I review 10 of the most widespread lies that have been refuted by science
- The National Academies’ Institute of Medicine recommends adults to get 45–65 percent of their calories from carbohydrates, 20–35 percent from fat, and 10–35 percent from protein. This is an inverse ideal fat to carb ratio that is virtually guaranteed to lead you astray and result in a heightened risk of chronic disease.
- Most people likely benefit from 50-70 percent of calories as healthful fats in their diet for optimal health, whereas you need very few carbohydrates to maintain good health. Although that may seem like a lot, fat is much denser and consumes a much smaller portion of your meal plate
- The low-fat myth may have done more harm to the health of millions than any other dietary recommendation as the resulting low-fat craze led to increased consumption of trans-fats, which we now know increases your risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease – the very health problems wrongfully attributed to saturated fats
- Most people use artificial sweeteners to lose weight and/or because they’re diabetic and need to avoid sugar. Ironically, nearly all the studies that have carefully analyzed artificial sweeteners show that those who use artificial sweeteners actually gain more weight than those who consume caloric sweeteners. Studies have also revealed that artificial sweeteners can be worse than sugar for diabetics
- Fructose, soy, eggs, whole grains, milk, lunch meats, and genetically engineered foods are also victims of widespread misconceptions that threaten your health unless you get it “right”
There’s no shortage of health myths out there, but I believe the truth is slowly but surely starting to seep out there and get a larger audience. For example, two recent articles actually hit the nail right on the head in terms of good nutrition advice.
These health topics are all essential to get “right” if you want to protect your health, and the health of your loved ones, which is why I was delighted to see both of these sources disseminating spot-on advice. I highly recommend reading through both of them.
Here, I will review my own top 10 lies and misconceptions of mainstream nutrition – some of which are included in the two featured sources, plus a few additional ones I believe are important.
Lie # 1: ‘Saturated Fat Causes Heart Disease’
As recently as 2002, the “expert” Food & Nutrition Board issued the following misguided statement, which epitomizes this myth:
“Saturated fats and dietary cholesterol have no known beneficial role in preventing chronic disease and are not required at any level in the diet.”
Similarly, the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine recommends adults to get 45–65 percent of their calories from carbohydrates, 20-35 percent from fat, and 10-35 percent from protein. This is an inverse ideal fat to carb ratio that is virtually guaranteed to lead you astray, and result in a heightened risk of chronic disease.
Most people benefit from 50-70 percent healthful fats in their diet for optimal health, whereas you need very few, if any, carbohydrates to maintain good health… Although that may seem like a lot, fat is much denser and consumes a much smaller portion of your meal plate.
This dangerous recommendation, which arose from an unproven hypothesis from the mid-1950s, has been harming your health and that of your loved ones for about 40 years now.
The truth is, saturated fats from animal and vegetable sources provide the building blocks for cell membranes and a variety of hormones and hormone-like substances, without which your body cannot function optimally. They also act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Dietary fats are also needed for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, for mineral absorption, and for a host of other biological processes.
In fact, saturated is the preferred fuel for your heart! For more information about saturated fats and the essential role they play in maintaining your health, please read my previous article The Truth About Saturated Fat.
Lie # 2: ‘Eating Fat Makes You Gain Weight’
The low-fat myth may have done more harm to the health of millions than any other dietary recommendation as the resulting low-fat craze led to increased consumption of trans-fats, which we now know increases your risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease – the very health problems wrongfully attributed to saturated fats…
To end the confusion, it’s very important to realize that eating fat will not make you fat!
The primary cause of excess weight and all the chronic diseases associated with it, is actually the consumption of too much sugar – especially fructose, but also all sorts of grains, which rapidly convert to sugar in your body. If only the low-fat craze had been a low-sugar craze… then we wouldn’t have nearly as much chronic disease as we have today. For an explanation of why and how a low-fat diet can create the very health problems it’s claimed to prevent, please see this previous article.
Lie # 3: ‘Artificial Sweeteners are Safe Sugar-Replacements for Diabetics, and Help Promote Weight Loss’
Most people use artificial sweeteners to lose weight and/or because they’re diabetic and need to avoid sugar. The amazing irony is that nearly all the studies that have carefully analyzed their effectiveness show that those who use artificial sweeteners actually gain more weight than those who consume caloric sweeteners. Studies have also revealed that artificial sweeteners can be worse than sugar for diabetics.
In 2005, data gathered from the 25-year-long San Antonio Heart Study showed that drinking dietsoft drinks increased the likelihood of serious weight gain, far more so than regular soda.3 On average, each diet soft drink the participants consumed per day increased their risk of becoming overweight by 65 percent within the next seven to eight years, and made them 41 percent more likely to become obese. There are several potential causes for this, including:
- Sweet taste alone appears to increase hunger, regardless of caloric content.
- Artificial sweeteners appear to simply perpetuate a craving for sweets, and overall sugar consumption is therefore not reduced – leading to further problems controlling your weight.4
- Artificial sweeteners may disrupt your body’s natural ability to “count calories,” as evidenced in studies such as this 2004 study at Purdue University,5 which found that rats fed artificially sweetened liquids ate more high-calorie food than rats fed high-caloric sweetened liquids.
There is also a large number of health dangers associated with artificial sweeteners and aspartame in particular. I’ve compiled an ever-growing list of studies pertaining to health problems associated with aspartame, which you can find here. If you’re still on the fence, I highly recommend reviewing these studies for yourself so that you can make an educated decision. For more information on aspartame, the worst artificial sweetener, please see my aspartame video.
Lie # 4: ‘Your Body Cannot Tell the Difference Between Sugar and Fructose’
Of the many health-harming ingredients listed in the featured article by Shape Magazine – all of which you’re bound to get in excess if you consume processed foods – fructose is perhaps the greatest threat to your health. Mounting evidence testifies to the fact that excess fructose, primarily in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), is a primary factor causing not just obesity, but also chronic and lethal disease. In fact, I am convinced that fructose is one of the leading causes of a great deal of needless suffering from poor health and premature death.
Many conventional health “experts,” contend that sugar and fructose in moderation is perfectly okay and part of a normal “healthy” diet, and the corn industry vehemently denies any evidence showing that fructose is metabolically more harmful than regular sugar (sucrose). This widespread denial and sweeping the evidence under the carpet poses a massive threat to your health, unless you do your own research.
As a standard recommendation, I advise keeping your total fructose consumption below 25 grams per day. For most people it would also be wise to limit your fructose from fruit to 15 grams or less. Unfortunately, while this is theoretically possible, precious few people are actually doing that.
Cutting out a few desserts will not make a big difference if you’re still eating a “standard American diet” – in fact, I’ve previously written about how various foods and beverages contain far more sugar than a glazed doughnut. Because of the prevalence of HFCS in foods and beverages, the average person now consumes 1/3 of a pound of sugar EVERY DAY, which is five ounces or 150 grams, half of which is fructose.
That’s 300 percent more than the amount that will trigger biochemical havoc. Remember that is the AVERAGE; many actually consume more than twice that amount. For more details about the health dangers of fructose and my recommendations, please see my recent article Confirmed – Fructose Can Increase Your Hunger and Lead to Overeating.
Lie # 5: ‘Soy is a Health Food’
The meteoric rise of soy as a “health food” is a perfect example of how a brilliant marketing strategy can fool millions. But make no mistake about it, unfermented soy products are NOT healthful additions to your diet, and can be equally troublesome for men and women of all ages. If you find this recommendation startling then I would encourage you to review some of the many articles listed on my Soy Index Page.
Contrary to popular belief, thousands of studies have actually linked unfermented soy to malnutrition, digestive distress, immune-system breakdown, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders and infertility – even cancer and heart disease.
Not only that, but more than 90 percent of American soy crops are genetically modified, which carries its own set of health risks.6 I am not opposed to all soy, however. Organic and, most importantly, properly fermented soy does have great health benefits. Examples of such healthful fermented soy products include tempeh, miso and natto. Here is a small sampling of the detrimental health effects linked to unfermented soy consumption:
|Breast cancer||Brain damage||Infant abnormalities|
|Thyroid disorders||Kidney stones||Immune system impairment|
|Severe, potentially fatal food allergies||Impaired fertility||Danger during pregnancy and breastfeeding|
Lie # 6: ‘Eggs are a Source of Unhealthy Cholesterol’
Eggs are probably one of the most demonized foods in the United States, mainly because of the misguided idea implied by the lipid hypothesis that eating egg yolk increases the cholesterol levels in your body. You can forget about such concerns, because contrary to popular belief, eggs are one of the healthiest foods you can eat and they do not have a detrimental impact on cholesterol levels. Numerous nutritional studies have dispelled the myth that you should avoid eating eggs, so this recommendation is really hanging on by a very bare thread…
One such study7, conducted by the Yale Prevention Research Center and published in 2010, showed that egg consumption did not have a negative effect on endothelial function – a measure of cardiac risk – and did not cause a spike on cholesterol levels. The participants of the Yale study ate two eggs per day for a period of six weeks. There are many benefits associated with eggs, including:
|One egg contains 6 grams of high quality protein and all 9 essential amino acids||Eggs are good for your eyes because they contain lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants found in your lens and retina. These two compounds help protect your eyes from damage caused by free radicals and avoid eye diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts||Eggs are a good source of choline (one egg contains about 300 micrograms), a member of the vitamin B family essential for the normal function of human cells and helps regulate the nervous and cardiovascular systems. Choline is especially beneficial for pregnant mothers as it is influences normal brain development of the unborn child|
|Eggs are one of the few foods that contain naturally occurring vitamin D (24.5 grams)||Eggs may help promote healthy hair and nails due to their high sulphur content||Eggs also contain biotin, calcium, copper, folate, iodine, iron, manganese, magnesium, niacin, potassium, selenium, sodium, thiamine, vitamin A, vitamin B2, vitamin B12, vitamin E and zinc|
Choose free-range organic eggs, and avoid “omega-3 eggs” as this is not the proper way to optimize your omega-3 levels. To produce these omega-3 eggs, the hens are usually fed poor-quality sources of omega-3 fats that are already oxidized. Omega-3 eggs are more perishable than non-omega-3 eggs.