gimme-five | The blog of a busy guy.

TAG | Health



A Better Blood Drive?

The American Red Cross needs to do two things to attract more people to give blood.

First, give money instead of coupons/shwag/etcetera.  Everyone loves money.  Not everyone loves specific goods.

Secondly, and most importantly, market giving blood as a weight loss tool.  Apparently you burn something like 2,000 calories on average by giving blood.  For a lot of people, that is a day’s worth of food.  Since Americans will do all sorts of crazy things except eating right and exercising to lose weight, such as the cabbage soup diet, you’d think they would also try giving blood every now and then.  I think 2,000 calories is close to one pound of fat (I think one pound is 2,500).  So the American Red Cross should be saying: “Donate Blood – Lose a Pound!”

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Questioning Conventional Wisdom

Just because something is considered conventional wisdom does not mean it is correct.  Blindly following conventional wisdom can lead to ugly consequences.  It is important to take the time to question conventional wisdom often.

Conventional wisdom exists everywhere.  Conventional wisdom says that children should finish everything on their plate so they can grow up big and strong.  My girlfriend, who is a couple years from becoming a registered dietitian, explained to me recently that forcing a child to finish the food on their plate is a really bad idea if they are not hungry.  The reason is that the brain and stomach train over time to recognize when the stomach is “full” to provide self-regulation to prevent overeating.  However, when someone constantly overeats, the brain loses the ability to self-regulate, because it interprets “full” as more and more with each session of overeating.

Conventional wisdom also says to avoid eating cholesterol, because it increases your body’s cholesterol levels.  However, according to all dietitians and the Harvard School of Public Health:

Cholesterol in the bloodstream is what’s most important. High blood cholesterol levels greatly increase the risk for heart disease. But the average person makes about 75% of blood cholesterol in his or her liver, while only about 25% is absorbed from food. The biggest influence on blood cholesterol level is the mix of fats in the diet.

Conventional wisdom is often wrong in the realm of sports medicine.  I injured my illiotibial band in my left leg this past spring while running.  After taking some time off from running, I started back running again, nice and slow, because the conventional wisdom is that running slow is better for your body when you’re recovering from an injury than running fast.  Well, the pain came back pretty quickly and I had to take more time off.  Subsequently, I read an article about illiotibial band syndrome at an excellent website which described that the conventional wisdom of running slow to recover from an IT band injury might be wrong.  The author cited a few studies and suggested that running fast puts less strain on the IT band than running slow due to the fact that a runner’s stride changes depending on how fast he or she is running.  When I started running again, I tried running faster, rather than slower, during my recovery period, and I felt virtually no pain, and I have been running for about six months without pain since.  Although there are plenty of complicating factors like the amount of time I took off from running, etcetera, there is strong likelihood that running fast rather than slow helped speed my recovery.

Conventional wisdom also exists in regard to the economy.  Many people have a belief that you hurt the US economy if you buy foreign products.  Yet 95% of economists support free trade [see a few sample articles].

I could go on.  The point is obvious: conventional wisdom is not always correct.  Additionally, if we follow it blindly, we could be hurting our children, our health, our economy, and more.  I encourage gimme-five’s readers to avoid following conventional wisdom without thinking about it for themselves.

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