Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


Leave a comment

Scientific illiteracy will be the death of us

Maybe it’s nothing new but it seems to me that there’s an ever increasing lack of scientific literacy in government and I worry about the impact that this will have on all of us. Just a few recent examples of this illiteracy include a relatively innocuous twitter post by the Ministry of Health in Ontario touting the supposed benefits of consuming dark chocolate. This despite the fact that research does not support this assertion, nor did the article that the post was linked to.

IMG-1823

Another more worrisome example was a recent op ed by Thomas Mulcair (former leader of the federal NDP) in support of naturopaths because:

In today’s world, people are more informed than ever and you need a compelling reason to remove their right to make decisions for themselves. There are many alternative medical practices, old and new, that are providing treatment, comfort and relief to patients but that cannot be fully explained by science. They now need to be regulated in the public interest, not prosecuted on the pretense of protecting the public.

*Major cringe*. Sorry, but protecting the public is not a pretence. Given the misleading use of the title “doctor” among professions such as naturopathy and chiropractice (is that a word?) it is increasingly important that the public be protected from charlatans offering pseudoscience disguised as medical treatments. Yes, there are certainly problems with modern medicine but that doesn’t mean that the government (who is to blame for most of these problems through lack of doctors, short appointments, and long wait times) should ease the way for Canadians to access unproven treatments.

Democratic candidate Andrew Yang tweeted out his excitement about appearing on the Doctor Oz Show saying that he had “made a lot of people smarter about their health”. Even though Oz has done more harm than good at this point with his enthusiastic promotion of countless “miracle cures” and other quackery.

IMG-1825

The most alarming example I can think of is the recent bill in the States forcing women to have ectopic pregnancies reimplanted in the uterus. Something that is impossible. Rep John Becker who was responsible for the anti-abortion bill, upon facing huge backlash from the public and the medical community, admitted that he hadn’t consulted with doctors on the matter and “how was he supposed to know” that such a procedure was impossible. Which I think pretty much sums up the whole problem. How are our government officials, representatives, departments, etc supposed to have knowledge about topics on which they have no education or experience? Well, this is why they have staff who they should be using to do research before they go drafting harmful and impossible laws, writing dangerous op eds, and shooting off inaccurate social media posts. If somehow by some miracle anyone working at any level of government is reading this post, I implore you, have your staff (or even reach out yourself) consult with experts in whatever field you are hoping to legislate or promote before you do anything public. And please know that registered dietitians are the professionals you want to consult when you are doing anything related to nutrition. Federally in Canada you have access to dietitians through Health Canada or Dietitians of Canada. In Ontario you have public health dietitians who would be more than happy to be consulted through ODPH (Ontario Dietitians in Public Health).

 


4 Comments

A little nitpicking in pursuit of scientific literacy

538be83d-7967-48c6-aef1-acceeee88f8f_1.322cba86a346e69a5de7a44bb851f815.jpeg

I was reading this article a couple of weeks ago and was bothered by a couple of minor errors. The article’s kind of all over the place so I wasn’t even sure that I would bother blogging about it but since, as I type this, I’m at the airport waiting for my delayed flight to arrive I figured that I may as well.

Issue #1:

In 2015, nearly 13% of U.S. households experienced food insecurity (the current term for “hunger”). Many more are forced to rely on poor-quality foods that lead to obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Well, actually food insecurity is much more complex than “hunger” and people who cannot afford adequate, nutritious food very often fall into that group of people experiencing food insecurity. For a nice concise one-pager about food insecurity, check out this factsheet from Dietitians of Canada. Also, obviously, just because someone is hungry doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re experiencing food insecurity. Food insecurity is a result of inadequate income; not a strenuous workout or a light lunch.

Issue #2:

none of the flour available to consumers is ground from GMO grains.

While genetically modified wheat is not commercially available, corn flour would often be produced from GM corn. Many gluten-free flours contain ingredients such as sugar beets that are genetically modified.

Issue #3:

Gluten-free is very popular right now, but even if you are one of the 1% of Americans with celiac disease, marketers are fooling you. Whole Foods sells “gluten-free” baby shampoo. First, please don’t eat baby shampoo. Second, gluten is a protein found in wheat. Meats, cheeses and personal care products don’t normally have wheat in them.

Actually, many shampoos and other personal care products do contain wheat. For children who have celiac disease or who are following a ketogenic diet for epilepsy, their doctors may advise parents to ensure all such products are gluten-free to err on the side of caution. Kids are curious, many of them will put soap in their mouths, or eat shampoo bubbles. I don’t think making cautious parents feel foolish is helpful. Maybe that’s just me though. Whole meats and cheeses do not contain gluten but breadings or sauces may contaminate these foods, pre-shredded cheese may have flour added to prevent clumping, and some cheeses are cultured on gluten-containing grains.

Aside from these issues, I agree with the author’s assertion that food-borne illness is a real concern. I think that this will continue to grow as we see a decreasing number of manufacturers producing an increasing amount of our food. We should also avoid food fads and endeavour to improve our scientific literacy.