What is the media leading us to believe?

After doing some initial research on the topic of healthy eating, I’ve come to realize how misinformed the general public can be when it relies on information presented to it by the media and advertisers. Some media outlets and some advertising campaigns have led us to believe that eating organic foods is a requirement to be healthy, and that “traditional” non-organic foods typically produced in the U.S. by means of large-scale methods will leave us poisoned and unhealthy. According to surveys, people choose to buy organic foods based on the notion that they are more nutritious than non-organic foods, and on the belief that any amount of pesticide found in non-organic foods is hazardous to health (Fisher and Position of the American Dietic Association). Despite these widely held beliefs, organic foods show no difference in terms of nutritional value in comparison with non-organically grown foods (Fisher). Also, while the pesticides in some non-organic foods are, in fact, poisonous and may have negative health effects, most available evidence indicates that traces of pesticide residue on foods is not a health problem for the majority of people (Taylor).

The goal of advertising is to make the product being advertised more appealing than the products with which it competes, that upon seeing or hearing the advertisement, the general public should become captivated by the product and purchase it over other possibilities. In a sense, the same can be said of the use of catchy headlines for magazine or newspaper articles, or catchy come-ons for TV news segments; they are trying to catch the reader’s or viewer’s attention, so that they read the article or view the segment. While it is good that catchy headlines increase the number of people who read articles about neurology, it is not good that readers are sometimes manipulated into believing untruths. Manipulation of word choice and phrasing, and even of research results, might make articles or TV news segments more “sensational,” appealing, and interesting to the reader, but also might make them misleading. For example an article entitled, “In a First, Baby ‘Cured’ of HIV,” (Discover News) a reader may glance at the article’s title or headline and assume that a cure for AIDS has been found. The same may be true of the reader who skims or reads just the beginning of the article; it is not until later in the article that the reader learns that the virus “is not totally eradicated” (Discover News).

After doing this research, I am not totally convinced that processed or non-organic foods are as healthy as organic foods, but I am convinced that as a consumer and target of the media and advertising, one needs to be very careful.

References:
Fisher, B.E. (1999). Organic: What’s in a name? Environmental Health Perspect; 107:A150.
Position of the American Dietic Association: food and water safety. J Am Diet Association 1997; 97:184.
Taylor, S.L. (2006). Food additives, contaminants, and natural toxicants and their risk assessment. Modern nutrition in health and disease.
(2013) In a First, Baby ‘Cured’ of HIV. Discover News.

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2 thoughts on “What is the media leading us to believe?

  1. Absolutely, Julie! Plenty of “organic” foodstuffs can give you heart disease just as well as something not organic. And don’t get me started on the sodium! This kind of thing can be distracting from what we should really be attending to in regards to how to eat “healthy”.

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  2. Ahhhh, advertising is such a a pain. It is quite difficult to discern what is false advertising and isn’t based on the advertisement. That’s where research comes in to help us disambiguate. Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of these issues with advertising and just believe what they see or are told from the media. Hmph. What to do?

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