Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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The day the Internet dies

Sometimes I think that we would all be so much better off if the Internet collapsed. Or at the very least, social media networks.

I was reading this article: The Death of Civility in the Digital Age that Yoni Freedhoff shared on his blog last week and thinking about how true it is. People are so ready to attack, always looking for a fight, on social media. The interaction of your fingers with your computer or mobile phone sending out words to someone you’ve probably never even met irl is vastly different from having a conversation with someone face-to-face, or even over the phone. It’s so easy to respond hastily and to neglect to consider that your words will be read by a real actual live human.

While I love that I can find the answer to nearly any question immediately on a tiny computer I carry in my purse I find myself more and more often wondering if it’s worth the cost we’re paying. Egregious cellphone bills in Canada aside, I mean what we’re paying in declining humanity and rampant misinformation.

I can find the answer to nearly any question online but anyone can put what they believe to be the answer out there. This means, especially in the world of nutrition, that there can be heaps of misleading, inaccurate, and completely false information that I need to sift through and assess before I come to the correct answer. There is an ever growing mountain of misinformation online and a tide of dietary dogma on social media. It’s ever so tempting to just shut it out but I feel an obligation to stay online to fight it, to try to dilute it with as much truth as I can. Which is hard because there aren’t many hard and fast truths when it comes to a balanced diet, despite what the radical carnivores, vegans, ketoites (I don’t know what they call themselves), LCHF-ists, HCLF-ists, etc etc would have you believe.

I also hate the constant need for self-promotion. I’m reading the novel Radiant Shimmering Light right now and the whole obsession with getting likes on IG, and RTs on Twitter really rings true. There are a few characters in the book who are “lifestyle” bloggers and they present these varnished, edited versions of their lives as currency. They make money through links on their websites and through selling the idea of perfection and self-marketing. The book is kind of poking fun at this world we’ve created but it’s done so in a way that you really feel the anxiety-provoking compulsion of the narrator to check her notifications. It’s nearly impossible for a dietitian, especially one in private practice, to not use social media. There are dietitians who make a living by coaching others on how to optimize their Instagram feeds. Like are you even a dietitian if you’re not posting perfectly styled photos of acai smoothie bowls and kale salads?

Our years of nutrition education and proof of ongoing education are no longer enough. Now we must be savvy social media marketers, chefs, expert food stylists, and photographers. We must be brands in and of ourselves. We must constantly be competing with self-styled nutrition gurus, other dietitians, and ourselves. I know that I’ve probably got my rose-coloured glasses on, but I yearn for a day when I don’t have to see literal meatheads mocking people for eating plants on twitter. When I can be blissfully unaware of the insane dietary advice naturopaths and some chiropractors are doling out to their clients. When I don’t have to see dietitians promoting juice as nutritious.  When we can all just stay in our lanes and do the jobs we were trained to do.


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Jennifer Aniston weight loss secret?

Is it just me, or are the facebook spam ads getting more insidious? As much as I loathe FB it does prove useful for blog fodder at times. Has anyone else seen this ad in their feed?

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Note that the link at the top says “Shape.com”. Make you think that it’s an article in Shape Magazine, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. If you take the bait, it brings you to Shape.com-11.tv… and an “article” about How to Lose 7 lbs of Stomach Fat EVERY Week with Just 2 Diet Tips. Jennifer Aniston uses this simple trick to melt fat off her legs! The website looks like a cheap reproduction of the true Shape website. If you didn’t know better, and didn’t check the URL, you might actually believe that you were reading an article in Shape.

However, the “article” is yet another thinly veiled advert for (have you guessed yet?) garcinia cambogia. It’s pretty much the same idea as the green coffee bean ads masquerading as news articles I’ve blogged about before. Is there any merit to the use of garcinia cambogia for weight loss? In a nutshell, nope. If you want more than a nutshell, I recommend this write-up by Gemma Critchley, a fellow dietitian in the UK.

The notion that Jennifer Aniston ever had 32.5 pounds to lose is pretty ludicrous in and of itself. I’m pretty sure that at any recent weight, if she were to lose 32.5 pounds she would be hospitalized. However, I can see how the allure of quick, easy weight loss paired with the notion of having a body worthy of celeb could make people want to believe in the validity of garcinia cambogia. Sorry guys, bad news. Jennifer Aniston has a body like that because it’s her job. She puts a LOT of time, money, and effort into being super slim. Instead of wasting money on expensive, useless supplements, we should all get off facebook, get outside, and learn to love the bodies we have.


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Dr Oz gets schooled and says: #sorrynotsorry

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I’m sure that the whole Dr-Oz-goes-to-the-senate-and-gets-scolded thing is going to be all over all of the blogs for at least the next few days. Despite this, I still feel the need to throw my voice into the fray. I’ve ranted about Dr Oz and his ridiculous supplement (and dietary) proclamations many a time (too many for me to be bothered to even give you a link right now, feel free to search my blog for my scorn). It’s not just weight loss that’s a problem. It’s pretty much every dietary and supplement recommendation that he’s made. Eat a papaya every day? Come on, are we made of money (perhaps Dr Oz should read yesterdays post)? And what happened to variety is the spice of life. Any dietitian worthy of the “RD” after their name will tell you that variety is a key component of a healthy diet.

But that’s all history now, right? Dr Oz, the great and powerful Oz, has (gasp!) apologised for his role in the popularization of useless weight loss supplements. Does this really sound like the words of someone who is truly sorry: “For years I felt that because I did not sell any products that I could be enthusiastic in my coverage and I believe the research surrounding the products I cover has value.”? What I see here is Oz saying that by not putting his name on any product labels that he thought it was okay to tout each and every one of them as the next great MIRACLE weight loss cure on his show. Even more importantly, I see that Oz still believes in the “research” conducted on the products he promotes. Never mind that most of them have little to no scientific research to support their use as weight loss supplements. Never mind that those that do have research invariably have weak biased research. Never mind that he conducted his own “research” into the efficacy of green coffee bean extract using audience members.

Do I think that we’ll see any meaningful change as a result of this hearing? I doubt it. Dr Oz doesn’t believe that he’s done anything sincerely wrong and what he does is popular. Horrifyingly popular. Just a taste of some of the comments on his facebook “apology”:

Dr.Oz, you are amazing. You get people excited about living healthier and happier lives! You show is interesting, lively and is very enjoyable as well as more importantly very informative to watch. Thank you!!!

You have done far more good in your career than any other public medical professional, helping people take responsibility for their health and promoting preventive care and wellness. Don’t listen to the politicians, who are the MOST self-serving of our population and sell out every day to lobbying money. You owe no apologies.

You are a good doctor, and you have done nothing wrong. I am glad you stood up for what is right. Keep on doing what you do best Dr. Oz…
They go on and on in that vein. People want miracle cures. They don’t want to hear that losing weight (and keeping it off) is hard work. That’s why Dr Oz has 4.6 million likes on FB and a syndicated television show and dietitians (like yours truly) are tapping away writing unpaid blogs about nutrition in their spare time. As long as Dr Oz is being given a platform, as long as the network is getting the ratings, and as long as the public are swallowing every pill he proffers he is going to keep dishing them out.

 


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Cilantro cleanse

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Oh facebook and your unending perpetuation of useless “cleanses” and weight loss scams. I saw this one about cleaning your kidneys by drinking cilantro or parsley water.

The thing is, toxins don’t accumulate in your kidneys. The kidneys act as filters, removing waste products from your blood, and excreting them in your urine. They don’t hang onto these waste products (1).

Okay, so cilantro and parsley won’t rid your kidneys of toxins, but is there any truth to their use as “detoxifiers”? Well, parsley acts as a diuretic (i.e. it makes you pee more) so, in the sense that it will speed the removal of waste products from your body via urine it’s kind of true. However, it won’t remove any more waste than would be eventually removed if you just waited a little longer to pee.

Years ago, it was reported that a cilantro soup increased excretion of mercury following removal of mercury fillings (2). Since then, cilantro has been popularly touted as a detoxifier via chelation of heavy metals. Unfortunately, since that initial study, there has been little research to support the ability of cilantro to remove heavy metals from the body.

If you like cilantro and parsley water and tea, go ahead, there’s no evidence that consuming it will harm you. However, it’s not going to remove toxins from your kidneys, and it’s unlikely that it will remove toxins from elsewhere in your body.


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Asparagus: Cancer cure?

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As much as I dislike facebook, I must admit, it sometimes comes in handy for blog fodder. For instance, the post about asparagus that someone in my timeline recently shared. Now, I don’t want to discourage anyone from eating asparagus. Asparagus is both amazingly delicious and extremely nutritious. However, I feel compelled to refute some of the erroneous information in the post.

The post begins:

Subject: Asparagus DO NOT FAIL TO READ THIS AND SEND TO YOUR FAMILY &FRIENDS When I was in the USN, I was stationed in Key West, FL. I worked at the clin…ic at Naval Air Station on Big Coppitt Key just a few miles north of Key West.

Ever notice how the ridiculous posts on FB claiming to provide miracle cures and medical information always include extraneous details about the poster? I mean, who cares if you were in the navy and where you were stationed? This somehow lends credibility to your claims to have knowledge about nutrition and science? Apparently some people must think so, as I can think of no other reason why people continue to share these posts. Anyway…

The author claimed that some old man (a retired biochemist) told him that the reason why asparagus makes your pee smell is because it “is detoxifying your body of harmful chemicals!!!”. Sure glad that biochemist is retired! The real reason that your pee smells is because your body is breaking down sulfurous amino acids in the asparagus and excreting them in your urine. No food has the power to rid your body of harmful chemicals. Sorry.

The post then goes on to provide “evidence”, via four “cases”, that asparagus can cure cancer. The reason why asparagus can do this is alleged to be the presence of “histones“. These are alkaline proteins. Some histones may, in fact, be promising in the development of a cure for cancer. Regardless, while asparagus does contain histones, so do other foods such as all cruciferous vegetables, nuts, seeds, wheat, egg yolks, milk, garlic, etc.

Asparagus is undoubtedly a healthy food choice. Consumption of it, and other vegetables, and other whole foods, may reduce your risk of developing cancer. However, it’s giving false hope to people to tell them that they can cure their existing cancer by drinking two tablespoons of asparagus puree daily. Eat lots of vegetables, eat a variety of them. Don’t look to anyone food to save your life.