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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Confidence Lost

Two years ago I purchased a laptop from a leading computer retailer in the country. I had purchased a computer from this company before that functioned very well so I had a high level of confidence with this one. Since the day I first took that laptop out of the box I have had nothing but problems with it. In fact there I have had to call the company five times in the last two years to have the machine repaired.

Having paid the full asking price for the lemon laptop up front and calling customer service too many times for service I decided to take a different tact. This time instead of requesting another service call I politely and sternly asked that they provide me with a new laptop and take the piece of junk off of my hands. Thankfully this computer retailer decided to see things my way and provide me with a new laptop. Hopefully this one will work properly.

The last thing I said to the customer service representative of this major computer retailer is how much I had lost confidence in their products and their willingness to stand behind them until the problem was resolved. Similarly I have lost confidence in much of what is called science in the arena of health and nutrition as well. Like the aforementioned computer company I hear fat promises but see thin results.

Almost daily scientific studies are published touting the latest findings that will guide us toward better health. Yet my confidence wanes because many of these studies are seemingly contradictory. One set of findings promotes the benefits of eating a low fat diet while the next study off the press finds that a high protein diet is more beneficial. One group of scientists encourages less sugar intake while others find no association between sugar intakes an ill health. Stop the insanity already.

Trying to digest all of these conflicting studies can cause a severe case of mental indigestion. Which ones are right and how would we really even know. Can it not be that someone rises above all of this biological back and forth to provide us a clear set of useful guidelines? Or should it be the case that we simply ignore what the scientific community “finds” and go our own way?

A prime example or the scientific malpractice is the theory that eating fat especially saturated fat causes heart disease. First postulated by the famed Ancel Keys as a result of his seven countries study in the middle part of the last century the diet heart idea has been at the foundation of nutritional science ever since. The problem is that the link between fat and heart disease has never been clearly established and his findings never replicated.

Moreover what has been revealed about the Keys findings is that the seven countries that appeared in the final report of his research were those that supported his hypothesis and the rest of the data was discarded. Therefore is what has stood for solid science over the last seventy years is built on one mans bias then is it any wonder why I and others have lost confidence in science?

Another scientific stronghold over the last century is that being thin is on par with having a high level of health. To think otherwise in some circles can really get you in trouble. Yet time and time again this theory had been shown to be false. In fact those who are heavier tend to have a better level of health and lower mortality rates than those who are thin. This is another reason to question our confidence level in science.

So what should we do? Can I eat whatever I want? Yes. Should I get plenty of physical activity? Sure. Is it a good idea not to over do it at the dinner table, of course? Trying to jump all of the hurdles of science is nearly impossible because once you nail one idea down and put it into practice something else comes along to take its place. Here are two rules I have come to depend on when it comes to nutrition, health and science.

First question everything. We used to be quite adept at scrutinizing authority so that we were certain that the information we were getting was right and then we became grown ups. I am convinced that we should never lose that willingness to ask why and how. Otherwise we are destined to buy in to things and believe things that are just not the truth. The second rule is equally important trust yourself.

We must be willing to trust our own good common sense when it comes to matters of our own health. As the saying goes if something sounds too good to be true it probably is. If a news headline promises the world just keep in mind it probably cannot make the delivery. You know yourself better than anyone on earth so listen. If you are full then stop eating. If you are eating too many hamburgers then choose something else once in a while. If you are a couch potato then mix it up a little.

The truth is science can only tell us so much. Furthermore scientists carry bias that influence how and what they find. To rely on the white coats for all of the answers is not in keeping with the old can do American spirit. Finally don’t let them make you worry because the wisest of all once said who can add to his stature by doing that. And that should give you lots of confidence.

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