This week a post showed up that showed how the same data could show that running is good for you and that too much of it may shorten your life. Here. The author, Alex Hutchinson, points to a study making the rounds in the media. It says that even 5 minutes of running a day can reduce the risk of cardio-vascular disease-related death.
Two years ago, the same data-set was presented with a very different message: “that running more than about 20 miles a week would actually negate any health benefits associated with running.”
Here’s my question: how many people would change their behavior based on the media reports of this study? And if anyone would, are there good grounds for doing so?
I’m all for science. I’m an academic, after all, so research matters to me. But today I need a lot more than one study before I’m going to change a single thing about what I do.
I wasn’t always this way. My saddest story is about the time, as a graduate student, I actually stopped swimming because I read in Shape magazine that it created a layer of fat. Readers of the blog will know that I love swimming. But I didn’t really have a smart sense then of how to respond to the latest findings about things.
The fact is, one study does not a solid finding make. So when I read anything these days about how this or that will lengthen your life or shorten your life, I’m just not all that moved. I need to know that there is a large body of solid evidence behind the claim. Multiple studies published in reputable journals.
For example, I’m totally sold on the negative health impact of smoking.
I saw a thing this week that captured well the consequences of slavishly following the latest trends and recommendations. It’s called “Ten Steps to Eating Perfectly: The path to starvation.” It’s short enough to reprint here:
They said that fast food executives were turning fat profits by making us fat, so I stopped eating fast food.
They said that killing animals was wrong, so I became a vegetarian.
They said that fertilizer run-off from industrial farming is killing the Gulf of Mexico, the pesticides are killing honeybees, so I started only eating organic.
They said that shipped food is too carbon intensive and not as fresh, so I started eating only local, in-season food.
They said that it was wrong to punish a cow by milking it twice a day, or to steal a chicken’s eggs, so I became a vegan.
They said that the paleo diet would restore my body and make my teeth healthy, so I stopped eating anything cultivated.
They said that cooking food destroys its nutrients, so I starting eating only raw food.
They said that following a macrobiotic regimen would prevent cancer, so I followed it.
They said that I should follow a zero-waste diet, so I stopped buying anything with packaging.
And when I showed up at the farmers market in December with my reusable bag looking for local, certified-organic, vegan, unprocessed, uncooked, uncultivated, whole foods, without packaging, that would fit into my macrobiotic diet, I realized that the best thing for the planet, the animals, and my health would be to just stop eating altogether.
What I like about this is that it shows what can happen if we follow everything “they” say.
This week, the nutrition program I’m doing (that I’ve decided to stop naming because I feel as if they get enough publicity) is asking us to experiment for one day with the Paleo diet. I’m experiencing serious resistance to this experiment. Why? Because I think of Paleo as a fad diet, just another spin on high protein low carb. And also, almost all of my vegan protein sources other than nuts and seeds are off limits. And finally, from what I’ve read, the science just doesn’t measure up.
So why experiment with an approach to eating that I know I will never adopt? Just because “they” say it’s a great way to eat?
I’m not a scientist, so at some level I do have to rely on the expertise of others. Over the years I have learned to be cautious about embracing the latest reports and following the trends. I’m not a big fan of doing things because “they” say I should be doing them.
What about you? How do you respond to news reports about eating, health, and fitness that might suggest you’re not doing something you should be or you are doing something that you should avoid?