Wellness Myths from an MD’s Perspective

There are just so many myths out there, but I think these are the worst. Unfortunately, there is just so much misinformation out there that we are constantly bombarded with.


1. The Paleo diet is the best, because it mimics eating the diet of our ancestors.

But what about the time before the paleo era, when humans ate a plant-based diet? That was our original, and likely ideal, diet. Also, in the Paleo time-period, there was not an endless supply of animal meat easily accessible, and it is unlikely meat was consumed everyday as promoted with the modern Paleo diet. We also know that the typical Western diet, heavy in animal products and processed foods, has led to an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and cancer. People live much longer, healthier lives, in the blue zones of the world where the focus is on a plant-based diet. Also, the excessive animal protein in the paleo diet may contribute to kidney problems and cancer. Lastly, meat ingestion increases overall inflammation in our bodies by negatively affecting our gut microbiome, contributing to numerous gut, skin and brain ailments.


2. Carbs are bad.

This is a gross generalization. There are nutritious carbs and there are unhealthy carbs. The refined carbs in processed foods should be avoided or minimized. Fiber is a carb that the majority of Americans are deficient in and absolutely necessary to keep our gut microbiome healthy. And those people in the blue zones eat plenty of carbs found in whole plants, like sweet potatoes and beans.


3. Diet foods lead to weight loss.

No, they don’t. Diet foods are heavily processed with high nutrient density, so we get more calories in smaller portions, requiring us to ingest more to get the sensation of being full. If we eat unprocessed food, we get that full sensation while ingesting fewer calories, which tends to support a more healthy weight. Not to mention the havoc on your gut these processed foods cause. Artificial sweeteners also contribute to obesity. Artificial sweeteners stimulate our craving for sugar, but do not actually satisfy that craving, so we ingest more and more.


4. Milk does a body good.

Also no. We are the only species on the planet that ingests the milk of another species. It is not necessary. In fact, many of us are lactose intolerant because we have not evolved to be able to digest cows’ milk. Milk is also altering our lives in negative ways. In areas where cows’ milk is not ingested, girls go through puberty much later and menopause much earlier. This reduces exposure to estrogen in women over a lifetime and reduces the risk of certain cancers. When there is a lobby to protect the interests of an entire industry, you gotta question the motivations. Big dairy wants you drinking milk because it lines their pockets, not because there is any health benefit. Often the argument is made that kids need milk for protein to grow. A balanced plant-based diet would provide adequate protein while removing the harmful effects of milk.


5. Supplements can replace a healthy diet.

I will concede that supplements have a place in certain instances of deficiency, but they should not be relied upon as the primary source of nutrients. If you eat a plant-based diet, you are unlikely to be deficient in any nutrient. Not even protein. Who promotes supplements? Companies that make money off of them. Supplements are also not regulated, so while there may be some reasonable science supporting certain nutrients in certain conditions, we really have no idea if the actual supplement improves that condition, because there are not rigorous scientific trials done to validate these claims. Do I take a few supplements? Yes. I get my vitamin D level checked periodically, and I am usually deficient, so I take that. Come on, I am a dermatologist, of course I get minimal sun exposure! And with Vitamin D, you have to supplement if not getting from the skin with sun exposure. Sometimes I take an ocular vitamin, because I am terrified of getting macular degeneration, which runs in my family. But I have researched this issue and know it is likely really not needed, since I focus on a plant-based diet for my antioxidant needs.


6. We all need more protein.

Excessive protein has been shown to increase the risk of cancer and renal failure. Another example of the importance of considering who is promoting this fact? Companies that make supplements and those influenced by these companies.


Likely, you have had physicians or other medical practitioners give you advice contrary to what I have just said. Unfortunately, nutrition is not a topic covered well in medical training, and we are people too, influenced by culture and marketing. However, I believe the pendulum is swinging toward prevention, and with that, these issues will become more understood and discussed by medical professionals.

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