Nutrition Myths: Discard Pronto
On the occasion of the national Men’s Health Month in June, this two-part series on Nutrition Myths will introduce the most common food choice faux-pas and nutrition architecture fables held by everyone today.
There is no denying that a lot of what the civil society at large, with the best tools at its disposal ¾namely, scientific enlightenment, research, Internet and the era of widespread social communication, and the best intelligence ever achieved by humankind¾ has accomplished in nutritional knowledge, development and improvement is a boon for you, for us all.
However, we all know well that a host of self-appointed gurus, charlatans really, and oftentimes their commercial hubs acting as counterparts, have worked hard on the bylines to bring confusion or right-out lies to the question of diet and nutrition. Heck, sometimes there is no spurious intent: modern journalism in the age of social media, with its growing constraints on capturing the reader’s, listener’s or viewer’s attention, even for a few minutes, has oversimplified the science as relayed in catchy, yet simplistic and misleading headlines or lead paragraphs.
Here are a few of the facts, the myths and the real nutritional science behind them; you would be wise to discard them as soon as possible.
Supermyths, Superplacebos, and yes… Supersales
- Superfoods. Superfruits. Powerfoods. Powergrains. Top-10 foods. There is a host of synonyms.
- Believe It Or Not… the term ‘superfood’ dates back to 1915 according to leading English dictionary Merriam Webster’s.
- The first known use of superfood, as we understand it today, appears to have been in a Canadian newspaper in 1949: it exalted the purported nutritional benefits of a muffin!!!
- Superfood is a non-regulated, non-medical term that the media and society have made omnipresent when referring to foods with health promoting properties and high levels of beneficial nutrients and compounds, such as antioxidants, fiber or fatty acids, to name a few.
- Their claim to fame goes from preventing, reducing the risk of or healing disease ¾magic cures for cancer, cardiovascular conditions, even depression¾ promoting weight loss, lowering cholesterol, etc.
- As such, it is deemed a marketing ruse to sell specific foodstuffs, one that appeals more to people’s emotional health. According to cancer Research UK, the term “superfood is really just a marketing tool, with little or no scientific basis to it.”
- In 2007, the European Union banned the marketing of products as superfoods unless its specific, authorized health claim was backed by credible scientific research.
- Major regulatory bodies, such as the US FDA and the Department of Agriculture, or the European Food Safety Authority, have no official definition for superfoods.
- Leading nutrition experts, dietitians, and scientists, along with a variety of national institutes and organizations in the Western world, have repeatedly stated that the dietary, nutritional and, of course, health claims of superfoods and its many derivatives are not scientifically proven and actively dispute their validity. Catherine Collins, Chief Dietitian at London’s St. George’s Hospital, goes further, stating that the term could be harmful. “There are so many wrong ideas about superfoods that I don't know where best to begin to dismantle the whole concept.”
- The Boom. Economic Stats.
- Superfruit product launches grew 67% between 2007–2008.
- Exotic specie superfuits totaled 10,000 new product introductions in 2007–2008.
- Açaí, Noni, Goji, Mangosteen, Seabuckthorn… all soared magnificently between 2005-2010, but declined severely from 2010-2013.
- Pomegranate-based products grew exponentially, up to 400% between 2005-2007, a figure which surpassed benefits made during the previous 6 years, and then remained constant for the next 7 years.
- One of the earliest success stories was Tahitian Noni, earning billions of dollars selling noni juice during its first ten years of operations, beginning in 1996. Similarly XanGo, a multifruit juice including Mangosteen went from billing $40 million in 2002 to $200 million three years later.
- Between 2011 and 2015 the number of products containing the terms superfood, Superfruit or supergrain has doubled
To be continued.
In the next entry, look out for the information gathered concerning a long list of these superfoods, to complement and expand on these data. To top it off, the article will not focus solely on superfoods, but on Nutrition Myths that have to do with attitudes, behaviors or commonly held beliefs that have no basis on reality.