Everything in moderation

By Alan Chartock | March 30, 2023

There are certainly a lot of do’s and don’ts that we all have to abide by. For example, we know that we have to think carefully about what we eat. Too much sugar is a long time no-no. The bad news doesn’t stop with sugar — we are told that too much salt is a very bad idea, too. So, our lives are governed by proscriptions and prescriptions. Naturally, there are differing opinions about what we should consume because, like so many other things, it’s all about money.

When I tell people I like Diet Coke, they are often horrified. They might lecture me about adverse effects cited in so-called “observational studies.” UCLA Health conducts observational studies by looking at statistical trends taken from major studies of large groups, like those of nurses between the ages of 30 and 55. I’ve heard about stomach problems, heart problems, and some have posited that I will just want more and more sweet things because of what I am told is an “addiction” to artificial sweeteners. I recently read one article suggesting that people who regularly use artificial sweeteners may increase their risk of stroke. Maybe, but I have been drinking the stuff for a long time. So, if you’re like me and drink one or more servings of diet soda a day, we may be exposing ourselves to some bad health outcomes. Maybe that’s true and we can certainly follow some of these health hints. I say, check your sources.

We now know that smoking can lead to heart disease. That’s particularly interesting considering how many people smoke in this country. Not only that, research shows that obesity and being sedentary can lead to type two diabetes. I find that fascinating because I suffer from type two diabetes even though I am an exercise freak and walk between three and four miles a day. One would have to take all of this with a grain of salt since while the research suggests some connections between being sedentary and weight gain, it doesn’t always work that way. So, it’s possible that it may just be related to our genetics.

We certainly know that different people react to various stimuli differently. Not all of us follow conventional health wisdom coming from various studies, some of which may fall into the “dubious” categories. Nevertheless, if you are anything like me, you try to follow the hints that are being offered by the experts. I mean, why would any of us ignore expert advice when doing so might be perilous to our health?

Exercise in moderation is right up there on the list of things that will keep us healthy. Even there, we have to be careful as there are experts who warn us that we can overdo it. When I’ve talked about exercise with experts, some have mentioned the late Jim Fixx. To follow up on that, you might read “The Jim Fixx Neurosis” in the Washington Post. Fixx was an exercise enthusiast who died at the age of fifty-two. He was known for his books on running. On the other hand, Fixx smoked a lot in his earlier years. He was known to eat too much, too. So, while there are some things that we know are good for you (foods and exercise) some of those somethings can be overdone or even, in some cases, turn out to be bad for you.

So here I am at age 81. I try to follow the good advice but I am aware that a lot of people who give advice turns out, in the long run, to be very wrong.

Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected].