Thursday, July 14, 2005

False Dichotomy & Red Herrings

Philosopher and author Ayn Rand had a keen eye for the "false dichotomy"- that is, an argument with the "missing middle."

This is best understood as an argument that offers two choices and requires that you pick one of them. This happens when there may be other alternatives left unsaid which would undermine the original argument. In the false dichotomy the alternatives are strictly limited to black-and-white so that when one choice is discredited, the reader is forced to accept the other choice.

For example, in the article "How Sweet it Is" [], a false dichotomy is presented to readers about sugar consumption - by allowing yourself a little bit of sugar, you can keep your cravings at bay and keep your diet from backfiring.

When trying to lose weight, no one wants to fail and, let's admit it, it's difficult to restrict the foods you enjoy most - sweets. The author presents a dilemma to any dieter - all or nothing when it comes to sugar in your diet - and clearly seeks to convince the reader that eliminating sugar is the wrong choice.

To convince the reader that restricting sugar dooms you to failure, the author continues by including an "expert" opinion in the mix - Rachel Brandeis, an Atlanta dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, agrees. "I wouldn't say sugar is something we should avoid," she says. "We shouldn't be on a hunt to eliminate sugar altogether. ... Low-carb fad diets have played a role in this phobic fear of carbohydrates. And that's not healthy."

In one sentence, readers are presented with authoritative information from an "expert" who says that:

  • Sugar is not something to avoid
  • We shouldn't eliminate sugar altogether
  • Low-Carb diets are a fad
  • Low-Carb diets create a phobia about sugar
  • Low-Carb diets are unhealthy

Now that's pretty convincing!

But this is not an adequate argument, the choice favored - in this instance, including added sugars in your diet - must be supported by evidence.

Alas, no evidence exists that suggests anyone will be harmed by eliminating added sugar! So, instead of facts, we are presented with a false dichotomy supported by red herrings and opinions. All in an effort to convince you that eliminating added sugar from your daily diet is not only unwise, but is unhealthy and will lead to weight-loss failure in the long-term!

Here are the facts:

Need and want are two different things in life:

  • No one needs added sugar in their diet
  • No one needs high fructose corn syrup [HFCS] in their diet

Facts about added sugars:

  • Added sugar is "empty calories" - calories that bring no essential nutrients that your body needs with them
  • Added "empty calorie" sugars crowd out nutrient-dense calories in the diet
  • Nations with the lowest consumption of added sugar have the lowest rates of obesity
  • Consumption of high fructose corn syrup raises triglycerides in the blood
  • Research studies show that those who consume the most added sugar in their diet are at the greatest risk for overweight and obesity

Reasons to consider restricting or eliminating added sugars in your diet include:

  • Within one to two weeks of eliminating added sugars in the diet, cravings for added sugars are significantly diminished or completely gone
  • Sugar casues an increase in blood sugar which stimulates insulin release, which in turn inhibits fat burning hormones
  • High insulin levels promote fat storage in the body
  • A diet that includes added sugars stimulates the appetite for more food and increases the risk one will eat too many calories

The unstated alternatives to added sugars in your diet include:

  • Many vegetables are naturally sweet and include essential nutrients
  • Most fruits are naturally sweet and include essential nutrients
  • Artificial sweeteners provide an alternative to sugar for those who choose to use them
  • Some choose natural sugars instead of artificial sweeteners - honey, blackstrap molasses, unrefined brown evaporated cane - all provide some essential nutrients with sweetness
  • Stevia is a natural herb that is sweet and used in many countries as a sweetener in foods
  • Supplementation with L-Glutamine has been shown in studies to diminish or eliminate cravings for sugar

I encourage you to develop a keen eye for the "false dichotomy" used in the diet debates and use your critical thinking skills to uncover the alternatives that are always left unsaid - they're often your best choice!

No comments:

Post a Comment