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Diet Myths
By Carol LeBeau
3/4/2014 11:14:38 AM


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True or false: You’ll get fat if you eat at night; high fructose corn syrup makes you gain weight; and caffeine is bad for you.

As a health and fitness reporter over the last three decades, the correct answers to these dietary dilemmas could go either way depending on the most recent study. As a reporter and consumer, I find that frustrating.

Well, there may finally be some clarity when it comes to caffeine, carbs, salt, fat and other nutrition and food myths – compliments of the American Dietetic Association. At their recent annual meeting in Chicago, food experts gathered from around the world to separate the science from the silliness issuing the truth behind 10 common diet myths.

In this writing, we’ll bust five diet myths….

Myth: Eating at night makes you fat.

Reality: Calories count whenever you eat them.   The American Dietetic Association’s (ADA) Dr. Christine Rosenbloom notes some small studies with mixed results, tests on animals and a belief that because eating breakfast is linked to lower BMI… eating at night isn’t as good.  But the science isn’t there.  All in all, it’s your calorie total that matters – day or night.

Myth: Avoid foods with a high glycemic index.

Reality: You could use the glycemic index to adjust your food choices, but don’t make it your sole strategy for losing weight or controlling blood sugar.  According to the ADA, for those people who are already counting carbs, this can be a way for them to fine-tune their food choices, but it isn’t the be-all, end-all for weight loss.

Myth: High fructose corn syrup causes weight gain.

Reality: This may sound sacrilegious to some, but there’s probably nothing particularly evil about high fructose corn syrup compared to regular old sugar. This diet myth arose in 2003 when researchers noticed that obesity was rising, along with the use of high fructose corn syrup. The speculation was maybe we handle high fructose corn syrup differently than we do sugar, but there’s no evidence to support that. Beyond its calories, the American Medical Association recently concluded that high fructose corn syrup doesn’t contribute to obesity.

Myth: Caffeine is unhealthy.

Reality: The ADA’s Dr. Rosenbloom says there is some evidence that caffeine may have a positive effect on some diseases including gout and Parkinson’s disease…besides caffeine’s famous alertness buzz. Also, caffeine does not dehydrate people who consume it regularly another commonly held belief. However, Dr. Rosenbloom does caution that caffeine isn’t always listed on product labels and children who drink a lot of caffeinated energy drinks may intake more caffeine than their parents expect. “Kids tend to guzzle these things,” she warns, “whereas an adult may sip a beverage.”

Myth: The less fat you eat, the better.

Reality: For some people, counting fat grams can work for weight control, but it’s not the only way. The ADA reports that people with heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome may benefit from adding a little healthy fat – the monounsaturated kind and cutting back on carbs. But they shouldn’t increase their overall fat intake. Just swap saturated fat for unsaturated fat. Balance is key says Dr. Rosenbloom. “If you go to an Italian restaurant and have triple-cheese-meat-sausage lasagna then have a little olive oil on your bread, you’re not doing much for your heart.

Next month, we’ll examine five more nutrition myths. You can take it all with a grain of salt, but should it be table salt or sea salt?  We’ll bust that myth, too.

Stay tuned.