5 Fake News Stories about Food

February 29, 2020
In recent years there have been lots of fake news stories about food and nutrition. Some attribute miraculous properties to food and others are overly alarming. Learn more about them in this article.

Fake news stories are appearing more and more frequently. Thanks to social media and the internet, there is an avalanche of information that we can access today. Therefore, fake news about food is also becoming more and more common.

The theme of nutrition accounts for more than half (54%) of the fake news stories discovered by doctors who have participated in the Study on Fake News in Health.

Overall, they consider fake news about food to be stories that are exaggerated either in a good or bad sense. This happens when the benefit associated with a single food exceeds that which is healthy.

Here, we’ll tackle 5 fake news stories about food that you should know!

Five common fake news stories about food

A publication in Nutrition Today suggests that we should make educational efforts to help consumers recognize the scientific misinformation that is disclosed regarding nutrition. The goal is for everyone to be more aware of false statements about “nutritional cures,”  “miraculous foods,” and “alarming reports.”

Let’s have a look at some of the most popular fake news stories.

1. Does burnt toast cause cancer?

Acrylamide, a compound classified by the International Association of Cancer Registries, is formed in burned bread. This is also indeed likely to be a carcinogen for humans.

However, for this substance to appear the food must have reduced sugars and amino acids (primarily asparagine) and be cooked at temperatures above 120°C. Therefore, it’s not always present.

Meanwhile, this is not exclusive to bread. It can also be the case with potatoes, croquettes, pastries, coffee, breakfast cereals, and more. The European Food Safety Authority expressed its concern in 2015 about acrylamide exposure levels through diet.

Although high amounts have to be consumed for it to be a health risk, it is advisable to reduce acrylamide. You shouldn’t cook foods above 170°C and the foods can acquire a toasted color, but shouldn’t be dark brown.

Fake news stories about food
Burned foods release a substance known as acrylamide. Although large quantities would have to be eaten to expose their dangers, it’s best to avoid eating burnt food.

2. Can I drink whole milk if I’m on a diet?

Is opting for skimmed milk varieties when following a diet for weight loss still good advice?

After all, the intention was to reduce the number of calories and fat without taking into account other aspects of the food. However, current scientific evidence seems to state the opposite, as we see in this article published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Furthermore, the European Guidelines for Obesity Management in Adults even include among their recommendations replacing low-fat dairy with whole dairy as an obesity management strategy.

Read also: NutriScore: The new nutritional labeling

3. Is lemon water cleansing?

This new fake news story is false. It isn’t purifying and nor do we need it to be.

In fact, we have three organs in the body that are already responsible for “cleansing”: the liver, kidney, and lungs. Lemon is rich in citric acid, an antioxidant that acts as a pH buffer. This could be where this false belief was born. 

However, there’s no such thing as a truly cleansing food!

4. Is it fattening to eat fruit after meals?

Different fruits have variable caloric intakes. However, the caloric intake of fruit is always the same, whether consumed before, during or after a meal. There’s no scientific evidence to suggest that the caloric intake of fruit may vary depending on when it’s eaten.

Also, evidence suggests that it’s easier to lose weight with high consumption of fruit and vegetables. This article supports this further. In fact, one of the possible ways in which fruit and vegetables can contribute to weight loss is their potential effect on satiety.

Fake news stories about food
There is no evidence to suggest that the caloric intake of fruits varies according to the time they’re eaten. In fact, studies have determined that fruit consumption can help contribute to weight loss.

5. Does eating five times a day speed up your metabolism?

This idea arises from the fact that, when you eat, you spend energy to digest and break down food into all its components. This is the thermogenic effect of food.

However, it turns out that the calories used in digestion are more or less proportional to the volume of food eaten and the type of macronutrients. Therefore, if we consume a diet of 2,000 kcal in one day, it typically doesn’t matter if it comes in 3 meals or 5, because the thermogenic effect will be the same.

The Journal of Nutrition published a study in which the authors concluded that there is no solid scientific evidence to support that increasing the frequency of meals is positive for weight loss.

Discover: 9 diets not recommended by nutritionists

Conclusion

There are many fake news stories related to food other than the ones we’ve discussed. Therefore, it’s best to get the advice of certified nutrition professionals. This way, we can avoid adopting false beliefs that could even damage our health.

  • EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM). “Scientific opinion on acrylamide in food.” EFSA Journal 13.6 (2015): 4104.
  • Guyenet, Stephan Jagger. “Impact of whole, fresh fruit consumption on energy intake and adiposity: a systematic review.” Frontiers in nutrition 6 (2019): 66.
  • Leidy, Heather J., and Wayne W. Campbell. “The effect of eating frequency on appetite control and food intake: brief synopsis of controlled feeding studies.” The Journal of nutrition 141.1 (2010): 154-157.
  • Rautiainen, Susanne, et al. “Dairy consumption in association with weight change and risk of becoming overweight or obese in middle-aged and older women: a prospective cohort study.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 103.4 (2016): 979-988.