Are the overhyped superfoods, thanks to skewed research, actually distracting you from eating a varied diet, the very basis of healthy eating? Find out more in this article from New York Post!
Your favorite health foods are seriously overrated.
Take it from NYU nutrition professor and scholar Marion Nestle, who’s spent decades blowing the lid off studies paid for by food trade groups and companies — from the Sugar Research Foundation to the Hass Avocado Board — which fund research into supposed “superfoods” with health benefits.
“By an amazing coincidence,” says Nestle sarcastically, “all of the research supports benefits. You name the food, its trade group is sponsoring research. It’s about marketing, not science, which diverts scientists from working on bigger problems.”
Such studies are the focus of Nestle’s forthcoming book, “Buying Nutrition Science: How Food Industry Sponsorship Skews Research and Harms Public Health” (Basic Books, 2018). Here’s a look at some of the most overrated foods on her radar.
Plenty of good research supports that the fats in avocado help lower bad cholesterol when substituted for unhealthier fats, but Nestle is troubled by research funded by trade groups such as Hass Avocado Board that link avocado consumption to better diet quality, satiety, and energy. Promoting avocado as the ultimate superfood distracts people from seeking a diverse diet, Nestle says.
“The whole point of eating healthy is that you have a varied diet with a lot of different foods,” she says.
A spokeswoman for the Hass Avocado Board says that its “third-party researchers follow a science-based, ethical approach in [their] research to ensure sound, unbiased results.”
In her writing, Nestle points to ad campaigns paid for by Pom Wonderful that tout pomegranate juice’s benefits to prostate health. That ad referenced a UCLA study in which even the authors were dubious of the role the juice played in their subjects’ health. A 2015 Federal Trade Commission judgment found that Pom marketers made deceptive claims — including about prostate health, cardiovascular health, and erectile dysfunction.
Nestle says, “The message is that Pom’s drinks are superfoods, never mind the sugar.”
In response to Nestle’s claims, Steven Clark, spokesman for Wonderful Company (the parent company of Pom) says the firm stands by its efforts to “publicly convey valuable information about the health benefits of Pom, as well as the $40 million we have committed to scientific research exploring the potential benefits of this amazing fresh fruit.”
According to Nestle, blueberries aren’t as outstanding as they’re often made out to be.
“They have higher levels of some antioxidants than other fruits, but other fruits are higher in other [antioxidants],” she says. “[All] fruits have hundreds of antioxidants — hardly any of them studied.”
Nestle notes that the US Highbush Blueberry Council funded part of a study last year that linked eating dried blueberries every day with cognitive function — but, however true it may be, linking any single food to a dietary benefit leads many consumers to believe there’s a silver bullet for their health concerns, Nestle says.
A council spokeswoman says it does fund research on the health effects of blueberries “as part of a healthy eating pattern,” and that it uses “sound science … conducted by independent researchers at well-established institutions.”
Exciting-sounding studies hype dark chocolate as being a good source of antioxidants that improve heart health and brain function — but most of those studies are based on pure dark chocolate, which no one actually eats because it would be too bitter, Nestle says.
Candy-maker Mars Inc. has funded studies such as one published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2015, which linked a nutrient in cocoa beans, cocoa flavanols, to lower blood pressure and increased blood vessel function.
A company spokesman denies that Mars Inc. confuses consumers into thinking processed chocolate bars are the same as cocoa flavanols.
Nestle the nutrition professor begs to differ: “The implication — never stated explicitly, but they don’t have to — is that [dark] chocolate promotes heart health.”