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-HNI)
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)
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Myth: Vegetarianism is healthy.
Truth: The annual all-cause death rate of vegetarian men is slightly more than that of non-vegetarian men (.93% vs .89%); the annual death rate of vegetarian women is significantly more than that of non-vegetarian women (.86% vs .54%) (Am J Clin Nutr 1982 36:873)
Myth: Vitamin B12 can be obtained from certain plant sources such as blue-green algae and soy products.
Truth: Vitamin B12 is not absorbed from plant sources. Modern soy products 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 86:3:1026-1029)
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 oils. (Fed Proc July 1978 37:2215)
Myth: Children benefit from a low-fat diet.
Truth: Children on low-fat diets suffer from growth problems, failure to thrive & learning disabilities. (Food Chem News 10/3/94)
Myth: A low-fat diet will make you "feel better . . . and increase your joy of living."
Truth: Low-fat diets are associated with increased rates of depression, psychological problems, fatigue, violence and suicide. (Lancet 3/21/92 v339)
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.
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 properly 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.) (Am J Clin Nutr 1991 54:438-63)
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. (Lab Invest 1968 18:498)
Myth: Low-fat diets prevent breast cancer.
Truth: A recent study found that women on very low-fat diets (less than 20%) had the same rate of breast cancer as women who consumed large amounts of fat. (NEJM 2/8/96)
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: 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 patents 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. (JAMA 1967 202:1119-1123; Am J Clin Nutr 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. (Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation Journal 20:3)
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. (Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation Journal 20:3)
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 Res 35:3513 1975)
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 Japan and China is 10 grams (about 2 teaspoons) per day. 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 neutralise 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, soy beans 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 human body cannot use the compound that resembles vitamin B12 in soy; 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 improves one's risk of having 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 grams (about 4 tablespoons) of soy 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 Recognised 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 enhances hair growth in middle-aged men, indicating lowered testosterone levels. Japanese housewives feed tofu to their husbands frequently when they want to reduce his virility.
Myth: Soy beans are good for the environment.
Truth: Most soy beans grown in the US are genetically engineered to allow farmers to use large amounts of herbicides.
Myth: Soy beans 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.