By Stephenie Karony

Thursday, June 7, 2001

Consider the source
when taking advice

Question: There is so much conflicting nutritional information around that I don't know what to believe anymore. What about foods such as soy and fiber -- should we still consider them good for us?

Answer: There's good reason to be confused, with all the various dietary opinions at our fingertips. As scientific knowledge advances, dietary recommendations change.

Be cautious about what you read, and where you read it. We live in a country that puts a high premium on free speech; anybody can write whatever they want -- and they do.

Don't believe any single article, and make sure that the information you hold to be true is backed up with scientific studies conducted by independent researchers.

There are no simple answers, and what may work for one person may not work for the next.

With that in mind, let's look at some foods that have been in the news lately, including soy and fiber:

>> Soy foods do lower an individual's risk of heart disease. But women at risk of hormone-sensitive cancers should avoid supplementing with isoflavones (the predominant phytochemical in soy foods), and should limit soy foods to just a few servings per week.

>> Fiber may be causing the most controversy of all. We know fiber lowers LDLs (bad cholesterol) and helps improve blood sugar levels. It helps prevent constipation, obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

So if it does all this, what's the flap all about? Fiber may not prevent colon cancer as everyone had hoped. But it may work with other phytochemicals in fruits, vegetables and whole grains to offer some protection against colon cancer.

>> What about alcohol? Should we drink it, or shouldn't we? Drinking in moderation may help raise HDLs (good cholesterol), making blood less likely to clot, and thus helping prevent heart disease. It may also lower your risk of ischemic stroke.

But alcohol increases a woman's risk of breast cancer, and it can easily become addictive. Alcohol has no nutritive value and is loaded with calories.

>> We've always been told to avoid eating too much salt. Then some doctors and nutritionists started saying that unless you have high blood pressure, the amount of salt a person eats is of no consequence.

Those with high blood pressure, or at risk for it, should avoid eating too much salt -- that much remains true. Even if you don't have high blood pressure, too much sodium in your diet can leach calcium from your bones, which may lead to osteoporosis.

My advice is to eat whatever you like, only eat less of it. Stick with non-processed foods as much as possible, stay away from sugary foods except for now and then, eat far less trans and saturated fats, and eat lots more vegetables.

Q: Will lifting weights cause an increase in blood pressure?

A: No, not unless you already have high blood pressure. It is a misconception that lifting weights has a long-term negative effect on blood pressure. In fact, strength training provides positive benefits and is part of an exercise prescription for managing hypertension.

All types of exercise temporarily raise blood pressure, so be sure to check with your doctor before starting any new activity.

Stephenie Karony is a certified health and fitness instructor,
a personal trainer and author of "Body Shaping With Free Weights.''
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