Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


Can a glass of water really prevent a heart attack?


I’m so glad that I got a facebook page. If only because it’s quickly becoming a better source for blog fodder than Dr Oz. Okay, okay, that’s a slight exaggeration. Regardless, there’s a wealth of health misinformation floating around around on there.

Take this post, for example. It purports to be information coming from the Mayo Clinic and tells people that they can reduce the risk of heart attack by drinking a glass of water just before going to bed for the night. Too good to be true? You bet! Now, most of us could probably stand to consume more water on a regular basis so I really don’t want to discourage you (no not you, I know that you get plenty!) from drinking water. However, I don’t like people thinking that a glass of water before bed is the ultimate in heart attack prevention.

There is no information on the Mayo Clinic website advising people to drink water before bedtime to prevent a heart attack. Moreover, there is no scientific research to support this claim.

The article also makes three additional claims about the optimal times to consume water in order to help certain health conditions:

 2 glasses of water after waking up – helps activate internal organs
1 glass of water 30 minutes before a meal – helps digestion
1 glass of water before taking a bath – helps lower blood pressure
1 glass of water before going to bed – avoids stroke or heart attack

This is all a lot of hooey. Want to know the optimal times to drink water: when you’re thirsty, when you’ve been sweating a considerable amount, and when you’re sleepy and want to be alert.

Want to “activate internal organs”? Avoid death or becoming a zombie. You’re good to go! Want to help digestion? Avoid consuming extremely large meals. Want to lower blood pressure? Avoid stroke or heart attack? Get plenty of exercise, avoid sitting for prolonged periods, consume a healthy, primarily plant-based diet.

The post goes on to mention additional advice about aspirin use for heart attacks. It references a Dr. Virend Somers at the Mayo Clinic. Google his name and the first thing that comes up is this post on the Mayo Clinic website:

We have been informed of a recently circulated email regarding the use of aspirin, which included mention of Dr. Virend Somers and of Mayo Clinic. Neither Dr. Somers nor Mayo Clinic contributed to this email, which contains some information that is inaccurate and potentially harmful. We recommend that you speak with your physician if you have specific questions.

This was posted back in 2010! Clearly this misinformation has been making the rounds for some time. I would like to echo the Mayo Clinic’s advice: if you are concerned about heart disease risk, or any other medical condition, go see your doctor. Definitely don’t accept unsolicited advice from facebook.


Dr. Oz, the fantasy continues

Will Dr. Oz ever cease to be an excellent source of inaccurate nutrition information? I really should thank him for being a source of inspiration for my ranting. However, I would much rather that he stopped playing dietitian and stuck to being a surgeon. “What’s he done this time?” you may be wondering. Along with his buddy Dr. Roizen, he’s published an article with Six Steps to a More Youthful You. It’s not all bad, but some of it is.

1. Visit your dental professional every six months to reduce risk of heart disease and diabetes. Umm… I’m pretty sure that association between heart disease and gum disease was thrown out the window months ago. Was there ever an alleged causal link between gum disease and diabetes? As far as I’m aware, diabetes can increase your risk for gum disease, not the reverse, although gum disease may worsen blood glucose control in those with diabetes. Yes, you should all be seeing your dentist regularly but not for the reasons given by these docs.

2. Take 2 baby aspirin daily. As a dietitian, I probably shouldn’t be commenting on this one. I’m just going to point out that after making this broad suggestion the doctors advise you to check with your doctor before starting this regime. Good idea, talk to your doctor. Don’t just start popping aspirins.

3. Go for three servings of salmon or trout a week. Twice a week is probably sufficient. I’d also like to extend the invitation to all “fatty fish”” anchovies, sardines, and mackerel. Also, Atlantic salmon is a far better source of omega-3 fatty acids than Pacific salmon.

4. Exercise is great. Every little bit helps but the higher the intensity, the greater the benefit. You also don’t need to leave rest days in between resistance training sessions, as long as you’re not working out the same muscle group two days in a row. For more about the health benefits and myths regarding exercise, read Tim Caulfield’s The Cure for Everything.

5. Nuts are good. I don’t really have any issue with this advice. Although I’m inclined to think this “real age” business is bullsh*t.

6. Yes, coffee may be good for you. Yes, I myself wrote about this last week. Please keep in mind that you’re not doing yourself any favours if you’re loading your coffee with cream and sugar.