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Confusing Health Studies

by Don
(Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

Don's Question...

There's been some recent news about nutrition. Some people are saying that too much iron reduces one's lifespan, yet calcium seems to increase one's lifespan. I've even heard that people who take in more than 2000 mg of calcium per day are at a higher risk for heart disease. Is it possible that research scientists are mistaken? They always seem to change their minds. What do you think?

Suzy's Answer...

This question gets to the heart of much of the frustration we all feel when trying to craft a healthy diet.

We are constantly hearing about the latest "study" about foods and supplements and their effect on our health. Often the studies contradict each other, leaving us even more confused.

Do your homework.

Before acting on a headline or news report of a study, I suggest that you take a look at the actual study, including how it was conducted, who sponsored it, how it is viewed by the scientific community and most importantly, what were the actual findings.

With this information, you can make an informed decision about whether you will implement the results of the study into your healthy lifestyle choices.

You may discover that the study was funded by a group that has a vested interest in the outcome. You may also find that the sampling was very small and not scientifically significant.

In addition, the results of the study may have been reported incorrectly, since journalists are often looking for an attention-grabbing headline and may not take the time or have the interest in understanding the implications of the research.

Can you get too much iron and calcium?

Absolutely! You can overdose on any nutrient, especially if you take it in the form of a supplement.

For this reason it is best to get your nutrients from real foods and to include a balance of all the food groups in your diet.

Can mega doses of certain nutrients affect your lifespan?

I haven't read any studies that suggest this, but I do know that getting a proper balance of all nutrients will help increase your lifespan, and a chronic deficiency of any nutrient may shorten your life.

In addition, overdosing on any nutrient can be toxic to your health. This is true of all the nutrients, including iron and calcium.

The simple fact.

Rather than looking for a "magic bullet," we all should consider the simple fact that eating a healthy diet with a balance of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats is the best way to feel well and live longer, without the risk of overdoing on a particular nutrient.

Supplement with care.

If you do need to supplement your diet, be careful about dosage and keep in mind that supplements can interfere with other medications you are taking. Talk to your health care professional, particularly a dietitian and pharmacist, about the best way to include supplements in your healthy lifestyle.

Eat and be healthy with my warmest regards,

Suzy Staywell

Nutrition page

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