Monday, 7 February 2011

False dichotomies: Good or Bad?

The false dichotomy a.k.a. false dilemma is an example of black and white thinking i.e. everything is either "good" or "bad" with no shades of grey in-between.

On a popular body-building forum that I post on, I often see posts titled "Is *insert name of food here* good or bad?" I would like to grab the poster by the collar and give him/her a good shake, except that they are almost certainly bigger & stronger than I am and would "Smash me in" (an in-joke on that forum).

I've noticed the same effect elsewhere on the internet where certain things are deemed to be good (e.g. meat from grass-fed animals) or bad (e.g. omega-6 pufas). With man-made trans-fats, there's little doubt. They're bad!

Consider the following curve.

Just about everything food-related follows a J-curve, with amount on the horizontal axis and harm on the vertical axis.

Too little results in starvation/deficiency and too much results in obesity/toxicity. Even dietary carbohydrate can follow a J-curve. See Dangers of Zero-Carb Diets, I: Can There Be a Carbohydrate Deficiency? and Dangers of Zero-Carb Diets, II: Mucus Deficiency and Gastrointestinal Cancers.

The other problem with "good" & "bad" is down to human nature. People think that if "healthy fats" are good, then eating 10 times as much "healthy fats" is better. They also think that if too much sun exposure is bad, then zero sun exposure is better.

Like Goldilocks' porridge, there is a "just right" for everything. See Hormesis.


Paul Jaminet said...

Hi Nigel, I totally agree. And thanks for the links!

I'm still meaning to do a post on the issues you raised in the comments to the first one ... I'm just slow ... very slow.

Best, Paul

Nigel Kinbrum said...

Hi Paul,

Thanks for dropping in. I'm not going to nag you about your slowness. Good things come to those who wait....or something like that!

Cheers, Nige.

Galina L. said...

Another interesting point! Yes the truth is almost always in the middle and most of the time when some usually harmless item is bed for you, it is your body and not another person to give you a clue. We should not treat our diets like religious people (not my case) treat their religious limitations. It took me a while to read the links about possible dangers of LCHF diets. Interesting find! People who practiced OD were not even in ketosis, while some complained on dry eyes, mouth, ets. What if it is the reason for my asthma and sinus problems to resolve on LC? It is again about the golden middle. It is impossible to say that mucus is bad or good. It is necessary in precise amount. Deregulation of mucus production is bad (as any other deregulation). I suggest that people who practice LC shroud be paying attention on the body signals and be aware that mucus deficiency may be caused by their diet.
Carbsane experienced some health issues after her rapid weight loss on Atkins diet. So far LC resolved number of my problem. It it the reason to say that the Atkins diet is bad or good? Recently I had to stop my Zumba classes and go to physical therapy instead for Plantar Fasciitis, due to my years of practicing "eat less,exercise more" approach to a weight loss. I didn't listen enough to my body. Of course it is not the reason to declare exercise to be evil.