08 September 2009

Silly Studies

I rant and tangent an awful lot on my little internet soap box about biased studies and the significant role they play in our food industry. Today, I want to show you exactly what I mean.

Let's begin with lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid (a type of plant chemical contributing to color) and antioxidant found in many red fruits and vegetables. It has been in the news quite a bit lately regarding a weak link to the prevention of prostate cancer. Lycopene has also been said to help prevent diabetes, heart disease, osteoperosis, and all that other stuff. (I say just eat vegetables and quit worrying about this or that antioxidant. Unfortunately, the "experts" didn't ask my opinion. Anyway.)

Tomatoes seem to have become the newest trend in health for this lycopene content. There's articles and studies and websites dedicated to showing how the lycopene in tomatoes will prevent disease in 9 out of 10 patients studied or whatever.

Where am I going with all this?

Tomatoes are one of the few vegetables (er... fruit) that actually has an industry. Heinz uses them to make their ketchup and steak sauces. Prego uses them to make their whole line of pasta sauces. Frito Lay uses them to make their Tostitos salsas. These gigantic corporations have a great financial interest in showing the consumer how their products are healthy. They are happy to pay scientists to tell the public that tomatoes are good for you so that then you'll buy more of their processed products.

Come on now. Do you really think a tablespoon of ketchup with your french fries makes it better for you? They certainly hope you think it is.

Did you know that a slice of watermelon has just as much lycopene in it as a tomato (and sometimes more depending on the season)? Chances are you did not. Why? Watermelon doesn't have an industry out to convince you that it is healthy. Heck, all watermelon has going for it is a bunch of broke farmers that can't hardly afford to put food on the table (not to mention a million dollar study).

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