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This Will Not Stand: Debunking A Food Myth Debunker!

I clicked on the link to the apparently legit post with some excitement. An ‘educational’ organization dedicated to debunking media myths had taken on what it said were bogus food ‘facts’. But I quickly became suspicious when more than one of their debunkings failed to ring true.

Shakshuka - © Calliopejen1 via Wikipedia CommonsShakshuka: No sugar. No fat. No excess salt. Nothing bad for you. A true
breakfast of champions from West Africa. It’s your choice…

I pride myself on standing up for the facts when I see them being trampled jounalistically under foot. I also warn readers against misleading and downright wrong stuff that may be circulating in the social media universe.

So it was with some sadness that, in the end, I decided to haul the self-proclaimed debunker on my carpet.

Who it is

The post I took exception to came from an organization called Examine. Its website states: “We analyze research, make sense of it, and give it context. We’re an educational organization that prides itself on avoiding clickbait or sensationalist headlines. […] Because we all want to be healthy, it’s easy to fall for nutrition myths, fad diets, or the latest miracle supplement.”

Fair enough. But how good a job do they do?

Their claim

“[T]he internet is rife with misinformation, and it can be really difficult to tell what’s evidence-based without reading the original research yourself. Myths that were previously passed through word-of-mouth now spread like wildfire through social media, blogs, and even established media. Between a 24-hour news cycle, studies that are both long and difficult to read, and journalists scrambling for the latest viral hit, information often gets published without verification. And once we’ve assimilated a piece of information, we seldom think to challenge it — we treat it as fact.”

“As an educational organization that looks only at the evidence, we’ve taken the time to identify 21 nutrition myths that just won’t die. At the end of each section, you’ll find a link to pages that further explore the section’s topic with extensive references.”

Let’s take a look…

I’ve even left in the links that Examine provided to prove its points.

Myth 1: Protein is bad for you

I’ve never heard that one before! But if you read more deeply, into the Examine explanation, they specify that it’s excess protein that could cause bone density and kidney issues. That’s a lot different than simply saying ‘protein is bad’! I’ve never heard anybody say that.

Myth 5: Red Meat is bad for you

Examine says it’s not. And they cite a whole list of scholarly studies to prove it’. But I could cite just as m,any others that say red meat – for a number of reasons – can be bad for you. Even examine admits that smoked, char-grilled and processed meats can contribute to cancer risk.

“But if you moderate your red meat intake, exercise regularly, eat your fruits and veggies, consume adequate fiber, don’t smoke, and drink only in moderation, red meat’s effect on cancer isn’t something to worry too much about,” Examine says. I don’t know anybody – aside from some elite athletes – who is willing to do all those things every day to abate the risks red meat poses.

On the matter of Type 2 Diabetes… Examine admits evidence exists that red meat can exacerbate the condition. But it claims that evidence is ‘of lower quality’.

Of course, all this hoo-hah over red meat will soon become moot. When the great masses of us have moved to a vegetarian diet to ensure the world will carry on.

Myth 6: Salt is bad for you

Examine really hasn’t too much to say in justification of its stand, here. In fact, it gets to the real point in the second paragraph. “[S]alt (sodium) is an essential mineral; its consumption is critical to your health. The problem occurs when you consume too much sodium and too little potassium.”

The fact is, study after study has shown that the average person in Europe and North America consumes a lot more salt than they should. And that’s the baseline we all have to work with. Not the max official daily intake recommendation. The facts are clear: The salt we consume is causing, “hypertension (high blood pressure), kidney damage and an increased risk of cognitive decline.”

Myth 8: HFCS is far worse than sugar

Here we go, again. Examine makes another fundamental error in its ‘analysis’:

“The reality is that there isn’t always more fructose in HFCS than in sugar.” But sometimes there is? In so saying, Examine is undercutting its own point.

And here is a real honker: “The reality is that there isn’t always more fructose in HFCS than in sugar. Liquid HFCS has a fructose content of 42–55 percent. Sucrose, also known as table sugar, is 50 percent fructose.” Wait just a cotton pickin’ minute! Sucrose is 50 percent fructose? That’s just totally, completely, abysmally wrong!

This is, in fact, the ‘debunk’ that got under my skin enough to trigger this post.

Myth 13: You should eat ‘clean’

Well, this isn’t a ‘food’ issue at all! It’s an ethical and political one. And Examine makes little effort to address that. Much less, disprove it.

Myth 16: You shouldn’t skip breakfast

Really, Examine? This is a myth?

I’ll be the first to stand up for the well-established assertion that, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” I’ve tried it both ways. A hearty breakfast made up of the right foods (see photo, top of page) is exactly what I need to carry me through the first half of my waking day.

And the problem with breakfast is, folks tend not to choose the right foods. To much sugar. Too many carbs. That’s why they’re cruising for a chronic ’11 o’clock letdown’.

The Examine debunk of this so-called myth even admits breakfast skippers tend to be less healthy than those who eat a proper breakfast. But they insist, “the health perks of consuming a regular breakfast have been overhyped.” That’s not the same as proving the ‘perks’ to be mythical!

That’s just a taste…

… Of the junk ‘brain food’ the Examine Food Myth Post serves up.

When you come to look at it objectively, the Examine post seems, in many ways, to be the kind of online ‘resource’ that Examine warns us to steer clear of. Or at least take with a large grain of salt.

In a number of cases, at appears they’ve gone out of their way to find evidence from legitimate sources that can call into question the established and widely accepted truth.

So… I can’t endorse Examine. Or what it claims to do.

~ Maggie J.