‘Fat-burn­ing’ foods and other sci­en­tific-sound­ing trick­ery

The Borneo Post - Nature and health - - Diet - By Cara Rosen­bloom

WOULD you like to kick-start your me­tab­o­lism and strengthen your im­mu­nity to dis­eases? Just eat fat-burn­ing foods with im­mune-boost­ing in­gre­di­ents, and drink al­ka­line wa­ter. Ac­tu­ally, that whole para­graph, and its very con­cept, is a lie. But it sounds promis­ing -- and fa­mil­iar -- doesn’t it? It’s com­mon for mar­keters to ex­ag­ger­ate claims to en­tice us to buy prod­ucts. And we be­lieve much of what we read when it sounds sci­en­tific and plau­si­ble.

This prac­tice is bril­liantly ex­posed in a video from McGill Univer­sity’s Of­fice for Science and So­ci­ety (OSS) that has gone vi­ral. Jonathan Jarry, science com­mu­ni­ca­tor at the OSS (and the per­son who made the video), says that flashy mar­ket­ing ac­com­pa­nied by cool mu­sic, en­tic­ing fonts and pleas­ing images are very ef­fec­tive tools of per­sua­sion.

“Many peo­ple be­lieve what they see be­cause the pack­ag­ing is con­vinc­ing” Jarry says. “Our ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion has ex­ploded since the de­vel­op­ment of the In­ter­net, but most of us have never been taught how to crit­i­cally as­sess this in­for­ma­tion.” And the truth is, lots of “in­for­ma­tion” is junk. Don’t fall for sci­en­tific-sound­ing claims or nu­tri­tional trick­ery. Here are examples to be aware of.

‘Fat-burn­ing’ foods

The claim: Cer­tain foods rev up me­tab­o­lism and cause heat in­side the body, which helps you lose weight as fat mirac­u­lously burns away. The re­al­ity: Stud­ies show that cap­saicin in hot pep­pers does have some ef­fect on in­ter­nal tem­per­a­ture and me­tab­o­lism, but it’s min­i­mal. Hot pep­pers can­not solve the obe­sity epi­demic, but many mar­keters ex­ag­ger­ate and twist the claims into flashy and en­tic­ing ads that sug­gest oth­er­wise.

‘Im­mune-boost­ing’ foods

The claim: Foods with vi­ta­mins or an­tiox­i­dants can strengthen your im­mune sys­tem and leave you more re­sis­tant to dis­ease. The re­al­ity: Any food that is part of a healthy diet will pro­mote good over­all health, which helps the im­mune sys­tem func­tion op­ti­mally, ex­plains David Stukus, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor in the Di­vi­sion of Al­lergy & Im­munol­ogy at Na­tion­wide Children’s Hos­pi­tal in Ohio.

“Claims that in­di­vid­ual foods can ‘boost im­mu­nity’ are gen­er­ally un­founded and ex­trap­o­lated from re­search in lab an­i­mals or as­so­ci­a­tion data that does not demon­strate any true cause-and-ef­fect re­la­tion­ship,” Stukus says.

Acid-neu­tral­is­ing al­ka­line wa­ter

The claim: Be­cause it’s less acidic than tap wa­ter and con­tains more min­er­als, pro­po­nents be­lieve al­ka­line wa­ter can neu­tralise the acid in your blood and lead to bet­ter health. Web­site sales pitches claim al­ka­line wa­ter can help you lose weight, avoid di­a­betes, live longer, fight can­cer and boost your im­mune sys­tem.

The re­al­ity: “For al­ka­line wa­ter to work, it would have to over­come a very strong pro­tec­tive mech­a­nism that we all have: Our blood is al­ways kept within a very strict pH range. Drink­ing al­ka­line wa­ter won’t change that, es­pe­cially since our stom­ach’s acid will neu­tralise the alka- lin­ity. It’s pseu­do­science, pure and sim­ple,” says Jarry, though al­ka­line wa­ter will prob­a­bly quench your thirst.

No added sugar

The claim: Pack­ages of sweet foods made with fruit say they have “no added sugar.” The re­al­ity: Fruit can be turned into sugar dur­ing pro­cess­ing, and it’s easy to con­sume too much. If a food pack­age says “no added sugar,” look at the in­gre­di­ent list. If you see fruit pulp, con­cen­trate or puree, that’s sugar!

The bot­tom line is buyer be­ware. “If some­one out there is of­fer­ing a mir­a­cle cure or other treat­ment that sounds too good to be true, then it is,” Stukus says. – Wash­ing­ton Post/ Rosen­bloom, a reg­is­tered di­eti­cian, is pres­i­dent of Words to Eat By, a nu­tri­tion com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany

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