(See meme above)
Alright. Now that you had a formal introduction, let’s get down to it.
There’s so much misinformation (formally called quackery) out on the internet, TV (*cough* Dr. Oz *cough*), you can’t escape it! However, that doesn’t mean you have to become a victim of it either. According to the American Dietetic Association, there are 3 major types of misinformation-read: bullshit-out on the interwebz and other places.
- Food Fads
- Health Fraud
- Misdirected claims¹
Keep in mind, there may be only 3 overarching types, but these problems take many different forms. So today, we’re going to define these three types of misinformation-read: bullshit-and discuss some of the ways you can protect yourself from falling victim to the snake oil salesman.
“Food fads involve unreasonable or exaggerated beliefs that eating (or not eating) specific foods, nutrient supplements, or combinations of certain foods may cure disease, convey special health benefits, or offer quick weight loss”¹
That’s taken straight from The ADA’s position stand on misinformation-read:bullshit. Here’s my definition: “Food fads derive from a zealot who believes that their way is the only way to eat, live, etc., and you’re wrong and an idiot if you think or do differently.” You see this a lot in politics too on either side, unfortunately. Food fads are perpetuated because a group of people for whatever reason think the whole world needs to do what they do or they’re going to get cancer, toxins, whatever. You mostly see food fads in the guise of diets (keto, vegan, paleo, etc.).
Let me get one thing straight: I don’t have a problem-nor do I care how you eat-with any of these diets. As I discussed in a previous article, diets of many types have all been shown to be effective. That includes fad diets. Often, the basis of the diet isn’t bad. Take paleo for example: more whole, unprocessed foods like nuts, seeds, meats, vegetables, etc. Doesn’t that sound like what the government has been telling us for years? It’s because this diet CAN be healthy and sustainable. BUT the problem arises when a cult-like following of pompous assholes tries to push their ideals on other people (sound like politics yet?).
Bottom line: Food fads can take many forms, but the basis of each is that there is a magical food, diet, supplement, workout routine, etc. that will give you all of these health benefits that sound amazing (“melt away body fat!” comes to mind).
One note: Sometimes, people fall victim to, or create, a food fad because they truly believe it works. Maybe it did work for them! But, that’s not strong enough evidence to say everyone should do it. If this occurs, be sure to kindly help the person understand that their way isn’t the cure-all for everything and to allow people to eat/live however they want to live.
Health fraud and food fads often overlap, because often, the person pushing the food fad has a financial gain to make from the person buying their supplement, meal plan, food guide, etc¹.
Here’s an example: What the Health. There are many a “credible sources” in that documentary who stand to benefit financially from more people going vegan because they sell vegan meal guides, recipe books, and other vegan-related products. Especially with that documentary, a lot of the information presented is either just straight up wrong or misleading and an example of cherry-picking information (more on that later, don’t let me forget).
The documentary frames veganism as the panacea to all ailments. But it’s not true. Vegan diets are fine if you enjoy it, but they don’t cure cancer.
Health frauds know their product-diet, supplement, what have you-either doesn’t work at all, or hasn’t been shown to work with scientific and peer-reviewed data¹; but they market it as though it does work and produces AMAZING results that normal food, your doctor, or other supplements can’t replicate. SO I HAVE TO GET IT, RIGHT??? No, silly reader, you don’t.
These are annoying. A good example of this is slapping the “A gluten-free food” sticker on a bag of pre-cooked broccoli. WELL NO SHIT IT’S GLUTEN-FREE STUPID IT’S A VEGETABLE. Misdirected claims aim to mislead the consumer into thinking their product is healthy or produces some type of health benefit when really it’s just a cousin of health fraud¹.
Going back to my broccoli example, of course broccoli is gluten-free, however, what they don’t mention is that that broccoli was cooked with a ton of butter and salt for taste. Well now you get broccoli, which normally has a very small amount of protein and carbs, that has a bunch of fat and sodium. The “healthiness” of the broccoli has been negated by the high sodium and ton of saturated fat. FYI: Butter and salt can be a healthy component to a diet in moderation. I’m not demonizing butter. But thank God it’s gluten-free right?? Now I can enjoy my hypertensive broccoli knowing there’s no gluten in it!
To reiterate: Misdrected claims do exactly that: they direct your attention to the wrong idea or something unimportant.
“How do I know what’s BS and what’s not?”
Fear not, dear reader, all of this and more will be explained next week. I’m giving you some homework. As you scroll through your social media or webpages, try to identify misinformation-read: bullshit-in your everyday feeds. You’ll be surprised on what you find.
Next week, we’ll go over how to identify BS and stay safe from all the misinformation-read: bullshit. Thanks for reading!