Would you like to kick-start your metabolism and strengthen your immunity to diseases? Just eat fat-burning foods with immune-boosting ingredients and drink alkaline water.
Actually, that whole paragraph is bunk. But it sounds promising — and familiar — doesn’t it? It’s common for marketers to exaggerate claims to entice us to buy products. And we believe much of what we read when it sounds scientific and plausible.
This practice is exposed in a video from McGill University’s Office for Science and Society. Jonathan Jarry, a science communicator who made the video, warns people not to fall for scientific-sounding claims or nutritional trickery.
Here are four examples to be aware of:
The claim: Certain foods rev up metabolism and cause heat inside the body, which helps you lose weight as fat miraculously burns away.
The reality: Studies show that capsaicin in hot peppers does have some effect on internal temperature and metabolism, but it’s minimal. Websites that sell capsaicin supplements lead people to believe that these pills can aid in weight loss, no matter your diet or exercise level. That’s not true.
And then there’s the multitude of online articles that list the “best fat-burning foods” and highlight items such as oatmeal, chicken and yogurt. Sure, these foods can be part of a balanced diet, but there’s no evidence that they magically make your fat cells shrink away. No food, beverage or supplement can do that.
The claim: Foods with vitamins or antioxidants can strengthen your immune system and leave you more resistant to disease.
The reality: Any food that is part of a healthy diet will promote good overall health, which helps the immune system function optimally, explained Dr. David Stukus, an associate professor in the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio.
“Claims that individual foods can ‘boost immunity’ are generally unfounded and extrapolated from research in lab animals or association data that does not demonstrate any true cause-and-effect relationship,” Stukus said.
Acid-neutralizing alkaline water
The claim: Proponents believe that because it’s less acidic than tap water and contains more minerals, alkaline water can neutralize the acid in your blood and lead to better health.
The reality: “For alkaline water to work as advertised,” said Jarry, “it would have to overcome a very strong protective mechanism that we all have: Our blood is always kept within a very strict pH range. Drinking alkaline water won’t change that, especially since our stomach’s acid will neutralize the alkalinity. It’s pseudoscience, pure and simple.”
No added sugar
The claim: Packages of sweet foods made with fruit say they are healthier because they have “no added sugar.”
The reality: Companies take fruit, concentrate it into a pulp or purée and then use it to sweeten foods. Because the sweetener comes from fruit, food labeling laws allow it to be called “natural” and the claim “no added sugar” is permissible, even though the fruit is basically processed into sugar or syrup. Look at a packaged food’s ingredient list. If it says fruit pulp, concentrate or purée, that’s sugar. Now check the item’s Nutrition Facts panel. You may be shocked to find that your “no added sugar” juice or candy has 40 grams (10 teaspoons) of “natural” sugar per serving. Anything with that much sugar is not healthful to consume in a single serving.