“Miracle Cure!” Health Fraud Scams (https://www.flickr.com/photos/fdaphotos/8528312890/)
On Monday, I got to go along to the Applied Science 3rd year nutrition presentations. Here, students identify a food product that has been advertised in the media, and see if there’s misleading information in there about the nutritional value of the food.
It’s part of my job to be able to try to understand these things- what we call (rather enticingly) information literacy. It’s what you’re doing when you check the source of that crazy-sounding thing your friend shared on Facebook, to find that the source is as crackpot as the story. Information literacy is the ability to tell good information from bad, and we go on about it a lot at CPIT library because it’s important for your study. But it’s also a critical skill for living a healthy, successful life in the modern world, and I was pleased to see how well the Nutrition students could pick apart the advertising. Their tutor, Nick Kimber, agrees: “Being aware of misleading and sensationalised nutrition information in the media can help the public navigate their way through the minefield of myths and fallacies that are encountered on a daily basis.”
We heard about milk products, muesli bars, sugar free chocolate, bread, fruit juices, and fad diets, often with considerable showmanship. I was particularly impressed that the students didn’t conclude with screaming rants about how awful or wonderful this or that product might be. They laid out the claims made in the advertising, looked at the nutritional labels, and critically outlined the gaps between the claims and reality.
I learned that I am not being as virtuous as I thought when drinking fruit juice. The students taught me the difference between sucrose, fructose and glucose (thanks guys!), and that soy protein isn’t as good for building muscle as whey protein. Thankfully, I’m pretty buff already, so this isn’t such a personal concern.
The presentations were high-energy, entertaining, and they left me thinking about what I eat. I’m a bit better able to make sense of food labels today than I was a week ago, and a bit better at using my critical skills to assess food advertising. So thanks again to Nick and his students.
If you receive an invitation to the next session, I heartily recommend you take them up on the offer- you’ll leave with a wiser head than you came with, and you’ll get some fun participation in campus life for your troubles.