The Oreo Cookie Therapy: Beats Statins for Some

As a public health scientist, it is part of my job to tell people what is healthy and what isn’t. Whether they want to hear it or not. At least, that’s what I thought.

It’s so ingrained in my mental wiring that I never questioned the sense of condensing science into those ubiquitous “Do this, Don’t do that” messages. I’m not the only one. Whether it’s the American Heart Association’s Life’s Essential 8 or your favorite health guru’s Takeaways, you can’t escape those ‘dos and don’ts’. Now I do question their sense and purpose.

I came to realize that we, the authors, might be wedded to a fantasy—the fantasy that our health messages matter.

If you suspect now that I have gone into a state of disillusion, depression, or dementia, fear not. My journey to this insight was as hilarious as it was invigorating. And it led to a solution that you might prefer to the stern dos and don’ts.

It all started when the study of Oreo biscuit therapy landed on my desk [1].

Screenshot created by Dr. Lutz E. Kraushaar

You’ll probably wonder how Oreos, the epitome of ultra-processed food, could have even been considered an experimental intervention. Did the researchers smoke something funny when they conceived that idea? I’ll get to that in a moment.

Once I read this study, I had to digest its wider implications. One of the dietitians’ favourite villains just turned super-hero. That raised three fundamental questions:

  1. What have we achieved with our health messages so far?
  2. Are our health messages’ as incontrovertible as we pretend them to be?
  3. Should I have an Oreo cookie now?

Number three was easy to settle. Not to sully my image as a healthy role model, I kept no Oreo cookies on standby. What I do keep around is a fine red wine (so much about the image). I like to consult with a glass of it when impactful questions need to be pondered. Remember, even the Romans knew “in vino veritas”, and as a scientist, veritas is my North Star.

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