My goal is #WTFWednesday is to provide unbiased information + guidance regarding health + wellness topics of interest, so that you can then do more research for yourself. For most of these topics, I wouldn’t consider myself a full-on “expert” - but I have familiarized myself enough with the basics to talk intelligently about the topic and to know where to look (or to look at all!) for more information. I’m always interested in hearing your personal experience or opinions based on your own research.
I often joke around that I was buying organic food + into non-traditional wellness practices "before it was cool"; these days, everyone from celebrities to your work bestie are praising this superfood or that new workout method. And while I'm always excited for more people to get on the better-health-bandwagon, the surplus of conflicting information no doubt leaves people confused + overwhelmed. And in the midst of it, individuals, groups, and companies are taking advantage.
"Health washing" - whether you've heard of it or not - is prevalent in current mainstream + social media. Like it's not-so-distant cousin "green washing," it's all about branding, marketing, and in some cases, flat out lying to promote or sell a product, person, or idea. Health washing exploits consumers' genuine desire for better health (whatever that looks like), and preys on their aspirations + fears, and certainly only adds to the misinformation + confusion.
In a lot of ways, I don't necessarily think health washing is intentional. When it comes to health, the reality is a lot of what we're talking about is, in fact, science. And, let's be honest - science is hard! And confusing! So by dumbing down, overstating, or making sweeping generalizations (all of which may actually have been rooted in fact somewhere down the line), the idea is to make consumers understand just enough to be persuaded.
I was spurred to cover the topic thanks tothis recent Well + Good article on the topic. Perhaps somewhat ironic, given that pieces from the online health + wellness media company can span from research-based + fact-driven to complete fluff. (Then again, in full disclosure, I have been featured as an expert in the publication here and here.)
The original article is worth a read, and features insights from noted Nutrition Policy expert Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH. I think one of the most important concepts to take away from the piece is "reductive nutrition," also known as "nutritionism." This refers to reducing foods down to their individual nutrients (high in fiber or low in fat), instead of consider the food as a whole. The truth is, while science may know that certain vitamins are beneficial for this, or fiber is good for that, what is not fully understood is how the individual components of natural, whole foods synergistically work together.
And this is where I find that nature is always more wise than we humans; although an orange is high in sugar, it's also a good source of vitamin C, and the fiber contained in the pulp can help offset the negative effects on blood sugar. Some brands of eggs market them as being high in Omega-3 fats, as a result of careful supplementation of the hens' diets. But when hens are pasture-raised, as nature intended, their eggs are inherently higher in Omega-3s (and Vitamin D) thanks to grazing on grass + grubs (their natural diet).