INTRODUCTION:Only 400 years ago it was believed that the sun revolved around the Earth.And it was only in the late 19th century that the barbaric practice of blood letting (and once believed ‘cure all’ of disease) was finally abandoned.Thanks to advances in science and medicine, new discoveries have been made that have reshaped old paradigms and changed our way of thinking.Therefore, we would assume that in this current age of science, medicine and technology, a well established consensus of health information would exist… Sadly that is NOT the case.In fact, many of the current health recommendations are causing an increase in health problems. Several leading health researchers point to the fact that these recommendations are often driven by certain industries who have vested interests; namely profits, at stake.As a former student of natural therapies, and having now been involved in the health & fitness industry for over 17 years, it is my intention to shed some light on 10 of the most common health myths – as controversial as they may be!The Top 10 Health Myths are as follows:Myth 1: Your genetics determine whether you will get cancerMyth 2: For good health, follow the recommendations of the food pyramidMyth 3: The sun causes skin cancerMyth 4: People are overweight because they have slow metabolismsMyth 5: Cows milk is a good source of calcium and builds strong bonesMyth 6: Eggs are high in cholesterol and should therefore be avoidedMyth 7: Margarine is a better choice than butterMyth 8: Artificial sweeteners are a good alternative to sugarMyth 9: You should eat a low fat dietMyth 10: I should drink red wine as it’s recommended by my doctor for good heart healthLet’s address these one by one…Myth 1: Your genetics determine whether you will get cancer.Fact: Your LIFESTYLE is the single most determining factor, not your genes!Just because your mother or father died from cancer doesn’t mean you have to suffer the same fate. It all comes down to lifestyle choices.Unhealthy diet, lack of exercise and poor lifestyle choices, play a major role in the development of many diseases, including cancer.Dr Rachel Thompson, science programme manager for the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) dispels this common myth and she conservatively estimates that lack of exercise and being overweight, causes three times as many cases of cancer as genetics.According to her, the evidence suggests that 39 per cent of the most common cancers, including breast and bowel, could be prevented through a good diet, exercising and keeping weight under control.”It’s important to dispel the myth that cancer is down to genes,” says Thompson. “The evidence shows that an unhealthy diet and low activity levels cause three times more cancer cases than genes. If people do have a family history, then this is important information for them personally, but overall this inherited genetic predisposition is uncommon. In fact those who have inherited genes should pay even closer attention to their lifestyle as there is probably still a lot they can do to reduce their risk.”It is clear that choosing a healthy diet and being more physically active are important ways to help prevent many cancers,” she added.Furthermore, a study conducted in 2005 by Dean Ornish and colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco, US, tested the effects of a dramatic lifestyle change on gene expression in 30 men with prostate cancer.Biopsies taken before and after 3 months of healthy eating, moderate exercise, stress management and psychotherapy showed a significant change in the expression of hundreds of genes. Healthy eating and exercise turned crucial genes on and off.Many, including several genes involved in tumor formation, were down-regulated, or less active. Others, including some disease-fighting genes, were more active.Not only do these results demonstrate that positive lifestyle changes can slow the progression of cancer, the results may also be significant for cancer prevention.Conclusion: Many people believe that inherited genes or simply bad luck are the only factors in cancer development and it’s time this myth was laid to rest.Myth 2: For good health, follow the recommendations of the food pyramid.Fact: Following the recommendations of the food pyramid is bad for your health!The original 1992 U.S.D.A. food pyramid was based on the same recommendations and ratios for fattening cattle and other livestock!According to Harvard Scientist Dr. Walter Willett, the original food pyramid was motivated by food industries rather than valid scientific research. He also states that the food pyramid is “terribly misleading and flawed.”For example, blanket suggestions are made that all fats are bad and all carbohydrates are the same, which is simply not true.Moreover, the original food pyramid advocates eating 6-11 servings of carbohydrate per day. Therefore it’s hardly surprising that we have such high rates of type 2 adult onset diabetes and obesity.Recommendations concerning exercise, alcohol intake and the importance of fruits and vegetables are conspicuously missing.The New ‘Longevity’ Pyramid!Dr Mitra Ray, author of ‘From Here to Longevity’ advocates a new food pyramid which is based on sound health principles. This new food pyramid has a foundation of 5-10 servings of non-starchy vegetables. The next tier is meat, fish and poultry 2-3 servings as well as lentils, beans, raw nuts or seeds comprising 1 serving. The next level is fruit, 2-4 servings, and the top level (or least amount) is whole grains, breads and cereals with a maximum of 2 servings per day.Myth 3: The sun causes skin cancer.Fact: The body needs sunlight! Regular exposure to sunlight can reduce the incidence of cancer by up to 60%Unfortunately many well intentioned doctors and dermatologists propagate the belief that the sun causes cancer, when in fact, the opposite is true.For example, many studies demonstrate that people who live in sunnier, southern latitudes and who have higher levels of vitamin D (as a result of their increased sun exposure) are much less likely to die from any type of cancer than people in northern latitudes.There is also strong evidence that sunlight protects against MS and breast cancer.Contrary to what you may have heard, appropriate sun exposure actually helps prevent the fatal type of skin cancer, melanoma. In fact, rates of melanoma have been found to decrease with greater sun exposure. Melanoma is more common in indoor workers than outdoor workers, and melanoma more commonly appears on regions of the body that are NOT exposed to the sun.To significantly reduce our risk of developing cancer, we need to ensure we have regular sun exposure to keep vitamin D at optimum levels.Recommendation: Try to obtain 10-15 minutes of sun exposure per day. Cover up with clothing to prevent sunburn, and make sure to avoid using commercial sunscreens as these contain toxic chemicals linked to skin cancer & melanoma (unbelievable but true) AND they block the absorption of vitamin D. If you must use sunscreen, use a natural, chemical free alternative.Myth 4: People are overweight because they have slow metabolisms.Fact: Only a very small percentage of people have slow metabolisms.It’s a common complaint, but studies show you can’t use a slow metabolism as an explanation for weight gain.In fact, recent studies have revealed that overweight people actually have faster metabolisms and burn off more energy than their lighter counterparts.Your body composition, specifically your lean muscle mass, determines your basal metabolic rate (BMR) or the amount of calories you burn at rest.The more lean muscle you have, the more calories you burn, and people who are overweight usually have an increased metabolic rate because they have more muscle as well as fat.This is why men – who typically have more lean muscle than women do – tend to lose weight faster and gain it more slowly. It’s also why experts recommend strength training to build muscle mass. BMR is also affected by how much you exercise. All physical activity, not just strenuous activity, increases the number of calories you burn.There IS such a thing as a slow metabolism but it’s very rare.If you’re concerned that you have a slow metabolism, consult your health professional. Your health professional may recommend a test to calculate your BMR, or resting energy expenditure. Medical conditions that can decrease BMR or alter your muscle-to-fat ratio include hypothyroidism and Cushing’s syndrome.The bottom line: Most overweight or obese individuals do not get that way because of a slow metabolism. They get that way because they eat too many calories and don’t exercise enough.Myth 5: Cows milk is a good source of calcium and builds strong bones.Fact: Cows milk is not designed for human consumption. We are the only species on the planet to drink another species milk… cow’s milk is for cows!People who have grown up believing that cows milk is a good for you, that it is a great source of calcium and produces strong bones, are in for a shock! In fact, many prominent medical doctors are now saying dairy consumption is a contributing factor in nearly two dozen diseases of children and adults.Our “nutritional education” in school (funded in part by the dairy industry) taught us that dairy products are one of the four basic food groups we all need for proper nutrition. As a result, dairy products became a well-entrenched and major staple of government-sponsored school lunch programs.Cow’s milk can lead to iron deficiency anemia, allergies, diarrhea, heart disease, colic, cramps, gastrointestinal bleeding, sinusitis, skin rashes, acne, increased frequency of colds and flu, arthritis, diabetes, ear infections, osteoporosis, asthma, autoimmune diseases, and more, possibly even lung cancer, multiple sclerosis and non Hodgkin’s lymphoma…And what about the claim that milk is a great source of calcium?Ounce for ounce, a single head of broccoli has more calcium than a glass of cow’s milk. However, even more important is the finding that the type of calcium found in green vegetables is better absorbed and does not leach from the bones… unlike high protein-containing dairy products.In short, adequate amounts of green vegetables are much better sources of calcium than milk and cheese.Myth 6: Eggs are high in cholesterol and should therefore be avoided.Fact: You can eat 1 or 2 whole eggs per day and not be concerned about increased cholesterol.There has been a widespread belief that eggs are bad for your heart, however, eating whole eggs on a daily basis may prove to hold numerous health benefits, including a decreased risk of heart disease!Research showed that, in healthy adults, eating eggs every day did not produce an increase in cholesterol levels or constitute an increased cardiac risk.While it’s true that egg yolks contain cholesterol, (of which the body requires a certain amount) we should not assume that eating dietary cholesterol will yield an increase in blood cholesterol. Therein lies the confusion. There is NO correlation between dietary cholesterol and serum (blood) cholesterol levels.So go ahead, eat and egg or two per day (preferably the organic, free range variety) and enjoy the healthy heart benefits.Myth 7: Margarine is a better choice than butter.Fact: Avoid margarine at all costs. And that includes the so called healthy olive oil based margarines. Butter is better!Despite unjustified warnings about saturated fat, the list of butter’s benefits is indeed impressive. Butter is a rich source of vitamins A,D,E and K as well as trace minerals and fatty acids necessary for a range of healthy bodily functions.Standing in direct opposition to these healthful qualities stands margarine and assorted ‘vegetable oil’ spreads.’ While these may be cheaper, chances are you’d never eat them again if you knew how they were made!Margarines are made from assorted vegetable oils that have been heated to extremely high temperatures. This ensures the oils become rancid. After that, a nickel catalyst is added, along with hydrogen atoms, to solidify it. Nickel is a toxic heavy metal and small amounts always remain in the finished product. Finally, deodorants and colorings are added to remove margarine’s horrible smell (from the rancid oils) and unappetizing grey color.In the solidification process, harmful carcinogenic trans-fatty acids are created. Ask yourself, would you rather have a health food with healthful qualities? Or a stick of carcinogenic, bleached and deodorized slop.Given the choice, choose butter!Myth 8: Artificial sweeteners are a good alternative to sugarArtificial Sweeteners are highly toxic to the body!Aspartame (often labelled as ‘phenyalanine’) and marketed under the name NutraSweet, Splenda and Equal, is linked to a multitude of health and neurological problems including fibromyalgia, lupus, alzheimers and MS.Often described as a silent killer, symptoms of aspartame toxicity are mostly neurological and can include numbness of the legs, cramps, vertigo, dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, joint pain, depression (aspartame reduces serotonin levels in the brain) anxiety attacks, slurred speech, blurred vision and memory loss.Those of us watching our waistline are often tempted by claims of ‘zero sugar’ or low carbohydrates. However, more often than not these foods and drinks contain artificial sweeteners. Paradoxically, artificial sweeteners cause carbohydrate cravings which can lead to weight gain!Today, artificial sweeteners can be found in everything from soft drinks to yoghurt to baked goods to chewing gum.Although small amounts are unlikely to be problematic, be discerning of your food choices and be aware that repeated ingestion of artificial sweeteners can be damaging to your long term health.Myth 9: You should eat a low fat dietFact: The body needs fats! Especially ‘essential fats.’This idea that all fat is bad is completely untrue. Every cell in the human body requires fats for metabolic functions, the manufacture of hormones, brain function, plus many other vital functions.Your body needs ‘essential fats’ from your diet (essential simply means that our body can’t make it by itself) The best sources are high in omega 3 and include olive oil, nuts, avocado and fish oils.The rights fats assist in lowering blood pressure, thinning your blood and preventing blood clots. Likewise, most inflammatory conditions can be prevented or controlled with regular omega 3 fats in the diet. A lack of omega 3 in your diet will intensify a number of inflammatory conditions ranging from asthma to arthritis and even heart disorders.The fat soluble Vitamins A, D, E and K cannot be absorbed unless we have sufficient fats in our diet. Therefore no matter how many vitamin rich fruits and vegetables you eat, if you have a low fat diet, it’s highly likely you’ll eventually suffer degenerative diseases caused by vitamin deficiencies. One example is osteoporosis. For calcium in our diet to become bone mass, it requires the presence of Vitamin D and Vitamin K to be absorbed.As the human brain is 70% lipid (fats) we need a regular intake of healthy fats and cholesterol to function properly. Therefore it should not surprise you that a low intake of fats can lead to short term memory loss, loss of concentration, depression, bi polar disorders and schizophrenia and in the longer term, Alzheimer’s disease.Symptoms of insufficient fat in our diet include increased cholesterol levels, dry and flaky skin, loss of skin elasticity and wrinkles. (The benefits of healthy fats are similar to antioxidants.)Healthy fats are therefore an essential component of your diet. Eat fats, but choose the right fats!Myth 10: I should drink red wine as it’s recommended by my doctor for good heart healthFact: It’s not the alcohol in red wine that is good for you. Alcohol is a neurotoxin!It’s not the alcohol in red wine that is linked to a lowered incidence of heart disease, it’s an antioxidant found in red grapes called resveratrol.Wines contain abundant quantities of polyphenols, a class of antioxidant not present in other alcoholic beverages. The concentration of polyphenols in red wine is several times greater than that in white wine and it is these polyphenols that are associated with a number of health benefits.Alcohol itself is actually a neurotoxin and excess consumption can seriously disrupt your delicate hormone balance, cause liver damage and other health problems.If you’re a non drinker, my recommendation is simply this… Don’t start now! Remember, it’s not the alcohol in red wine that’s good for you – it’s the antioxidants. Use moderation, or drink grape juice instead!CONCLUSION:So there you have it. The top 10 health myths finally exposed.I encourage you to be vigilant in your pursuit of good health and be weary of health claims made by the media, the pharmaceutical companies and even your own doctor.When it comes to your health, you’re the one in the driver’s seat. Do your own research, seek out reputable sources of information and explore natural and alternative therapies where appropriate.It’s by keeping an open mind, questioning and evaluating current health recommendations, that you can truly take control of your health and well being.