A year or more ago I had my DNA tested. I learned so many fun things about my genetic makeup. I learned a lot of things that were obvious like I have light hair, blue eyes, and fair skin. I learned that I can metabolize dairy, alcohol, that I probably drink a lot of coffee . . . and more. This is the kicker though. Since I have the gene(s) that people have who drink a lot of coffee and because I read all the time about how good coffee is for me I drink it all day. I have always loved coffee and have consumed it since I was in my early twenties. I like it black, flavored, hot, iced; heck I even use it to mix my protein powder in.
Last week my DNA profile was updated. As new data comes in, it becomes available in the reports. The new thing I learned about my genetic make up is that if I drink more than two cups of coffee a day, my risk for heart attack may go up significantly. The polyphenols in the coffee are still good for me but I metabolize caffeine slowly. Surprise! How could I have been lead to believe something so wrong. This is the main reason I have always lived by the rule of everything in moderation. But I broke that rule with coffee. I am now just having a couple of cups a day; if I have more it is decaffeinated.
Some of my friends have commented that they would like to eat a healthier diet but they find that the advice “out there” is confusing, changing, and contradictory.
I have thought about these “three C’s” that get in the way of improving my own diet. Let’s take them one at a time and I will follow up with some good sources I have identified to deal with them.
Confusing. There is no doubt that the array of “expert” information out there can be confusing. Part of the confusion can be laid at the feet of the media which seldom has the expertise or takes the time to report accurately on the latest research. In addition, they often rely on the expertise of a single reporting agency or association (see: Changing). The result is that we see a headline that eating (or not eating) something will lead to a longer or healthier life. If you follow up to read the actual research, you find that the headline is overblown to extreme proportions. Recently, you may have heard journalists tell you that coffee will lead to a longer life, while lowering your chance of developing Type II Diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Some of this is true but, as I said above, the truth may be more complicated and depend on your particular genetic profile.
Changing. If you pay attention to public dietary advice over a decade or more, you will see that the “official” position on the health benefits or risks of various foods changes. Unfortunately, changing guidance is a fact of life. It reflects scientific progress. Even though this kind of progress can be irritating, we should be happy about it. The effects of sugar in the human diet are a good example of a dramatic change in direction. Once we discovered how much the sugar industry was spending to suppress the research, we began to see that sugar has no health benefits and, beyond a very small amount, damages our health and well-being in many ways, especially as we age. Coffee provides a good example of this problem as well. Until recently, we were being told that coffee led to an increase in certain types of cancers. Now, it appears that the opposite is true.
Contradictory. Perhaps the main source of contradiction is the “expert” sources themselves. Publications of the Food and Drug Administration, the US Department of Agriculture, the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, and many others all represent different perspectives and all have biases of which they appear to be unaware. Over time, all of them have been seriously wrong in the positions they have taken on what makes up a healthy diet. Some of them get so entrenched in their positions that they continue to offer erroneous or weakening guidance in spite of the solid scientific evidence to the contrary. Occasionally, an association will publish scientific studies that deliberately omits findings that contradict their opinion. Examples of this include the decade’s long war waged on eggs in spite of the solid evidence that they are healthy and associated with longevity (there are exceptions for some people), the war on dietary fats which played a part in turning us into a nation of overweight people, and the overstated and partially incorrect war on dietary sodium.
Help. In an upcoming Use It or Lose It post, I’m going to identify some general guidelines for eating well that have been stable for decades and continue to be built upon for decades. There are some foods that are exceptionally good for you. Variety and quantity matter as well, as does your own unique biological makeup.
That's it for this week! Thanks for stopping by!