Years ago, it was margarine vs. butter. Margarine won. Then butter was in, again. Until last week, the low-fat diet craze fed to millions of Americans was hot. Turns out it doesn't protect against breast or colorectal cancer or heart disease.
Just the other day, Americans woke to find there's no broad benefit from calcium and vitamin D supplements in preventing broken bones. May as well toss those supplements. No, wait, keep taking them, if you think they help. Help? A few years ago, women found out hormone treatments after menopause had more health risks than benefits. Then this week, they found out that maybe wasn't the case. What next?
Americans have relied on information from the medical field about what to eat, how much and when. How much, or how little, to exercise. What medications/vitamins to swallow.
The goal is to live longer. Hopefully, a lot longer with exactly the right diet and lots of pills. And never with a high-fat, alcohol-laden lifestyle. Virtual asceticism seemed a sure-fire way to beat Father Time, a myth crushed while watching interviews of some 100-year-old retelling how he spent his life eating lots of red meat and downing large amounts of hard liquor.
Still, we pressed on, counting calories, switching from high-fat to low carbs. Then, no carbs. Then the Women's Health Initiative delivered the disturbing news on calicium and Vitamin D. Piece by piece, long-held beliefs blew apart. Swallow the calcium pill? Will it make a difference? Start the estrogen regimen, or not? What about all those low-fat diet books?
Let the medical community sort all this out and stick to the obvious: Don't smoke; don't drink too much; exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet that includes a mix of fruit, vegetables, poultry, limited dairy products and whole grains. There's no magic route to a long, healthy life.