Monday, April 12, 2010

The Wishfulfilling Quick Bite

We love headlines and sound bites. But I wonder how often, in our feel-good, easy-answer culture, do we actually read or listen further. How often do we really want the whole story?

The butter/magarine war is a good example. Butter has won the most recent battle, with scientists considering it a better choice than margarine. That doesn't mean butter is good for us. It's a saturated fat that is preferable to a trans fat, nothing more. But oh, how we want to believe in that buttery goodness. And that's probably what we get from the "butter is better" clip.

As our collective weight and the incidence of lifestyle diseases rise dramatically, we would do well to check out the whole story. This recent story from the New York Times - "Eating Vegetables Doesn't Stop Cancer" by Tara Parker-Pope, April 8/10 - is a case in point.

The story is about a European study conducted over nearly nine years with approximately 400,000 people - the study appears in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute - to determine whether eating lots (not the scientific label!) of vegetables reduces the occurrence of cancer generally.

From the NYT headline, one could be excused for thinking that vegetables don't help even one little bit to reduce the incidence of cancer.

But wait! What does the article actually say? What does the study actually say?

What the researchers found is that vegetables DO reduce the overall incidence of cancer, but by an amount that is not statistically very significant. The researchers are also careful to point out that specific compounds in certain vegetables DO reduce the incidence of certain types of cancer. They also tell us that for smokers and regular drinkers, there IS a more noticeable effect overall on cancer reduction.

That sounds pretty good to me, even if eating our veggies is not a cancer panacea.

Now the New York Times is not responsible for people's desire to eat fat-laden fast food, high glycemic-index carbs, and servings of anything with catastrophic calorie counts. But I would bet a significant sum of cash that there are folks who will read that headline (or others like it) and think yippee! no more veggies for me - bring on the deep-fried pizza with butter sauce!

We need veggies to live; we need the vitamins in them to prevent deficiency diseases, like scurvy. Vegetables are a great source of carbohydrates (one of the macro-nutrients necessary for life) with a low glycemic index.

With sky-rocketing rates of obesity and lifestyle diseases, we need the benefit of even a little cancer protection, the vitamins to protect against diseases, and many low fat and low sugar choices. We don't need an excuse to give up on vegetables.

And for the record, I  am not a fan of those ads where people spit out their veggies and then run to top up their veggie count with commercial juice preparations - with up to 28grams of sugar per cup. Hello.

So keep reading and keep listening beyond the wishfulfilling headline or soundbite.

And eat your vegetables!

(butter photo credit)
(veggie photo credit)


cooper said...

Lead as healthy a life as possible within their own set of limitations (real or perceived),then you have a shot.

Oh yea, and stop getting news from headlines.

It is easy to pick out the parts that support the argument we want though.

ChrisJ said...


I think it's quite common to take just what supports our views.

Ciss B said...

Reading carefully with any article is the only way to get the full information. We often read into the facts what we want to see there.

Ei said...

It's hard to know what to believe- I'm sure that margerine was marketed as a healthier, more heart-friendly and less fatty alternative to butter, for years. And that it wasn't just on their own ads, but also magazines, media, etc, so tI am really surprised that they are now saying butter is better- but it tastes better so I am glad

One of The Guys said...

I'm with you. I'm sticking with veggies.

These days, for every subject there are opposing views. If you want to support an argument you can find another million people who agree with you. But that doesn't mean it's right necessarily, just that those people read the same book, saw the same TV special as you.

Here's to figuring it out ourselves, with maybe a little help from our friends!

Have a good day.

Salma said...

I try to remember my roots when we used to plant everything and didn't have tv or opinions about food, LOL. That was way too many years ago.

ChrisJ said...


I'm sure at times we all do this and aren't even aware of it.

ChrisJ said...


You're right - it was thought to be healthier. The change came, as far as I know, when there was more research on trans fats - which any margarine with hydrogenated oils contains.

ChrisJ said...


You are so right. And we often have trouble with indisputable facts, too.

ChrisJ said...


When I was a kid, we had to eat what was put in front of us and there was no fast food. We ate out very rarely.