Of dust, dogs, soap, & grizzlies: Old health advice takes a beating

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file000643097084Just when you think you’re doing all the right things to stay healthy, along comes a new study debunking all you’ve been told is good—or bad—for you.

The latest is that gobbling multivitamins is a waste of time and money. They have few health benefits, and some vitamins may actually hurt. Of course, the $14-billion-a-year vitamin industry angrily protests, and it apparently is true that some vitamins do help. Who knows?

And then there is the news that the Federal Drug Administration is challenging the soap industry to prove that its antibacterial soap really does any better than just plain old soap. In fact, there is some suggestion that one ingredient of the antibacterial may could cause hormone troubles.

Oh, and did you hear about the grizzly bear? It seems that the 1,000-pound brute gobbles up all the fatty foods he can just before climbing into his den for the winter. Feasting on salmon and berries, he gains 100 pounds in a short while, with the result that his cholesterol level soars, as does his blood pressure.

Not to worry. The next spring he’s out there fit and ready to eat, drink, and make merry. (Well, merry making may be overstating it; grizzlies are not named ursus horribilis in Latin for nothing).

What to believe? One of the problems with being around for a while (a polite way of saying growing old) is that you can recall the old “truths” about life, love, politics, and health. You learn to take it all with a grain of salt (oops, salt is bad for you). Yesterday coffee bad: today beneficial. Yesterday, booze eats up your brain cells: today an evening cocktail or a glass of wine may be good for you. Yesterday global chilling was the threat: today it’s global warming.

Another new discovery. Dogs that spend time outside are good for your kids and their allergies and asthma. A study of mice showed that such dogs bring in microbes that end up living in the stomachs of the mice and help them gain immunity. Now I don’t know how mice and little children have in common, although I’ve hear kids referred to as rugrats by some benighted folks. Anyway, the connection is being studied.

And then there’s The Population Bomb. A book by that name proclaimed that that the world will be soon starving because of overpopulation. The Malthusian growth of the human species would shortly lead to planet-wide starvation. Fast forward decades later to the present and you realize that no such thing has occurred. Advances in the science of food production provide enough food for the whole earth, and where people are starving it is the result of war, deliberate oppression, or unjust economic systems.

Ironically, China is now loosening its brutal one-child policy and nations like France and other European nations are paying bonuses to women who have children. Why?  Those nations face aging populations that have to be supported by smaller and smaller groups of working people.

Oh to be young and innocent and so cocksure that at long last a generation (yours) has a firm grasp on the truth. While I am a believer that there is such a thing as absolute truth (a discussion for another day), I doubt that we will ever have it in areas like health and medicine, economics, politics, and history. Just when you think you have all the answers, the earth shifts under you and the landscape is all new.

Will future generations laugh at our health ideas? Consider some the health-ad nonsense that Americans were pelted with a couple of generations ago. Ads featuring Santa Claus and doctors promoting their favorite brand of cigarette. Pictures of babies slurping up 7up and Cola.

A Cola ad stated: “Do yourself a favor. Start them on a strict regimen of sodas and other sugary carbonated beverages right now, for a lifetime of guaranteed happiness.” That ad by the Soda Pop Board of America also said it was the best way to have your child grow up and fit in during those awkward teen years.

If only I’d drank more pop when I was in my crib. I said pop, not pot. I suspect that with marijuana laws collapsing all over the place we will soon see ads telling us of the health benefits of that drug.

When I see ads promoting Blatz beer for nursing mothers and their babies, another showing a baby advising Mom to reach for a Marlboro when she feels grumpy, and the one that takes the cake, an ad showing a man blowing cigar smoke in a gal’s face with a caption that reads: “Blow in her face and she’ll follow you anywhere.”

Let’s hope that today’s common wisdom comports with reality. If that’s not possible, at least we can provide our grandkids with a few laughs.

What to believe?

About Stan Latreille 65 Articles

Stan Latreille is a novelist, blogger, lawyer, former newspaperman, and a retired Circuit Court judge. He is the author of “Perjury” and is working on a new novel, tentatively titled “Absolution.”