Food “benefits” are more marketing than medicine

I just came across a great article in the New York Times, Foods With Benefits or So They Say.  I highly recommend you check it out.

We all get that certain foods are healthier for us than others, but most of us wouldn’t confuse a carrot stick with a cholesterol medication.  Well, if Big Food marketers have their way, that’s exactly what we’ll do.

Does Activia improve “intestinal transit time” as it claimed in its commercials that said it was “clinically proven to help regulate your digestive system in two weeks.”  Turns out it doesn’t – even by the lax standards of their own “clinical studies” – and the FDA made them pull the ads.

My kids love Frosted Mini-Wheats, but does it improve their attentiveness by 20% like they claimed?  Um… not that I can see.  But their ad said that “A clinical study showed kids who had a filling breakfast of Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal improved their attentiveness by nearly 20 percent.”  What the ad doesn’t say is that they compared the kids who had Frosted Mini-Wheats to kids who were given only water for breakfast!  Not only is that completely misleading (not to mention a little cruel) but it turns out that only about half of the kids in the “study” were more attentive after eating the frosted Mini-Wheats than they were before they ate them.

Does POM Wonderful pomegranate juice really help you “cheat death” and aid in the treatment of prostate cancer?  Do Rice Krispies boost your immunity?  No, no and no.

This is important stuff.  Don’t be ripped off or fooled by people who are only interested in selling you something.  If you have questions about how to really eat a healthy diet, talk to one of our nutritionists – they’ll give you the honest scoop.

John A. Vaughn, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University