Everything You Know About Food Is Wrong

Easter Eggs

In the spirit of the previous post, “Why Everything You Know is Wrong,”  here are some contrarian viewpoints on various foodstuffs that are said to affect childhood obesity.

Carbohydrates: Kris Gunnars collected a number of “debunked nutrition myths,” one of which concerns the purported danger of the low-carb diet, which has been mistakenly considered either ineffective or dangerous. The writer says that more than 20 (fully footnoted) studies indicate otherwise—especially when a low-carb regime is compared with the more frequently recommended low-fat diet.

Actually, research shows that low-carb eating lowers triglycerides, lowers blood pressure, raises “good cholesterol,” improves blood sugar and insulin levels and leads to “significantly more weight loss.”

Eggs: Gunnars also challenges the received wisdom that eggs, because of their cholesterol content, cause cardiovascular disease. Apparently, this is another myth, and eggs have been “unfairly demonized.” Here is the evidence for which, again, links to the pertinent scientific studies are provided:

Studies show that egg consumption actually improves the blood lipid profile. They raise the HDL (good) cholesterol and change the LDL from small, dense to Large, which is benign…

Observational studies show no association between egg consumption and risk of heart disease… Additionally, some studies show that eggs for breakfast can help you lose weight…

Cereal: Breakfast cereal has been extensively blamed as a childhood obesity villain, both for its high sugar content and for its unrelentingly aggressive marketing aimed at children. Should we be surprised when the manufacturers claim that, on the contrary, cereal is an important element of the cure for the childhood obesity epidemic?

The manufacturers’ main argument seems to be that since breakfast is the most important meal of the day (which in itself can be disputed), and cereal is the obvious thing to eat for breakfast, their case is proven.

Actually, there is a bit more to it than that. Also unsurprisingly, they have studies. But other research, tons of it, says that consumers of cereal take in an awful lot of calories in the form of sugar. And calories are, of course, the enemy. Margo Wootan and David Ludwig wrote for The Atlantic:

Some observational studies have suggested that children who typically eat breakfast cereal are less likely to be overweight. However, this type of study cannot prove cause and effect, and most have been funded or conducted by the cereal industry… Consuming even modest portions of sugary cereals leaves no room for any other added sugars in a healthy diet for a child.

Furthermore, there is no logical or convincing reason why this breakfast staple must contain such a large proportion of sugar. The authors cite a Yale study which shows that “low-sugar, whole grain cereals are well accepted by children, and when they eat them, they eat more reasonable portion sizes.” So, why does the industry continue to insist on formulations with such high sugar content? Why does the industry work so hard to convince us that what we are pretty darn sure we know about cereal is wrong?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “8 Ridiculous Nutrition Myths Debunked,” authoritynutrition.com, 05/22/13
Source: “Sugary Cereal: Breakfast Candy or Obesity Cure?,” TheAtlantic.com, 04/24/12
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