Health and Safety
Editor’s Letter: March 2016
Did you know…?
By Laura Aiken
I was privy to a conversation that I fear is becoming all too typical. Well, I wasn’t so much privy as I happened to overhear an exchange between customer and hairdresser in a salon (an iconic hub of gossip). The exchange between patron and stylist went something like this:
Hairdresser: “That’s good you used ginger.”
Customer: “Yes, it’s good for so many things.”
Hairdresser, excitedly: “Did you know it’s a blood thinner?”
Customer, impressed: “No, wow!”
I’ve heard of ginger as an aid to curbing nausea, but I had never heard that it was a blood thinner. It was a surprising nutritional claim, and I wondered if it was true.
A quick Internet search turned up the University of Maryland’s Medical Center page on ginger (this I would consider to be a tempered, likely accurate source that cited 33 sources to back up its debriefing on the herb. However, there is always the question of whether it carries the latest information). Here’s what the Center had to say about ginger being a blood thinner: “Preliminary studies suggest that ginger may lower cholesterol and help prevent blood from clotting. That can help treat heart disease where blood vessels can become blocked and lead to heart attack or stroke. Other studies suggest that ginger may help improve blood sugar control among people with Type 2 diabetes. More research is needed to determine whether ginger is safe or effective for heart disease and diabetes.”
The statement “ginger is a blood thinner” is patently untrue, although there is a suggestion of truth in the potential, pending further investigation. How often does this type of “did you know” misinformation spread from one person to another? It’s safe to say much too often, when you factor in the high engagement people have with nutrition right now and the prevailing warp speed of social media.
I have no idea whether the customer passed on the piece of trivia, looked it up, privately dismissed it, or only pretended to be impressed. I do know that the words “maybe” were sorely missing from the source, and these types of “did you know…?” definitive proclamations should be questioned in particular when they seem surprising. The repercussions of anecdotal tall tales just confuse the already extraordinarily complicated topic of nutrition. There are challenges to nutritional studies (such as bias in self-reporting), to all scientific undertakings really, and science rarely makes the incredible breakthroughs we are often lead to believe in the headlines. It is also the nature of science to be wrong, to overturn itself. This does not make it bad science. There would be no progress without it.
The industry may have no role to play in the private musings of one citizen to another, but there is always a role to be played in seeking out evidence-based information, no matter how tempered and correlating it may be. There is a role to play in offering your customers “did you knows” that come from solid sources and are cushioned by potential of that which we do not know. And it is from this potential of what we do not know that discoveries are made and exciting novelties come to life.
One ingredient that is getting a well-established vote for health is pulses. This year was dedicated the International Year of Pulses by the United Nations, and bakers and pastry chefs have been rolling up their sleeves to see what they can do with nutritious and numerous pulse flours. Turn to our story on page 21 and the Final Proof column on page 30 to learn more about how to incorporate pulses into your baking. There is plenty of credible, factual information backing up pulses as being healthy, and I’d say they are worth passing along with a “did you know?”