Nutrition Myths People Still Believe

By Jack Gayer

There are many nutrition myths everyone believes in. Seeing is believing and when we are exposed to
ideas over and over again, we believe they must be true. This is also known as the illusory truth effect.
Here are a couple of successful marketing ideas that have been posing as sound nutrition advice for years.

Myth #1: Intermittent fasting is a scientifically proven way to help you lose weight and improve your overall health

Intermittent fasting (eating within a narrow time window) is constantly thrown out as a life-changing way
of eating. Ultra-fit celebrities such as Terry Crews swear by it. Science-y websites even tout its benefits
with a heavy dose of medical jargon—seemingly boosting its credibility. From livescience.com:

So how does it work? When the body goes into ‘starvation’ mode during a fast, due to lower
glucose levels, it starts a homeostatic process known as autophagy, the body’s way of cleaning out
damaged cells to regenerate newer, healthier ones.

However, intermittent fasting is not the cure-all many health sites promote it as. Toni Marinucci, a
registered dietitian nutritionist, says what’s happening is people are losing weight from calorie restriction
and that it takes longer than a day for the body to enter starvation mode. Professor James Betts, Director
of the Centre for Nutrition, Exercise & Metabolism who led a study on intermittent fasting says,
“Intermittent fasting is no magic bullet and the findings of our experiment suggest that there is nothing
special about fasting when compared with more traditional, standard diets people might follow.” Other
nutrition myths everyone believes demonize something essential to everyone’s diet: carbohydrates.

Myth #2: “Carbs” make you fat

Carbs, short for carbohydrates, have been synonymous with unhealthy eating for years. Countless diet
books have promoted low-carb diets and innumerable celebrities have spoken about how they have cut
carbs to exceptional results. What all of these celebrities have in common is that none of them have
medical degrees.

Part of the problem is a poor understanding of carbohydrates themselves. Carbohydrates are a
macronutrient (like fat and protein) that the body needs. Carbs can be found in bread, yes—and other
starches, but they are also found in vegetables and fruit. These are complex carbs (and for the record,
many types of bread are also in this category). Simple carbs are often found in the form of various types
of sugar.

One popular version of a low-carb diet is the keto diet. Here’s what the Mayo Clinic says about it: “While
the research is exciting, there’s very little evidence to show that this type of eating is effective—or safe—over the long term for anything other than epilepsy.”

There is the fancy psychological term—the illusory truth effect—that explains why there are some
nutrition myths everyone believes. There is also a simpler explanation: Humans like to take shortcuts to
imagine difficult things, like losing weight, can be easier. Fast, simple, and easy are buzzwords because
they sound more attractive than gradual, moderation or results may vary.

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