I always think it’s good to get rid of myths about human diet – so here are six care of last week’s New Scientist.
1. Drink eight glasses of water per day
Turns out we get plenty of water from food and drinks such as tea and coffee (the idea these dehydrate is also debunked).
2. Sugar makes children hyperactive
No scientific evidence for this one at all (to be honest I have always associated this with America – not really a claim you see made in Britain in any case).
3. “Detox diets” get rid of poisons such as PCBs.
Apparently it would take six – ten years of zero exposure to get rid of just half of these sort of chemicals from our muscles. As zero exposure is not possible, neither is that. As for a six week diet, forget it. You can, of course, stop smoking and cut down on drinking. But it is for regulators to cut our exposure to harmful chemicals, a diet is not going to cut it.
4. Antioxidant supplements help you live longer
Scientific studies show that taking antioxidant supplements may actually impair your body’s defences by weakening the natural mechanisms that manufacture these in our cells to tackle free radicals.
5. Being a bit overweight means you will die sooner.
Obesity is one thing – being overweight another. Obesity, certainly a BMI over 35, is correlated with higher risk of premature death. But a BMI of 25 – 29 is a different matter. But being overweight may make you more susceptible to illnesses that affect the quality of life, but there is no evidence to suggest it increases mortality.
6. The “paleo diet” is the way to go
We have no great idea what was eaten in the stone age, or even how healthy those who lived then really were. What is more humans have evolved the genetic ability to digest some of the foods the “paleo diet” suggests we should avoid – indicating a flawed argument (indeed the scientists on whose work the original claims for the paleo diet were based have revised their ideas to account for this – the diet’s advocates are seriously trailing the evidence).
- TED Talks on the Paleo Diet (brittsblogging.wordpress.com)
- Why The Paleo Diet is a Bunch of Bullsh*t! (shareitfitness.com)
- [tt] NS 2931: Health myths (6 articles) (stirling-westrup-tt.blogspot.com)
- Debunking the paleo diet: Christina Warinner at TEDxOU (annetteholland.com)
- Paleo Diet: A Study of Extreme Nostalgia (greenphonebooth.com)
- Why BMI Isn’t The Best Measure for Weight (or Health) (healthland.time.com)
- Antioxidant Supplement (rockstarfitau.wordpress.com)
- Antioxidant Supplements Do Not Help Women Conceive (medindia.net)
- The Truth About Antioxidants (healthland.time.com)
- Detrimental Effects From Dietary Antioxidant Supplementation (fightaging.org)