by MEGAN BRINKWORTH '16
Pseudoscience by definition is “a collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method.” In actuality these practices are not based in factual scientific evidence but rather in biased trials and questionable results. Even if you’ve never heard of this term before, pseudoscience affects each of us in daily life. It shapes our beliefs and ways of thinking; most tragically, it influences us to believe what is false to be true.
The industry possibly most corrupted by this false science is the nutrition industry. Food companies, especially those that promote weight loss, thrive on pseudoscience. A recent lab in my Food and Nutrition Science class revealed that many of the companies Americans rely on betray and deceive them. For example, I investigated Slimfast – a company that prides itself on its participant’s ability to lose a substantial amount of weight by consuming meal replacement shakes and low calorie snacks. In plain sight, there seems to be no harm. But after some digging around I found that the scientific trials conducted that prove Slimfast’s effectiveness were actually paid for and conducted by Slimfast itself. This was a shocking realization to me. No wonder America is struggling with obesity when consumers put their faith in companies that trick them.
But it’s not only the expensive weight loss shakes that could be lying to you. All companies that produce processed foods hide something from consumers in one way or another. The “American” old-fashioned brands that parents buy to feed their family may not be as straightforward as they seem. They advertise and package their product in such a way as to make it convenient and easy for people to buy and eat. But when taking a closer look at the list of ingredients on those Little Debbie cupcakes or can of Coca Cola, there are so many words that are incomprehensible to the average consumer.
If I only came to this realization after taking weeks of a class based in food and nutrition, how would the everyday grocery shopper ever know? That’s why Mrs. Wainscott, Food and Nutrition Science teacher, feels that “it is worth looking into all the preservatives and ingredients we don’t recognize” when we see them on food labels.
Fortunately, there are resources readily available to anyone who’s looking for a little guidance. The documentary titled Fed Up showcases the reality of the food industry and the processed foods that have invaded our lives.
Another resource filled with useful information is Food & Nutrition Magazine published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, where they practice the science of applying knowledge in food and nutrition to improve and maintain good health. While reading and watching videos is certainly educational, the best thing to do is eat what you know. Even if you’re not looking to lose weight it’s best to avoid the foods in the grocery that bombard you with claims. The foods that are the most important to your health don’t need labels and fancy claims. Emma Krug, senior and co-leader of the Food and Nutrition Club at SUA, thinks that “it is important for consumers to look into the brands they purchase and the foods they eat because, while it can be tempting to choose the faster and more convenient option, people need to consider what foods will guarantee them a healthier lifestyle and not harm their overall well-being.” It has been proved over and over again that making changes in lifestyle and eating habits will lead to the most success in weight loss and increase overall happiness.
In fact, in a 2014 study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, participants who made one small change in their food choices and/or physical activity each week lost more than twice as much belly fat, 2 ½ more inches of their waistlines, and about 4 times more weight over a 4 month program, compared to those who followed traditional calorie-restriction and physical-activity guidelines.
While it’s important to know what you eat, not all companies are looking to make a profit at the expense of their consumers’ health. There will always be resources to aid you in sorting out the good and honest brands from the not so good ones. But next time you or a parent goes grocery shopping it may be good to think twice about the foods you buy because you might not know what’s hiding from you.