Spinning the Truth: Dietary components are more gray than black and white.

It’s full-swing political season, and most people are familiar with the idea of “spin”. Well, this happens in health research too. A recent review on the topic determined that when spin is used in the study’s press release, it carries through to the news outlet that publishes the “result” of the study. Of the 70 studies with press releases, and the 41 news reports based on them, half of all press releases and news reports that follow contained spin! (To spin that, we could say half of what you read contains spin, or misinformation) In many cases, my goal here is to help you get through the spin, the misinformation and disinformation, and determine what the research study really concluded, or if it may be flawed. My goal in the end is to help you understand what and how to eat in a reasonable, livable fashion, that will help keep you healthy.

Skeptics may think “I don’t believe any of it!” and lose faith in medical research; but we must believe that there’s good research going on out there, and that even flawed studies result in conclusions that can lead to better studies and effective solutions or treatments to better health. Rather than losing all faith in the process, make an effort to do your own research, and not believe every result that is published. Try to keep a balance point of view, examining all sides of an issue. It’s also important to keep in mind who your source is. Many (but not all) times “alternative” sources have an agenda, and do not truly understand the issue, the problem, nor the process of clinical trials. Look for reputable, peer-reviewed sources and not agenda-based sorts. The FDA offers sound tips to help you spot fraud.

I continue to see a disturbing trend that favors quackery over professional opinions. We see this in all industries, not just food and nutrition. For instance, people who are worried about the environment question the information they receive from the gas and oil industry, just as people worried about food safety question information that comes from a food company or the food industry. There seems to be an underlying paranoia that the “industry” must be covering up the facts, as opposed to the idea that they employ highly qualified people who have access to the most research and the latest information on their own topic of expertise. Why is it people automatically think a company is going to mislead them about the facts that pertain specifically to their own industry or their own products? While many folks simply feel that “industry is greedy”, there are many companies that are truly passionate about doing the right thing and providing safe products that people want.

For example, the Corn Refiner’s Association has taken a beating over high fructose corn syrup over the past several years. You may know that I am a consultant to the industry and work with them to help them deliver the facts about high fructose corn syrup. In my opinion, every industry should have the right to defend itself when it is being unfairly blamed or when blatant misinformation (scare tactics are used, or severe conclusions are drawn) is printed. The industry itself simply knows more about it’s product or service than anyone else on the outside looking in. This is their area of expertise! Sure, companies need to sell products or services to maintain their business, but do you truly think that all industries aim to do so without any regard to safety? In this age of transparency, the risk of outright lying would not only be treading in dangerous waters, but plain stupid.

So I ask that you chew the facts about food and nutrition news, or any news, that you read and hear about. Think analytically, and seek out more information than simply one news report. Ask questions and see all sides of an issue before you decide that something is simply “bad” or “good”. In the field of food and nutrition, there is rarely anything that’s so black and white.

 

 

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