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Bad Foods…The Myth That Kills

Posted Mar 15 2010 8:52pm

That last one I threw in because I don’t really know why preservatives are so feared.  So much food information is thrown at us that has no merit whatsoever, and it brings a deep, pervasive fear. The fear mongering should be illegal because it is very dangerous–more dangerous than any food could dream of being.  I’ve recently discovered something so startling, I am ready to file a class action lawsuit (with 300 million plaintiffs) on the spreaders of the lies.

Nocebo (opposite of placebo)

Google it–it is a real thing.  I had not heard the term ‘nocebo’ before, but I understood the concept.  In the same way placebos cause a person to feel better (even though there is no physical cause), a nocebo has the opposite effect.  You can actually feel bad (and become truly ill) just because you believe something is bad for you.

I have been perusing Junk Food Science and have found evidence of multiple stories showing the dangers of belief in harm.  One recount is of a town paper informing the community of plans to add floride to the water.  People began calling in saying they felt sick or had headaches, etc., a full two weeks before the floride was added.  A town in France also experienced the effect of the nocebo.  Cell phone towers were erected, and calls began coming in with complaints of physical symptoms.  Again, the towers had yet to be turned on.

So how does this relate to food?  It is pretty easy to see that if you are constantly told the food you eat is killing you, you are going to start feeling pretty sick. People have complained of all sorts of ailments related to food.  There is a huge industry for diagnosing allergies to foods using a blood test (which was deemed by Quack Watch to have no medical value).  People will begin to associate those foods with a response or not eating them with not having the response.  Even if they avoid the foods and still feel bad, they will assume maybe some of the suspects snuck into what they ate.  Common ailments linked to food:

  • stomach aches
  • obesity
  • acne
  • hives
  • cancer
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • heart disease
  • death

If you believe sugar is bad for you (despite the fact it is the body’s fuel: blood sugar), but you eat it…you may live in constant fear of giving yourself diabetes (not possible).  If you believe everything you eat is in some way not good for your body, you may believe you are dying when you are quite healthy.  It is very easy in our culture to think everything you eat is bad for you.

Debunked food ‘facts’:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables are better than frozen (we now know frozen are often more nutrient dense)
  • Saturated fat causes heart disease (studies have now shown no association*)
  • Carbs are good, fats are bad (1990’s)
  • Fats are good, carbs are bad (2000’s)
  • Organic food is far more nutritious than non-organic
  • Cholesterol in food affects blood levels of cholesterol
  • Overweight people eat lots of fast food and ‘junk food’

These common beliefs have been debunked, yet many people still believe them.  Beyond these few beliefs, there are thousands of other myths regarding healthy eating that are continually touted as truth. Be very skeptical of what you read.

It is important for your health to realize what you are eating is nutritious. Every food in existence has some kind of nutritional benefit. I remember as a newbie dietitian thinking about things being ‘empty calories’ or ‘junk food’.  These are oxymorons–calories are nutrition.  Calories all come from either carbohydrate, fat or protein–and our body needs all three of these macronutrients to be healthy.  Vitamins and minerals are great, but it is the macronutrients that keep you alive and functioning.

In America, no matter what you eat, you will likely be getting your needs met for vitamins and minerals. So many of our staple foods are enriched with vitamins and minerals.  You would have to make an effort to not meet your needs. However, I have seen many clients who were not getting enough fats or carbohydrates.  This is largely due to the misinformation about their benefits.

One of the most important things you can do for your health is to legalize food .  It is not bad food that will kill you… it is believing there is such a thing as bad food that will kill you.


*World Health Organization, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Archives of Internal Medicine.


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