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Eileen Boylen

Let me meditain you

By Eileen Boylen
December 9, 2010

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WHEN FOX News reported the link between depression and chocolate consumption, I knew medical research had finally jumped the shark. Apparently, having more than 8.5 servings of chocolate a month indicates profound depression. Huh? By that definition, my husband and I should be on suicide watch. Color me psychic, but soon Cambridge will be wresting Kit Kats from vending machines and moving chocolate behind the pharmacy counter. Can a ballot question be far behind?

Our seemingly insatiable thirst for health programming, or “medi-tainment,’’ has catapulted shows like “The Dr. Oz Show’’ and “The Doctors’’ to the top of the charts. But the content is often confusing. For example, “Dr. Oz’’ reports that an inseam measurement less than 29 inches indicates childhood malnutrition and possible organ damage. As a petite woman, I thought it indicated short parents and the need for a good tailor.

In recent years, Reservatrol has been labeled “the fountain of youth.’’ And, according to Dr. Oz, you can get it from red wine. Wrong. Turns out wine hasn’t enough Reservatrol to matter, and I only look younger if my husband drinks it.

Sometimes the shifting research is gratifying. I’m delighted that green tea does not reduce cancer risk as previously thought. Imagine the “healthier than thou’’ Whole Foods shoppers learning green tea bags don’t prevent cancer but green shopping bags, containing lead, cause it!

I recently heard that exercise works better on an empty stomach. Really? I generally down a meatloaf with a gallon of True Moo before a run. I find the cramping and nausea motivating. I’m surprised these researchers didn’t drown as children.

I’m sick of TV “sexperts.’’ Like the specialist who recommends eating oats and beans for for “optimum performance.’’ On what planet does excess fiber lead to connubial bliss?

And enough of the hype! Everything is billed as “shocking’’ or news that could “literally save your life!’’ Was anyone else shocked to learn that the best day to start a diet is Saturday? Shocking is the FBI catching Whitey Bulger or Sarah Palin looking up from grizzly wrestling to confess latent Democratic leanings. Starting a diet on Saturday? Nope. And everyone knows the best day to start a diet is tomorrow!

Have you heard about the “triangle of death,’’ the dangerous area around the nose? Studies warn that exploration of nasal cavities can lead to fatal brain hemorrhaging. As a former kindergarten teacher, I can assure you that were this true, no child would make it to first grade.

But even if you avoid TV, radio, and magazines, there’s still Web MD, which makes everyone an armchair cardiologist and brain surgeon, happy to diagnose and treat your every symptom. I’m all for medical research and many of these broadcasts, articles, and websites contain helpful information. But it’s difficult to separate help from hype and a self-diagnosis can be a dangerous hobby. As everyone knows, the consumer who treats himself has a fool for a patient.

Eileen Boylen is a freelance writer.