Giving nutrition news a healthful spin


Do you play "spin" nutrition?

Did you panic when your produce department ran short of broccoli for a few days?

Have you suddenly switched to red wine?

Were you first in line for oat bran?

Spin nutrition happens when nutrition science is reported with a RTC "consumer-y spin" that turns it into a magic cure.

Don't get me wrong. It's about time we put some science behind nutritional recommendations.

But context is crucial.

There is no single food that can make up for a lifetime of continuing dietary indiscretion. A plateful of broccoli teeming with vitamins A, C, and beta carotene, rich with fiber and loaded with recently discovered sulforaphane is no match for the high-saturated fat, high cholesterol,high-sodium hollandaise sauce in which you bury it.

Which is not to say you can't ever eat the goodies. A little hollandaise every now and then can be OK if you're consistently cutting back on fats and are gradually increasing vegetables, so that the proportion of fats to veggies continues to improve throughout your lifetime. If that's the case, broccoli could count big time as a magic food when it comes to preventing cancer. So would cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. And many other vegetables, as well.

What counts here is context.

The cruciferous vegetables fit nicely with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommendation to eat at least two fruits and three vegetables daily.

Have you given up on oat bran? Don't.

Another study, published recently in the Journal of the American Diabetic Association, confirms its ability to lower blood cholesterol.

However, other studies have shown that rice bran and corn bran work, too.

So enjoy all three, along with other grains, as well. This fits the U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommendation to eat a wide variety of foods and at least six servings of whole-grain breads and cereals daily.

But watch out for red wine.

Dr. R. Curtis Ellison, head of preventive medicine and epidemiology at the Boston University Medical School, notes that the French, who consume considerably more red wine than Americans, have only half the rate of heart disease. But they have twice as much liver disease.

That information fits nicely with the U.S. Dietary Guideline to consume alcohol only in moderation.

Context is everything.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore.

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