Are You Taking These Dangerous Risks With Your Health?


News travels in cycles. Even health news. Every so often an "outbreak" or an "epidemic" hits the news. Think Ebola, bird flu, measles. But in between those crises, a set of stories will surface, and re-surface.

It's the fact that we're talking about our health that this worries me. People make decisions based on these cyclical stories.

The dangerous and unfortunate thing about the stories is that some of the advice given is true, and helpful.

Some of it appears well-researched, but we may later find it was misreported, or not thoroughly qualified for truth, or at least, the "whole truth."

Here are some news stories that rise and lower in the media over time, the risks they pose to you, and some common sense guidance to help you navigate these potentially dangerous paths.

# 1 Herbal Supplements

Sometimes they are lauded for preventing the most dangerous diseases and conditions, everything from autism, to cancer, to heart disease, to Alzheimer's disease. For good reason, these conditions, and many others, scare us.

The risks? It becomes easy for herbal supplement manufacturers to scare you into not taking them. Playing on this fear is a basic human tactic, and is very difficult to combat. And when you combine fear with seemingly rational evidence that these supplements have been "used by ancient cultures for thousands of years", it becomes even more difficult to play defense.

Yet here's the problem: herbal supplements are not regulated. That means companies can sneak some batches of pills out there under necessary watchful eyes. Watchful eyes are needed to ensure that the ingredients listed on the pill box are actually in these herbal supplements. They've been proven not to be, at times.

Another risk with herbal supplements is that though there may be studies that show a given herb has led to improved health in a study population, there are quite often studies that show either no benefit, and some that indeed show harm.

# 2 Vitamins

How could anyone have a problem with taking vitamins? I don't in general, but I offer this warning; be careful with how much you take of certain vitamins.

Certain vitamins work better, and some don't work, when combined with others. And like herbal supplements, vitamins are not regulated either. What this means is that companies are producing multivitamins, that is, a single pill that contains many different vitamins in it, that may not be balanced properly. You could be getting too much of one (or more) vitamin or mineral and not enough of others.

Some health experts therefore advise taking only individual vitamin supplements so that you can control how much your getting of each. 

# 3 Fad Diets, and Dieting in General

Fad diets proffer the same risks; no one is regulating the advice.

When research studies are thrown at us as evidence, often in they have not been fully vetted using the scientific method. Instead, study results are spun by the hands of a marketing team. They can be very convincing.

That's not to say that there are pearls of wisdom that come from various diets. The risk with these extreme diet fads is that they have too often rescued people from one aspect of poor health, such as weight loss, only to replace it with another, such as high cholesterol (a risk factor for heart disease).

So What's The Solution?

My advice is not to shut off your attention to all of the above. In fact, you can often find some things that are helpful and healthful to you buried within the hype. Test some things for yourself, but be cautious and go slow. Balance how you feel with how your medical test results turnout when you go to your annual physical.

I also believe it is safest to make sure you're including moderate exercise into your daily routine. You've got to move. That is one thing that has never been proven harmful. Extreme workouts, yes, but not moderate exercise.

And as far as supplements go, plan on getting the vast majority of them from food. As much as you can. The small bit that you're missing, you can supplement, but brand names matter in this case. 

And as far as what food to eat, you are always better off eating real food, the food that the human race has eaten for thousands of years and has grown and evolved while consuming this food. In general, processed foods will cause trouble if eaten as a consistent portion of our daily diet. 

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