At the Healthful Habits study group:
"OK," said the chairman, Al. "Let's summarize what we know. We know that you need vitamins, but high dosages may not be any better for you than low doses. Maybe worse, in fact. Or maybe not."
"I move that we declare low doses of vitamins A through G, medium doses of vitamins H through R, and high doses of vitamins S through Z good for you," said Margaret. "Or bad for you. Whichever."
"Done," said Al.
"I've been trying to get my kids to eat more carrots," Bill volunteered, "but you know how kids are -- they won't eat a whole carrot. Do I cut 'em up in little sticks and leave 'em out as snacks?
"No good," said Alice. "According to the latest study, a carrot a day is good for you, but half a carrot a day isn't. In fact it's bad for you. The people in the study who ate half a carrot a day were 7.8 percent more likely to have a stroke than those who ate either a whole carrot or no carrots a day. That's statistically significant."
"I'll say." said Dave.
"Carrots are good for night vision," said Bill.
"You thinkin' about a night drop behind enemy lines or something?" snickered Dave.
"Maybe?" said Bill, defensively.
"Where was this study conducted?" Al wanted to know.
4 "They're all in Sweden," said Bill, perplexed.
"Moving along to beta carotene," said Al. "Is there beta carotene in carrots?"
"Yeah, some," said Margaret, "but not as much as in other cruciferous vegetables."
"Why do they do that?" Dave asked. "Why do they call it beta carotene if it's not gonna be in carrots?"
"What in the heck does 'cruciferous' mean anyway?" asked Alice.
"Cross-shaped," replied Bill, "but I've never seen a vegetable shaped like a cross."
Dave raised his hand. "Asparagus!" he said.
"Asparagus isn't shaped like a cross," said Margaret.
"Well, I guess you'd have to have two . . ."
"Next topic -- cholesterol," Al said. "We all know there's good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, and they have names with lots of Ds and Ls and Hs. But is there a medium cholesterol?"
"Yes, and I prefer it," said Bill.
"You would," said Dave.
"Well, according to the latest study, conducted by a team of Swedish scientists, or maybe by a team of American scientists in Sweden," said Al, "There's good-good cholesterol, medium-good cholesterol and bad-good cholesterol. Then there's good-medium, medium-medium and bad-medium. And then good-bad, medium-bad and bad-bad."
"Was this a double blind study?" asked Alice.
"Whoa! That's what I call blind."
"Anyway," Al continued, "it means you can't eat margarine any more. I think. Or, you can, but only a certain kind."
"I move that we say you can eat only a certain kind of margarine, but we forget what kind," said Margaret. "And real butter only on legal holidays. So you don't get fatty deposits in your arteries."
"Done," said Al.
"Well, I move that we cut out using the term 'fatty deposits.' It's disgusting," said Alice.
"Vitamin C makes up 5 percent of the weight of a billygoat plum from Australia," offered Dave.
"Moving along to pets," said Al. "A recent study said 700 million cat owners died in a one-month period."
"My grandma Lucy had a cat and she lived to be 96," said Bill.
"Anecdotal," said Dave.
"How long is that in cat years?" Margaret wanted to know.
"Men are 30 percent more likely to have a stroke than women. That doesn't seem fair," said Bill.
"Oatmeal contains soluble fiber," said Dave.
"A study published in the AMA Journal of Medicine said something really, really bad happens to women who eat a diet high in saturated fats, but I forget what," added Alice.
"What should we recommend for pregnant women?" asked Margaret.
"I think we have to recommend that they ingest nothing at all during their pregnancy," said Al.
"Especially in view of the study which revealed that mothers who eat beta carotene with rose hips are 6.4 percent more likely to have babies with birth defects," added Dave. "Or was it that mothers who eat beta carotene are 6.4 percent more likely to have rose hips."
"I would think it'd be OK if they nibble some folic acid now and then," said Bill.
"Which brings us to coffee," said Al. "What we know from recent studies is that coffee does or does not increase your blood pressure, so you should either drink coffee or leave it alone. A recent study in Sweden showed that you're 3.8 percent more likely to suffer a fatal heart attack if you drink five or more cups of coffee a day. Or something like that."
"True, but another study, of coffee-drinking laboratory rats, produced no such results. Which I find reassuring," said Alice.
"Noted," said Al.
John Terry is a free-lance writer.