5 Health Myths that Need to Be Put to Rest
By DR. CHRIS HARDY
MYTH 1: It's OK to sleep less as long as you're working out more.
Getting the proper amount of sleep is crucial to achieving your fat-loss goals. Many sleep-deprived dieters and exercisers are often frustrated with their lack of progress, not understanding how important sleep is to the fat-loss equation.
- Most fat burning takes place during deep, restorative sleep.
- The fat-loss benefits of exercise during the day are not seen while you exercise. All the action takes place during sleep at night through the actions of growth hormone.
- Growth-hormone secretion is highest during deep sleep.
- Disrupted sleep leads to decreased growth-hormone secretion, which leads to poor fat loss, despite exercise and good nutrition.
MYTH 2: Cholesterol and saturated fat are dietary demons.
We've been force-fed this message for so long that it now seems like just common sense. However, recent science has shown us that cholesterol and saturated fat in the diet are not to be feared.
- Cholesterol is a vital substance to the body and brain. It's important as a building block for hormones (such as testosterone, cortisol and estrogen), crucial for proper function of the brain and a powerful antioxidant that protects your cells from damage.
- Cholesterol itself is neither "good" nor "bad," and how much of it you eat has very little impact on total body cholesterol.
- Saturated fat is not a single artery-clogging substance. There are many types of saturated fat, each with an essential function in the body.
- Recent scientific studies have shown that saturated fat is not associated with heart disease.
- In its report, the Dietary Guidelines for America 2015 committee states that "cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption."
[Read More: Turns Out Everyone Was Wrong About Saturated Fats]
MYTH 3: The best way to track my progress is by using a scale.
Most of us associate weight loss as measured on the scale as the best marker of progress with diets and exercise programs. Unfortunately, this practice can lead us astray. Many extreme calorie-restricted diets result in a significant amount of muscle loss with overall weight loss, which is definitely not a good thing.
- Loss of muscle mass with radical weight-loss diets results in someone who is "skinny fat" (called "normal-weight obese" in medical terms). They still have high amounts of fat compared to their muscle mass, which is very unhealthy.
- We should be concerned about fat loss while maintaining muscle mass, not overall weight loss (muscle contributes to overall body weight significantly).
- Use a tape measure instead of the scale to measure progress. Measure your waist at the level of your belly button.
- Calculate your waist/height ratio by dividing your waist measurement by your height in inches (or centimeters if you prefer).
- A healthy waist-to-height ratio is 0.5 or below. This measurement is more in line with your health and how you fit into your clothes.
- Throw away your scale and get a tape measure. New goal: Keep your waist less than half your height.
[Read More: Is Your Scale Sabotaging Your Weight Loss?]
Myth 4: I don't need to worry about my weight while trying to get pregnant.
High body-fat levels can significantly affect your fertility through the actions of the hormone leptin. Leptin is a hormone secreted by fat cells. One of leptin's functions is to help regulate appetite, but its main function is to control fertility.
- With normal body-fat levels, leptin functions properly and signals the brain that there is adequate body fat to support a pregnancy.
- High levels of body fat can lead to "leptin-resistance." The fertility signal is blocked in the brain, and getting pregnant becomes very difficult.
- If you are overweight, losing body fat through good nutrition and exercise is the most powerful fertility treatment (leptin function is restored).
- Note that losing too much body fat (endurance athletes, anorexia) can cause fertility problems as well, since some body fat is needed for leptin to function properly.
MYTH 5: Having a beer belly is nothing to worry about.
Men who sport a "beer belly" are often under the illusion that, because it's rock-hard and not flabby, it's not a health concern. They couldn't be more wrong. There's a health nightmare brewing underneath the rock-hard exterior of a beer belly:
- Beer belly is caused by increased fat around the internal organs of your abdomen, the worst type of fat you can have for your health.
- Beer-belly abdominal fat is a source of long-term inflammation, which is one of the causes of diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
- Abdominal fat lowers testosterone by secreting an enzyme called aromatase, which converts testosterone into estrogen. The beer belly is far from a sign of manliness. It's a testosterone-devouring, estrogen-producing health killer.
Readers -- Do (or did!) you believe in any of the myths mentioned above? Do you use a scale to keep track of your weight-loss progress? Do you avoid saturated fats in your diet? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Chris Hardy, D.O., M.P.H., CSCS, is the author of Strong Medicine: How to Conquer Chronic Disease and Achieve Your Full Genetic Potential. He is a public-health physician, personal trainer, mountain biker, rock climber and guitarist. His passion is communicating science-based lifestyle information and recommendations in an easy-to-understand manner to empower the public in the fight against preventable chronic disease.
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