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8 Health Myths You Need to Stop Believing

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Ever wonder why you can follow health advice and still remain fat? It is likely that you are following outdated health information. Read on to learn about 8 of the biggest heath myths currently perpetuated in pop culture.

One of the biggest problems that any person trying to eat better and live a healthy lifestyle faces is how much conflicting information is out there.

Some health experts say that drinking gallons of water each day is healthy; others say that drinking to thirst is healthy. Some experts say to avoid fat, some say to eat unsaturated fats, and others say to eat saturated fats. Some experts say cholesterol will kill you, while others say that cholesterol levels aren’t important. Still, other experts say that sugar is the number one unhealthy food, while others say it is fat or grain.

So, with so much conflicting information out there, how can you really know you are choosing the healthiest eating habits? Luckily, now it is possible to search scientific archives for ourselves and uncover once and for all what the healthiest eating habits are.

Before committing to any fad diet, check for the truth based on this list of biggest diet myths:

Saturated Fat is the Unhealthiest Fat

For many years, as far back as the 1950s, saturated fat was targeted as the “demon” fat. In fact, most of the follow-up research on saturated fat was based on the scientific studies of one man, Ancel Keys. Dr. Keys conducted a study on about 13,000 men from seven countries around the world- which sounds impressive- but he only chose men from countries like Japan, Finland, Italy, the United States, and Yugoslavia. These countries eat a diet naturally lower in saturated fat.

According to modern researchers, he cherry-picked the countries that had high instances of heart disease or countries like Crete, where individuals ate little meat and cheese. The problems with the survey continued. Dr. Keys had trouble with the survey responders, so he ended up using data from just a handful of study participants. These errors in the study were not discovered until 2002.

Due to the faulty data, the American Heart Association started a war on fat in the 1960s, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture followed in the 1980s.

A study conducted in 2010 and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reviewing 21 studies with over 347,747 study participants for between 5 and 23 years, found that there is actually no link between saturated fat and heart disease. In fact, recent studies show that the “healthy” fats that were used to replace saturated fats are actually far worse.

A study from 2002 published in Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, stated that “excessive amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and a very high omega-6/omega-3 ratio, as is found in today’s Western diets, promote the pathogenesis of many diseases.” Saturated fat, on the other hand, is one of the most effective fats at absorbing and using fat-soluble vitamins and minerals.

So, don’t worry about eating saturated fat. Worry instead, about cutting back on processed vegetable oils.

Salt is Unhealthy and Causes Heart Disease

If it isn’t saturated fat that will kill you, it’s salt, right? Well, it turns out this is also a scientific misconception. Most of the scientific studies about salt were based around a single study conducted by Lewis Dahl in the 1970s. His studies were based on an earlier French “study” which found that 6 patients with high blood pressure claimed to eat a lot of salt.

In the Dahl study, Dahl fed high doses of salt to rats. However, Dahl gave the rats doses of salt that equaled the effects of what 500 grams of sodium per day would do to a human. To put this in perspective, the average American (who still eats more salt than the daily recommended amount) consumes no more than 10 grams of salt per day.

Dahl fed the rats about 15,000 times more sodium than an average person would eat. Since then, most studies have failed to back up the idea that reasonable amounts of salt cause high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, or anything else.

A recent study conducted in 2010 and published in the American Journal of Hypertension found no link between salt consumption and high blood pressure. In fact, a 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that it was actually low sodium concentrations that were more likely to indicate high blood pressure and lead to heart problems and other health problems. 

Vegetable Oils are Healthy

As pointed out in the saturated section above, recent studies have uncovered that the once-revered vegetable oil is actually quite bad for you. In the study from 2002, the study authors found that a ratio of omega-6 fats to omega-3 fats in the body of 2–3/1 was the healthiest for all study participants. Some health experts go as far as to promote a 1 to 1 ratio.

The study authors, however, found that severe health effects did not occur until the ratios reached 5/1 or higher. The study authors also found that a ratio of 4/1 was able to reduce total mortality in study participants by 70 percent. That is an enormous percentage and huge incentive to cut back drastically on vegetable oils, which are the largest source of omega-6 fats in the modern diet.

Worst Vegetable Oil Offenders 
  • Soybean oil
  • Corn oil
  • Canola oil/rapeseed oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Other seed oils

Artificial Sweeteners are Healthy

We’ve talked about this before, but artificial sweeteners are in no way a health food. In fact, several reasons why people use artificial sweeteners (usually to lose weight or to prevent insulin spikes) may actually have the opposite effect in the body.

A study from 2005 based on the 25-year-long San Antonio Heart Study found that individuals who drank the most diet soda actually had a higher risk for serious weight gain than individuals who drank regular soda. The study found that each diet soda consumed per day added a 65 percent chance of becoming overweight within 7 years, and a 41 percent higher risk to become obese. The more diet sodas a person drank, the higher the risk climbed.

There have also been numerous studies that indicate the aspartame- the most commonly used artificial sweetener, is also incredibly detrimental to your health.

Large Quantities of Soy is Healthy

Not all soy is bad, and soy is not bad in all amounts. Eating soybeans as a side dish, for example, is probably not detrimental to your health. Fermented soy products can actually provide numerous health benefits.

According to Fit Day, fermented soy provides health benefits including stronger bones, healthier heart, a reduction in menopausal symptoms, and even a reduced risk for developing cancer.

However, non-fermented soy products, like soymilk, tofu, and soy protein isolates may have a negative effect on the body. They have high phytic and oxalic acid levels, which can prevent the body from absorbing other nutrients like calcium and vitamin C. Diets high in unfermented soy products have been linked with health problems such as:

  • Breast cancer
  • Brain damage
  • Thyroid problems
  • Reduced immune system
  • Heart disease
  • Malnutrition
  • Digestive problems
  • Food allergies
  • Reproductive disorders
  • Birth defects

Eggs Are Unhealthy

I thought this myth died out long ago, but many “healthy” diet options in restaurants and grocery stores switch out eggs for egg whites. The idea that eggs are unhealthy started back in the era when cholesterol was the number one health demon. Egg yolks do contain cholesterol, but because of the way that the body produces cholesterol (link to the cholesterol article), the amount of cholesterol that you eat can generally only influence your cholesterol levels by 25 percent or less.

The more cholesterol you eat, the less your body makes and vice versa. A study from Yale University examined participants who ate two eggs a day for six weeks. At the end of the study, their cholesterol levels had not changed, and the eggs had no negative effects on endothelial function, which is used to measure cardiac risk.

Eggs actually contain a veritable buffet of beneficial ingredients and are one of the healthiest additions to a person’s diet- if you choose eggs made from pasture-raised chickens.

Nutrients in Eggs
  • 6 grams of protein per egg
  • 9 essential amino acids
  • B vitamins
  • Antioxidants
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D
  • Copper
  • Magnesium
  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Potassium

Grains Should be the Largest Food Group

This is an older nutrition myth that has already started to die out, but it still persists in many nutrition recommendations. In most cases, grains should be one of the smallest food groups consumed. A diet high in grains converts to sugar in the body, which is devastating for your body’s health, according to Harvard Health.

Over time, eating a high-carb diet can disrupt both leptin and insulin signaling, leading to diabetes, chronic inflammation, and numerous other health problems. Rather than filling up on mostly grains, stick to vegetables, healthy protein, healthy fats, and fruit. As long as you don’t have an allergy or you're sensitive to gain, and grains aren’t the largest source of food, your body will be able to handle a moderate consumption of grains and carbohydrates.

Keri Gans, R.D., and author of The Small Change Diet, states that some carb intake is necessary for brain health, mood-boosting, and quick energy. The trouble seems to occur, as usual, when too much of your dietary intake comes from carbs.

Sugar is Bad because of Empty Calories

Obviously, too much sugar in the diet is bad, but it isn’t because sugar is lacking in nutrients. In fact, your body needs some amount of sugar to operate properly- just not nearly as much as the average person gives it. Just like anything else you eat, your body can handle a small amount of sugar, but not a large amount.

Sugar has a high fructose content, which sets the body up for a lifetime of poor health. Fructose is metabolized in the liver and eventually turned into fat, which raises cholesterol levels. A study from 2009 published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that when overweight study participants ate foods sweetened with fructose, their LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels increased.

The study authors stated, “These data suggest that dietary fructose specifically increases DNL, promotes dyslipidemia, decreases insulin sensitivity, and increases visceral adiposity in overweight/obese adults.”

Additionally, numerous studies have pointed out how a diet high in fructose can increase insulin and leptin resistance including a 2008 study published in the Journal of Physiology. So, definitely avoid foods with high fructose levels, but know that they are unhealthy in more ways than just offering you “empty” calories.

Weight Loss is a Complicated Issue

Although weight loss seems simple on the surface, there are actually hundreds of complications that can influence the success of a person’s health. Current science indicates that eating a diet full of vegetables and fruit, healthy protein, healthy fats, and a moderate amount of complex carbohydrates is the healthiest diet a person can have.

However, other factors also come into play, such as the health of your thyroid (link to a thyroid and weight loss article), your stress levels, your vitamin intake, and even genetics. Achieving an ideal weight can be a challenge, but abolishing archaic diet myths is a good place to start.





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