As an OMIT (Old Man in Training is an acronym I just now made up. I think it’s pretty cool, but then, I’m an Old Man in Training), I am increasingly concerned about my health. Overall, I’m pretty healthy, at least I think so. My health care plan is quite simple: if I never go to the doctor, I’ll never know if anything is wrong with me. As an OMIT, I know I should visit my doctor at least once a year for a physical, but physicals for OMITs include an invasive procedure that involves fingers going where fingers are not meant to go. If you know what I’m talking about, your sphincter just tightened involuntarily.
Anyway, aside from avoiding the doctor, I do take some “proactive” steps towards remaining reasonably healthy. I take some daily supplements to keep myself well oiled (for more substantial lubrication, I prefer beer). After a great deal of research, some months ago I settled on taking a daily supplement of omega-3 fatty acids, in the form of fish oil capsules. According to virtually everything I’ve read, omega-3 fatty acids are wonderful, despite the combination of the words “fatty” and “acids”, two things I would think most people try to avoid. Omega-3 is supposed to lower elevated triglyceride levels (I don’t know what triglyceride levels are, but if something should be lowered, I’m guessing it’s best to have them lowered), ward off or lessen depression, curb stiffness and joint pain, and possibly protect against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. As an OMIT, all of these things are a concern to me, so I figure investing in a little omega-3 can’t do me any harm, and can possibly do me a lot of good.
But wait! The most recent edition of Esquire magazine had one of those articles that magazines these day love to run, headlined How Not To Die. A part of the article, called The Supplemented Life, discussed which of the 65,000 vitamins and supplements a man should take to possibly prevent nasty stuff like heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, prostate/or and colon cancer. It also listed some things you shouldn’t waste your money on, and guess what’s on that list?
Yep. Fish-oil pills.
The article quoted an authority as saying: “New data on fish-oil and omega-3 show they don’t give any substantial benefits to health. To get omega-3 fatty acids and help protect against heart disease, add to servings a week of fish to your diet. You can’t just pop a pill and get what you need.”
Well, then, what’s the point? If you can’t get what you need by popping a pill, then the whole reason for supplements goes out the window. That’s why we have pills, isn’t it?
The same article, remarkably, suggested that men take a multivitamin, particularly one of those products aimed at OMITS like myself, such as Centrum Silver.The story says multivitamins help prevent lung and colon cancer. Again, this goes against most everything I’ve read about multivitamins, which are regularly decried as a waste of money. The thinking goes that if you eat properly, you’ll have no need for a multivitamin. Now I’m being told to take a multivitamin, and skip the fish oil.
So, what to do now? I’m tempted to just say screw the supplements. The thing about supplements is that you can never conclusively say whether they do any good. If you don’t develop heart problems or Alzheimer’s or cancer, you can’t credit you daily dose of fish oil because, well, you might just have been one of those people who doesn’t get heart problems or Alzheimer’s or cancer.
I will, however, continue with my one other supplement that I take, or more accurately, luxuriate in: dark chocolate.
In case you haven’t heard this, prepare to have your mind blown. Dark chocolate, specifically chocolate with at least 70 per cent cocoa, is actually good for you. Dark chocolate (not milk chocolate or ‘chocolately’ flavoring) contains fibre, iron, magnesium, copper and even manganese, which is something I assume you need. It is an excellent course of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium. The fatty acid profile of cocoa and dark chocolate is excellent; the fats are mostly saturated and monounsaturated, with small amounts of polyunsaturates. It may also lower your blood pressure, and your risk of cardiovascular disease. The key is not to take too much. Eating a whole bar of dark chocolate a day may give you loads of manganese, but it will also cause you to balloon to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day float size.
The bottom line is that one or two squares a day of dark chocolate (minimum 70 per cent cocoa) is good for you. And if Esquire or any other publication tells me otherwise, that’s when I’ll give it up. And by that, I mean reading.