Editor’s Note—December 2014

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The Cutting Board Syndrome Strikes Again

by Gary Weidner, Editor / Published December 2014


I haven’t spoken yet this year about the “cutting board syndrome,” so here goes. Our trusted guide, common sense, sometimes misleads us. I refer to that situation as the “cutting board syndrome” after the first example written about here, where the U.S. Department of Agriculture banned wood cutting boards from commercial food preparation operations. The ban was based upon the reasoning (described by a USDA staffer as “common sense”) that wood cutting boards are porous and therefore must harbor bacteria. Later research into the matter found that the wood boards tend to harbor less bacteria than the plastic ones do, even with thorough washing.

Here are a couple of current examples, both from the realm of nutritional health.

A new study, which tracked more than 100,000 people from 17 countries over an average of more than three years, found that those who consumed fewer than 3000 milligrams of sodium a day had a 27 percent higher risk of death or a serious event such as a heart attack or stroke in that period than those whose intake was estimated at 3000 to 6000 milligrams.
A top scientist helping to guide the U.S. government’s nutrition recommendations commented recently that low-fat diets are “probably not a good idea.” Actually, NIH-funded clinical trials gave that indication quite some time ago. Now a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine concludes that saturated fats cannot be said to cause heart disease.

Yes, salt and fat tend to raise blood pressure and so on, but the shift in emphasis from previous studies and recommendations is that instead of studying immediate, short-term effects (less salt results in lower blood pressure), researchers are now tending to examine life-long effects, and apparently longevity doesn’t necessarily correlate with low-salt, low-fat diets.

All well and good, but what’s that got to do with us? Please note that I have no agenda to promote regarding nutrition. The point is as follows. Of necessity, we constantly rely on common sense. The challenge is to be on the lookout for the times when it can mislead us. Suppose a water pump motor is getting too hot. An immediate deduction might be that something’s wrong with it, and it needs to be replaced. Common sense. But what if something else is causing the motor to have to work harder than normal, and that’s what is causing it to run hot?

The bottom line is that we need to be ever alert for instances when common sense misleads us (usually because there’s something we haven’t taken into account).


Gary Weidner
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