Healthy or Hyped? The Truth About Fad Foods

fad food

When health benefits are touted for a specific food, check who’s making the claims. The food industry finances a lot of research, some of it biased.

Here’s some information from an article from Prevention magazine:

Let’s take our friendly avocado. Avocado is having a moment. Once avoided by health conscious eaters because of its high fat content, the creamy super fruit is now being whipped into smoothies, spread on toast, an churned into ice cream. Fueling the trend are studies that highlight avocados’ high levels of beneficial fats and potassium, as well as links to improvements in heart health, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and even-despite the high calorie count- weight loss. The source of funding for much of this research? The Hass Avocado Board, a California based collective of importers and growers who’s mission it is to promote the fruit.

For decades food industry organizations have supplied substantial amounts of cash to fund research. For instance, juice maker Pom Wonderful has reportedly spent $35 million on pomegranate research, sparking countless news articles and advertisements hailing the fruit’s high antioxidant content and other health benefits. (in 2010, the Federal Trade Commission issued a formal complaint against the company, saying many of its health claims were overblown.) Last year, Ocean Spray said it would commit $10 million to exploring cranberries’ antimicrobial properties.

The food industry’s deep pockets can be helpful for getting research conducted that otherwise wouldn’t be done– as long as the scientists carrying out the studies operate responsibly. If the researcher themselves can stay unbiased, there’s always a benefit to having more information.

But beware of bias. Upon a review of 168 industry funded nutrition studies, it was discovered that 156 of them drew conclusions favorable to their sponsors. There may be a rare case where a company is motivated by improving the public’s health, but overall, the purpose of this research is marketing.

Consumers can do their part in weeding out the good science from the potentially bad. If a nutrition study comes out with an incredible and implausible result, the first question should be “who paid for it?” If the answer is a company with a vested interest in the outcome of the study, be skeptical.

There’s a lot of small things you can change in your life to be healthier, both in mind and body. Check out some of these other posts for a good health boost:

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