These days it’s pretty hard to believe anything we read about what we should eat and drink. Nutritional facts are tossed about like raw ingredients. Sometimes they are mixed and baked and turned into something sweet and palatable. Other times they are burnt and bitter. The relationship between coffee and cancer is a good example. Research shows that coffee both cures and causes prostate cancer.
Most health problems related to what we ingest are complex and not static.
Similarly, bulking up our bowels with high fiber diets is now both good and bad. Good for young people and bad for older people. When we are young our intestinal muscles are strong and can contract efficiently. Fiber can help to ensure efficient transit through young bowels. As we get older, the walls of our bowels blow out and become garbage dumps for our waste products and fiber makes it worse.
It’s not just what we eat, but also how much. Until now, research would have us believe that we eat too much and that has dire consequences for our health and life expectancy. New evidence is emerging to suggest the contrary – excess weight might just prolong our lives. A very large study found that survival was longest for people who were overweight. Even obesity has its benefits. Obese people who have long standing heart disease are more likely to live longer than lean people with the same problems.
Despite these obvious contradictions, we still believe that we can stay healthier by being careful about what we put into our bodies. After all, there is irrefutable evidence that inhaling tobacco smoke causes cancer. Unfortunately, nothing else has been proven so conclusively.
These paradoxes are hard to explain and not fully understood – probably because most health problems related to what we ingest are complex and not static. Our bodies constantly change and adapt to these challenges. Research can only capture part of the picture at one point in time. We need lifetimes of individual data to make any sense of what is really happening in our bodies. Perhaps we need to develop a whole new group of medical specialists to decode research knowledge and bring it to life across the life span of individuals.