21 Nutrition Myths, Debunked by Science

Woman Using a Banana as a TelephoneMainstream nutrition is full of nonsense.

Despite clear advancements in nutrition science, the old myths don’t seem to be going anywhere.

Here are 20 mainstream nutrition myths that have been debunked by scientific research.

Myth 1: The Healthiest Diet is a Low-Fat, High-Carb Diet With Lots of Grains

Several decades ago, the entire population was advised to eat a low-fat, high-carb diet. At the time, not a single study had demonstrated that this diet could actually prevent disease. Since then, many high quality studies have been done, including the Women’s Health Initiative, which is the largest nutrition study in history.

The results were clear… this diet does not cause weight loss, prevent cancer OR reduce the risk of heart disease.

Myth 2: Salt Should be Restricted in Order to Lower Blood Pressure and Reduce Heart Attacks and Strokes

Salt Shaker and Pile

The salt myth is still alive and kicking, even though there has never been any good scientific support for it. Although lowering salt can reduce blood pressure by 1-5 mm/Hg on average, it doesn’t have any effect on heart attacks, strokes or death.

Myth 3: It is Best to Eat Many, Small Meals Throughout The Day to “Stoke The Metabolic Flame”

Studies clearly disagree with this. Eating 2-3 meals per day has the exact same effect on total calories burned as eating 5-6 (or more) smaller meals.

There are even studies showing that eating too often can be harmful… a new study came out recently showing that more frequent meals dramatically increased liver and abdominal fat on a high calorie diet.

Myth 4: Egg Yolks Should be Avoided Because They Are High in Cholesterol, Which Drives Heart Disease

Eggs in a Basket

Cholesterol in the diet has remarkably little effect on cholesterol in the blood, at least for the majority of people.

Studies have shown that eggs raise the “good” cholesterol and don’t raise risk of heart disease.

One review of 17 studies with a total of 263,938 participants showed that eating eggs had no effect on the risk of heart disease or stroke in non-diabetic individuals.

Whole eggs really are among the most nutritious foods on the planet and almost all the nutrients are found in the yolks.

Telling people to throw the yolks away may just be the most ridiculous advice in the history of nutrition.

Myth 5: Eat ‘Whole’ Grains

Bread

Wheat has been a part of the diet for a very long time, but it changed due to genetic tampering in the 1960s. The “new” wheat is significantly less nutritious than the older varieties and may increase cholesterol levels and inflammatory markers. It also causes symptoms like pain, bloating, tiredness and reduced quality of life in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.

Myth 6: Saturated Fat Raises LDL Cholesterol in The Blood, Increasing Risk of Heart Attacks

Foods High in Saturated Fat

Several massive review studies have recently shown that saturated fat is NOT linked to an increased risk of death from heart disease or stroke.

 

The truth is that saturated fats raise HDL (the “good”) cholesterol and change the LDL particles from small to Large LDL, which is linked to reduced risk.

For most people, eating reasonable amounts of saturated fat is perfectly safe and downright healthy.

Myth 7: Coffee is Unhealthy and Should be Avoided

Coffee has long been considered unhealthy, mainly because of the caffeine. However, most of the studies actually show that coffee has powerful health benefits.

Man Drinking a Cup of Coffee

This may be due to the fact that coffee is the biggest source of antioxidants in the Western diet, outranking both fruits and vegetables… combined.

Coffee drinkers have a much lower risk of depression, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s… and some studies even show that they live longer than people who don’t drink coffee).

Myth 8: To Lose Weight,  Eat Less Fat

Bacon

Fat is the stuff that is under our skin, making us look soft and puffy.

Therefore it seems logical that eating fat would give us even more of it.

However, this depends entirely on the context. Diets that are high in fat AND carbs can make you fat, but it’s not because of the fat.

In fact, diets that are high in fat (but low in carbs) consistently lead to more weight loss than low-fat diets… even when the low-fat groups restrict calories.

Myth 9: A High-Protein Diet Increases Strain on The Kidneys and Raises Your Risk of Kidney Disease

Raw Lamb Chops

Although it is true that people with established kidney disease should cut back on protein, this is absolutely not true of otherwise healthy people.

Numerous studies, even in athletes that eat large amounts of protein, show that a high protein intake is perfectly safe.

In fact, a higher protein intake lowers blood pressure and helps fight type 2 diabetes… which are two of the main risk factors for kidney failure.

Also let’s not forget that protein reduces appetite and supports weight loss, but obesity is another strong risk factor for kidney failure.

Myth 10: Full-Fat Dairy Products Are High in Saturated Fat and Calories… Raising The Risk of Heart Disease and Obesity

Dairy Products

Eating full-fat dairy product is not linked to increased heart disease and is even associated with a lower risk of obesity.

In countries where cows are grass-fed, eating full-fat dairy is actually associated with up to a 69% lower risk of heart disease.

If anything, the main benefits of dairy are due to the fatty components. Therefore, choosing low-fat dairy products is a terrible idea.

Myth 11: All Calories are created equal

Woman With Fruit And Junk Food on The Table

It is simply false that “all calories are created equal.”

Different foods go through different metabolic pathways and have direct effects on fat burning and the hormones and brain centers that regulate appetite.

A high protein diet, for example, can increase the metabolic rate by 80 to 100 calories per day and significantly reduce appetite. In one study, such a diet made people automatically eat 441 fewer calories per day. They also lost 11 pounds in 12 weeks, just by adding protein to their diet.

There are many more examples of different foods having vastly different effects on hunger, hormones and health. Because a calorie is not just a calorie.

Myth 12: Low-Fat Foods Are Healthy

Yogurt

When the low-fat guidelines first came out, the food manufacturers responded with all sorts of low-fat “health foods.”

The problem is… these foods taste horrible when the fat is removed, so the food manufacturers added a whole bunch of sugar instead.

The truth is, excess sugar is incredibly harmful, while the fat naturally present in food is not.

Myth 13: Red Meat Consumption Raises The Risk of All Sorts of Diseases… Including Heart Disease, Type 2 Diabetes and Cancer

Meat

We are constantly warned about the “dangers” of eating red meat. It is true that some studies have shown negative effects, but they were usually lumping processed and unprocessed meat together.

The largest studies (one with over 1 million people, the other with over 400 thousand) show that unprocessed red meat is not linked to increased heart disease or type 2 diabetes.

So… don’t be afraid of eating meat. Just make sure to eat unprocessed meat and don’t overcook it, because eating too much burnt meat may be harmful. That means butter chicken is safe, chicken tikka could be harmful.

Myth 14: The Only People Who Should go Gluten-Free Are Patients With Celiac Disease, About 1% of The Population

Young Man Eating Bread

It is often claimed that no one benefits from a gluten-free diet except patients with celiac disease. This is the most severe form of gluten intolerance, affecting under 1% of people. But another condition called gluten sensitivity is much more common and may affect about 6-8% of people. Studies have also shown that gluten-free diets can reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, schizophrenia, autism and epilepsy.

Myth 15: Losing Weight is All About Willpower and Eating Less, Exercising More

Woman Standing on The Scale, Frustrated

Weight loss (and gain) is often assumed to be all about willpower and “calories in vs calories out.”

But this is completely inaccurate.

The human body is a highly complex biological system with many hormones and brain centers that regulate when, what and how much we eat.

It is well known that genetics, hormones and various external factors have a huge impact on body weight.

Junk food can also be downright addictive, making people quite literally lose control over their consumption .

Myth 16: Saturated Fats and Trans Fats are Similar… They’re The “Bad” Fats That we Need to Avoid

A Single Butter Curl

The mainstream health organizations often lump saturated and artificial trans fats in the same category… calling them the “bad” fats.

It is true that trans fats are harmful. They are linked to insulin resistance and metabolic problems, drastically raising the risk of heart disease.

However, saturated fat is harmless, so it makes absolutely no sense to group the two together.

Interestingly, these same organizations also advise us to eat vegetable oils like soybean and canola oils. But these oils are actually loaded with unhealthy fats… one study found that 0.56-4.2% of the fatty acids in them are toxic trans fats!

Myth 17: Protein Leaches Calcium From The Bones and Raises The Risk of Osteoporosis

Protein Rich Foods

Although it is true that a high protein intake increases calcium excretion in the short-term, this effect does not persist in the long-term.

The truth is that a high protein intake is linked to a massively reduced risk of osteoporosis and fractures in old age.

This is one example of where blindly following the conventional nutritional wisdom will have the exact opposite effect of what was intended!

Myth 18: Low-Carb Diets Are Dangerous and Increase Your Risk of Heart and Kidney Disease

Low-carb diets have been popular for many decades now.

Man at a Restaurant Eating Steak

Mainstream nutrition professionals have constantly warned us that these diets will end up clogging our arteries.

However, since the year 2002, over 20 studies have been conducted on the low-carb diet. Low-carb diets actually cause more weight loss and improve most risk factors for heart disease more than the low-fat diet.

Myth 19: Sugar is Mainly Harmful Because it Supplies “Empty” Calories

Glass Full Of Sugar Cubes

When consumed in excess, sugar can cause severe metabolic problems. Many experts now believe that sugar may be driving some of the world’s biggest killers… including obesity, heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.

Myth 20: Refined Seed- and Vegetable Oils Like Soybean and Corn Oils Lower Cholesterol and Are Super Healthy

The truth is that several studies have shown that these oils increase the risk of death, from both heart disease and cancer. Even though these oils have been shown to cause heart disease and kill people, the mainstream health organizations are still telling us to eat them.

They just don’t get it… when we replace real foods with processed fake foods, we become fat and sick.

Myth 21: Eating a ‘Healthy Diet’ is enough. Supplements are not necessary

This is a very common belief among the population, and the tragedy is that the medical community contributes to the spreading of this lie. The reason is that as doctors, our teaching of Nutrition during medical studies, is  almost non-existent. So for all practical purposes, your doctor is no better than your grandma when it comes to nutrition. In fact, grandma’s knowledge, backed by tradition and culture, is often accurate.

WHO recommends that all adults take a MultiVitamin supplement daily. Vitamin D levels are inadequate in majority of the population.

We know that micronutrients like vitamins and minerals are part of vital reactions in the body, without which the body cannot function effectively and gradually succumbs to illness.

So targeted supplements can be literally life saving.

Be Informed. Stay Healthy.

From Kris Gunnars, BSc |

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