The other day, I was reading a newspaper article about personal health, a topic which is claiming an increasingly large portion of the media information we receive.
After I read that a new study had found health benefits from drinking coffee, I sprang from the table and brewed myself a cup of strong Yemeni espresso. I had downed almost the entire contents -- without dunking a single doughnut -- when the radio news came on. The broadcaster announced that a recent health study had discovered that if you drank too much coffee, it could kill you.
I grabbed a sterile vessel from the First Aid supply cabinet, and wearing rubber gloves, eye goggles and a shower cap for body protection, spat out the sinister brew.
Naturally, my blood pressure had skyrocketed from the coffee controversy, so I went out on a walk. Soon, I came to a gathering at the center of my town, where people were watching a 50-ish man who waited on a stage. He looked befuddled, and was standing next to a yellow arrow, which was spinning on a big wheel and slowing to a stop. A man in a white coat stood beside him.
"What's going on?" I asked.
"Shh," said the woman beside me, "this guy's about to get a diagnosis."
"Bad news," the doctor told the patient. "I see you gained 20 pounds."
"Mmm," the crowd said.
"But I heard," the man protested, "that a few extra pounds could make people 40 percent less likely to die from emphysema, injuries, pneumonia and various infections, by adding stored body reserves which help the patient fight back!"
"Tsk," scolded the doctor, "didn't you know that insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), linked to increased risk for colorectal cancer, can be influenced by excess pounds? You've contracted that dreaded disease, I'm afraid!"
The man was wrapped in a hospital gown and hauled off to be treated for his plight.
The onlookers groaned.
Next, a woman appeared onstage, and awaited her medical news. The yellow arrow spun.
"Good work," said the doc, "I see you've significantly lowered your LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Is this from all that Japanese green tea you drank?"
"No," said the woman, "I ingested catechin capsules containing the active polyphenols present in green tea, like the 40,530 participants in the eleven-year Ohsaki study, rather than drinking actual green tea."
"How many," the doctor asked, "cups worth a day did you drink?"
"About six," the woman said. "Trying to boost my liver enzymes with beneficial green-tea catechins!"
"Dear me," said the doc, "don't you know that green tea also contains high amounts of oxalate, which if taken in amounts more than five cups a day can cause kidney stones?"
The woman keeled over. She was hauled off to kidney surgery.
The crowd murmured.
Next, a man was strapped to an EKG machine to monitor his heart. "Cardiac deviations," said the doctor to a nurse.
"For goodness' sake!" the nurse exploded to the patient, "didn't you read the University of Michigan cardio research discovery that obese rats on a high-fat diet who also ate tart cherry powder reduced their total cholesterol and two inflammation markers linked to heart disease?"
The crowd buzzed.
"Hey, I eat cherry powder!" a man called out.
The doctors gave the man an award. The crowd cheered. Everyone slapped him on the back.
"I've been taking tart cherry powder," he said, "ever since I read about it in the Harvard Health letter!"
"Harvard?" said the man next to him. "I read Johns Hopkins. What makes you think Harvard knows everything?"
A woman was carried out of the crowd on a stretcher, nervously shaking.
"What happened?" I asked.
"Too bad," said an onlooker, shaking her head. "All this worrying about what she should have known gave her a heart attack."
"She should have just had a shot of whiskey when she felt bad instead of thinking about her health," said a 98-year old man, "like I've been doing for years."