Cris LaBossiere

Cris LaBossiere
Strength training and mountain biking. My two favorites

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fake health food claims

CBC Marketplace, a TV series that investigates shoddy shake down artists and false marketing claims, has turned their focus once again on food companies.

In the February 13, 2015 episode of CBC's Marketplace, popular foods with suggestions of health on the label are investigated, revealing the true nature of their ingredients.

From fruit roll-ups that have only 10% of your daily vitamin C needs, carrot bread that has only 6% of your vitamin A, to misleading serving sizes, Marketplace shows us just how misleading food labeling can be.  For the record a medium carrot has 204% of the daily value for vitamin A, and you can easily get 100% of your vitamin C for the day from either an orange, some broccoli, half a green pepper, a few strawberries.

Where does that vitamin C in the fruit roll-up come from?  Fruit maybe?  Reading the ingredient list I see vitamin C is added, so.. not from fruit. Strawberry fruit roll-ups don't list strawberries anywhere on the ingredient list. It does have pears from concentrate, so there is fruit in there..

Fruit roll-ups are not anywhere near being even somewhat equivalent to fruit.  They are a concentrated sugar source with dismal nutrient density.   Flavoured sugar.

From phoney yoga pushers, supplement pushers, to food companies telling you their sugar and salt is health food, we are inundated with lies and misdirection, and we get sucked in, nearly every time.

We want health food that tastes like candy. We want our fitness delivered either by a magical mystic or a boot camp militant, or we'll trade off between the two, presuming we're getting the best of both.

Why are we so gullible?

Part of it is being conditioned by the relentless marketing.   A few years ago Nutella was sued for false advertising.. their health claims weren't true, but ask most people who eat Nutella and they'll tell you they think they're getting good tasting healthy chocolate nuts.  They believed the marketing hype.   Marketplace investigates Nutella in their post-lawsuit era, showing that they're up to the same tricks, just worded a little differently.

Here's my original post on Nutella being sued in 2012

Same thing with supplements.  Would you buy a product that said, "useless pill that does nothing" on the label? While I believe that some people actually would buy that, most would not, but that's what you're getting when you buy performance supplements.

When you're looking for "that extra edge" for making gains from exercise, most people will at least be intrigued by a label that say's, "Increase your power with super oxygenator", and goes on to describe how the pill has special ingredients that deliver oxygen to your muscles, and makes you go faster.

The trouble is, there are no magic ingredients that make muscles take up more oxygen and make you go faster, but many sure want to believe it.

We have a supply and demand system where consumers want unrealistically good things, and companies who understand consumer psychology who are willing to tell you what you want to hear.

Part of it comes from the consumer wanting the very promise of hope that is targeted at them.

The desire for unrealistic outcomes has to be pretty strong, because selling snake oil is nothing new, and the problem gets worse every year.  Despite having the knowledge of the snake oil style of scamming, most people will wait in line to get ripped off, and immerse themselves in the culture of the scam, forming a symbiotic relationship where their dependency on wishful thinking is fulfilled by those selling false hope.

People congregate in yoga classes convinced they are aligning their chakras with cosmic geometry, or at least that they'll achieve some little piece of health nirvana from their mysterious and wise leader that they give their money and time to.

The yoga teacher tells you how you're going to feel, and wouldn't you know it.. people in the class claim that is exactly how they felt.

When you buy and consume foods with health food claims, you're doing that because there is some sense that you might benefit in some way, you want the promise of health to be true.

Same with the supplements.  You get 10 people on the same supplement and you're likely to find that most of the 10 will support each others perception that the pill is working for them.  Thats herd mentality, and it's very convincing.  It's a form of confirmation bias.  You want to believe something, and will find ways to perceive things in a way that supports the belief.. including feeling comforted by others who share the same distorted perception.

Eat whole foods, mostly plants, sleep well, exercise smart, understand your deeper emotional motivators that can trip you up and lead you to these fakers.

It can be disconcerting to have our perceptions challenged, especially if we're invested in them, but what if it's a well orchestrated ploy?  I'm not talking about an abstract, edgy conspiracy theory, that's for the tabloids.  I'm talking about commonly exposed fakery like misleading food labels, false health claims, and false exercise claims.

If you've been buying a supplement for the past few years that you've sworn by, but really you've been sucked in and it's all been power of suggestion, placebo, and your own wishful thinking clouding your judgment, it can be pretty unnerving to face that.

If you've bought into the pseudo-caring presentation of a yoga scammer who's been telling you they're aligning your inner power when really you're being indoctrinated into a cult (yes, it really can get that bad); that can be pretty tough to see and walk away from.

It's even harder to walk away when the seller you're buying from has been fooled themselves, and they believe in the deception.  This makes it harder to see the lie, because the seller actually believes in what they're doing.  I've met supplement sellers, trainers, health food sellers, and yoga instructors who have been completely bamboozled themselves, and they really believe they can help people with their spurious claims.. only.. they think their claims are factual.  These folks really do care about helping you, but their genuine caring has been hijacked by the very promise of hope they're selling. Because what they're selling is fake, they can't actually help anyone, but through indoctrination, placebo, and cognitive illusions like confirmation bias, they are aloof to the whole ordeal. That's a real clustermuck to overcome.

Your inner strength isn't going to come from some enigmatic source.. it comes from you taking the time to learn about what healthy eating and exercise is all about.  It will come from developing a more realistic sense of self where delayed gratification has more power than instant gratification, and where you feel comfortable and confident in verifiable facts, rather than spurious claims targeted at your sensibilities.

Sellers of hype need to be held accountable within our laws, but that isn't going to happen anytime soon.  Don't hold your breath.

Instead, find your own accountability and avoid things that seem too good to be true, or that sell overly hopeful outcomes.

It turns out, that you can have the better health, the lower stress, better performance, and get all the healthy nutrients you need, from never buying into any of the hype, and taking the time to do it right.

Do this, and you'll feel good for real.. instead of faking out yourself and buying into the hype.

CBC Marketplace "Food Fiction" episode 

More posts on this subject

Results from taking creatine for one year

Does caffeine increase performance?

Drugs found in health supplements

Research debunks yoga 

Sodium information on nutrition labels misleading

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