January 2014

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Page 21 of 83

ThRIvE wellbeing IS THERE ANYTHING more frustrating than trying to make sense of constantly changing health information? First, eggs are bad for the heart, then not. Next, salt is evil, now it seems maybe everyone is not affected equally. Try choosing something to spread on toast in the morning—it takes some major label reading. Margarine? Butter? Something in between? What exactly are trans fats anyway? It's hard to stay balanced on a shifting landscape—and manufacturers profit when consumers are baffled and insecure. Official-looking marketing claims and unscrupulous media play to our basic fears. But, armed with just three questions—Where does a claim come from? Does it make sense or matter? Compared to what?—anyone can sort out the constant barrage of health tips and discoveries. WHERE DOES A CLAIM COME FROM? ThREE QUESTIONS decOding health miSinFOrmatiOn with a dOSe OF PerSPective bY ann garvin 20 brava magazine | JanUarY 2014 Have you ever started a conversation and then realized that what you were about to say came from a dream? I did this recently when the thought crossed my mind that Matt Damon and I were engaged. Information from all types of sources can leak into our consciousness. Sometimes we stop and identify the source and other times, we plough ahead repeating things that have little basis in fact. That behavior is our quick-acting primitive brain taking over before our more reasonable evolved brain can ask an important question: Where did this information come from? Recently, I was chatting with a group of my students when I heard someone say: If you leave a water bottle in a hot car, dioxins will leach from the plastic into the water and if consumed will cause breast cancer. Several people had heard this but no one could say where the info came from. The fear-based consensus of the group was this: better safe than sorry, get rid of those bottles. However, according to Michael Trush, Ph.D., deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Urban Environmental Health, plastics do not contain dioxins, and the sun's rays are not strong enough to create them. The consequence of misinformation is more plastic in land fills, less water consumed, less re-use of perfectly acceptable containers and more unreasonable fear in our lives. If the origin of a fact is difficult to find, put it to this next test. DOES IT MAKE SENSE OR MATTER? Media is colorful, compelling, bossy and insistent. Our job as consumers is to decide what we are going to pay attention to and what we can ignore. Because information is produced, directed, and engineered to speak specifically to us, it creeps into our values and makes us consider ideas that may not have any relevance in our lives. Take the oft-made assertion from fear monger websites, emails, and fringe media that margarine, Splenda or sugar are one molecule away from formaldehyde, plastic or cocaine. "Is this true?" we wonder in horror. Here's another fact to consider: Water (H20) is one molecule away from air (02) but that doesn't make water air, nor does any chemical reaction in the body convert water to air. Put in those terms, the fear-based information doesn't make sense. Continued on p. 22.

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