Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Health Fads Part I: The "Truth" About Beauty

There is a streak in me that longs to put aloe vera in my smoothies and mushed banana on my face. My interest in alternative treatments took off in late high school when I bought a book called The Truth About Beauty by Kat James.
The truth, Kat tells us, is that real beauty does not come from diet cokes and low-fat, low-carb, low-flavor highly packaging, highly marketed diet products as she once thought. Nor does it come from expensive cosmetics or prescription drugs. All these things are supposedly damaging. True beauty comes from a healthy diet of natural foods supported by high doses of vitamin and mineral supplements.

Kat makes an argument for herbal supplements that I stood by for years. She writes that because, unlike pharmaceuticals, herbal supplements cannot be patented, no company stands to gain much by marketing them or funding studies to prove their efficacy. There is likely some truth to this argument, but it is not sufficient reason believe every claim made about herbal supplements.
I’ve questioned Kat more and more over the years because she has no formal education in medicine, nutrition or anything relevant and because she makes a handsome living selling us this information in the form of books, presentations and personal consultations.
Kat’s belief that physical attractiveness comes from health is laudable. I commend her efforts to eat a healthy diet of real food, and I applaud her for the weight she lost. Maintaining a healthy weight should rank very high if not first on ones health goals, and it is generally more attractive than the alternative.
Yet it seems that, like much of upper-class America, Kat now trades one set of fads for another. Instead of buying into the latest 100-calorie Little Debbie, she pays a premium for products that contain umebashi paste and aci berries. Instead of blindly trusting that she will benefit from whatever drug her doctor prescribes, she blindly trusts whatever natural remedy her health food store cares to sell her.
All that is natural is not healthy. It is important to do your research on every food, drug, treatment, plant, powerbar and powerstretch you come across.

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