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The Top Alternative Health Trends Not Supported by Science

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While alternative health often cites new scientific studies that are not promoted in mainstream medicine, in the case of these trends, the science does not back the belief. Read more below!

We all know that there are many health myths in standard nutrition guidelines, but did you also know that there are many health myths in the health industry as well?

In some cases, health myths get perpetuated simply because the idea sounds cool, or is based on a small study that eventually gets disproven (such as was the case for the dietary cholesterol health myth). Science eventually reveals what health claims are actually true.

Studies have shown that the following alternative health claims may not be as accurate as you thought.

All Grains are Unhealthy

According to data from Nutrition Studies, refined grains (which includes nearly all grains found in a grocery store) have a nutrient reduction of 80 percent versus freshly ground grain products that contain the germ, bran, and kernel. Freshly ground, grains contain a huge variety of vitamins and minerals (contents vary from grain to grain) which can include iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorous, copper, selenium, B vitamins, protein, vitamin E, vitamin C, flavonoids, and antioxidants.

Since processed grains contain little, if any of these beneficial ingredients, grains started to get a bad reputation. The rise in gluten-intolerance also led to the demonizing of grains. However, grains are not inherently bad for everyone (particularly if they are fresh ground).

Nutrition Studies estimates that one out of every 133 Americans has celiac disease. This means that the person cannot tolerate gluten protein. Celiac disease is generally regarded as a genetic disorder- although that is somewhat debated in the health community.

Other health issues relating to grains include wheat allergies and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). According to data from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), about one out of every 22 people may have some sort of grain-sensitivity. 2014 research from the NFCA suggests that gluten sensitivity is related to a group of carbohydrates that the body has trouble digesting, called FODMAPs. Grains are high in this kind of carbohydrate.

Although grains can be an issue for the every 1 out of 133 or 1 out of 22, the rest of the world can eat grains without dangerous health consequences.

However, it is still best to avoid processed, commercial grains of any kind, as these foods really are almost “empty” calories, providing little to no nutritional benefit.

Sugar is More Addictive than Drugs

Have you ever heard someone claim that a sugar addiction is harder to break than a drug addiction? One of the most popular claims is that it is harder to stop drinking soda than it is to stop smoking or doing drugs. Usually, the individuals making these claims have never been addicted to drugs.

Sugar, is obviously bad for you, and it is the culprit behind many of the biggest modern health problems. Excess sugar intake is linked with obesity, belly fat, liver fat, heart disease, diabetes, and more. But is sugar really more addictive than drugs?

According to studies in animals, when animals consume sugar, they have a similar brain response to what occurs when animals consume narcotics. The most famous study was conducted in 2007 and published in PLOS One. The study found that rats preferred drinking sweetened water (quite intensely sweetened) to taking intravenous cocaine. The study authors surmised,

“The supranormal stimulation of these receptors by sugar-rich diets, such as those now widely available in modern societies, would generate a supranormal reward signal in the brain, with the potential to override self-control mechanisms and thus to lead to addiction.”

However, nowhere in the study did the researchers claim that sugar was more addictive than cocaine. Sugar is unhealthy and somewhat addicting, but a sugar addiction is not as hard to break as a true drug addiction.

Researchers believe sugar is somewhat addicting because our bodies have not adapted to the high availability of sugar in the modern diet. Sugar is fast energy, which would have been important in environments where food was scarce and fighting was a daily occurrence.

Microwaves will Kill You

According to some health enthusiasts, microwaving your food is the fastest way to end up in the grave (after eating sugar, that is). But is there real scientific evidence to support this claim?

According to the FDA, the radiation that escapes into food while cooking is negligible. Microwaves are designed to keep radiation away from food (and you). Microwaves work by heating the liquid inside food which creates energy that cooks the rest of the food.

According to a 2009 study published in the Journal of Food Science, microwaving food was one of the top three cooking methods for maximum nutrient preservation after cooking (grilling and baking were the other two best cooking methods).

You may not want to cook your food in the microwave every day for every meal, but no studies have yet proven that microwaving food is worse for you than other food preparation methods.

Cholesterol Levels are Not Important

Cholesterol is produced when the body is damaged in some way. Cholesterol is essential the bandage your body uses to heal damage in your blood vessels. If you have a lot of damage, you will have high cholesterol.

Older studies attributed an increase in cholesterol to saturated fat and animal products. However, new studies have shown that dietary cholesterol intake can only alter blood cholesterol levels by a small amount.

In fact, an article published in The Washington Post in 2015 stated that the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee is no longer going to advise dietary cholesterol regulation. According to the Washington Post, “eating foods high in cholesterol may not significantly affect the level of cholesterol in the blood or increase the risk of heart disease.”

However, dietary cholesterol and high cholesterol levels in the blood are two entirely different concerns. Dietary cholesterol may not influence blood cholesterol levels, but high cholesterol levels still indicate a problem in the body.

According to studies, if you have high LDL cholesterol you are at an increased risk for developing heart disease and an increase in morbidty and mortality. Triglyceride levels are also important to monitor. High LDL and triglyceride levels indicate a health problem somewhere in the body.

Coffee is Bad (in any amount)

Certain health circles are quite big on eliminating what seems like all delicious foods. Coffee is often at the top of the list of “bad” foods in these diets. Individuals against coffee site its addicting effects, diuretic effects, and the possibility of mycotoxins as a reason to avoid coffee.

Mycotoxins are toxins created by mold. All foods have some level of these mycotoxins in them, particularly processed foods. However, foods that are too-high in these mold toxins are discarded.

According to a 1997 study published in Food Additives & Contaminants, drinking 4 cups of coffee a day only gives you 2 percent of the safe level of mycotoxin consumption. So, if you drink 200 cups of coffee a day, you may have a problem- but you’ll likely have a heart attack first.

Studies have also debunked the other myths about coffee- the idea that coffee is an unhealthy beverage. In fact, studies on coffee showed that drinking 3-4 cups of coffee per day actually reduced the risk of stroke in women over the age of 55 by up to 25 percent.

Other health benefits, such as a reduction in heart disease risk and a boost in cognitive function have also been linked to coffee consumption.

You Need to Eat Alkaline Foods

According to this health trend, certain foods have an acidic effect on the body (like meat), while alkaline foods have an alkaline effect on the body (like apples). This health trend states that cancer grows better in a body with a low pH.

However, studies show that your body pH does not change much at all unless in the case of a serious disease or poisoning of the body. In a normal, healthy (or even somewhat healthy) body, the foods you eat will not alter your body chemistry much at all.

What makes the alkaline diet successful, however, is that it promotes the basic building blocks of a healthy diet.

Building Blocks of a Healthy Diet

A large quantity of vegetables and fruits

Unprocessed grains

Healthy fats (coconut oil, grass fed butter, palm oil, MTC oil, olive oil)

Healthy meats (organic, pasture-raised animals)

Dairy is Bad for Everyone

There is much hatred for dairy in the health community because health enthusiasts (rightly) claim that humans are the only animal group that consumes milk products into adulthood.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, a person’s tolerance for dairy largely depends on genetics. According to their genetic research, The NLM estimates that about 65 percent of adults have some amount of reduced ability to digest lactose. This is a huge percentage of the population. The NLM estimates that among certain people groups (notably people from West African, Arab, Greek, Italian, Israeli, and East Asian descent), up to 90 percent of the population has some form of intolerance for lactose.

According to Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center and specialist in preventive medicine and nutrition,

“Over the millennia since the dawn of agriculture, the ability to ingest dairy clearly conferred a selective survival advantage on older children and adults in pastoral societies that could access the milk of other species. The result is that human ethnic groups with a long tradition of pastoralism have high rates—all but universal—of lactose tolerance. In contrast, groups with no such tradition have equally high rates of lactose intolerance.”

Basically, if you come from a genetic line that is tolerant of dairy, you can receive a lot of beneficial nutrients from consuming dairy. However, genetic lines that are not tolerant of dairy will likely find the side effects worse than the benefits.

Dr. Katz does make special note that this rule only applies to non-fermented dairy. Fermented dairy products have enzymes that break down lactose, making it easier to digest in any people group. Consuming fermented dairy products is also one of the few ways to get vitamin K2 in the diet, which is difficult to find in non-animal sources.

Agave is Healthier than Sugar

One popular alternative sweetener in the alternative health world is agave. This sweetener is made from extracts of the agave plant. According to studies, the balance between fructose and glucose is important for total body health. Our bodies are designed to handle more glucose than fructose.

One of the reasons why high fructose corn syrup is a little less healthy than regular sugar is simply because HFCS has a greater amount of fructose. However, agave actually contains more fructose than even HFCS. Sugar has about a 50/50 mix between fructose and glucose. HFCS has about a 60-65/50 mix between fructose and glucose. Agave nectar, on the other hand, contains 85 percent fructose, a 2012 study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found.

According to studies, the body can safely absorb about what equates to 6-9 teaspoons of sugar per day. However, with a fructose level nearly double that of regular sugar, you would only be able to safely eat between 4-6 teaspoons of sugar per day. This sounds like a lot until you examine just how much sugar and fructose is in everything. Orange juice, for example, contains between 10 and 16 grams of fructose per cup. Each teaspoon is about 4 grams, so by consuming one cup of orange juice, you have already consumed 4 teaspoons of fructose without adding any extra sweeteners at all.

Therefore, using a sweetener that has even higher fructose levels than sugar is a dangerous thing to do to your body.

Alternative Health Trends are Not Always Science-Based

Just like in any area of life, the only way to truly know if a health trend is accurate is to examine the science for yourself. There are hundreds of health trends out there that make outlandish claims about the health of certain diets and foods. Before plunging into any new alternative food trend, make sure you have all the facts. You may be surprised at how boundless some of the claims really are!





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