The great philosopher Wittgenstein once had a conversation with his friend, Elizabeth Anscombe.
Wittgenstein : Why do people say it was natural to think that the sun went round the earth rather than that the earth turned on its axis?
Elizabeth: I suppose because it looked as if the sun went round the earth.
Wittgenstein: Well, what would it have looked like if it had looked as if the earth turned on its axis?
What we learn from this exchange is that there are many things in life that we take to be self-evident truths that are in fact pure myths. Some myths are fairly harmless, such as the one that claims if you slather your face with one or the other brand of cream, you will reverse the aging process. Other myths are quite dangerous.
One of the most enduring myths that I hear about from virtually everyone I meet is on dietary fat. Just as until medieval times people thought that the sun went around the earth, people instinctively believe that eating fat will make you fat, and specifically, eating dietary cholesterol will increase your blood cholesterol.
As a dietary rule, this is completely false.
First of all, fat is not the culprit, carbohydrates are. Let me say this using a plain example; a serving of butter will not make you fat, but a glass of orange juice will!
If you are avoiding butter but drinking fruit juices, look at yourself in the mirror, I bet you are wondering why your low-fat, supposedly-healthy, juice diet is not working!
Second, there has never been a link established between eating dietary cholesterol, such as egg yolks, and an increase in blood cholesterol. Yet even many doctors will tell you to avoid egg yolks. Here is a link on this particular myth.
Liquid egg whites are a scam, pure and simple. An egg-white omelette tastes awful, and is not nearly as healthy as a whole-egg omelette. So why would you fool yourself twice? Don’t!
My advice on fat in general is this. Don’t worry about it. Spend your energy on avoiding sugar and starchy carbs instead, and you will see dramatic results in lowering your body fat and risk of chronic disease.
When I went for a routine medical checkup recently, the doctor asked how much salt I consume. I was about to answer, but then I enquired “why do you ask?”
He said I should avoid salt to cut the risk of hypertension.
I said, “What are the studies that show a link between salt and hypertension?”
He is a doctor and not a researcher, so he had no answer. He did give me a look of mild condescension, the one that said “I am a doctor and I ought to know”.
Intrigued, I went to the internet to find these studies linking salt and hypertension. Guess what, there are none!
In fact, a nutrition author whose work I greatly admire, Gary Taubes, has just put out an opinion piece on Salt, and this says it best.
The truth is that salt is a self-limiting condiment. In other words, in small quantities it greatly enhances the taste of food. In larger quantities, it is revolting. It is not possible for most of us to consume too much salt because the body has a keen sense of how much is enough, and your taste buds will tell you “this food is too salty!”
Here is the other thing about salt…we humans are essentially walking bags of salt water! Blood, tears, snot, semen, sweat, urine, these are all salty fluids! It’s quite easy to see how the body excretes out excess salt, so why should we believe that eating salty foods within reason has any negative effect?
The answer of course is that it is not salt that is the culprit, but the fact that a lot of junk food tastes good because of the salt, so maybe you eat too many salty carbs!
The verdict? Don’t worry about salt, instead worry about the chips and the other stuff you are eating with the salt.