Zero grams trans fat!

Flamin' Hot Cheetos

Photo by Flickr user Eva [sadaqah], used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Scientific American recently ran a nice post from Bonnie Swoger at their Information Culture blog. In it, Swoger considers how

we are constantly bombarded with food and health related information. Websites, commercials and infomercials all tell us how good particular products or diet plans are. Filtering out the good from the bad requires a bit of critical thinking. The first question to ask is, “Are they trying to sell me something?” And almost always, the answer is a resounding “YES!” Sometimes the sales pitch is overt…. Sometimes it is more subtle…. We have to remember that whatever information these folks are giving us is only because they want us to buy something….

Second, the savvy consumer of nutrition and diet information will ask “Where does the information come from?” Of course, this is directly related to our first question: if the information comes from someone trying to sell you something, you need to be more skeptical of the claims made.

I’m reminded of the question that I learned to ask in the “Social Problems” class that was the catalyst for me to eventually become a sociologist. When analyzing a particular social condition, arrangement, or institution, ask “Who benefits?” and see where the answers lead you.

The onslaught of “information” about food and nutrition that we are subjected to really is incessant, so Swoger’s piece provides a nice reminder of the dangers of partial truths, misinformation, and outright lies from folks who have something to gain. Armed with a critical eye, we can hopefully remain skeptical the next time we see a product trumpeting its nutritional qualities or hear a news story about the latest and greatest food that promises to improve our health. Check out the full post here, which begins with her consideration of Cheetos’ boast of “0 grams trans fat.”

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