The US and Canadian governments, in their profound wisdom, have failed for decades to impose strict and necessary regulations on the health and wellness industry. Vast numbers of people, exposed to our society's pervasive and ubiquitous marketing machines, get duped by their deceitful, cunning and crafty snake-oil advertising. Exercise scientist at Harbor-UCLA and author of "The Skeptic’s Guide to Sports Science", Dr. Nick Tiller, provides an excellent summary of some of the more common attempts to seduce and hoodwink the otherwise unsuspecting.
"This term was conjured by the advertising industry to describe products that supposedly conferred health benefits owing to their exceptional nutrient densities. There are hundreds of purported superfoods, with blueberries, cranberries, goji berries, chili peppers, garlic, ginger, chia seed, flaxseed, and quinoa most commonly studied in the scientific literature. These products are rarely described as superfoods by expert dietitians and nutrition scientists; however, labeling a product as such increases sales. In fact, the number of products labeled as superfood, superfruit, or supergrain increased by 202 percent from 2011 to 2015. Yet, there is no merit to the term. In 2007, legislation by the European Union prohibited use of superfood in product advertising unless a 'specific and authorized health claim' could elaborate on the product’s benefits. We are still waiting for the evidence, and the term is currently banned in European ads."
"The immune system is a complex series of cells and proteins that become activated in response to bacteria and viruses. Fear about lackluster immunity has been exploited in marketing for decades, but COVID-19 exacerbated the problem. An online commentary by Dr. Mark Crislip stated that 'The immune system, if you are otherwise healthy, cannot be boosted, and doing those things you learned in kindergarten health (reasonable diet, exercise and sleep), will provide the immune system all the boosting or support it needs.'
"Indeed, immunity can be chronically strengthened (not boosted) through good diet, good sleep, and physical activity. Yet, in a study of the top 185 websites returned from a Google search on 'boost immunity,' the most common approaches proposed were diet (77 percent of webpages), fruit (69 percent), vitamins (67 percent), antioxidants (52 percent), probiotics (51 percent), and vitamin C (49 percent): vaccination—the only evidence-based approach for boosting immunity—was ranked 27th in the list (12 percent of webpages)."
"Bioengineered foods are defined as 'Those that contain detectable genetic material that has been modified through certain lab techniques and cannot be created through conventional breeding or found in nature'. However, before the invention of recombinant DNA (rDNA) techniques, our nomadic ancestors would inspect their crop yields and based on the most desired traits, select superior individual plants for continued breeding. As such, GMO-free labeling is a misnomer, because there are scarcely any agricultural foods that have not been genetically modified, be it in nature or in a lab. Yet, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has mandated that 'bioengineered' food is labeled. Countless controlled studies, reviews, and meta-analyses, neatly summarized by the Credible Hulk, agree that GMOs are safe. Numerous concurrent policy statements from an overwhelming number of global science organizations concur (see image at the end of this post)."
"This is one of several words in modern marketing that exploits the 'appeal to nature' informal logical fallacy. The appeal proposes that something that is natural is somehow healthier or better than something unnatural/artificial, but this is to insert meaning into the definition of 'natural' that is not there. Many supplements are made with 'all natural ingredients,' and some foods are portrayed as 'natural alternatives.' The organic food industry, for example, claims efficacy (at least partially) on the basis that organic crops are naturally derived, while the anti-GMO movement is concerned that genetic engineering is unnatural. Other products claim, 'no artificial ingredients.' According to the FDA, artificial ingredients are those that 'are not found in nature and therefore must be synthetically produced as artificial ingredients'. The human preference for natural produce is pervasive, but it is not based on logic or reason."
"Used frequently in ads for foods, cosmetics, and cleaning products, the claim 'free from chemicals' is more rhetoric to exploit the 'appeal to nature' because it is an attempt to capitalize on fear and stigma surrounding artificial ingredients. According to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, chemicals are substances that 'have a defined composition'. This means that all matter—from the food we eat to the clothes we wear, even the very stardust that constitutes our bodies—is made of chemicals. "
"Supplements, recovery shakes, massage therapy, stretching, cryotherapy, ice bathing, among others, all claim to promote faster and more effective recovery. Invoking the term is another type of fallacy called '(definitional) ambiguity.' It is misleading or vague language used to deliberately deceive and/or make a claim easier to defend. For example, the words fast and faster, when applied in the context of human movement, have lucid definitions, such that if a trainer assured you that their exercise program could help you run a 'faster marathon,' you could accept or reject their claim based on the common definition.
"However, 'recovery' has no clear operational definition or even end point. For instance, does 'recovery' include all facets of biological function, or is it specific to the musculoskeletal system? What about recovery of immune function, hydration, or psychological wellbeing? By itself, the term is ambiguous and can be interpreted to serve any number of functions from person to person. When ambiguous wording is used in a claim, the door is left wide open for a definitional retreat when the claim is challenged. By contrast, good science writing is precise and pointed, invoking terms that have common and agreed-upon meanings."
Ten Health and Wellness Buzzwords Every Skeptic Should Know https://skepticalinquirer.org/exclusive/ten-health-and-wellness-buzzwords-every-skeptic-should-know/
Concise Reasons Why 10 Superfoods Are Not So Super http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2016/09/concise-reasons-why-10-superfoods-are.html
Immune System Supplement Scam: Sensational Claims with Zero Evidence https://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2022/10/immune-system-supplement-scam.html
128 Nobel Laureates Support GMOs http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2017/10/128-nobel-laureates-support-precision.html
17 Simple Truths That Make Anti-GMO Alarmists Squirm http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2016/03/17-simple-truths-that-make-anti-gmo.html
Anti-GMO Founder: “I Was Wrong!” http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2016/03/former-anti-gmo-founder-and-activist-i.html
Deadly Nature: Quack Medicine Exposed for Peddling "Natural" As Medicinal https://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2023/06/deadly-nature-quack-medicine-exposed.html
The Dose Makes the Poison: 19 Examples Alarmists Want Hushed http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2017/03/the-dose-makes-poison-19-examples.html
The Dangers and Lies of Traditional Chinese Medicine https://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2023/07/the-dangers-and-lies-of-traditional.html
Health Quackery: 10 Clear & Concise Misleading Ad Examples https://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2023/06/health-quackery-10-clear-concise.html
More Health Quackery: 10 More Clear & Concise Misleading Ad Examples https://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2023/07/more-health-quackery-10-more-clear.html
Consumer Health: 5 Simple Criteria to Avoid Getting Duped https://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2023/06/consumer-health-5-simple-criteria-to.html
14 Simple Ways to Evaluate Potential Health Misinformation https://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2023/04/14-simple-ways-to-evaluate-potential.html
17 Concise Health and Wellness Fallacies Every Consumer Should Know https://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2022/10/17-concise-health-and-wellness.html
Fake Scientists, Fake Degrees & Snake-Oil "Doctors" https://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2022/11/fake-scientists-fake-degrees-snake-oil.html
The Uncomfortable Truth & Harsh Reality of UNCERTAINTY in Medicine https://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2021/09/the-uncomfortable-truth-harsh-reality.html
Stanford Doctor Debunks Eleven Medical Myths https://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2022/08/stanford-doctor-debunks-eleven-medical.html
It’s Complicated! How Apathy Leads to Risky Medical Decisions http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2017/02/its-complicated-how-apathy-leads-to.html
How To Avoid Bad Medical Advice: A Basic Guideline http://www.mybestbuddymedia.com/2016/05/how-to-avoid-bad-medical-advice-basic.html