Health reports

Sunday, February 5, 2006

We've commented before about the whiplash effect of news reports regarding health issues. One day you read chocolate is bad, and the next day you read that chocolate is good.

Many medical researchers, asked which report is correct, will answer with an honest "Yes." Sound confusing? That's because you've just developed a case of health-reporting whiplash. For some individuals with certain health concerns, chocolate is bad. For other individuals with other health concerns, chocolate may indeed be beneficial.

In the past week there have been two major medical reports that added to the list of confusing health news. One was about soy, and the other was about fish oil.

By the way, if you think you don't eat soy and fish oil, think again. Manufacturers of processed foods are finding ways to incorporate these ingredients so they can make specific claims about lowering cholesterol or reducing cancer risk.

The American Heart Association concluded, after reviewing decades of studies, that soy may not have any significant effect on cholesterol. But, nutrition experts said, eating foods with soy in them is still healthy, particularly when such foods replace burgers and hot dogs.

Meanwhile, a researcher at the Rand Corp. has concluded that fish oil probably doesn't help prevent cancer, although it is beneficial for reducing heart-disease risks. The findings were based on studies involving more than 700,000 patients over 30 years.

Bottom line: Most of us know which foods are good for us and which ones aren't. Eaten in excess, even good foods can cause health problems. And most of us know which foods make us feel good. Even those with little or no health benefits are OK if eaten prudently.

Coffee, wine, chocolate, butter, sugar all have something in common. They can cause health problems. And they can be good for us -- at least until the next health report comes out.

-- Herald-Tribune