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Don’t Always Believe the Science

Don’t Always Believe the Science

Science has given us some amazing inventions over the centuries. Personally I’m a big fan of the light bulb (thanks Thomas) and the Wright brothers were certainly having a good day when their flying machine finally took to the air at Kitty Hawk all those years ago. But I guess the scientific breakthrough at the very top of my list was created by that little-known inventor, designer, engineer and scientist… Ogg.

    Who would have guessed all those millennia ago when Ogg emerged from his cave to invent the wheel that not only would he make his and Mrs Ogg’s life a crap-load easier but all these years later my favourite toy (my motorbike) would be totally dependant on his neolithic creativity and invention.

    So thank you Ogg from the bottom of my high-octane heart.

    Science impacts on virtually every part of our lives. It is something we consider, negotiate and benefit from every day. It’s also something which misleads us and confuses us from time to time. Ask five experts one question about nutrition and your head might explode from the variety of answers. Ask ten conditioning coaches or exercise scientists one question about training and we might find you two days from now sitting in the corner sucking your thumb. Or visit ten medical experts with one condition and you’re likely to get numerous diagnoses and more prescriptions than you can poke a stick at.

    Part of the problem with some scientific ‘facts’ is that they aren’t facts at all; they are scientific theories.

    Every day somewhere in the world another scientific ‘fact’ bites the dust. It is exposed for the fraud that it is. I could give you a hundred examples of this but I don’t want to put you to sleep, so instead I’ll give you a few things to chew on which might be relevant and of interest to you.

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    1. Height/Weight Charts

    To say that a person should weigh a certain amount because they are so many inches tall is not only misleading but potentially dangerous. Stupid in fact. At best, these charts are vague indicators or guides of what may be a healthy weight range for some individuals. We have a rugby team here in Melbourne, Australia called the Storm. If you were to compare the weight of the individual players against the ‘scientific weight recommendations’ for their height you would discover that close to one hundred percent of the team would be classified as overweight or obese. And therefore all fall into the high health risk category. When in reality the only immediate health risk to the Storm boys is getting their heads ripped off by some unhappy neanderthal opposition players. According to ‘science’ I should weigh somewhere between about 12 kgs (26lbs) and 22 kgs (48.5lbs) less than I do right now. My body fat as I write this is 16% (healthy). If only I was seven feet tall… my weight would be perfect!

    2. BMI

      BMI stands for body mass index and it is a scientific formula used to classify people on a scale from underweight to obese. The equation is:

      Your weight in kilograms divided by your height (in metres) squared.

      Here’s my BMI equation

      91 kgs divided by (1.78m x 1.78m) = 28.72.

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      This result tells me that I am significantly overweight and borderline obese. Hmmm.

      This science doesn’t factor in how much muscle individuals have.

      Check this out:

      Subject one:
      Male
      Height 180cm: (5’11”)
      Weight 100 kgs: (220 lbs)
      Actual Body-fat: 12% (low)
      BMI classification: 30.9 = FAT!

      Subject two:
      Male
      Height: 180 cm (5’11”)
      Weight: 80 kgs (176 lbs)
      Actual Body-fat: 25% (high-ish)
      BMI classification: 24.7 = NORMAL!

      Scientific crap.

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      3. Girth Measurements

        The other day I was chatting with one of my trainers who asked me what my waist measurement was. She wanted to see how I rated on the scientific table which estimates my health risk (potential for disease) based on my waist measurement. According to the ‘science’, blokes with a waist measurement over 40 inches (101.6cm) are in trouble and girls with a waist measurement greater than 35 inches (88.9 cms) are at much higher risk also. Fortunately I’m a fair way under the danger zone but this science is flawed also. It’s vaguely indicative but by no means absolute as it doesn’t factor in the height of the individual. Surely a 40 inch waist on a guy who’s 5’4″ can’t be compared to a 40 inch waist on a guy who’s 6’7″? Well, apparently it can. And then we’ll call it a health risk assessment.

        Is waist measurement an indicator of potential health risk? Sometimes. For some people. Is it good to use a ‘set figure’ (in this case a 40 inch waist measurement) to evaluate the potential health risk for an entire population? Er… nope. Could a bloke have a 35 inch waist and be a higher risk than another bloke with a 40 inch waist? Of course.

        4. Recommended Calorie Intakes

        Dr. Bumnuts: “Okay, let’s see Mrs Smith… you’re 5’6″, you’re 42 years old, you currently weigh 70 kilos (154 lbs) and you have a sedentary job. Therefore you need 1,650 cals per day to maintain your current weight and 1,150 cals per day to drop down to 65 kilos (143 lbs) over the next ten weeks.”

        This almost sounds plausible. And if Mrs Smith expended the exact same amount of energy every day (1,650 cals worth of energy in this case), then the expert would be speaking the truth. But naturally our energy expenditure (how many cals we burn) can and does vary greatly from day to day. If Mrs Smith spends Saturday hiking, rock climbing and wrestling bears (as she does), she might need 4,000 calories just to break even for the day. But on Sunday as Mrs Smith and her sore muscles recline on the couch for the entire day, her energy needs will be drastically reduced – perhaps to as little as 1,200 calories. Same body – different needs. Bodies requirements vary from day to day which is why I always encourage people to learn to drive their own body rather than just following some generic one-approach-fits-all driver’s manual. The Point? Our energy needs (calorie requirements ) are not ‘set’ so consuming the same number of cals each day is not necessarily smart science.

        5. High carb, Low carb, No carb, My head hurts.

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          I’m not going to explore this debate in detail here but I will say that there are numerous books, studies and experts which (who) totally contradict each other on this subject. The interesting thing is that many of the conflicting theories on the matter are backed up by indisputable ‘scientific fact’. Sound scientific research. Sure. Sometimes scientists are compelled to find a way to support their hypothesis. If you know what I mean.

          6. Australia the Fattest Country.

          A couple of weeks ago here in Australia we were informed by the scientists that we are now the fattest country in the world. Here are two excerpts taken from a leading newspaper Melbourne Herald Sun:

          “AUSTRALIA is the world’s most overweight nation, ahead of the notoriously supersized Americans, according to a new study.”

          ” The report, released ahead of the federal government’s obesity inquiry, presents the results of height and weight checks carried out on 14,000 adult Australians nationwide in 2005.”

          So in a country of 21,000,000 people they tested 0.06 percent of the population which means that they didn’t test 99.94 percent of us! I have two questions:

          1. How do they know that the 0.06 percent is representative of the 99.94 that they didn’t test?

          2. Why would they use an assessment (height/weight chart) which is scientifically flawed?

          Science is an incredibly valuable and necessary part of our existence, survival and development here on the big blue ball and I’m passionate about it. I’m also passionate about not being mislead or misinformed. We can learn and benefit so much from so many clever people in the world of science but like anything that involves humans, it’s flawed.

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          8 Things to Watch for If You’re Considering Being Vegetarian

          8 Things to Watch for If You’re Considering Being Vegetarian

          Vegetarianism has been around for a long time, finding favor with many people, including Pythagoras clear back around 580 B.C. It’s been presented as one of the most healthy diets around, including being touted by the Egyptians to the point of abstaining from meat and animal clothing due to karmic beliefs. The vegetarian society (vegsoc.org) defines vegetarianism as:

          “Someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with, or without, the use of dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish* or by-products of slaughter.”

          While it’s pretty obvious that there are multiple benefits to following a vegetarian diet, it’s always good to be informed about the cons of this dietary choice as well.

          Outlined below are several things you might want to be aware of before you say good-bye to meat forever. Whether you are a current vegetarian, or contemplating making a shift, keep in mind these 8 things to keep yourself healthy.

          1. You could suffer from B12 vitamin deficiency

          The B vitamins are especially important for stress management, adrenal health, and brain function. Vegetarians in particularly are at risk for B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is attached to the protein in animal products and without enough B12 you can suffer from depression, fatigue, and an inability to concentrate.

          Due to its attachment to animal proteins, B12 is the hardest for vegetarians to obtain when they don’t eat dairy or eggs in their diet. This essential little vitamin can be found in some algae and has been added to some yeast, but research doesn’t currently provide enough information to say whether or not these forms of B12 are of good quality and can provide adequate supplementation.

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          The body is unable to make this vitamin, meaning it has to be taken in through food or supplementation. Essential for making red blood cells, DNA, nerves and various other function in the body, a Harvard Health Medical report in January of 2013 found symptoms of a B12 deficiency can present in sneaky ways including depression, paranoia, delusion, and loss of taste and smell.

          2.  You could suffer from higher states of anxiety/depression, lower sense of well-being

          According to a CBS Atlanta report, vegetarians suffered from a higher rate of anxiety and depression than their counterparts. Read the full report here. Depression and/or anxiety can be a result of many possible deficiencies including essential vitamins and amino acids you can find only in meat products, including Omega-3s from wild caught salmon.

          Without the correct supplementation and proper understanding of diet, including the importance of micro and macro nutrients, depression and anxiety can become a serious problem, bringing down the overall health and well-being of vegetarians.

          Even though reports on health and lifestyle show vegetarians have a lower BMI and lower consumption of alcohol and drugs, it also shows they suffer from more chronic illnesses and more visits to the doctor than their meat eating counterparts.

          3. You could suffer from excess weight

          When you go vegetarian it opens up a lot of food, but just because there isn’t any meat in front of you, it doesn’t mean it’s necessary healthy. Though pizza and beer technically fall under the vegetarian diet, it’s not a healthy choice for your waist line.

          Just because being a vegetarian is associated with a healthier lifestyle in many cases, doesn’t mean it’s always true. Making bread and pasta your staples and not understanding where your protein sources should be coming from, can pack on body fat, which increases your chances of health issues such as diabetes and chronic inflammation.

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          If the choice to go vegetarian happens on a whim without the proper understanding of food control, portion, and nutritionally dense alternatives you can find yourself reaching for vegetarian foods, which could cause serious problems down the road. Nuts are a good example, but just because something is touted as healthy, it doesn’t mean, your should eat it in excess.

          Eating too many calories in fat will still cause you to gain weight. Eating too many calories in carbs will cause you to gain weight. Eating too many calories in protein will cause you to gain weight. See a pattern here? Not to mention you’ll miss out on important nutrients the body needs by over-eating in one area and under-eating in another. Re-read number 2.

          4. You could have a higher risk of heart disease

          Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables should be a goal we all strive for, but when you cut out meat, you also cut out what is known as complete protein, which you find in animal by-products. Complete means more than just the essential amino acids, it means those amino acids contain dietary sulfur. Without enough dietary sulfur, which is found almost exclusively in fish and pasture feed grass beef, the body will struggle with the biological activities of both protein and enzymes.

          The effects cascade downward, effecting bones, joints, tissues, and even metabolic issues. In short, a low intake of sulfur associated with a vegetarian diet can result in high blood levels of homocysteine, which may lead to blood clots in your arteries, blood clots raise your risk of stroke and heart attack. To read the full report click here.

          5. You could suffer from low cholesterol

          I know, at first you’re thinking, wait, low cholesterol is a good thing. Yes, it is, when it’s LDL cholesterol, which you get from eating an unhealthy diet, but low HDL (good cholesterol) can cause serious health issues. HDL, according to the mayo clinic, is in every cell in our body and can help fend off heart disease, not enough of it though, and too much LDL can go the other way, will be building up plaque in the arteries and leading to heart disease.

          Cholesterol, the good kind, is actually vitally important to the making of every steroid hormone in the body! There are six, and without cholesterol the body is unable to convert hormones, and it can cause damage in the endocrine system.

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          A vegetarian without a balanced diet, meaning enough protein, enough veggies, and enough good fats, could disrupt his or her adrenals, which are directly connected to the endocrine system and the body’s ability to make and synthesize the hormones your body needs. The six major hormones in the body help do everything from metabolizing carbohydrates, to the electrolyte balance, to making sure if you’re a woman you can carry a healthy baby through pregnancy.

          6. You could suffer from lower bone density and osteoporosis.

          Osteoporosis, the disease where the bones get thinner, weaker, and fractures become a high risk with day to day movements. It’s often associated with the older generation, but your risk for osteoporosis increases with a lower bone density. Bone density can be directly related to diet and lifestyle, along with many other factors.

          When it comes to eating a vegetarian diet it’s possible to miss getting enough of the right nutrients, causing the bones to begin to break down. If your vegetarian diet isn’t balanced and providing you with the correct nutrients and the means to absorb the correct nutrients, your body could begin to break down.

          Recently, Professor Tuan Nguyen of Sydney’s Garvan Institute of Medical Research led a review of both Australian and Vietnamese research around the bone density of vegetarian versus their meat eating counterparts. Helping Professor Nguyen was Dr. Ho-Pham Thuc Lan from Pham Ngoc Thac University of Medicine in Vietnam. The review was designed to sort though years of research surrounded by discrepancies and inadequate clinical data.

          At the end of the review, with vegetarianism rising to around 5% of the populace in the western continents, and with wide spread osteoporosis reports – 2 million in Australia and closer to 54 million in America – the decrease in bone density of vegetarians is a serious issue which needs to be addressed, if you’ve cut meat and animal by-products out of your life.

          7. You could be at a higher risk for colorectal cancer

          Cancer seems to be running rampant through America, and it’s within everyone’s best interest to do all they can to keep their body healthy and happy to prevent cancer from finding a place to grow. In most studies it’s been found vegetarians are at lower risk for cancer, but a European Oxford study with over 63 thousand men and women in the United Kingdom found the risk for colorectal cancer higher in vegetarians than in meat-eaters.

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          Extra care needs to be taken when establishing a diet to ensure the body is receiving and able to up take all the important nutritional benefits and requirements from food.

          8. You could end up eating more processed food

          Depending on how deep you choose to go as a vegetarian, it could create the need to substitute a lot of food and recipe ingredients in your diet, but what happens when you cut out meat, eggs, and dairy and your recipe calls for meat, eggs, and/or dairy? You have to end up using a “healthy” vegetarian alternative which include stabilizers, thickeners, and various other ingredients you can’t pronounce.

          Lauren from Empowered Substance puts it into a great perspective with her comparison of Earth Balance, a vegetarian approved butter replacement compared to butter. She points out the ingredients in Earth Balance consist of: Palm fruit oil, canola oil, safflower oil, flax oil, olive oil, salt, natural flavor, pea protein, sunflower lecithin, lactic acid, annatto color. Meanwhile, the ingredient list in butter, is much shorter. It’s butter.

          That’s only one example. To appeal to the vegetarian lifestyle food manufacturers have found alternatives which fall under vegetarian, but aren’t necessarily healthy for you. Consider baked goods, which though vegetarian can be filled with more sugars and binders than regular baked goods with diary products. It’s the same with vegetarian items like mac and cheese, without using real cheese you may just be getting oil and thickeners, without even the smallest amount of nutritional value.

          The reality is, most vegetarian substitutes contain the same junky alternatives which even meat eaters should be avoiding to remain happy and healthy.

          On one final note, whichever lifestyle you choose to work with, remember anything in excess – including protein and animal by products – isn’t healthy for the body. It takes a wide spectrum of food and nutrients to keep the beautiful body you travel around in all day running in prime condition.

           

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