Top 11 Biggest Lies of The Food Industry

Boy Who Tells liesThere is no decency to the way the junk food companies do their marketing.

All they care about is profit and they seem willing to sacrifice even childrens’ health for their own monetary gain.

Here are the top 11 biggest lies of the food industry.

1. Low-Fat or Fat-Free

One of the side effects of the “war” on fat was a plethora of processed products with reduced amounts of fat.

These products typically have labels saying “low-fat” – “reduced fat” or “fat-free”

The problem is that these products are not healthy at all.

Foods that have had the fat removed from them taste like cardboard, no one would want to eat them.

For this reason, these foods are usually loaded with sugar, artificial sweeteners or other unnatural chemicals.

We now know that fat is harmless and sugar is bad. What this means is that the “low-fat” foods are usually much, much worse than their “regular” counterparts.

Bottom Line: If a product has the words “low-fat” or anything similar on the label, then it’s probably bad for you.

2.Trans Fat Free

Junk Food

Processed foods often have “trans fat free” on the label.

This doesn’t necessarily have to be true.

As long as a product contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, they are allowed to put this on the label.

Make sure to check the ingredients list… if the word “hydrogenated” appears anywhere on the label, then it contains trans fats.

It’s actually not uncommon to find hydrogenated fats in products that are labelled trans fat free.

But even if a processed food truly contains no trans fats, it may still contain vegetable oils like corn and soybean oil, which can also be very harmful.

Bottom Line: Avoid everything that contains the word “hydrogenated” or any type of high-Omega-6 vegetable oil on the ingredients list.

3. Includes Whole Grains

Boy Eating a Sandwich

In the past few decades, we’ve been led to believe that whole grains are among the healthiest foods we can eat.

I agree 100% that whole grains are better than refined grains, although there is no evidence that eating whole grains is healthier than no grains at all.

That being said, processed foods like cereals are often claimed to include whole grains.

The problem with this is that whole grains aren’t always whole. The grains have been pulverized into very fine flour.

They may contain all the ingredients from the grain, but the resistance to quick digestion is lost and these grains can spike blood sugars just as fast as their refined counterparts.

Plus, even if a product has small amounts of whole grains in it, chances are that it contains a ton of other very harmful ingredients like sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

Bottom Line: Most whole grains today aren’t “whole” – they’ve been pulverized into very fine flour and spike blood sugar just as fast as their refined counterparts.

4. Gluten Free

Bread Caution

Eating a gluten-free diet is very trendy these days.

One report says that almost a third of Americans are currently eating gluten-free or actively trying to restrict gluten.

Just so we’re clear, I fully support a gluten-free diet. There is evidence that a significant proportion of the population may be sensitive to gluten, not just those with full-blown celiac disease.

However, products labelled as “gluten-free” made to replace gluten containing foods are not healthy.

These foods are usually made from highly refined, high glycemic starches like corn starch, potato starch, tapioca starch, etc. and may also be loaded with sugar.

Eating gluten-free should be about ditching the bread and the crap and replacing it with real foods.

Bottom Line: So-called “gluten free” products are often loaded with unhealthy ingredients. Avoid them and eat real food instead.

5. Not That Much Sugar

Glass Full Of Sugar Cubes

Unfortunately, most people don’t even read ingredients lists before making a purchase.

But even for those who do, food manufacturers still have ways of disguising the true contents of their products.

On ingredients lists, the ingredient that is most of is listed first. The one that is second most of is second, etc.

If you see sugar in the first few spots, then you know that the product is loaded with sugar.

However, food manufacturers often put different “types” of sugar in their products. A food may contain “sugar,” “high fructose corn syrup” and “evaporated cane juice” – all different names for the exact same thing… sugar.

This way, they can have some other healthier sounding ingredient number one on the list, but if you were to add the amounts of these three different types of sugar, sugar would be at the top.

This is a clever way to mask the true amount of refined sugar in processed foods.

Bottom Line: Make sure to check whether a product contains more than one type of sugar, in that case the sugar may really be among the top ingredients.

6. Calories Per Serving

Apple And Calculator

The real calorie and sugar content of products is often hidden by saying that the product is more than one serving.

For example, a chocolate bar or a coke bottle that is two servings.

Most people don’t stop when they’ve finished half, they drink the entire bottle and eat the entire candy bar.

However, food manufacturer can use this to its advantage and say that their products contains only so-so many calories per serving.

When reading labels, check the number of servings the product contains. If it contains 2 servings and there’s 200 calories per serving, then the entire thing is 400 calories.

For example, this 24oz bottle of coke. It says it has 100 calories and 27 grams of sugar per serving, but that entire bottle contains 3 servings… which makes the total 300 calories, with 81 grams of sugar.

I don’t know about you, but back in my coke drinking days I could easily down 24 ounces (or more) in a sitting.

Bottom Line: Make sure to check the number of servings on a label. Multiply the total sugar and calorie content by the number of servings to find the total amount in the container.

7. Fruit-flavored

Young Woman Drinking Orange Juice

Many processed foods have a flavor that sounds natural.

For example, Orange-flavored Vitamin Water tastes like oranges.

However, there are no actual oranges in there.

The sweet taste is coming from sugar and the orange flavor is coming from highly refined chemicals that stimulate the same taste sensors in the mouth as oranges.

Just because a product has the flavor of real food, doesn’t mean that that any of it it is actually in there. Blueberry, strawberry, orange, etc… these are often just chemicals designed to taste like the real thing.

Bottom Line: Just because a product has the taste of some natural food, does not mean that there is even the slightest hint of that food in the product.

8. Small Amounts of Healthy This and That

Yogurt

Often, processed products are purported to include small amounts of ingredients that are commonly considered healthy.

This is purely a marketing trick, usually the amounts of these nutrients are negligible and do nothing to make up for the harmful effects of the other ingredients.

This way, the clever marketers can fool parents into thinking they’re making healthy choices for themselves and their children.

Some examples of ingredients often added in tiny amounts and then displayed prominently on the packaging are Omega-3s, Antioxidants and Whole Grains.

Bottom Line: Food manufacturers often put small amounts of healthy ingredients in their products to fool people into thinking that the products are healthy.

9. Calling Harmful Ingredients Something Else

Boy Eating Ice Cream

Many people claim to have adverse reactions to certain food ingredients and choose to avoid them.

However, the food manufacturers often hide these controversial ingredients by referring to them with technical names that people don’t know.

For example, in Europe MSG (monosodium glutamate) may be called E621 and Carrageenan may be called E407.

The same can be said for many types of sugar… such as “evaporated cane juice” – sounds natural, but it’s really just sugar.

Bottom Line: Food manufacturers often hide the fact that their products contain controversial ingredients by calling them something else.

10. Low Carb Junk Foods

Atkins Bar

Low-carb diets have been pretty popular for the past few decades.

Food manufacturers have caught up on the trend and started offered a variety of low-carb products.

The problem with these foods is the same as with the “low-fat” foods… they’re not at all healthy.

These are usually processed junk foods with very harmful ingredients.

Look at the ingredients list for this Atkins Advantage bar.

Does this look like real food to you? Didn’t think so.

There are also examples of low-carb breads and other replacement products that contain much more carbs than the label claims.

Bottom Line: “Low carb” products are often highly processed and made with very unhealthy ingredients.

11. Zero Calorie Beverages

Diet Soda And Apple

Beverage manufacturers offer zero calorie drinks as healthy alternatives for people who want to lose weight.

These products are often marketed as if they actually work.

However, these drinks are usually sweetened with artificial sweeteners instead of sugar.

Research generally does NOT support the idea that replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with artificially sweetened beverages actually leads to weight loss.

The relationship between artificial sweeteners and weight is complex, but these sweeteners can subconsciously affect food intake and make people eat more.

Take Home Message

Of course, it is best to just avoid processed foods altogether and eat real foods instead, that way you don’t have to worry about labels and ingredients lists.

Real food doesn’t even need an ingredients list… real food IS the ingredient.

31 Comments

  1. Roland Denzel says:

    Thanks, for sharing this! What a great list, and I totally agree on your take home point:

    “Real food doesn’t even need an ingredients list… real food IS the ingredient.”

  2. Totally agree with all this. Just wondering if, so long as I keep in control of what I’m consuming, the zero calorie soft drinks won’t be a problem for my weight. I mean, in other words, if the only adverse affect is that the fake sugar triggers an insulin response causing your blood sugar to go down and increasing craving, if I can resist those cravings then no harm done right?

    • If you’re on a controlled diet, then zero calorie drinks won’t make you gain weight.

      Artificial sweeteners generally don’t raise insulin, they may contribute to increased food intake by complex mechanisms that involve the brain’s reward system.

    • Dear Holly, “No harm done?”

      Aspartame messes with your brain in many ways. It’s made up of three chemicals: aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol. Aspartic acid elevates levels of aspartate and glutamate, brain neurotransmitters. Aspartate and glutamate are “excitotoxins”, meaning that in high amounts they “excite” or stimulate brain cells to death.

      Phenylalanine is an amino acid normally found in the brain. Ingesting aspartame can lead to excess levels of phenylalanine in the brain which disturbs the normal balance of an important brain chemical, serotonin.
      Methanol is wood alcohol, the kind of alcohol that is extremely poisonous.

  3. “Research generally does NOT support the idea that replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with artificially sweetened beverages actually leads to weight loss.” <——- This claim is simply false.

    • Well, the CHOICE trial I linked to shows a small amount of weight loss, but it is not statistically significant over a period of 6 months.

      http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/95/3/555.full.pdf+html

      I will admit that it’s been a while since I looked into this. Perhaps you know of other controlled trials where there is a statistically significant effect?

      • Although differences between groups did not reach statistical significance, but the diet beverage group & the water group lost more weight than the control condition. But my main issue was with your claim that replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with artificially sweetened beverages does not lead to weight loss, when in fact weight loss was statistically significant in all groups in this study – including the diet beverage group.

        I’ll quote a review of relevance: “Diet beverages have the advantage of reducing energy density of the product down to zero, something that is not easily achieved with solid or semi-solid foods. As a result, diet beverages might represent the optimal use of intense sweeteners in the context of a weight control strategy.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17299484

        I’ll also quote another review of relevance, examining the results of meta-analyses: “The meta-analyses demonstrate that using foods and drinks sweetened with aspartame instead of sucrose results in a significant reduction in both energy intakes and bodyweight. The meta-analyses both of energy intake and of weight loss produced an estimated rate of weight loss of about 0.2 kg/week. This close agreement between the figure calculated from reductions in energy intake and actual measures of weight loss gives confidence that this is a true effect.” http://www.ashwell.uk.com/images/2006%20Aspartame%20de%20la%20Hunty,%20Gibson%20and%20Ashwell.pdf

        • “Research generally does NOT support the idea that replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with artificially sweetened beverages actually leads to weight loss.” < ——- This claim is simply false.

          I’ll clarify my question: Are there any controlled trials, where the sole intervention is replacing sugar-sweetened beverages (drinks, not solid foods) with artificially sweetened beverages, that lead to statistically significant weight loss effects over a period of at least a few months?

          That’s what this claim is supposed to be about. You haven’t proven it to be false yet. Maybe there’s a study about it somewhere in those reviews you mentioned, I didn’t find one with a quick glance. Don’t have the time to dig into them just yet.

          But my main issue was with your claim that replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with artificially sweetened beverages does not lead to weight loss, when in fact weight loss was statistically significant in all groups in this study – including the diet beverage group.

          Well, there still was no statistically significant effect compared to the group that didn’t switch to diet drinks… indicating that it may have been something other than the diet drinks that caused the weight loss, such as the counseling the groups received.

          Btw – did you read the other review I linked to in the article about artificial sweeteners and food intake?

          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2892765/

          I’m well aware that ASs don’t have any effect when you’re eating a controlled diet, but most people eat ad libitum and don’t count calories. If the diet drinks can cause an increase in the “calories in” side of the equation, then they can contribute to weight gain.

          I’ll read those studies you posted when I have the time. Btw, I just subscribed to your Research Review, look forward to the next issue.

  4. I’m surprised that people are rationalizing their use of artificial sweeteners! (Is this a sign of true addiction?) Even if we could determine they don’t make you gain weight, they mess with your brain many other ways – please read my reply to Holly.

    • Deane, I’ve never seen any actual studies proving these harmful effects of aspartame. Lots of fear mongering on some sites, but nothing to back up the claims.

      Don’t get me wrong, I mostly avoid ASs myself, but I don’t think they’re nearly as bad as some people say.

      • No, you’re not going to find a major study linking artificial sweeteners to much. However, common sense should tell one that there will be nothing good coming out of ingesting such horrible chemicals. For some, this is on a regular basis from childhood. We have people dying from cancer left and right… isn’t that proof enough? I don’t agree with your rationalization. I actually believe, it’s much worse than we’re led to believe.

        BTW… I’ve been suffering from migraines since I was a child (never drank soda until I was an adult so soda wasn’t the cause), however I began ingesting more and more artificial sweeteners over the years. My migraines became unbearable.

        After years of trying all kind of meds, I gave up all artificial sweeteners and my migraines went away. You’re not going to find a study but I’m living proof. I would never advise anyone to ingest such poison but instead break the sugar habit.

  5. Cheers on subbing, Kris. The next issue will be a banger, I assure you.

    Re: the review you linked, yes I read it. The research surrounding the effect of artificial sweeteners on eating behavior & bodyweight is an engaging mess, isn’t it.

    FYI – I did a review of the controversies surrounding artificial sweeteners in the April 2009 issue – most if not all of the findings still hold. Here’s a couple of relevant studies that I may or may not have specifically discussed (weight increases in the sucrose groups & weight decreases in the non-caloric sweetener groups):

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12324283
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3144736/

  6. Rachel T says:

    I heard that there was a study linking consumption of low fat/zero fat fizzy drinks to weight GAIN! Something to do with the sweetener failing to satisfy the sugar craving. Anyway, I avoid the lot and drink water and er… red wine!

    The serving size thing is a real issue – chocolate bars are getting bigger and bigger – one bar in particular that I am thinking of has the Duo version which people buy and eat in one go but is actually 386 calories. Obviously it is said to be two servings – this is a huge amount of empty calories, and too easy to consume at once.

  7. Great article! I was wondering what your thoughts are on natural flavors… I know they aren’t all what they represent (I remember something about “natural raspberry flavor” being from a beaver’s ass gland or something), but do you know of any harm they can do? I finally managed to kick my soda habit with the help of seltzer water that has natural flavor (but no sweetener).

    • Natural flavors are a misnomer, they’re often highly refined substances and not natural at all. I don’t know of any particular harm they cause, except to make unhealthy foods taste like something you would find in nature. There are probably thousands of these flavors out there.

    • I hadn’t heard about raspberry flavoring coming from a beavers ass gland, but I did hear from a trusted source that gingerbread is made from mole asses.

  8. Completely off topic, but how do you feel about natural peanut butter?

  9. The real problem with artificially sweetened beverages is, that it is all made of chemicals that can clean goo off floors, especially diet coke and pepsi. They are corrosive to teeth enamel and who knows what else. What is the point of clean eating and drinking basically poison.

  10. Sarah J says:

    When you say “grains,” can you clarify? I know you have many resources that show harmful effects of wheat. (btw, I’m 100% off wheat since learning about phytic acid and blood sugar spikes :)

    However, there are at least 40 different “grains” used commonly in the western diet, and I know there are hundreds more sub-varieties including organic and “ancient” varieties, etc. etc.

  11. Nils R Grotnes says:

    “For example, this 24oz bottle of coke. It says it has 100 calories and 27 grams of sugar per serving, but that entire bottle contains 3 servings… which makes the total 300 calories, with 71 grams of sugar.”

    27 * 3 = 81

    (So it’s even worse…)

  12. Everyone should just stay in the produce section and the meat section. Stay away from the rest of the grocery store!

  13. You’ve said it all. Truly, they earn millions by selling what they call “food”… junk food which actually has less nutritional value or else no nutrition at all. It’s so alarming that parents are buying their crap! A lot of advertisements are of no good; gives wrong information. Well, parents must be aware than even biscuits labeled with “ENERGY GIVING” are not good at all. Even those energy drinks.

    Right?

  14. It’s funny you propagate the MSG lie in an article about lies of the food industry.

    • I’m not propagating the MSG lie, I’m well aware that it hasn’t exactly been proven to cause harm.

      But many people choose to avoid it because they personally feel that it causes them problems. Calling the MSG E-something is just a way to hide the MSG from the consumer. People should be allowed to choose what they eat and what they avoid.

  15. Kris… thanks for the research and good advice. Appreciate the time you spend researching this stuff more than you know :)

  16. Shyanne says:

    Hello. I am not too sure how old or new this article is but I really need to remind you that you have forgotten one really important factor. GMO foods, genetically modified organisms. Many people may not know or be informed enough about this, but gmo foods are foods that are spliced, for example fish genes with a tomato plant. Filled with chemicals and disguised as our normal everyday fruits and vegetables.

    People really need to be paying attention to that. There just was a worldwide march in over 400 cities on May 25 2013 and there is going to be another one again on October 12th 2013 just before world food day. We ask you all to look into gmo foods are and make sure you really pay attention to that as well as what this person has written above. SAY NO TO GMO.. Check us out on FB @ March Against Monsanto Vancouver to get more info. Cheers S

  17. Natalie says:

    I think some people perceive that artificial sweeteners being low calorie will help a person to lose weight. It can be difficult for us sweet toothed people to give up sweets altogether. From what I understand, artificial sweeteners, like aspartame, are toxins which the human body has not yet evolved to digest effectively. So the brain recognizes these toxins as alien, and so needs to protect its organs from the toxins.

    From what I understand, the body develops more fat cells to surround the organs as protection, and in this way the digestive system, and endocrine system are over taxed and over the longer term work less effectively. So short term it seems ok to eat aspartame as it is lower in calories than sugar, but long term it does the body damage.

    I say if I really need sweets once in a while, eat something with sugar or honey. Maybe once a week or something. Don’t know of specific studies but have read in a couple of books on organic and clean eating.

  18. Excellent article!

    …and it’s by far not the only lie the food industry tells us:

    http://marinazet.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/the-worlds-nastiest-food-industry-lies-continued/

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