Throwin' down some science.

Thinking Outside the Laboratory

I opened Time magazine recently and found a little slice of science that would make most any dietitian, medical professional, or other trusted guardian of your health proud. It followed the standard recipe—oodles of time, gobs of cash, and as little insight as possible.

The article opened with anecdotal accounts of food additives in packaged foods causing unruly, hyperactive behavior in children. It said that parents had reported such behavior for years, but there was no science behind it, so it wasn’t taken seriously.

Then they pulled out their coats and threw down some laboratory experimentation, and guess what—a lot of food additives, particularly sodium benzoate, do lead to increased hyperactive behavior in most kids. Conclusion?

“You know that stuff you guys have been seeing and reporting for years? Well, we just found out that it really happens, and you weren’t making it up.”

What a relief for parents to know that they weren’t hallucinating—although if they keep chowing down on those additives with their kids, that might be next.

The report advised that parents steer clear of foods with unnatural coloring and preservatives, and they might see an improvement in their children’s behavior.

Why the indecision? Why hesitant advice? It’s not like they’re debating the possible benefits of playing in traffic, or drunken night swimming. Avoiding these foods could not possibly be harmful, and would almost certainly be incredibly beneficial. We’re talking about whether or not to include neon-colored candies and drinks in a kid’s diet. The right nutritional path seems pretty clear to me.

There are some things—a lot of things, actually—that we don’t need to read in a magazine to know are true. If someone eats a completely unnatural and unnecessary food, and consistently reacts in a negative way, then that person should remove the food from his diet. You don’t need a laboratory or a degree to figure that one out.

If you want good health that lasts a lifetime, start paying attention to your diet and your body. Notice which foods make you feel better or worse—which ones make you tired, give you headaches, etc. No one spends more time around your body than you do, and as such you are in a unique position to monitor your diet’s effect on your health.

You’d be surprised what you can accomplish, even without a white coat and a microscope.

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