By Cara Rosebloom The Washington Post
Sep 2, 2018 at 10:27 AM Sep 2, 2018 at 10:27 AM
Promotions for fat-burning foods and immune-boosting ingredients sound promising, but they‘re often lies.
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 exposed in a video from McGill University‘s Office for Science and Society that went viral last month. Jonathan Jarry, who made the video, says that flashy marketing accompanied by cool music, enticing fonts and pleasing images are very effective tools of persuasion. Most people haven‘t been taught to critically assess that information.
Here are four scientific-sounding claims to watch out for:
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.
And then there‘s the multitude of online articles that list the “best fat-burning foods” and highlight random items such as oatmeal, chicken and yogurt. Sure, these foods can be part of a balanced diet, but there‘s absolutely no evidence that they magically make your fat cells shrink away. No food, beverage or supplement can do that.
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 and Immunology at Nationwide Children‘s Hospital.
Enjoy a healthy diet for proper immune health, but don‘t expect any superfoods to give you a true immune boost.
Acid-neutralizing alkaline water
The claim: Because it‘s less acidic than tap water and contains more minerals, proponents believe alkaline water can neutralize 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, my favorite, 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 neutralize the alkalinity. It‘s pseudoscience, pure and simple,” says Jarry, though alkaline water will probably quench your thirst.
If you want to make alkaline water at home, a water filter costs anywhere from $400 to $1,500. Science says: Save your money and drink plain old water instead.
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.
In nutrition textbooks, sugar is divided into two types: natural sugars, such as those found in fruit; and added sugars, such as honey, syrup and white sugar. Here‘s the trick: Companies take real fruit, concentrate it into a pulp or puree, and then use it to sweeten foods. Because it comes from fruit, food labeling laws allow the sweetener to be called natural, and the claim “no added sugar” is permissible, even though the fruit is basically processed into sugar or syrup.
If a food package says “no added sugar,” look at the ingredient list. If you see fruit pulp, concentrate or puree, that‘s sugar. Now check the item‘s Nutrition Facts panel. You may be shocked to find that your “no added sugar” juice or candy has 40 grams (10 teaspoons) of “natural” sugar per serving. Anything with that much sugar is not healthy to consume in a single serving.
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.