Monday, January 2, 2017

More Easy Resolutions for 2017

Last time I got through the first three of seven science and health myths that need to go.  The source story argued that researchers have shown them to be false so often that it’s time to pull the plug and stop believing them.  This provides a great opportunity to make a few constructive and very doable New Year’s resolutions.  Since most of the effort would be to stop believing and acting like you believe in these debunked ideas, success should come easily.

Last time I covered the myths about how you can’t depend only on exercise for weight loss, misunderstanding about global warming and antibiotic abuse.  The remaining four concern: will power, dangers of GMOs, homeopathy and something called power posing. 

Beginning with will power, “psychologists are increasingly finding that willpower alone is an ineffective strategy.” They say it’s not something you develop or practice; it’s something you either have to some degree or not.  That seems like a formula to let most of us off the hook for a lack of self-control in the face of temptation. It could explain why most resolutions fail.

The authors really draw no conclusion in the article except to imply that we have been expecting too much by asking people to control their diets (among other things).  But one solution is to work on the environment.  Eat more meals at home and don’t have the junk food and salty snacks available, then the will power is needed only at the grocery store – or have someone else shop for you.  That might work.  Although to completely give up on will power seems a little fatalistic.

The next myth declares GMOs are harmful to humans.  Not so.  “Earlier this year National Academy of Sciences released a sweeping report on GM crops that should’ve put these fears to rest. It was an independent look at all the evidence to date, and it found, much as past reports have, that GM crops are just as safe to eat as their conventional counterparts.”

There is a lot of fear mongering going on in the press and by certain advertisers playing on this misunderstanding.  The evidence is clear, but people continue to spend more money than necessary for groceries, while less fortunate people in other countries are starve because their governments endorse this myth and ban GMO crops.

The next myth is that “Homeopathy is a real medical treatment.”  This is an easy one.  Stop throwing away money on false cures.  For a more in-depth treatment of this subject including the history and fallacies behind the theory, see this youtube video.

 “‘Power posing’ will make you act powerful” comes as the final myth.  The notion arose from a 2010 study conducted at Columbia University reporting that making yourself look big by stretching out made you feel more powerful and take greater risks.  They actually measured higher levels of the hormone testosterone in some of the participants.

Unfortunately, follow-up studies with larger sample sizes failed to replicate these findings.  Last year one of the researchers from the original project team withdrew her support, conceding that the effects they detected were not real.

In summary, maybe I will resolve in 2017 to not use power posing as a shortcut to feeling more powerful.  I will not spend a penny on homeopathic medicine and will eat GMO products with reckless abandon.  I can do all these without depending on will power.  In fact it will take about as much will power as my usual sacrifice of giving up spinach for lent!  Happy New Year.

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