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Deciphering Contradictory Nutritional Information

Every week it seems there is a new health alert about a new study of a common food item that directly contradicts nutritional norms. The latest to catch my attention was a story in USA Today linking hot tea to esophageal cancer. It starts with the headline, “Drink Hot Tea at Your Own Risk: New Study is Latest to Show Link to Esophageal Cancer.”

The summary of the study is much worse. The study in question was published in the International Journal of Cancer. It tracked the habits of more than 50,000 tea drinkers in a province of Iran. Over a 10-year period, 317 new cases of esophageal cancer were diagnosed. The study found that those who drank more than 24 ounces of tea a day at a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit had a 90 percent higher risk for esophageal cancer.

From my experience, people either drink coffee or tea. Very few enjoy both equally. Iran happens to be a tea-drinking country. It is ranked 4th in worldwide consumption of tea, behind Turkey, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, the top three tea drinkers in the world. While this specific habit may be true in the lives of the 317 people that were diagnosed with esophageal cancer so is the province they live in. Could the environment have been a contributing factor? We will never know the answer to such a question because it was not studied.

That people drink tea daily in the amount and temperature described in the study cannot be the sole basis for discounting or crediting the study’s findings. Is the author of the study saying that if you drink 12 ounces of tea a day at the temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit that you won’t get cancer? It is hard to make such a conclusion because no recommended amount of tea per day is provided.

Reliable nutritional information is hard to uncover. At every step of a basic internet search, information to prove a finding or disprove one is readily available. It is really hard to identify which one is correct and then relate it to your own life. To live, human beings require food and water. Food and water provide nutrients that help run and maintain the human body. Not all diets are the same.

Just as an individual’s body and overall health is unique so is nutrition. Diet depends on people’s culture, geographic location, access to certain foods, and affordability. No one has ever really studied how the healthiest foods are also the most expensive items in your supermarket shopping cart.

For assistance developing healthy eating habits unique to you and your circumstances, speak to a nutritionist that can recommend a diet and exercise program to promote your overall health. Nutritionists will almost always recommend restraint in eating. Calorie intake and serving sizes are difficult to access but as long as you eat less and move more you will maintain a healthy balance. How much you can move depends on your overall health. A nutritionist can recommend exercises that will take into account any physical restrictions, like a bad hip or painful joints.  

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