Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Why coffee is GOOD for you and natural sea salt is a waste of money: New book unravels diet and nutrition myths

This book is a step in the right direction but still has a way to go. For instance, it is not the sodium content that is at issue in table salt. It is whether the salt is iodized or not. Sea salt should contain some iodides but mined salt may not. Iodine deficiency can cause serious health problems.

In some countries however (such as Australia) ALL salt sold in the supermarkets is sea salt so people there who make a point of buying salt specifically labelled as sea salt are wasting their money

Any salt can however be iodized by government decree and I gather that most Western countries do that. So that is another reason why buying "sea salt" is pointless

You've bought the 'super-food' a├žai berries, thrown away the 'less healthy' table salt and for years have steered away from 'harmful' MSG.

But your efforts may be in vain. A new book unpicks the veracity of a host of popular food beliefs, delivering verdicts on a swathe of commonly held nutrition myths - and the results are surprising.

Coffee is good for you, by Robert J Davis PhD, aims to deliver an unbiased take on the hard-to-navigate, and constantly growing, ocean of scientific data that is used to sell us our daily bread every day.

Out in January, it is a foray into the ever-vocal, big budget world of diet and nutrition claims, providing a crash-course in how to decipher confusing research.

The constant bombardment of new information - often completely contradictory to that preceding it - means that most of us are none the wiser when it comes to the everyday foods in our lives. As Davis puts it: 'Though food is supposed to be one of life's simple pleasures, few things cause more angst and confusion.'

But the health writer, self-styled 'umpire' in the book, is sanguine about the thousands of (often corporately funded) scientific studies in the field, and rather than focusing on isolated findings, has taken into account a wealth of data and statistics, testing each claim on his own 'truth-scale.'

The results, which aim to be the unbiased 'bottom line,' are certainly food for thought.

Take coffee, the inspiration of the book's title. Often associated with an increased risk of heart disease and pancreatic cancer, coffee is also at the mercy of caffeine's bad press. Davis writes that not only do coffee drinkers have no greater risks of heart attacks or strokes, but they 'appear to have a slightly lower risk' than coffee abstainers.

Add to this his evidence that overall, research shows that coffee does not increase the risk of cancer, instead lowering its odds in some cases and the outlook for coffee drinkers is far from all bad.

Just make sure to avoid the blended, sugary, milky hot drinks at some coffee chains - the extra calories from those drinks, he says, are likely to cause more health issues than the coffee itself.

The founder and lecturer at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health explains why it is untrue that carbs make you gain weight - news to many thousands of bread and pasta-shunning women - but also goes on to unravel why it is not true that eating carbohydrates will help you to lose weight.

It may also surprise some that organic foods are not necessarily better for you, or that MSG is in fact not harmful. And, for those who have been happily sprinkling expensive sea salt flakes onto their dishes, ordinary table salt contains the same amount of harmful sodium.

The best way to approach restaurant menus, grocery shopping and, of course, coffee shops, is, Davis says, to embrace ambiguity. Avoid fads and fixations and ignore health claim ads on foods - unlike coffee, nutrition answers are 'not black or white.'

Most of all, he says, enjoy food and drink. 'While following sound nutrition advice is important for your good health, it need not spoil your dinner.'


Ultraviolet rays could prevent chickenpox

And give people skin cancer instead!

ULTRAVIOLET rays could help prevent the spread of the common childhood disease chickenpox.

New research suggests people in temperate zones are more at risk of catching the disease. It is hoped the research will lead to new ways of preventing chickenpox and its more severe relative, shingles.

Dr Phil Rice, a virologist at the University of London, found chickenpox was much less common in places with high UV ray levels.

UV light is known to deactivate some viruses, and Dr Rice believes his findings show UV rays could deactivate the varicella-zoster virus - responsible for chickenpox and shingles - on the skin before it transmits to another person.


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