Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Nutritional manichaeism

Do you remember the scene in Star Wars III where Obi-Wan Kenobi says to Anakin Skywalker that "only a Sith deals in absolutes"? I can't think of a better example of absolute statement. The adverb only puts a heavy burden on the affirmation.

What is going on here? Is Obi-Wan himself a Sith? Maybe in a moment of weakness he turned to the Dark Side just for those five seconds needed to pronounce the declaration, but then I would see a problem with this: to make a correct statement he had become a bad guy!

Or he misquoted himself and actually what he meant was that "A Sith deals only in absolutes", while Jedis have a higher level of consciousness because their thinking in not obfuscated by the Dark Side of the Force, so they have the unique privilege to decide when it is appropriate to make an absolute statement and when it is not. Again there is a problem as the fact that young Skywalker is dealing in absolutes right now does not imply that he turned to the Dark Side (correlation is not causation, I'll discuss a lot about this).

My explanation is simpler, Master Kenobi is wrong and Jedi Knights as well deal in absolutes just like anybody else. This is because he is human and humans have the bad habit of making things either Black or White.

Black or White

Nutrition is the most controversial of sciences and there are countless examples of such manicheistic dogmas: saturated fats and cholesterol have been demonized for long enough to give us sufficient case studies to prove how a diet low in these two important nutrients does not promote optimal health. This does not mean that from now on you are allowed to binge on coconut products either.

Fish oil has been touted as a panacea which, in the ambit of today's diets containing an excess of omega-6 fatty acids from vegetable oils and grain-fed beef, doesn't even sound a bad idea. But proponents forget to mention that there is indeed a risk in having too much fish oil. Yes, you can overdo omega-3 pretty much like you overdo omega-6.

Milk is bad. I read researches about the nefast effects of milk, being accused to promote cancer, osteoporosis, inflammation, autoimmune disease, etc. It is also one of the few topics where vegans and paleo dieters peacefully agree. Again, most of these studies are seriously flawed or employ a cherry-picking strategy to prove a dogma. And I'll show why.

Red meat, that's a typical example of one thing that is either black or white and in fact no, it is just red. Anybody in their right mind will swear that red meat is bad, that’s why I am happy to think with what is left of my mind (be patient, I like word games).

Grains!!! That’s the warfare horse of the paleo diet, but also of raw vegans and glutenphobics. While I totally agree that modern wheat “has some problems” and am myself not a big consumer of cereals, there are some important points to be discussed both on grains themselves and on the allegedly healthier alternatives.

The list can continue forever and I need to close the post, I’d just like to mention one last trend very popular these days, which is the low-carb, the aversion to sugars and the glycemic index diets in general. This topic too will be extensively discussed, so stay tuned!

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