When was the last time you got through a day without scrolling past – or even stopping on and reading – a headline making food claims about this one miracle ingredient? Or, on the other hand, about this one demonized ingredient? Media headlines absolutely love to point the finger at single things as the solution to or cause of all our problems. I’m so tired of it that I feel like my head is going to explode. So, instead of ranting at a wall or at my screens, I’ve decided to rant here. You’re welcome.
Single Food Claims Should Be Taken with a Grain of Salt
The types of food claims I’m talking about are the ones that say that blueberries are better than the best vision supplements for eye health and will make sure you’ll always have 20/20 vision. Who hasn’t seen the claims saying that bananas are the cause of obesity? They drive me out of my mind.
Food claims surrounding “superfoods” are particularly obnoxious to me. The reason is that while yes, there is a lot of research going on and indeed there are studies that suggest that a certain ingredient can be helpful as a part of an overall nutritious and balanced diet for achieving certain desirable outcomes, the research is never intended to create the headlines newspapers, magazines, and bloggers create about them.
Before you call me out on it, yes, I have fallen victim to it before and I have talked about the benefits of certain individual ingredients. That said, my intention was never to seem as though I was recommending one specific ingredient to cure a health problem.
I do understand why these headlines are made. It’s hard to get people to click these days. You need to say something that will stand out and make someone want to read more. When it comes to food claims, the truth and hard facts aren’t nearly as click inducing as something snappier and with a bigger problem-solving promise.
Take a Closer Look at the Studies
Another challenge associated with those food claims is that the studies themselves aren’t written in a way that makes them easy to understand. You typically need to have a lot of medical knowledge to decipher them.
The important thing to remember is that researchers nearly never make the kind of food claims that are associated with the studies they publish. The reason is that while a media title can easily state that one ingredient will produce a string of benefits – or one big one – that would be nearly impossible to actually prove.
It would require researchers to hold a study in which they keep subjects – human beings – healthy, and yet still feed them exclusively one ingredient. They would need to do this for long enough to study the impact on vision, weight, or whatever other outcome they want to discover. Obviously, that’s impossible, so that’s why single food claims made about studies are dubious at best. Remember that nutrition is complex, and healthy outcomes require you to eat nutritious foods on the whole and to practice other healthy habits like regular exercise, good sleep, and stress control.