Apr 9, 2007

On Trying to Keep My Mouth Shut

Duct-taped mouth There are times when I realy struggle over whether or not to open my mouth. Sometimes it is a matter of having a political opinion that I believe the world needs to hear. At other times I actually have something to contribute to a discussion and want to share my experience.

Tonight, however, was an occasion when I attended a seminar on healthy living, and my dilemma involved the fact that the speaker, in her zeal, provided misinformation, personal beliefs, and outright nonsense to the audience.

Perhaps a few samples of the drivel being passed off by the speaker as "facts" might help readers understand my concerns:

1. "Aspartame turns into formaldehyde" - outright falsehood. This urban legend thoroughly debunked at Snopes.com.

2. "One in three American children has diabetes" - actually, seven percent of the US population has diabetes, although childhood obesity is on the rise.

3. "God had designed a healthy diet for man, but now man has violated God's natural law by putting chemicals in food" - Whoa! There are plenty of Old and New Testament verses dealing with diet, but I do not recall the Bible telling us not to modify food that must be stored.

4. "When we put the right food in our bodies, we will have no need to take prescriptions again" - WHAT? She did NOT just suggest that the physicians of these good people attending are misguided, and people should chuck the hypertension meds for blueberry extract, did she?

On and on, ad nauseum.

Now, I am not a physician, but I am someone who has spent a great deal of time studying epidemiology, I consider myself to have a knowledge of health issues at least a few notches above the average layman, not to mention that some of the claims being made could be refuted by anyone with an A in ninth-grade biology.

So I sat for a few minutes listening to this tripe, weighing the value of calling out this misinformed (but well-intentioned) food zealot versus causing a ruckus at an event that was more social than educational. All of a sudden, a well-spoken woman in the back hit her boiling point before me.

"Excuse me," she said, very politely. "Are you a registered nurse, or a licensed dietician? If not, than I suggest that people take up these issues with their medical providers."

Amen, sister. Now the floodgates opened, and people began to pick apart the specious claims of the presenter. While more than half of the crowd continued to act like sheep, writing down her lecture as though it were dietary Gospel, at least rational skepticism finally entered the discussion.

And, because I waited an extra few minutes, someone with greater diplomacy than I broke the ice, instead of me entering full-bore debate mode, shredding the incompetent speaker but alienating the rest of the crowd.


Anonymous said...

The minute they start quoting bible, it's always my que to run.

There are some very good alternative medicines out there and a healthy diet can help prevent and even clear up several medical conditions, but to abandon all medications for the sake of blue berry juice sounds like quackery.

I think you should have stood up and said something.

Can you imagine if there was someone in that room who was dying of cancer and took her advice blindly?

Dariush said...

"God had designed a healthy diet for man, but now man has violated God's natural law"

In her defense, this portion of what she said (and only this portion) sounds very similar to what Seventh Day Adventists believe. And those guys must be right about something, since they live (on average) 11 years longer than non-Seventh Day Adventists.

MP said...

Yeah, well, we're all violating the natural law of something.

That "God had designed a healthy diet for man" quote should be found on one of those joke e-mail lists entitled, "Things You Hear That Let You Know That You're At a Bad Seminar."

...even if it is what Seventh Day Adventists believe. They also believed that Jesus was physically coming back in 1844. How'd that turn out? Oh crap. I'm politically incorrect again. Suspend me! Suspend me from blogging!

mist1 said...

I make up all kinds of food rules and laws as I go along. They are not based in science or in religion. For example, I only eat cute animals. In my mind, cows are cute ( and therefore edible), chickens are not cute.

I would like to be a speaker at the next event like this. Please have your people call my people so that I can give them specifics about my hotel and food requirements.

The Screaming Nutcase said...

Very minor technical quibble:

A molecule of aspartame (Nutrasweet), during digestion, can indeed release a molecule of methanol (wood alcohol), which is indeed transformed in the body to formaldehyde and thence to formic acid. The urban legend debunked is that this can cause problems; the dose just isn't high enough to be toxic, as eating a tomato will produce about 6 times as much methanol as drinking a can of pop.

Aspartame is dangerous for people with the rare genetic disorder phenylkentonuria; all infants have been tested for this at birth for the last 20-30 years.

microdot said...

I have been hearing experts in all the different fields relating to diet go on and on for years, offering contradictory advice which changes as the wind blows. I managed a natural foods restaurant for 2 years and trying to cater to the food fads and latest articles such as"Cinnamon Causes Cancer!" drove me batty!
I was a vegetarian for a few years.
Now, I have a few simple rules...
Don't eat unless it's good!
Never eat anything bigger than your head.
I do like to know where my food comes from.
I rarely eat processed foods...I do eat cookies and candy though.
A healthy appetite demands a sense of adventure! Raw oysters, snails, tete de veau, blood sausage, a maletote de lamproi...(a sort of stewed dish of lampreys cooked in a bottle of bordeaux with a square of dark chocolate...believe me, it is good!), vegetables of all shapes and sizes.... there is not much that will faze me anymore!
I see no reason to ever be desparate enough to eat at a fast food place.