Common medical myths

Here are some common myths that I run in to in my practice on a daily basis.

Myth #1: Bananas are one of the best sources of potassium. Bananas contain about 440mg of potassium per banana whereas avocados contain 1,360mg! I give my patients a handout of the best foods for potassium and avocados, tomatoes, legumes and sardines are the top four I recommend. Bananas are a food that I caution against eating too much of because of the high glycemic index. Dried fruit, high in potassium would also fall into this category, so it is best to get your potassium sources from vegetables. Often I will supplement potassium in those whose blood levels are 3.5 to 4.0mmol/L.

Myth #2: Taking one to two 1,000mg capsules of omega 3,6,9 or fish oil will give adequate dosages of EPA and DHA.

The most important omega 3 essential fatty acids are EPA and DHA and I recommend these in dosages of 3,000mg per day. Most capsules are marketed as 1,000mg by weight, not by dosages so check the label carefully. I find that taking Carlson’s cod liver oil by the tablespoon is the most economical way of getting these dosages.

Myth #3: All supplements are created equal.

Thorne Research is a professional nutritional company that has repeatedly demonstrated to our profession the difference that quality control makes to measure viability and purity. They don’t use any flowing or binding agents in their products which very few companies can assure. This quality control increases the cost of production so cheaper may not be better. I encourage patients to look for vegetarian capsules and powders rather than tablets that have too many binders and fillers.

Myth #4: All fish oils taste fishy. Recently we ran out of Carlson’s cod liver oil which forced us to try another reputable brand. We found that even though the quality was excellent it still tasted fishy. Carlson’s is the best cod liver oil on the market. The purification process removes dioxins, PCB’s and mercury and provides a fresh flavour. Carlson’s will start to taste fishy if left open in the fridge for more than three months indicating it is rancid.  If people burp up a fishy taste later in the day after consumption, this is due to imbalances in the digestive tract which I try and address to alleviate this problem.

Myth #5: Some vitamins have an increased risk associated with them.

In the media there are reports, often on a daily basis, about some latest research that creates fear about taking a certain vitamin or herb. I have written rebuttals about most of these claims that I keep on my website and I direct  my patients to read them. Most of the research can hardly be called research. The incidence of serious outcomes associated with vitamins are less than .01 per cent. Prescription drugs taken as prescribed in hospitals are the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S and Canada, after cancer, heart disease and strokes. They cause about 10,000 deaths a year in Canada and about 106,000 deaths a year and over two million serious injuries in the U.S. (Source: Lazarou et al JAMA Vol. 279 No. 15 pp.1200-1205 Incidence of Adverse Drug Reactions in Hospitalized Patients). As many as another 10,000 deaths a year in Canada are thought to occur outside hospitals due to the wrong drug, dosage errors, and adverse reactions (Source: Dr. Joel Lexchin, Associate Professor, School of Health Policy and Management, York University, Emergency Physician, University Health Network, and Associate Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont.).

Myth#6: Echinacea should not be taken long term or in autoimmune disease.

Not all Echinacea is created equal either! The professional one I use is Echinacea Premium from Mediherb that contains only the root of Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea angustifolia. Echinacea Premium is safe to take all year round, to not only reduce the incidence of colds and flus in your household, but also to improve immunity by raising natural killer cells’ numbers and activity. It is the flowers and upper parts of Echinacea that should not be taken year round. The alkyamides are the most bioavailable of the active constituents of Echinacea, according to Kerry Bone, Master Herbalist, who has taken Echinacea Premium daily for over 20 years, and these modulate the immune response acting as an adaptogen. The caution for Echinacea in autoimmunity was based on theoretical grounds and clinically is found in fact to be helpful.


Dr. Ingrid Pincott, naturopathic physician, has been practicing since 1985 and can be reached at 250-286-3655 or where all of her articles are archived since 1999.

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