File this under “Who Even Knows, Anymore?”
s.e. smith recently posted a photo of a “5 a day” tag that came on some asparagus she bought. She felt, and I agree, that those tags are a form of food policing – instructing people what they “should” eat. The corollary, of course, is that if people do not follow these food guidelines, their unhealthiness is their own fault. s.e. explored some of the problems with these educational campaigns over at This Ain’t Living, but I want to highlight another problem here.
That problem being, namely, that NOBODY KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT. From a recent article at Scientific American:
The recommendation that people eat at least five servings (about 400 grams) of fruits and veggies each day, espoused by the WHO since 1990, was based on studies that found a link between higher intakes of these foods and lower risks for cancer and other diseases.
Since the 1990s, however, evidence from large studies has been mounting that the protective effects of these foods against cancer in particular might be modest—if it exists at all.
The results are in line with other findings both in the U.S. and abroad that suggest the protective effect of fruits and vegetables is “much smaller than had been believed 10 years ago,” Harvard School of Public Health’s Walter Willett, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study, noted in an e-mail to ScientificAmerican.com. People who eat more fresh fruits and vegetables are also more likely to make other healthful lifestyle choices, such as exercising more and drinking and smoking less, which the researchers noted “may have contributed to a lower cancer risk” overall.
So this “5 a day” rule – which has been adopted as healthy eating dogma all over the world – may not actually be based on much of anything and there’s virtually no evidence to support the assertion that eating more fruits and veggies will automatically lead to better health.
But watch – it will still be used to shame people, and to blame them for their own health problems, regardless of the lack of scientific support. This strongly supports the argument that these healthy eating rules, and other rules about what people “should” do to be healthy, are much less about scientifically proven relationships between eating and health and much more about shaming people for their health problems.
(h/t The Awl for the link, and the suggestion that You Are Going To Get Cancer Anyway, So Have The Steak)