Myths and Truths about Nutrition

Myths and Truths About Nutrition


Myth: Heart disease in America is caused by consumption of cholesterol and saturated fat from animal products.

Truth: During the period of rapid increase in heart disease (1920-1960), American consumption of animal fats declined but consumption of hydrogenated and industrially processed vegetable fats increased dramatically (USDA-HNIS).

Myth: Saturated fat clogs arteries.

Truth: The fatty acids found in artery clogs are mostly unsaturated (74%) of which 41% are polyunsaturated (Lancet 1994 344:1195).

Myth: Vegetarians live longer.

Truth: The annual all-cause death rate of vegetarian men is slightly more than that of non-vegetarian men (.93% vs .89%); the annual all-cause death rate of vegetarian women is significantly more than that of non-vegetarian women (.86% vs .54%) (Wise Traditions 2000 1:4:16-17).

Myth: Vitamin B12 can be obtained from certain plant sources such as blue-green algae and fermented soy products.

Truth: Vitamin B12 is not absorbed from plant sources. Modern soy products actually increase the body's need for B12 (Soybeans: Chemistry & Technology

Vol 1 1972).

Myth: For good health, serum cholesterol should be less than 180 mg/dl.

Truth: The all-cause death rate is higher in individuals with cholesterol levels lower than 180 mg/dl (Circulation 1992 86:3).

Myth: Animal fats cause cancer and heart disease.

Truth: Animal fats contain many nutrients that protect against cancer and heart disease; elevated rates of cancer and heart disease are associated with consumption of large amounts of vegetable oil (Federation Proceedings July 1978 37:2215).

Myth: Children benefit from a lowfat diet.

Truth: Children on lowfat diets suffer from growth problems, failure to thrive and learning disabilities (Am J Dis Child 1989 May;143(5):537-42).

Myth: A lowfat diet will make you "feel better...and increase your joy of living."

Truth: Lowfat diets are associated with increased rates of depression, psychological problems, fatigue, violence and suicide (Br J Nutr 1998 Jan;79(1)23-30).

Myth: To avoid heart disease, we should use margarine instead of butter.

Truth: Margarine eaters have twice the rate of heart disease as butter eaters (Nutrition Week 3/22/91 21:12).

Myth: Americans do not consume enough essential fatty acids (EFAs).

Truth: Americans consume far too much of one kind of EFA (omega-6 EFAs found in most polyunsaturated vegetable oils) but not enough of another kind of EFA (omega-3 EFAs found in fish, fish oils, eggs from pasture-fed chickens, dark green vegetables and herbs, and oils from certain seeds such as flax and chia, nuts such as walnuts and in small amounts in all whole grains) (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1991 54:438-63).

Myth: The "cave man diet" was low in fat.

Truth: Throughout the world, primitive peoples sought out and consumed fat from fish and shellfish, water fowl, sea mammals, land birds, insects, reptiles, rodents, bears, dogs, pigs, cattle, sheep, goats, game, eggs, nuts and milk products (Abrams, Food & Evolution 1987).

Myth: A vegetarian diet will protect you against atherosclerosis.

Truth: The International Atherosclerosis Project found that vegetarians had just as much atherosclerosis as meat eaters (Laboratory Investigations 1968 18:498).

Myth: Lowfat diets prevent breast cancer.

Truth: A recent study found that women on very lowfat diets (less than 20%) had the same rate of breast cancer as women who consumed large amounts of fat (New England Journal of Medicine 2/8/96).

Myth: Coconut oil causes heart disease.

Truth: When coconut oil was fed as 7% of energy to patients recovering from heart attacks, the patients had greater improvement compared to untreated controls, and no difference compared to patients treated with corn or safflower oils. Populations that consume coconut oil have low rates of heart disease. Coconut oil may also be one of the most useful oils to prevent heart disease because of its antiviral and antimicrobial characteristics (Journal of the American Medical Association 1967 202:1119-1123; American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1981 34:1552).

Myth: Saturated fats inhibit production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins.

Truth: Saturated fats actually improve the production of all prostaglandins by facilitating the conversion of essential fatty acids ("Tripping Lightly Down the Prostaglindin Pathways,"

Myth: Arachidonic acid in foods like liver, butter and egg yolks causes production of "bad" inflammatory prostaglandins.

Truth: Series 2 prostaglandins that the body makes from arachidonic acid both encourage and inhibit inflammation under appropriate circumstances. Arachidonic acid is vital for the function of the brain and nervous system (Ibid).

Myth: Beef causes colon cancer

Truth: Argentina, with higher beef consumption, has lower rates of colon cancer than the US. Mormons have lower rates of colon cancer than vegetarian Seventh Day Adventists (Cancer Research 1975 35:3513).

Myths and Truths About Soy

Myth: Use of soy as a food dates back many thousands of years.

Truth: Soy was first used as a food during the late Chou dynasty (1134-246 BC) only after the Chinese learned to ferment soy beans to make foods like tempeh, natto and tamari.

Myth: Asians consume large amounts of soy foods.

Truth: Average consumption of soy foods in China is 10 grams (about 2 teaspoons) per day and up to 60 grams in parts of Japan. Asians consume soy foods in small amounts as a condiment, and not as a replacement for animal foods.

Myth: Modern soy foods confer the same health benefits as traditionally fermented soy foods.

Truth: Most modern soy foods are not fermented to neutralize toxins in soybeans, and are processed in a way that denatures proteins and increases levels of carcinogens.

Myth: Soy foods provide complete protein.

Truth: Like all legumes, soybeans are deficient in sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cystine. In addition, modern processing denatures fragile lysine.

Myth: Fermented soy foods can provide vitamin B12 in vegetarian diets.

Truth: The compound that resembles vitamin B12 in soy cannot be used by the human body; in fact, soy foods cause the body to require more B12.

Myth: Soy formula is safe for infants.

Truth: Soy foods contain trypsin inhibitors that inhibit protein digestion and affect pancreatic function. In test animals, diets high in trypsin inhibitors led to stunted growth and pancreatic disorders. Soy foods increase the body's requirement for vitamin D, needed for strong bones and normal growth. Phytic acid in soy foods results in reduced bioavailabilty of iron and zinc which are required for the health and development of the brain and nervous system. Soy also lacks cholesterol, likewise essential for the development of the brain and nervous system. Megadoses of phytoestrogens in soy formula have been implicated in the current trend toward increasingly premature sexual development in girls and delayed or retarded sexual development in boys.

Myth: Soy foods can prevent osteoporosis.

Truth: Soy foods can cause deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D, both needed for healthy bones. Calcium from bone broths and vitamin D from seafood, lard and organ meats prevent osteoporosis in Asian countries--not soy foods.

Myth: Modern soy foods protect against many types of cancer.

Truth: A British government report concluded that there is little evidence that soy foods protect against breast cancer or any other forms of cancer. In fact, soy foods may result in an increased risk of cancer.

Myth: Soy foods protect against heart disease.

Truth: In some people, consumption of soy foods will lower cholesterol, but there is no evidence that lowering cholesterol lowers one's risk of developing heart disease.

Myth: Soy estrogens (isoflavones) are good for you.

Truth: Soy isoflavones are phyto-endocrine disrupters. At dietary levels, they can prevent ovulation and stimulate the growth of cancer cells. Eating as little as 30 mg isoflavones (from about 30 g soy protein) per day can result in hypothyroidism with symptoms of lethargy, constipation, weight gain and fatigue.

Myth: Soy foods are safe and beneficial for women to use in their postmenopausal years.

Truth: Soy foods can stimulate the growth of estrogen-dependent tumors and cause thyroid problems. Low thyroid function is associated with difficulties in menopause.

Myth: Phytoestrogens in soy foods can enhance mental ability.

Truth: A recent study found that women with the highest levels of estrogen in their blood had the lowest levels of cognitive function; in Japanese Americans, tofu consumption in mid-life is associated with the occurrence of Alzheimer's disease in later life.

Myth: Soy isoflavones and soy protein isolate have GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status.

Truth: Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) recently withdrew its application to the FDA for GRAS status for soy isoflavones following an outpouring of protest from the scientific community. The FDA never approved GRAS status for soy protein isolate because of concern regarding the presence of toxins and carcinogens in processed soy.

Myth: Soy foods are good for your sex life.

Truth: Numerous animal studies show that soy foods cause infertility in animals. Soy consumption lowers testosterone levels in men. Tofu was consumed by Buddhist monks to reduce libido.

Myth: Soybeans are good for the environment.

Truth: Most soybeans grown throughout the world are genetically engineered to allow farmers to use large amounts of herbicides, creating toxic runoff.

Myth: Soybeans are good for developing nations.

Truth: In third world countries, soybeans replace traditional crops and transfer the value-added of processing from the local population to multinational corporations.