Submitted by Edward Malstrom
In terms of our health and welfare, we are well advised to have moderate intake of meats; copious intake of fruits, vegetables and grains; engage in some moderately taxing, pleasant, non-competitive exercise; get more sleep; and especially enjoy, appreciate, be grateful and give thanks for all that we have. There is a plethora of information, dictums, and advice being spewed from the media concerning our health and welfare. Unfortunately, much of this information is concoctions of misinterpretations of research data, extrapolations from incomplete research, misleading or poorly conducted research, and occasionally deliberate deception. This type of information, and especially the assumptions formed because of it, tends to produce contradictory guidelines and confusion regarding our health and wellness. Too often, guidelines and practices that are deemed highly acceptable and advisable today are often not acceptable tomorrow and are too often found to be quite inimical to our health and welfare.
Much of this research as quoted in the media, is of a correlational nature. That is, evaluations are made concerning association of occurrences, i.e., does this event occur at the same time another event occurs, or is this event associated or linked with another event. For instance, the controversies on the relationships of fat/cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.
A lead article appearing in the Tufts University health and Nutrition Letter, dated October 1997, states in part:AFat around the waist, more than fat deposits elsewhere on the body, is associated with an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes and perhaps cancer as well. The good news is that scientists are finding some clues about how to keep fat from creeping over the middle as the decades pass. One piece of research suggest that tummies stay trimmer with a diet high in vegetables rather than in meat.
Scientists with the American Cancer Society who followed almost 80,000 middle aged people for 10 years found that those who ate at least 19 servings of vegetables a week were significantly less likely to gain weight at the waist than people who ate relatively little in the way of vegetables. Conversely, those who ate more than three servings of red meat each week appeared to be more likely to gain weight around the belt line. (from Tufts Health & Nutrition)
The article goes on to state that there is uncertainty as to why vegetables were linked with belly fat accumulations, and that some association exists between veggie eating and life style, especially exercise. Also that jogging is associated with less belly fat. The implication of the article is clear in that if we would keep off belly fat, or even reduce belly fat we would remove ourselves from heart disease, diabetes and cancer. We tend to assume from the research reports that the size of the waist line is somehow causing heart problems, when in fact the research only suggest that waist size is somewhat associated with, not causing, cardiovascular difficulty. There is a paucity of research suggesting fat has any causal effect on heart disease. In fact there is good research evidence that too little fat is perhaps more inimical to our health than too much fat.
A problem with the type of data referred to in the Nutrition Letter, and the way it is presented in the media, is the tendency to assignAcause and effect@ to events, when in actuality there is no Acause and effect,@ merely association. It also appears to me that the data is presented in an Aalarmist@ platform that will catch attention, thus selling more copy. As we ponder the above article we should keep in mind that not all people who are overweight or have large waistlines have cardiovascular problems, and reducing weight and waistline doesn=t necessarily prevent, or ameliorate, cardiovascular problems.
I suspect that the emotional energy spent on worrying, fretting, being alarmed about, and trying to control our weight is causing more damage to our bodies than the fat itself. It suggests that we be very hesitant to make lifestyle changes based solely upon correlational studies. We should certainly attend to these types of studies, but more importantly we should be tentative about changing our behavior until we have more definitive data. Prophetic advice, such as contained in the 89th section of Doctrine & Covenants, probably is going to be more efficacious to us in the long run than putting much faith in under researched dictums and suggestions about nutrition and life styles. My challenge is to become an educated consumer with insights sufficient to make me a little less vulnerable to the monetary designs of corporate America.
Faculty/Staff Bulletin--October 9 & 16, 1997