Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Of doctors, nutritional nonsense, and tweets

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I stumbled across a tweet from a doctor in the US last week and was so surprised by it that I did a little Internetting to determine if this tweeter was a licenced MD. Yep, she was. Now I’m not going to use her name because, perhaps (although based on Rate my MD, it seems unlikely) she’s a far better physician than she is a tweeter. My aim is not to attack her. My aim to to combat the outrageous information she’s tweeting. So… What’s she been saying?

The first tweet I saw said:

… Along with flax seeds, throw some China seeds into smoothies or yogurt. No flashes!

Wow. Who knew, all you have to do to prevent hot flashes during menopause is to include chia (I assume that’s what she meant by “China” – hey, typos happen to the best of us!) seeds in our diets. Is this true? Maybe. Although I’m highly doubtful that it’s that simple and as far as I can tell there’s been no published research on the subject. There are some studies of chia and weight loss in post-menopausal women but none investigating the effect of chia seed consumption on hot flashes during menopause. There is some anecdotal “evidence” on the Internet extolling the benefits of chia seeds for reduction/elimination of menopause symptoms. And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with incorporating chia seeds into your diet at any stage of life, no sensible health care professional would be providing this unsolicited, unsubstantiated advice on social media.

Scrolling through the docs timeline I came across a few other gems. How about?:

Those of you with hypothyroidism should be taking iodine and selenium supplements to help the conversion of T4 to T3.Helps metabolism

Um. No. The only reason for those with hypothyroidism to take iodine supplements is when the condition is caused by iodine deficiency, which is rare in North America (1). There may be benefits to selenium supplementation for those with hypothyroidism. However, there may also be risks associated with long-term supplementation and supplements should be discussed with your primary health care practitioner, not undertaken upon the advice of a tweet.

There are more horrifying tweets but I have to stop somewhere. One last one:

HIgh cholesterol? You are eating too much refined carbs ie #BREAD, white rice, potatoes and not enough fat ie #butter, fatty fish.#krilloil!

High cholesterol has many causes. Not least of which is heredity. Yes, there are lifestyle efforts we can all undertake to reduce our risk of elevated LDL (low density lipoproteins AKA “Bad cholesterol). However, these will only go so far and some people can lead extremely healthy lifestyles and still have high LDL. While it’s likely that saturated fats are not the evil, cholesterol raising nutrients we once believed them to be there is also no reason to think that increasing consumption of them will reduce blood cholesterol levels. The evidence is not there to support supplementation with krill oil either. As for the refined carbs the doctor lists, unless she’s referring to potato chips or french fries there’s no reason to diss potatoes. In fact, potatoes are one of the most under-rated foods.

Guys, be cautious. You’ve all seen Doctor Oz. He’s not the only doctor spewing nutrition nonsense. Question everything you read.


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Potatoes

I recently had a request for a post about potatoes. As we’re entering into fall and local potatoes are readily available this seemed like as good a time as any to address the question about nutrition and potatoes. Potatoes have been much maligned. They’re primarily carbohydrate and for many people, carbs are pretty much the work of the devil (not true by the way!).

Potatoes are actually a great source of a number of nutrients, besides carbohydrate. A “serving” of potato is approximately half of a medium potato. However, as most of us are likely to consume a whole potato in a sitting I’m going to provide the nutrition information for an entire medium potato.

One medium baked potato with the skin contains about 166 calories, 4.32 grams of protein, 3.8 g of fibre, 26 mg of calcium, 1.87 mg of iron, 48 mg of magnesium, an 926 mg of potassium. And there is some truth that a great deal of these nutrients are present in, or near, the skin. Remove the skin from that same baked potato and you’re left with: 145 calories, 3.06 g of protein, 3.4 g of fibre, 8 mg of calcium, 0.55 mg of iron, 39 mg of magnesium, and 610 mg of potassium.