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It will probably sound like music to the ears of my most conservative friends when I say that I am growing less and less trustful of what is found in mainstream media reporting. Slow down though, it’s got nothing to do with political bias, and everything to do with laziness. Parrot the status quo, accept some pretty major claims over and over without actual research backing it up, and you have the foundation for repeated faulty reporting.

How many times do you hear a “new study” that shows X Y or Z is bad for you, or good for you, and just a couple years ago, you heard the opposite? That’s bad enough, but then the standard answer for ALL of these stories ends on a mantra which is increasingly being exposed as a fraud in itself. The more that Americans are told “eat a low fat diet high in whole grains for heart health and a good weight,” the more we get the opposite result. When we ate tons of butter and almost no sugar, diabetes and heart disease were unheard of. When we dropped butter and went high carb, the rates of obesity, heart disease and type two diabetes shot sky high. Coca-cola can make all the ridiculous propaganda videos they want: yes, it actually IS about the sugar.

The basics of this problem are explored by many much more well-read, well-researched, and well-established folks than myself, and this blog will often just act as a bibliography. Here, go read this: Fat Chance by Dr. Robert Lustig. The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance by Phinney and Volek.

But there have been a couple items in the popular press lately that warrant discussion at the level of us regular folks, including people like me who are just now finally getting on board with the paleo and/or low carb philosophies, as well as our friends who are not there, but interested in the discussion, if for no other reason than to find the source of what they see as a psychotic decision of ours to drop the boneless skinless chicken breast and whole wheat bread  in favor of heavy cream and bacon, all in the name of better heart health.

So let’s look at an example of health reporting that not only buries the lead, but report it completely backwards. I credit Jimmy Moore of Livin La Vida Low Carb for pointing me to this one, as he tweeted the link earlier today. I read the article right away and tweeted back about it. He and I see the reporting issue the same way.

The article is this. Excessive omega fatty acids may make inflammation and heart health worse, not better: B.C. researchers

It’s not terribly long. Go ahead and read the whole thing. I can wait.

……….

……….

Done? OK, let’s discuss.

Anyone see the problem with the headline yet?

The headline only makes sense if one major assumption is made about the study. That assumption is this: omega 6 fats  from vegetable oils cannot be lowered in ones diet.

That’s a pretty big assumption, and an extremely dangerous one. When you really get into the study’s finding, it is saying that omega3 is beneficial, but if one has so much omega6 that the ratio won’t help anyway, then don’t add more omega3, it can’t help.

WHAT ABOUT LOWERING THE OMEGA 6??????

That’s an insane omission. It just assumes that the same person who was proactive in adding in omega 3 supplementation could not possibly be expected to be proactive and lower or eliminate omega 6 sources. This may be the same reasoning of the people who recognize the validity of a low carbohydrate diet that is free of grain and sugar, but refuse to advocate for it because they believe no one will actually do it. You know, like the FDA itself.

This logic is so flawed, it’s beyond logic. I have struggled to find a metaphor for it. I came up with this:

Your mechanic tells you that your engine has a major leak in it, that your main gasket needs to be replaced. Doing  an oil change won’t help, and actually changing the filter right now would be a bad idea as it’s the last tight seal on the engine anywhere.

So what would your response to this be?

A. stop changing your oil and keep driving

B. repair the main gasket, the keep getting regular oil changes

The answer is B, unless you’re a health reporter. Granted, if you actually read far enough into the article, the actual researchers make the case: the need is to replace the vegetable oil based diet with one where you get omega 3s from your diet, not just supplementing to fight the damage that is done by the main diet.

But that’s not at all what the headline says. The headline should be “Omega 3 useless if you keep eating vegetable oils.”

Maybe a simpler mentaphor is this: you go to the doctor with an arrow stuck in your head and say it hurts when you put your hat on. Doctor checks you out and says, well yeah, of course it hurts. You have an arrow in your head. My recommendation is to stop wearing hats.

The reason the headline is not “eliminate omega 6 fats” , is that the reporter has fallen for the typical defeatist mentality. Noting that the typical American diet has changed over the last 50 years to include these unnatural oils, the focus is on how to supplement right, instead of how to reverse the bad base diet.

This is our own doing, as long as we seek quick fixes in a pill, a supplement, a way to keep doing what we’re doing and just add band aids to mitigate the damage. How about we go back and not do the damage?

I recounted a story at the start of this blog two years ago, when I ordered an unsweetened iced tea (which I have done for many years now) at a small wedding reception, catered by family friends of the couple. The older man leaned in as if I just announced I had TTD, and whispered “I understand. I have it too. I just take the pill and eat whatever.”

There’s America today folks. And we perpetuate it by not reading any deeper into medical news, throwing up our hands and saying “come on, every day it changes what’s good and what’s bad! Who cares? I’ll just eat what I want.” Well, the media may not help, but they are just as interested in keeping you confused as the entire industry. And let’s not forget that the corn refiners and other commodity crops like soy, are a subsidized market completely tied to agricultural policy in this country at a level that involves more zeroes that we can imagine. It is at the heart of the “farm bill” to always reward giant agribusiness that can make large campaign contributions, while ignoring actual small family farms who grow real, unindustrialized, whole foods. You simply cannot print “don’t use corn oil” without some major blowback that has nothing to do with science, and everything to do with well-monied politic interests. (OK, I am political tonight. All food is politics. I’ve been on board with that for years.)

So who to trust? I may seem really biased and like a new convert to a cult to some of you. But I’m not saying everyone should go ultra-low carb or ketogenic like I am. But EVERYONE would benefit by asking two simple questions:

1. is the advice coming from someone who is trying to sell me more than a book or two? Is there a financial incentive for them to keep me frustrated fat and ill?

and more importantly….

2. Would my ancestors a few generations back recognize this as food? If not, don’t eat it. They may have had corn, but they sure as heck didn’t have corn oil or HFCS. But they could squeeze oil from an olive, or from a pig. Eat those, drop corn oil and crisco,. and you’re one step closer to optimal ancestral health. We’ll get to your bread later. 😉

 

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One thought on “How To Read Health “Reporting”

  1. “You can’t supplement your way out of a poor diet.” I’ve heard this time and time again. And it’s true. I liked what the article had to say about Omega 6 imbalances, but completely agree with your assessment that it will leave most readers still confused and “taking off their hats.”

    As I read more and more about nutrition, gut health, hormonal balance, etc., I discovered that many omega 3 supplements are useless as the supplements themselves are so fragile they oxidize on the shelf. And most people do not need the 3-6-9 omega supplements because they already have too much 6 and 9 (as noted in the article). I switched to fermented cod liver oil from Green Pasture because it is cold processed and retains all of the natural, bio-available vitamins (A/D) and omega 3’s, but I also eat plenty of fish (sardines, salmon and local fish). I take the cod liver oil more to boost my Vitamin A/D levels than for the Omega 3’s.

    EAT REAL FOOD. Eat a variety. Eat naturally fermented foods (kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi) for the probiotic benefits. Watch your nut intake, which are very high in Omega 6’s. Ditch the seed oils, including canola. Stick with olive oil, coconut oil, macadamia nut oil.

    What bread? 😉

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