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The Why's Guy

Flip-flopping studies bring confusion to the table

I just finished my morning joe.

Guilt free.

Even had a second cup.

Coffee is back on the good-for-you side of the menu.

Just don't drink it black.

Add a little milk. But not cream.

Skip the sugar and use artificial sweetener. But be careful which one.

Confused?

Me too.

We're bombarded with new scientific studies almost daily that espouse the virtues, and dangers, of food.

For years we were told coffee was bad, an unhealthy demon waiting to destroy us. Many abandoned coffee. Now we learn it can cut the risk of diabetes, Parkinson's disease and colon cancer. It might be able to ease problem headaches and even help prevent cavities in teeth.

But which study is right?

We need to take all this "information" with a few grains of salt. (But not too many, that's bad for you. Unless, of course, you want to believe the studies that say it isn't.)

Why?

Because if we don't we will go insane. Try to sort through these contradictions.

• Eggs, milk and cheese used to be staples of our diet. Then we were alerted to cholesterol and high fat content. Later, researchers discovered a daily serving of dairy products can help us lose weight. Or it doesn't, if you believe a different study. And, oh by the way, eggs might actually be good for the heart.

• Alcohol is bad. But red wine is good. And maybe some white wines. Or a little alcohol of any kind each day. Well, maybe not rubbing alcohol.

• Eating fish is good for your heart because of the omega-3 fatty acids. Or people who eat fish generally follow a healthy lifestyle, which might account for their reduced risk of heart disease. But fish seems to reduce the risk of stroke and dementia. Just order yours without the mercury.

• Organic food is healthier. Or maybe not. New research shows there is no nutritional benefit to organically grown food.

• Chocolate is bad. Unless it's dark chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cocoa.

• Soy lowers cholesterol. Or it doesn't. It can contribute to thyroid problems and may cause cancer. Or it reduces the risk of prostate cancer. And it might contribute to a lowered sperm count in men and accelerated aging of the brain.

Wading through all that is enough to push anyone close to the edge.

Human beings aren't clones. We're different, inside and out. How much do our biological differences matter when it comes to nutrition? How can we be sure that what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Until we can determine that, there will be no side of phobia on my menu.

I'm not going to be scared to dine on red meat salted to my taste, with vegetables grown on a corporate farm topped with melted cheese, all washed down with an alcoholic beverage. I'll have some dark chocolate for dessert with a nice cup of coffee.

Science will not be welcome at my table, at least until it proves one of my theories.

When researchers determine that beer and Cheetos are good for you, I'll be the first one on board.

Times staff writer Kyle Kreiger rants about the serious and silly with one question in mind: Why? Contact him at kreiger@sptimes.com.

Flip-flopping studies bring confusion to the table 08/11/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 13, 2008 3:12pm]
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