February 2, 2015 by Dr. Sana Keller
I will be the first to admit that I like having the latest information readily available, fully aware that many people, especially in other countries, do not have the same opportunity. Yet, not all of the information available through the various multitudes of outlets is factual. And, what was thought to be true in the past may not be true today due to newer research and improved studies.
Below are several health-related examples to illustrate my point. The first three ‘health promotions’ (I use the term very loosely) are almost unbelievable from our viewpoint today while the last two health promotions are still commonly being promoted, even though quality studies have proven otherwise. But first, a question for you…
Who’s In Charge of our Health?
Each of us is in charge of our own health, and as health care consumers, we deserve accurate information upon which to base our health decisions. Health care professionals play an active role as team players in this process, providing the best possible information. I consider this to be one of the most important roles in my practice as a Cancer Survivor Coach and Healthy Lifestyle Coach.
In light of that statement, I am disappointed that our local newspaper chooses not to publish a letter to the editor I repeatedly submitted last month. This letter was in response to a front page article about vaccinations on January 1, 2015 which included statements from a state immunization manager without reference to studies or sources. I questioned some of the statements made, referencing my questions with valid sources including the peer-reviewed ‘Vaccine’ journal, the Institute of Medicine, and the US FDA.
I took the time to write that letter because I believe you, the public, deserve the best information available, especially when it comes to making decisions about your health. Just because a magazine article makes a claim, a media report urges you to take a specific action or someone is quoted in an article does not make it true or right. The source of the information being provided is critically important. We all should be skeptical of studies regarding certain medications or treatments conducted by the company making the product or technology. Conflict of interest is a crucial consideration and, sadly, is often overlooked or disregarded.
Okay–here are some of the ludicrous promotions I was talking about. It’s laughable when looking at the first three ads which were from years ago…yet the last two ads are much more recent, with many still unaware of how health recommendations have changed in these areas.
Nothing Does It Like Seven-Up!
From a vintage 7-Up ad: “This young man is 11 months old and he isn’t our youngest customer by any means. For 7-Up is so pure, so wholesome you can even give it to babies and feel good about it…Add 7-Up to milk in equal parts…It’s a wholesome combination and it works!”
Coca-Cola: Served in Leading Hospitals
From a vintage Coca-Cola ad: “Just a drink—but what a drink. And so today, ice-cold, refreshing Coca-Cola is served as a beverage in leading hospitals. It fills a need. There’s wholesome buoyancy in its life and sparkle. Served in leading hospitals. You can be sure it is pure and wholesome.”
Cigarette Smoking Recommended by Physicians
In the 1930s and 1940s, smoking became the norm for both men and women in the United States, and a majority of physicians smoked. At the same time, there was rising public anxiety about the health risks of cigarette smoking. One strategic response of tobacco companies was to devise advertising referring directly to physicians. As ad campaigns featuring physicians developed through the early 1950s, tobacco executives used the doctor image to assure the consumer that their respective brands were safe.
In 1946, the RJ Reynolds company began touting surveys conducted by “three leading independent research organizations,” one typical advertisement proclaimed that according to “nationwide” surveys of 113,597 doctors “from every branch of medicine,” Camel was the brand smoked by most respondents. It also asserted that this statistic was an “actual fact,” not a “casual claim.” In reality, this “independent” surveying was conducted by RJ Reynolds’s advertising agency, the William Esty Company, whose employees questioned physicians about their smoking habits at medical conferences and in their offices. It appears that most doctors were surveyed about their cigarette brand of choice just after being provided complimentary cartons of Camels.
For the tobacco companies, physicians’ approval of their product could prove to be essential, especially since patients often brought smoking-related symptoms and health concerns to the attention of their doctors. Through advertisements appearing in the pages of medical journals for the first time in the 1930s, tobacco companies worked to develop close, mutually beneficial relationships with physicians and their professional organizations. These advertisements became a ready source of income for numerous medical organizations and journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), as well as many branches and bulletins of local medical associations. (From the American Journal of Public Health).
Milk-It Does a Body Good
DOES Milk Do Our Body Good? There are many questions being raised about this, including the following from a recent Associated Press article in my local newspaper (1/31/15): Some scientists have begun to question previous statements about milk’s benefits. For example, some researchers have noted low fracture rates in Asian countries where little milk is consumed, and questioned whether there is enough evidence to support the federal milk consumption recommendations. What’s more, some studies have linked milk to risk of ovarian and prostate cancers. The article also referenced a Swedish study published in a British medical journal that found women who drank three or more glasses a day died at a nearly twice the rate of those who drank less than one glass a day. Broken bones were more common in women who were heavy milk drinkers, too.
According to a study in Journal of the American Medical Association-Pediatrics (Sept. 2013): , Humans have no nutritional requirement for animal milk, an evolutionarily recent addition to diet. Adequate dietary calcium for bone health, often cited as the primary rationale for high intakes of milk, can be obtained from many other sources. Indeed, the recommended levels of calcium intake in the United States, based predominately on balance studies of 3 weeks or less, likely overestimate actual requirements and greatly exceed recommended intakes in the United Kingdom. Throughout the world, bone fracture rates tend to be lower in countries that do not consume milk compared with those that do. Moreover, milk consumption does not protect against fracture in adults, according to a recent meta-analysis.
Low Fat Diets for Heart Health
Low-fat dietary guidelines became the gold standard around 1977, being recommended for most Americans. This was also around the time that the obesity epidemic started. Although it is true that correlation does not equal causation, this correlation does raise significant questions since people started giving up traditional foods like butter, replacing them with processed “low-fat” foods, typically high in sugar. Since then, many large studies have been conducted on the health effects of a low-fat diet, showing clearly that a low-fat diet does not cause weight loss and has no effect on cardiovascular disease in the long term.
The Women’s Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial began in 1993, at a time when dietary fat was seen as a dietary evil and the low-fat diet was thought to be a straightforward route to preventing heart disease, some cancers, and the epidemic of obesity that was beginning to sweep the country. With funding from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, researchers recruited almost 50,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79 years. Of these, 19,541 were randomly assigned to follow a low-fat diet. The results, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2006–295:629-42), showed no benefits for a low-fat diet. Women assigned to this eating strategy did not appear to gain protection against breast cancer, colorectal cancer, or cardiovascular disease. And after eight years, their weights were generally the same as those of women following their usual diets.
According to Sylvan Lee Weinberg, MD, MACC in the March 2004 Journal of the American College of Cardiology: “The low-fat ‘diet–heart hypothesis’ has been controversial for nearly 100 years. The low-fat–high-carbohydrate diet, promulgated vigorously by the National Cholesterol Education Program, National Institutes of Health, and American Heart Association since the Lipid Research Clinics-Primary Prevention Program in 1984, and earlier by the U.S. Department of Agriculture food pyramid, may well have played an unintended role in the current epidemics of obesity, lipid abnormalities, type II diabetes, and metabolic syndromes. This diet can no longer be defended by appeal to the authority of prestigious medical organizations or by rejecting clinical experience and a growing medical literature suggesting that the much-maligned low-carbohydrate–high-protein diet may have a salutary effect on the epidemics in question.”
7-Up…Coca Cola…Cigarettes…Cow’s Milk…Low Fat Diets…The List Goes On…
Yes, it is challenging to stay on top of current health information, especially in this time of information overload. My goal is to continue to provide non-biased, science-based information to assist you on your health journey. I provide Health Coaching options for closer guidance for cancer survivors interested in lowering their risk of recurrence and for health-conscious individuals interested in lowering their risk of diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
Thanks for being in charge of your health. I wish you a healthy life!
Sana Keller, PhD, RN, CNC Health Unlimited LLC
Photo credits: eslide.com, hallak.com, esswellness.com, onegreenplanet.org, authoritynutrition.com, healthcare-administration-degree.net,