Suspicious science

If there’s one thing that sets my teeth on edge more than any other, it’s companies/products/individuals making claims without any solid scientific fact or research.

Just last week, my dad (hi dad!) sent me a link to a page he’d found with numerous claims regarding a humble vegetable. Now, there’s no denying that vegetables are good for you. Full of essential vitamins and other nutrients, vegetables should feature in everyone’s diet.

But chopped up, soaked in water overnight and the resulting mush used to cure diabetes? I think not. Apparently, this website claims you will see remarkable results within 2 weeks. Even better, this vegetable soaked in water concoction will also act as a probiotic and give you bouncy hair. Pfft.

I’m not even going to link to the offending website. They’ll receive no traffic from here that’s for sure.

It seems that food vendors are particularly guilty of this brand of suspicious science. Acai berries, pomegranate juice, raw cacao, seaweed, blueberries, sweet potatoes and whole grains have all been touted as magical superfoods. The trouble is, there’s rarely any credible science behind these claims and what little science there is, is often exaggerated or misrepresented.

A fellow medical writer once told me that his golden rule for including or excluding any particular food in/from his diet is simply to look for an ingredients label. If it reads like a shopping list for a chemistry lab, it’s out. Thankfully, the term ‘superfood’ is now banned under EU legislation unless credible research can be shown to prove the claim. Sadly, it hasn’t stopped the marketing of food as a miracle cure for any particular ailment. Marketing has seriously messed up our relationship with food, giving us bigger packs ‘to share’ (yeah, right), promoting immune boosting yoghurt drinks that do little more than rot your teeth or the sugar substitutes that trick your taste buds in a way that sends you in search of even more sugar.

Now, I know some of you might be thinking this is all a bit odd from a writer that specialises in healthcare marketing. But the difference between what I do and what food promoters do is huge. Everything I write for pharmaceutical products is backed up by years of research, randomised clinical trials and must adhere to the UK ABPI code of conduct. No claim can be made that cannot be substantiated by clinical trials in humans. There are no fairytales or fabricated stories.

In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with the humble apple. Unless it’s very red and shiny and has been brought to you in a cottage in the woods by an older lady who has not weathered well. In that case, avoid the apple and run away. Fast.