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The skinny on healthy living

(article, Caroline Cummins)

For the past year or so Consumer Reports, that venerable publication of consumer advocacy and product ratings, has been publishing a health newsletter called onHealth. At $3 per 12-page pamphlet, it's terrifically pricey — and none of it is available online. Most of the newsletter consists of short, watch-out-for-the-latest-thing-that-will-kill-you news items. But the cover stories are pretty good at debunking health myths.

Volume 19, Number 9, for example, reported that antioxidants — those reputed health-boosting molecules found in everything from fresh produce to coffee, tea, and wine — might not be the wonder boys everyone seems to think they are. The verdict? Don't bother with supplements; just eat a varied diet of fresh, whole foods and you'll get all the antioxidants you may (or may not) need. 

As the newsletter editors concluded, "Don't expect a daily glass of pomegranate juice, fistful of prunes, or serving of any other 'superfood' to compensate for an unhealthy diet or other bad habit." Sorry, Virginia, there is no magic bullet.

The latest issue of the newsletter (that's Volume 19, Number 10) focuses on "The new facts about fats." It's essentially a checklist of current beliefs about fats (phrased by onHealth as "accepted wisdom") and their rebuttals. Here's the quick take:

# Olive and canola oils are good for you, sure. But they're not necessarily any better than any other monounsaturated vegetable oil.
# Trans fats are bad, definitely. But restaurants often reuse their cooking oil for deep-fried foods, whether that oil is trans-fat-free or not — and all that cooking alters the molecular structure of the oil so that, as with trans fats, the oil goes straight to your arteries.
# Super-low-fat diets aren't the healthiest. So go ahead, follow the American Heart Association's recommendation to devote a third of your daily calories to fat. Just try to avoid the above-mentioned trans fats, as well as saturated fat.
# Cutting back on fat won't stave off cancer.
# Cutting back on fat isn't the key to losing weight.

Tasty, no?