April 16, 2009

Three Useless "Facts"

Bite-sized nutrition trivia is not limited to Registered Dietitian Jeopardy!

Magazines of all sorts (ranging from Us Weekly to Details to Forbes) occasionally pepper sidebars or "Did You Know...?" features with short bursts of "diet-friendly" tips.

Television shows, e-mail chain letters, news broadcasts, and even advertising campaigns often rely on nutrition "facts" to captivate their audiences.

Alas, here are three often-mentioned facts I consider useless, irrelevant, and better off erased from the collective consciousness.

"If you put a nail in a glass of Coke for four days, it dissolves because of all the acids!"

The "logic" here is that if Coke can corrode metal, just imagine what it does to our stomachs!

Although all soda is nutrition-void sugar water (and the phosphoric acid in it can contribute to osteoporosis in individuals with insufficient calcium intake), it is not corroding our gastrointestinal system -- particularly when you keep in mind that stomach acids are more acidic than anything in Coke.

If you put a nail in a glass of our stomach acids, that sucker would probably disintegrate in just TWO days.

Initially shocking fact? Check.
Completely irrelevant? Check.
Absolutely useless? Double check

"I lost weight by cooking with olive oil instead of butter and choosing healthy fats, like avocado."

It seems like every other "celebrity who lost weight shares diet secrets!" (it seems to me that celebrity magazine editors think the only two secrets are to eat lots of fish and hire a personal trainer) article I read contains this quote.

Yes, olive oil and avocados are heart-healthy fats that, if consumed regularly, can benefit cardiovascular health. However, all fats -- regardless of how heart-healthy -- contain nine calories per gram.

I suppose I can somehow "vouch" for the avocado reasoning since they offer a good deal of fiber (thereby contributing to quicker satiety).

However, a tablespoon of butter contains approximately twenty fewer calories than a tablespoon of olive oil.

From a weight loss standpoint, replacing two tablespoons of butter with two tablespoons of olive oil in a dish serves no purpose.

"Twinkies are so processed they have a shelf life of 20 years!"

You need the exclamation mark at the end of that one for complete pearl-clutching effect.

Twinkies are by no means a health food, but they will not outlast a nuclear explosion (that honor only belongs to cockroaches and Cher).

While Twinkies have a longer shelf life than many other mass-produced baked goods (mainly thanks to their dairy-free ingredient list), expect them to start spoiling after a month.

PS: although foods with long shelf lives are usually highly processed and offer plenty of sodium, sugar, trans fats, and/or artificial preservatives, they do not take that same amount of time to be digested.


Anonymous said...

Andy, great post!
I have heard all three of those "useless" facts mentioned by my collegues in the last week!

I have a question for you. In Gwyneth Paltrows new site goop.com she gives nutrition advice. She recently said that a person should try to go 12 hours between finishing dinner and beginning breakfast. She states that breakfast should be a "break from the fast" (12+ hours) to allow the system to rest and detoxify.
What do you think of this concept?


Carrie Watson said...

Cher! Ha! That was a good one.

Quinn said...

The only thing that Gwyneth is an expert in is pretending to be someone she is not (definition of an actor, after all), and she is doing that pretty well if you believe she knows something about nutrition.