The “resolution” rush is upon us and health food and supplement folks are dusting off their slick posters, comfort words, and all too often, magical nonsense.
The first quarter of the year is an advertising heyday for radio, newspapers and magazines, television, Internet, and emails offering answers to new resolutions regarding weight loss and health. In the fray are both science-based professionals and marketing-motivated commentators. This makes it difficult for the average person to make an intelligent decision.
Unfortunately the best marketers know all about marketing but little about nutrition. Therefore there’s always way more nutritional nonsense being drummed into the consciousness of the average consumer than useful science. Nutritional science is boring and it recommends significant changes which are really difficult to market. Therefore peer-reviewed nutritional science is often ignored, taken out of context, or used piecemeal.
Professional website marketers can create beautiful sites with scores of articles crafted by professional ghost writers who rework articles written by other ghost writers. This causes a flood of articles all parroting nearly the same line using the same proven keywords. The shear number of these articles increases their perceived credibility regardless of whether or not their recommendations pass scientific scrutiny. Many of the articles go viral, adding to their acceptance, and are then used in newspapers, magazines, videos, radio, and television which tends to cement their legitimacy even more.
The most popular articles prove their value by creating sales across a broad range of products. That generally means they do not follow the “dos and don’ts” recommended by nutritional science. When incremental change is preferred over big change, even competing mediums will use the articles of others if the articles support their general advertisers. Unfortunately, when it comes to improving the average American’s health through diet, only big changes will do.
Adding to the confusion are the food skeptics. They see no correlation between what people eat and their physical and mental health. They trash both myths and science by mocking everything related to diet. And of course, they have really fertile fields with examples from prior myths or poorly crafted, discredited science which gives their opinions credibility. Everyone can point to some conflicting advice they’ve heard.
Because the vast majority of Americans are suffering from obesity and chronic diseases, every year many make diet-related resolutions hoping to change their lives for the better. Most never resolve to study nutrition and biology or become knowledgeable consumers. They just want simple solutions that seem plausible and won’t make them look ridiculous when they tell their friends what they’re doing. These folks are most receptive to meaningless marketing recommendations that do not inhibit their social lives, habits, addictions, and traditions.
The most popular health hoax for food selection is to eat “organic.” Organic ignores food nutrition and safety because it implies all non-organic foods are laden with poison. Avoid the poison by eating organic and you’ll be healthy. That advice ignores reality:
▸ the natural chemistry of each food item is the primary cause of health and disease
▸ most food contaminants are natural and organic
▸ there are legal limits for levels of detectable agricultural applications both conventional and organic that are proven to be safe
Many other hoaxes are also very popular with nearly cult-like followings. Easily in the current top ten list is GMO scaremongering. For millions of years man has eaten virtually every known gene type from many tens of thousands of different foods. Most living plants and animals have billions of base pairs in their genetic makeups. For over 10,000 years man has been selecting for genetic mutations in all of his domesticated plants and animals. Consequently, modern plants and animals differ from their genetic roots. Genes, a form of protein, are digestible in acid-bath stomachs. Unfortunately the science of GMO is far beyond the layman’s understanding which makes him an easy target for GMO critics who promote their products with fear.
Also popular on the current myth list is that “gluten free” is better for you. Gluten, from wheat, barley, rye, and oats, only impacts a small number of people. But the natural chemistry of both gluten and gluten-free grains is high glycemic, nutrient lite, with highly skewed essential fats. This is known to destroy the health of most people over time. That’s why all grains should be avoided, not just those containing gluten.
Other common myths include:
▸ red meat is bad for you
▸ eat low fat and lean
▸ grass-fed livestock harms the planet
▸ fruit and nuts are healthy food staples
▸ chronic diseases are caused by Big Business choices
▸ drink alkaline water
▸ eat certain foods or take particular supplements because they are high in some magical nutrient
Supplements are popular because they are simple “solutions.” None of them are total answers or magic bullets. Yet some supplements are helpful although research indicates most of them are not as good at providing nutrients as are foods possessing diverse and dense nutrient structures. A big problem with supplements is that mankind’s nutrient requirements for optimal health is very complex. In some cases the balance of nutrients is critical. That begs the question, “What does one measure in order to achieve a full spectrum of nutrients and a proper balance of essential nutrients when using supplements?”
All of the myths have their cult followings. The facts debunking the myths are readily available if one seeks them out. But most folks making resolutions prefer to join the crowds that follow the slick marketers and scaremongers rather than look behind the curtains and sort out the actual truths. That’s why The Real Diet of Man is not universally known. That’s why the prevalence of chronic diseases and the cost of treating those diseases goes up year after year. This is why I am so critical of many health food messengers.
If one resolves to focus on his diet for health and well-being, the best way is to develop a thorough understanding of the body’s nutrient needs. Nutritional scientists agree that the best foods for doing that are those that are low glycemic, nutrient diverse and dense, with evenly balanced essential fatty acids (Omega-6 to Omega-3 being 1:1.) These foods are wild-caught seafood, grass-fed and Omega-3 meats, and green leafy vegetables. This is a radical departure from the typical American diet. You will not find this advice in the information mainstream. Unfortunately, even when seeking advice outside the mainstream, all too often you can end up a victim of myths. Marketers know the keywords that resonant best for generating sales and they use them even when their intended meaning has no bearing on nutrition.
There are many credible people who talk solid nutritional science and actually practice what they preach. Unfortunately, there are also too many very clever marketers that do not. They are hypocrites that only want your money.
January 1, 2016