Have you ever cut out a whole food group purely to lose weight? (not talking about ethical or medical reasons). Or started a diet that promised rapid weight loss? Or perhaps you’ve been wondering about detox-diets, alkaline diets and juicing.
If you have, join the club. Like millions of others, I also used to experiment with fad-diets and was a sucker for many of the pseudoscientific claims. What’s wrong with trying it, right?
Wrong. Some of these fads can have real harmful effects. And I had to actually study nutrition science to know this.
It upsets me that some people are willing to bend truths just to get money or attention (or both).
But what’s the harm?
- Nobody likes having wool pulled over their eyes. We have a right to make informed choices based on real evidence.
- Best case scenario, you only waste your hard-earned money on a useless product.
- Worst case, you might actually do long-term damage to your health or start cultivating an unhealthy relationship with food.
- Some studies may sound plausible because they contain elements of truth, but research may have only been performed on animals (which have very different physiology compared to humans), on study samples so small that it can’t be inferred to the general population, or only in short-term studies, thus neglecting to take into account possible long-term side-effects.
So how do you know if someone is trying to dupe you?
The Food and Nutrition Science Alliance (FANSA) gives these 10 red flags to spot junk science:
- Claims that promise a quick fix
- Lists of “good” and “bad” foods
- Endorsements made to help sell a product
- Statements that sound too good to be true
- Fear-mongering around single foods or products
- Simplistic conclusions made from a complex study
- Dramatic statements that are disproved by reputable scientific orgs
- Recommendations made from studies that are not peer-reviewed
- Advice that ignores differences between individuals
We can do our part by not sharing articles without making an effort to verify it. And if we can’t or are unsure about it, we shouldn’t pass it on.
Note: Science is forever evolving and what is true today may change tomorrow. Ask an objective, qualified expert if in doubt.