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By Don Bennett, DAS

One of the keys to a happy and healthy life is balance. We'd all agree that having good balance as we walk is a good thing, and balancing a checkbook for some people elicits a sigh of relief. And there's no doubt that emotional balance is what allows us to experience the joys of life. But now let's talk about balance as it relates to information.

When you look at something in isolation, you can get a distorted view. If you find and focus on a health-promoting aspect of something, any health-damaging aspects that exist can become overlooked. Indeed, if you try, you can take almost anything that would be universally recognized as an unhealthy thing, and find something positive to say about it.

An article on how to get a good night's sleep can include, among the healthy suggestions, the recommendation to drink a glass of warm milk. With what is known about milk today, some people no longer drink it (see health101.org/milk.htm). Why does the article contain the pro (milk can help you sleep), but not the con (contributes to osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer, contains hormones that can upset your hormonal balance, pasteurization can damage nutrients). Wouldn't a tea containing valerian root be a better, healthier suggestion? Why not suggest a healthier alternative that still fills the bill.

And an article that suggests that eating fish helps keep strokes at bay doesn't mention the health-damaging aspects of fish (PCBs, mercury). And since most fish is cooked, the healthful omega-3 fatty acids are damaged in the process. So even though the fish oil may indeed make blood less sticky and therefore less likely to clog blood vessels, on balance, is fish such a good thing to eat? Isn't there a healthier alternative that can help prevent strokes without the negative aspects of fish? Sure there is, but by not including that information in the article, and by not mentioning the unhealthy aspects of cooked fish, the article isn't balanced.

And yes, drinking wine has been shown to improve cardiovascular function. But the news stories that tout this don't mention the health-damaging aspects of alcoholic beverages, which, on balance, make it a poor choice for maintaining a healthy heart and arteries (and by-the-way, it's the red in wine that's healthy, not the alcohol). Isn't there a healthier alternative that still provides the same benefit without the harm? Sure there is (red grapes and anything red). But you don't hear about it in that news piece.

What can you do about unbalanced information? If you don't see pros and cons mentioned, or, where health is concerned, healthier alternatives, then there may be information you're not getting. Important information. Information you need to make an informed decision... a decision that's in your best interest.

So don't focus on just the good or just the bad, focus on looking at something on balance; all things considered. In most cases this will require further research. Yes, that's time consuming, but, on balance, aren't you worth it?

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