NPR Disputes WebMD on Heart Attacks

After my last post raving about the WebMD article telling me sex and exercise (isn’t one a sub-set of the other, or am I doing it wrong?) would boost my risk of heart attacks slightly, it’s rather interesting to see the way NPR spun the same study.

Infrequent Sex, Exercise May Raise Risk Of Heart Attack

Crank up the Enigma and the Barry White…it’s time to decrease my risk of heart attacks….

WebMD Increases My Risk of a Heart Attack…But Only Slightly

I used to like WebMD. Back in the heady, wild west days of the Internet, I felt like they were a reliable source for health information. So when my insurance plan came bundled with all of these WebMD resources, I thought, “Kewl! I’ll get some extra information resources from a reliable source about health.” HA!

They seem to have lost the journalistic standards that made them one of my favorite sites back in my naive days of starry-eyed Internet newb-ness.

Take for example, one of today’s headlines:

“Exercise, Sex Can Boost Heart Attack Risk”

OMG! I must become a monk, take my vow of celibacy, and sit and meditate in a relaxed position all day!

But wait, read on into the first sentence and you discover that the risk is “small and transient”. Then why report on it?! I guess page views are more important than alarming or confusing people about their health.

More and more I find headlines like that in my RSS feed from WebMD, and more and more when I click on them I find that kind of “World ending! Tune in at 11.” style of journalism. I guess health isn’t science anymore. It’s just a source of pumping out a lot of stories.

It’s enough to give me a heart attack.

 

Are We What We Eat?

So, I went on a diet recently. I don’t do that lightly. In fact, I don’t think I ever admitted to doing it before. But, as the Barenaked Ladies song goes, “I’m gaining pounds / at the precipice of too late…”. I’ve felt like I needed to do something for a while, and I’d done some reading about the science around healthy eating, and never really come away with anything that felt like reality to me.

Oddly enough, I got a nudge in the right direction by Paul Thurrott on his “Windows Weekly" podcast over on the TWiT network. He happened to mention that one of his new year’s resolutions was to lose weight. And he said it with the confidence of a practiced gunslinger facing down a kid with a spud gun.

What was his secret? He mentioned a book called “Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It” by a science writer named Gary Taubes. Since I’m addicted to the Kindle and eBooks now, and it was available there, I picked it up.

 

The book absolutely fascinated me for Taubes’ ability to tell the health establishment to go flip itself like a pancake. The food pyramid is wrong. The calories in/calories out method of maintaining weight is wrong. A lot of the advice we’re given about how to control cholesterol is wrong. I left the book trying to decide if it could be correct.

Thing is, this is actually the second book Taubes has written on the subject. His initial 500+ page treatise, “Good Calories, Bad Calories” was a book aimed squarely at the establishment, to challenge them with detailed science. “Why We Get Fat…” is the populist version. So it seemed like the science was really there, and it rang true to me, despite there being a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about what Taubes’ point is. (It mostly has to do with carbs and insulin.)

Not having much to lose (or maybe too much to lose) I decided to give the science a try.

One of the appendixes in the book is the handout Duke University gives people that are embarking on their low starch / low sugar diet. So I’m following that plan now. In the first two weeks, I dropped 10 pounds (at least half of which is probably related to water retention). I’m just into the third week, so I’ll try to occasionally update about how things are going.

Definitely take a look at the book if you’re interested in the science of nutrition. It’s an interesting, challenging read. And let me know if you have any favorite ways of losing weight.