You’re bound to read at least one news article about food a day, and that article will probably either be about how a food is now considered bad for you or how a formally bad food is now considered good. But there are so many food facts out there that more often than not it’s impossible for people to keep up. We’ve complied some of the more disturbing ones that might cause you a couple sleepless nights.
10. Weight Loss Products Will Only Make Your Wallet Lighter
Everyone wants to lose weight, and there are many products that claim to help. Just walk into any supermarket and you’ll find a huge range of goods promising easy and fast weight loss. But they’re useless — they’re all made by big food producers that are also responsible for the horrible sugar and fat-ridden processed foods that made you fat in the first place.
First, the rapid weight loss they promise can be dangerous for your health by causing an increased risk of gallstones, changes in blood pressure and low blood sugar levels. In addition, rapid weight loss is usually followed by rapid weight gain, which will put you right back on your diet. This repeat business is where weight loss companies get most of their profits from. A much healthier way to lose weight is by increasing physical activity and otherwise eating normally, but in smaller portions and with less fat.
Apart from the risks involved in rapid weight loss, these products have another major drawback — they almost never work. Why would they? Slimfast is owned by Unilever, the same company that owns several ice cream brands and countless other unhealthy foods. That’s hardly a corporation concerned with your weight or health. And it’s already been proven that diets almost never work, as two-thirds of dieters will put more weight back on than they lost.
9. What You Know About BMI and a Healthy Weight is False
Most people know a healthy BMI is between 20 and 25. But the 25 mark was decided on in 1997, when a report led to the first World Health Organization expert consultation on obesity. This report stated that obesity was an “epidemic,” and it lowered the bar for being overweight from 27 to 25. This obviously created an enormous market for the pharmaceutical sector, because if there’s an epidemic there must be an illness, and if there’s an illness there’s drugs to sell. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the report was funded by major drug manufacturers. The research leader, James Philips, actually received around 1,000,000 British pounds from these corporations.
With the lowering of the healthy BMI ceiling, a large group of people who used to be considered healthy were now suddenly overweight. This massively increased the drug industry’s potential market. A BMI of under 25 can actually be dangerous for older people, who should aim to be around 27 for a healthy weight.
8. Low-Fat Dairy Drinks are Not as Good as They Look
There’s roughly eight bazillion low-fat dairy drinks on the market. Some claim to improve your digestive tract, while others claim to have benefits such as added vitamins. But they have a dark side — they’re simply not that good for you. In October 2013, a case was reported where a woman in her 40s who drank five low-fat dairy drinks a day gained roughly 40 pounds in six months and suffered a heart attack. This was caused by the huge amounts of sugar in her drinks. According to the woman’s cardiologist, every drink contained 15 teaspoons of sugar.
While that’s an extreme example, low-fat dairy products are connected to obesity, while high-fat dairy actually helps prevent obesity and does not cause cardiovascular disease, like many people believe.
7. Fruits and Vegetables Can Lead to Disease
Fruits and vegetables are among the healthiest foods out there, right? Correct — at least for heart and artery disease. For other diseases, like cancer, they have little to no impact. Fruits and vegetables are hardly the Holy Grail in healthy eating, just another part of a balanced diet.
It doesn’t end there though, as fruits and vegetables can actually carry risks. As of 2006, tens of thousands of people around the world had fallen ill thanks to microbiological diseases that made their home on fresh produce. In the United States, 15 deaths have even occurred as a result. According to the same study, in at least 50 countries contaminated waste water is used to irrigate crops, which causes more disease and risk.
6. You’re Drinking Fish With Your Beer
Every time you drink a beer it’s more than likely that you’re consuming fish gel too. Gross, right? The fish gel, also referred to as isinglass, is used to aid in mixing yeast in beer to help it keep clumped. It’s also widely used in the clarification of wine. This gel is obtained from the bladders of dead fish and is used to hasten the clarification process, since beer and wine can clear naturally on their own. It’s used mostly with beers, and is also used to filter yeast that settles at the bottom of kegs, cans and bottles.
5. Superfoods Are Nonsense
Grocery stores around the world fill their shelves with so-called superfoods that promise anything from a lower blood pressure to protection against free radicals. Although some of these products are healthy, there’s no such thing as a superfood. The European Union has even gone so far as to ban the term from packaging.
The truth is that most superfoods do contain healthy bits like anti-oxidants that advertisers claim they have, but not nearly to the same degree. The tests that “prove” a food is super tend to use much larger portions than you can realistically eat. And usually at least part of the research is funded by big food corporations trying to sell more of their expensive superfoods, such as Nestlé funding research into the health benefits of chocolate. For example, one study commissioned by Nestlé was very limited, with only a small number of participants and a run time of only two weeks.
4. Coffee Can Be Lethal
Coffee is a holy nectar that gets us all going in the morning, but it isn’t nearly as harmless as it seems. First, there’s a fairly common genetic mutation in humans that slows down caffeine breakdown. Coffee increases the risk of heart disease in people who have this mutation.
Furthermore, drinking coffee while pregnant is associated with health risks for both mother and child. Unfiltered coffee (such as espresso) causes an increase in cholesterol. Another nasty side effect of coffee is its caffeine content. Not only can this cause sleeplessness, trembling, stress, hallucinations and an irregular heartbeat, but a caffeine overdose can kill you. It sounds absurd, but caffeine overdoses are relatively common in the United States. With fast medical help it doesn’t have to be lethal, but it does require extensive blood work, oxygen administration, charcoal cleansing, and other medical procedures that can be physically, mentally and financially exhausting.
3. Margarine Is Worse Than Butter
Over the last few decades margarine has become a household product, replacing “unhealthy” butter. However, new research has shown that saturated fat in butter is not the cause of heart disease. The claim that saturated fat is bad for your heart comes from one study in the 1970s, which found a link between saturated fat consumption and heart disease. However, it was unable to prove that saturated fat was the actual cause.
Nonetheless, this lead to an increase in margarine consumption, which in turn caused an increase in heart disease. Margarine tends to be rich in sugar, and according to many doctors and the American Heart Association sugar is much, much worse for you than fat, even saturated fat. Margarine is also often high in trans-fat, which is even worse than sugar. Although many governments are forcing manufacturers to remove trans-fats, it pays to read the label before you buy.
2. Sugar Is Everywhere
Sugar is everywhere. You can find it in cookies, frozen meals, spreads, sauces, dips, beverages, snacks, candy… even in supposedly healthy low-fat yogurt. And it’s as bad for you as smoking or drinking alcohol. With a steadily increasing number of obese adults and children consuming kilos of sugar every year, the health risks and health-care costs are skyrocketing. Scientists have warned sugar is actually addictive, to the point where cocaine-addicted rats chose sugar over cocaine. A decade long-study over 175 countries shows that increasing sugar intake makes people 11 times as likely to get type two diabetes.
Besides diabetes, sugar poses the threat of heart disease. Even if you aren’t overweight, the more sugar you eat the greater your risk of death by heart disease gets. If you get 25% or more of your daily calories from sugar you’re twice as likely to die from heart disease, regardless of all other factors.
1. Light, Diet and Low-Fat Products Are No Better Than Their Original Counterparts
Alternatives to sugar are common, but these are often just as bad or even worse than the original product. For example, British supermarket chain Tesco sells a store brand low-fat yogurt which contains 130 calories, while Activia full-fat yogurt contains 123. With those numbers there’s really no use in going light.
Besides the minimal calorie difference, there are other, more worrying aspects to diet foods. For instance, artificial sweetener Acesulfame-K has been found to impair learning in mice, and the study recommended further research as this may also happen in humans. Another common sweetener, aspartame, is broken down in the body to form phenylalanine. While claims of aspartame causing cancer have never been proven, phenylalanine is definitely harmful. Among other things it causes high blood pressure, headaches, dizziness and appetite suppression. It’s not recommended for pregnant women, as it may have an influence on the unborn baby’s mental development and can cause premature birth. People who suffer from high blood pressure or who take anti-depressants should also stay away from it.