My autopsy is certain to show that I ignored the advice of the medical experts who told me about each and every probability of my acquiring or ridding myself of some exotic disease by changing my diet in this way and that. But I’ll be quite dead by then and won’t really care, will I?
Every week without fail some new research is published that shows how one can slightly reduce one’s chance of getting some cancer or the other by adding or eliminating a certain dietary complement. I mean, what is the chance of getting that particular cancer in the population at large to start with? The test universe is so small, and there are hundreds of thousands of permutations of genetic and cultural differences that will surely negate the findings of these scientists.
There are so many examples before us of scientific and conventional wisdom being challenged that it’s not even funny anymore: egg yolks come to mind immediately. For the longest time we were told to stay away from eggs and yolks because they caused ‘cholesterol’ (and that, of course, is bad for you). They then discovered that there is a ‘good’ cholesterol and a ‘bad’ one (just like the Taliban, what?). Still later, they found that it was actually ‘stress’ that caused all those problems. So now it’s okay to have eggs with the yolks! (Interestingly, my friend Major Munir eats a dozen eggs every day with no repercussions at all.)
Perhaps I’m being facetious (and I’m certainly being unscientific) but one never knows which lobby is pushing which agenda and putting the truth on the back seat. Sometimes it’s the corn-oil/palm-oil lobby pushing its side of the argument (for bio-fuel) and at other times it’s the poultry guys. All research, it seems, is funded by someone or the other who is ultimately invested in a particular outcome. (Remember the studies that showed how smoking cigarettes didn’t cause cancer? Who do you think paid for those?)
For the longest time we’ve been told to stay away from animal products – meat, milk, dairy – because their fat content is dangerous. Yet the other day I heard on the radio that whole milk is actually better for you than skimmed, that Vitamin D from milk is better than what is available in supplements, and that the fat in the meat helps build better muscles. Fine, so far. But guess what? Three days later I heard a doctor on Fox News saying (all over again) that red meat should be avoided!
Every issue of popular magazines will have something or the other about improving your health and/or physique by way of dieting. If you sum it all up, you will be eating everything andavoiding every ailment known to man. Then the fad diets come into play: Atkin’s, Mediterranean, South Beach, Cabbage Soup, high-fiber, no carb/low carb – the list is endless. What have you tried and what has worked for you? At one time, there was a big focus on ‘roughage’ – did you get enough in your diet? You didn’t? Don’t worry, then, because now they’re saying that too much roughage removes the ‘good’ bacteria in your system! (These days the debate is centered around the perils and plus points of tea and coffee.)
Meanwhile, a whole other branch of medical research is accusing your genes of causing your negative behavior: the fat gene, the lazy gene, the smoking gene and the alcohol gene are only some recent discoveries. Surely we’ll soon have genes to blame for our cravings, bad manners and poor dress sense too (and sooner rather than later, please). Personal responsibility seems to have gone the way of the honest politician!
Locally, we have wonderful traditional advice to enhance the quality of life – from seven almonds in the morning (improves your memory), to drinking the juice from a bitter gourd (reduces blood sugar), to garlic pods (reduces cholesterol), to having just a plain glass of warm water (good for your morning constitutional and complexion). The good thing about the traditional stuff is that, apart from suffering garlic breath, there are no real side effects. Unfortunately, none of these nuskhas encourages you to have a shot or two of a good-quality distillation from Scotland or Russia. And I can personally assure you that life would be much more pleasant if they did.
Your sleeping patterns are also up for scrutiny: six to eight hours is good for you, more than that can cause cardiac problems and less can certainly kill you. The sensible thing to do would be to determine for yourself the right balance, based on your age, lifestyle, work patterns and the like. One sweeping statement to cover 6.5 billion people – that’s not a bit much, is it?
A 17th century physician once said: “We are digging our graves with our teeth.” In case you haven’t already guessed it, he was attempting to describe our eating habits (and this was way before junk food was invented).
My own advice to you is this: “To improve your health, watch what goes into your mouth. To improve your relationships, watch what comes out of your mouth.”