Friday, January 26, 2018

Misleading Headlines

A recent headline read, "Study links low carbohydrate intake to increased risk of birth defects."

Now, if you read that headline and didn't read the following story carefully, what would you think? You'd probably think that a lack of carbohydrate causes birth defects and hence low-carb diets should be avoided if you're planning to get pregnant.

But why would eating less carbohydrate cause birth defects? One explanation, and I think a good one, is that folic acid supplementation tends to prevent neural-tube birth defects, and for this reason the government mandated adding folic acid to enriched bread and other cereal products. Because people on LC diets don't eat much, if any, cereal products, they wouldn't be getting this protective folic acid.

Folic acid is also in liver and leafy greens like spinach, but some people may not like spinach and leafy greens, which is one reason bread and some cereals are supplemented.They assume everyone eats bread and cereal.

Many people don't read whole articles. They just read the headlines and assume they're accurate summations of the essence of the story. So why didn't the headline in this case say, "People on low-carb diets may need to supplement with folic acid if they could get pregnant." 

Another factor proposed to explain birth defects is any kind of dieting before conception or early in prenancy. One study showed that weight-loss dieting during the first trimester doubled the risk of neural-tube defects. This makes sense, as restricting calories could result in various deficiencies, including folic acid.

There's a lot of this type of spinning research studies. People have preconceived notions and analyze the research and write headlines from their point of view. Not long ago, the popular meme was low fat. That's now out and "more fruits and vegetables" is in. "Plant-based" is another popular meme.

I wonder what it will be 50 years from now?

BTW, a similar report came out in 2007. Why they're revisiting it is not clear.

1 comment:

  1. In a few years all the medical "experts" will be saying the LC diet is unhealthy.