Monday, December 04, 2006

Currently reading Panic Nation by Feldman and Marks. Got through about 6 chapters so far, and so far the authors have been the bearers of excellent news! Everything we've been taught to fear about the food we eat is nonsense, according to them. They suggest that our precautions against consuming foods we think are dangerous to our health are actually the result of an "organized paranoia" perpetrated by well-meaning health-regulatory bodies who would rather err on the side of caution (and avoid expensive lawsuits) rather than good sense and good science.

Feldman and Marks cite study after study, across different demographics and over the long-term showing that there is no significant change to our life-expectancy even if we conscientiously reduce consuming "unhealthy" foods. They systematically debunk our fears through statistical as well as scientific analysis and expose the myths behind fat, "junk" food, cholesterol, salt, sugar and a whole bunch of other supposed poisons, toxins and carcinogens in our diet. In fact, by drastically cutting down on some of these substances, we might actually risk harming our bodies because we need them in certain amounts in order for our bodies to function properly.

Some facts they bring to light are quite eye-opening. For example, the cholesterol we eat does not and can not become the cholesterol that clogs our arteries. The two aren't even the same thing, having completely different molecular structures from each other. Sugar is a direct cause of tooth decay, but only contributes to obesity because it makes food taste better and therefore causes people to eat more food than they need. Salt intake is always properly balanced in the body of a normal, healthy person. If there is too much salt, the body excretes the excess through sweat and pee, but if there is too little salt the risk of heart failure actually rises!

If anything, Panic Nation advocates that we eat whatever we want without having to feel guilty about it. We just need to eat a variety of foods in reasonable quantity, like our ancestors have always done, and quit worrying that whatever we put into our mouths is going to kill us. I'll remember that next time I reach for a Krispy Kreme.

Myth: You can live forever if you only eat healthy food.
Truth: Life is sexually transmitted and always ends in death (Vincent Marks).

Further readings:
BBC News: Is junk food a myth?
A more balanced review: here.

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