Food myths debunked by solid science, thanks to WSFA in Alabama

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Kudos are due to a small NBC-affiliate radio station in Montgomery, Alabama, for soliciting expert opinion on a variety of common food scares or myths. We don t often see mainstream media responsibly providing listeners with science-based information instead of opting for sensationalism and fear-mongering to attract attention.

The segment, entitled Food Fears: Separating fact from fiction about our food supply, was done by journalist Jennifer Horton. She decided to tackle quite a few of her favorite food concerns and check them out with experts from nearby medical centers the right way to research and communicate about science and health.

She discussed popular hot-button issues: GMOs, aspartame, gluten, and high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and processed foods. Her information came from Beth Kitchin, PhD, RD, Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Nutrition Science at the University of Alabama, Birmingham; and from Doug White, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Nutrition, Dietetics, and Hospitality Management, College of Human Sciences, Auburn University.

Here are some examples of their advice. From Dr. Kitchin:

A lot of people are afraid of GMO foods. Quite frankly they are pretty safe. I ve seen two recent trends here, where companies have gotten rid of GMOs. They are not dangerous. In fact, they are in some ways good for you.

Consumers are confused, and for good reason. We get really scared of these foods. I see us focus on that and say, That's not the biggest problem we have. We really should be looking at an obesity problem.

What about processed or mass produced food? Her response: You hear a lot of people talking about processed foods. I say, what do you mean by processed foods? There are some processed foods that are good for us, like milk. I don t like to use that blanket term to demonize food. People also talk about preservatives. Preservatives are used to keep our food supply safe. They say, if I can t pronounce what s in the ingredients, I shouldn t eat it, and that s just not the case.

When asked how preservatives impact our bodies, Kitchin referred to a past issue with Capri Sun, a children s drink company that prides itself on not using preservatives. However, when mold surfaced in the drinks, not using preservatives is a direct cause.

Kitchin says there s no bad food and simply put, she says we should all relax.

I think it's important not to be afraid of food.

Pretty impressive, right? What about Dr. White across the state? Here are some of his comments:

I don't think there's any one bad food. I'm not going to say no you can't eat that. I think there are foods that are better for your that have a higher nutrient density, that's now many nutrients you are going to get versus how much calories you are going to get ¦

The article goes on to say: White's research mirrored Kitchin's in ways we certainly weren't expecting. Preservatives, toxins and chemicals must have a larger impact on our health? Not according to White.

Preservatives are not your biggest issue. Obesity is a bigger issue than perceived toxins. I would not worry about the toxins in the food. That will take care of itself. There are a lot of things that are natural that are not good for you. Arsenic is natural, but it s not good for you.

Globally, White and Kitchin say balance is key. While some insist on rigid guidelines to keep our families healthy and free from any risk in our food chain, that isn't possible. It's all about moderation.

These thoughts and advice echo what we here at the American Council on Science and Health have been saying for...well, since our founding in 1978. Congrats to Horton for undertaking this and to the Drs. answering for their sound science-based responses.