Quinn on Nutrition: Nutritional myths and half-truths

May 29, 2017

One of my treasured books is a gigantic volume of words and pictures that defines distinct elements in the English language. Yes, I know I can Google the same information. But I find it satisfying to thumb through the pages of my American Heritage Dictionary for in-depth meanings to words. So, in my book, the thought that books are out of date is a myth.

A myth, according to my dictionary, refers to a popular belief, a fiction or half-truth. And boy, do we have them in the field of nutrition. Here are a few highlighted in Environmental Nutrition (EN), a newsletter authored by registered dietitian nutritionists:

Gluten-free foods are healthier. Unless you have celiac disease or another medical reason to avoid gluten ó a protein that occurs naturally in wheat, rye and barley ó there is no additional nutrition benefit from eating gluten-free foods.

Whole wheat ó or wheat in general ó is bad for you. Again, if you are sensitive to gluten (a protein in wheat that gives structure to baked bread) or have a true allergy to wheat, any type of wheat product is not good for you. For the rest of us, whole wheat and other whole grain products have been found to lower internal inflammation, which can decrease our risk for cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease.

We donít need to limit salt if we donít have high blood pressure. Itís true that some people are more "salt-sensitive" than others. But even if salt does not raise your blood pressure, it can damage the lining of blood vessels and increase the stiffness of blood-carrying arteries, commonly known as "hardening" of the arteries. Too much salt can also weaken the heart muscle and do damage to kidneys, according to scientists at the University of Delaware. Our goal? Less than 2,300 milligrams a day is recommended for most healthy people.

Farm-raised fish is not healthy. According to experts with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program (, many popular types of seafood such as salmon and shrimp can be safely farm-raised in addition to being caught in the wild. Because of improved methods of aquaculture (fish farming), most talapia and catfish are now farm-raised; so are oysters and many clams and mussels. Safe farming methods may even help improve the quality of our water, says Seafood Watch.

Soy can cause cancer and "feminize men." These charges simply are not true, say researchers. Human studies show that soy foods do not increase cancer risk and in some cases, may lower it. For example, consuming soy foods during childhood and adolescence may help lower oneís risk for breast cancer. What about women recovering from a type of breast cancer known to be estrogen receptor positive? They can safely enjoy moderate amounts of soy foods ó 1 or 2 daily servings of soy beverage, edamame, tofu or soy nuts ó according to the latest research reported by the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR).



McClatchy-Tribune Information Services