Most end-of-year reviews and lists are predictably tedious. This one isn’t. From it, we’ve selected the most interesting journal articles on health issues, our holiday gift to Founders Broadsheet‘s readers for 2018. Mens sana in corpore sano, a healthy body politic is underpinned by a physically healthy and mentally alert citizenry. Several of the articles cited below challenge longstanding orthodoxy: “minimize saturated fat intake,” “moderate wine with meals is beneficial,” and “running is a superlative aerobic sport.”
But as long as we are quoting Latin catch phrases, one slightly modified one is relevant: caveat lector, “let the reader beware.” Health research is notorious for its flip-flops, produced by research done on too limited a sample population and budget, run for too brief a time span, with insufficient controls and usually no random assignment to experimental groups so that causality can be determined rather than mere association. Nevertheless, perhaps a few New Year’s resolutions may be inspired by the articles selected and introduced below.
Fats and nuts vs. carbs
Fats are good for you, including saturated fat, and they’re better for you than carbohydrates, according to this article published in the prestigious British medical journal, The Lancet. The American Heart Association, which for decades has been claiming the opposite, admits that saturated fat might be better for you than refined carbohydrates, but the AHA still argues that polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats are preferable to saturated fats.
It’s unclear where unrefined carbohydrates, such as whole-grain cereals, are left in this fat vs fat and fat vs carbohydrate hierarchy.
Nuts are high in fat content but also minerals and protein. Unsurprisingly, this study found that “Higher nut intake is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality, and mortality from respiratory disease, diabetes, and infections.”
One thing seems clear: low-fat diets are a bad idea unless for a specific short-term medical goal. On the other hand, fats and oils are very high calorie. Their consumption should best come at the expense of refined carbohydrates, sweetened and alcoholic beverages, and other “empty calorie” foods, lest one become overweight.
Carbohydrates and gluten
Some food faddist sites are pushing the idea that even if one doesn’t have celiac disease, one’s health will benefit by avoiding gluten-bearing foods (wheat, rye, barley, oats, beer, brewer’s yeast). This study shows that is not the case.
Fruits and vegetables
It also shouldn’t be a complete surprise that there is an inverse relationship between the consumption of fruit and vegetables on the one hand and cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality on the other. This holds true for each separately as well as both together.