Thursday, September 6, 2007

Another health myth blasted 'out of the water'!


Well as I mentioned in my last rant.. blog entry, I've been watching a great documentary series put out by the BBC called The Truth About Food
and they have quite categorically blown away some widely held beliefs regarding what makes us healthy and what is pure myth. All of us have heard over the past 10 years at least that you must drink at least 2 litres of water daily in order to aid digestion, clean out the system, enhance your skins elasticity, hydration and youthfulness. Numerous diets have extoled the virtues of gulping down 8 to 10 glasses of water a day and many of us obliged all in the name of good health.

The BBC's team decided to test the theories and took a set of identical twins, depriving one of any water for 5 days, while the other had to drink 2 litres on top of her regular consumption of drinks for the 5 days. At the end of the period both twins were tested and the results compared to the original readings. The result was that neither twin exhibited any major change after five days. Their skin's elasticity and moisture levels were exactly as before.

Why? Well, it turns out that the average adult loses up to two litres of water each day through our regular activities - just breathing, sweating and going to the bathroom. This could be where the myth that we need two litres a day originated.

What we all lose sight of is that any drinks we consume during a given day, (apart from alcohol), count towards making up this amount - including tea and coffee - and more shockingly - a third of our water needs comes from our food.

The rest of the water we force down just flows right through us and out the other end!

Flush that myth out my friends!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Throw away your Detox books and grab some Chocolate

It is quite a popular belief amongst health conscious people and those who aspire to be, that doing a detox now and then or even as often as possible is a helpful way to clean out the system and reverse the effects of a binge weekend or holiday or lifestyle! Afterall, with a week long basically fasting – consuming little more than dandelion tea and wheatgrass shakes – how could you avoid the health benefits?

Detox is one of those guilt inspiring things I’ve come across many times. In various health food and book stores I can't help notice the brightly lit promotion pyramids of 10 day or 7 day or 3 day or even 1 day Detox programs with glossy bright pictures of fit chicks holding green shakes - which all promise to rejuvenate your liver and kidneys, give you a full skin makeover, take off 10 to 20 years, and other miraculous benefits. I have friends who claim to have endured these regimens regularly and limited their intake to watery fruits, deep green veggies and teas only for weeks at a time - and they swear by it.

On the surface it makes sense. No one has ever disputed the nutritional qualities of green vegetables – have they? Herbal teas seem quite body friendly too. No baddies like caffeine or alcohol or sugars... The question is whether one week or a few days of consuming only these foods is powerful and potent enough to effect the levels of toxins and impurities in our bodies.
I’ve always felt guilty for never gathering the required willpower or determination to commit to one of these detox programs – I mean what is the sacrifice of a week of your life to extremely healthy eating? Especially if the benefits to the body are palpable?! Bad bad me…

Which is why I watched with interest the other day – a segment on a wonderful program on BBC – a professionally presented documentary called The Truth About Food , which sought to scientifically test this detox theory. There was no miracle Detox program promoter nor any naysayer involved – just a scientific hypothesis with an objective set of test subjects – 5 ladies in a test group indulging in chocolate, chips, steak, wine etc. and 5 in the Detox group – limited to bean sprout smoothies, chick pea salads and a variety of herbal teas… and at the end of the one week test period ..... Drum roll........ believe it or not there was absolutely no difference in the liver, kidney, skin, heart or any other organ and no difference at all in the levels of toxins in either group.
This was, as you'd imagine, all very relieving to me. I opened a fresh bottle of red wine and tucked into a succulent bar of dark chocolate. Decadence, it turns out, does not negatively affect you.

Well now I do realise the results of this experiment could be dangerous, and could give us all free license to indulge indefinitely, but at the end of the day we have been over simplifying our understanding of the body’s processes and ignoring the fact that it has been designed to eliminate toxins naturally. 7 measly days and some greens will not significantly affect the body’s natural abilities to clean our systems out, nor the levels of impurities within. It is only in the case of chronic alcoholics where the liver is no longer able to deal with the levels of alcohol that you are doing your body serious harm. But in those cases a 7 day Detox is perhaps even less likely to make a difference.
So I have renewed faith in the theory that everything in moderation is just fine. And as I sip the wine, I realise life’s too short for willpower!! Can I have some cake too??
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