Cranky Fitness, as a health and fitness blog (albeit a half-assed one), would love to tell you exactly what to do to live a long, happy, healthy life. After all, we all have questions don't we? Questions like:
- Will drinking milk help me lose weight?
- Is it better to get seven or eight hours of sleep a night?
- Is it ok to use sweeteners like Splenda and Equal?
- Which fruits have the most antioxidants?
- Should I take glucosamine to help with joint pain?
- Could putting milk in your tea interfere with antioxidant absorption?
- Is it better to exercise in the morning or the evening?
It depends on which f*cking study you read.
Sorry. Each one of those questions has authoritative, research-based, contradictory answers. So our answer is: who the hell knows?
This issue came up when we were talking recently about boiling and steaming vegetables. Some of you expressed frustration that first we heard eating vegetables raw was better; now we're supposed to boil or steam them--but not fry them. Whatever! Isn't enough that we eat vegetables at all when ice cream tastes so much better? And how come the answers keep changing?
We hear about "superfoods" that turn out not to deliver. We read about supplements that are supposed to help us and then find out they do just the opposite. We freak out about possible health hazards and then never hear much more about them again. (What ever happened to toxic shock? Acrylamides? Killer bees?) Post-menopausal women were urged to take hormones, now they're not supposed to. The list goes on and on.
Part of the problem, of course, is that health reporters and blogs like Cranky Fitness jump all over stories that are weird and counter-intuitive. They make great headlines or post titles. I should drink a beer right after my workout, really? And often, the kind of analysis that might be helpful to a careful thoughtful reader is kind of boring to a more casual reader-- so we decide to just leave it out. But it's not just the reporting of studies that sucks. The studies themselves really are all over the map.
I used to get completely excited when some new study came out saying "take this or do that or eat this, it's REALLY good for you." So unless it was something totally obnoxious or disgusting, I'd actually run out and do whatever the study said. Jogging, melatonin, glucosamine, calcium supplements, step aerobics, blueberries, counting fat grams, strength training, chromium, meditation, interval training, fish oil...
Some of those turned out to be really smart. Others--well, not so much.
Likewise, when a study would come out with a dire warning about something I was doing or eating, I'd quit it immediately. At times I've given up or cut way back on: coffee, healthy as well as unhealthy fats, plastic beverage containers, anything with acrylamide, white flour, salt, sugar, eggs, Cokes and other sodas, antiperspirants... the list goes on. And again, some of these were good things to give up, and others were totally stupid moves (in retrospect) that amounted to pointless deprivation.
So now, when a new study comes out? I say, "hmm, that's interesting. Keep me posted, will ya?" I only bother to change my behavior under one of the following conditions:
- The study tells me to do/eat more of something I already like;
- It tells me to avoid something I don't care for much anyway;
- It's an easy change that involves no hardship whatsoever;
- There have already been a bunch of other studies saying I should be doing/not doing the same thing--and then even then, if the change is too depressing to contemplate I'll just continue to ignore them all.
- It's good to eat natural whole foods, especially vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein.
- It's bad to eat lots of sugar, white flour, processed foods, saturated fats and transfats.
- Exercise is good.
- Sitting on your ass all the time is bad.
- Stress and smoking are bad.
- Relaxation and sex and companionship and a good night's sleep are all good.
- And you really should floss your teeth and wear a seatbelt.
And even with all my grousing, I still intend to pay more attention to a large study conducted by a reputable research institution, with control groups and all the bells and whistles, than what my next door neighbor tells me he just read in some book. (Especially since my next door neighbor is eighty years old, slightly crazy, and is quite fond of talking about his prostate).
So Cranky Fitness will keep reporting the research as it comes out, especially if a study says good things about chocolate, wine, pet ownership, naps, avocados, massages, coffee, goofing off, or cupcakes. But you may want to take it all with a grain of salt--which may or may not be hazardous to your health.