Gerald P Murphy masthead

The Challenge of Promoting Health
in a U-Shaped World

When it comes to health, people like to think of things in terms of "good" or "bad". Is vitamin E good for me? Is exercise good for me? The perception that is pervasive among the public is that, when it comes to “good things”, more is better. However, a growing body of scientific evidence suggests that this is just not how biology works. The benefit of adding more and more of a “good thing” doesn't keep going up and up. The world is U-shaped – from pomegranates to Perry Como records – too much can be as bad as too little. The ancient philosopher Aristotle taught: “Seek the golden middle.” Not enough people listened. Today, our work is exposing the deep-rooted metaphor “more is better” as a significant obstacle to communicating the interventions that really can promote health. If our goal is successful aging, we must learn to think U-shaped.