Why it pays to be a skeptic

This blog post is a digression from the norm but I feel it’s far too important to be left unsaid.

I love food. We all love food. I love money. We all love money. But unfortunately, when the two become entwined, issues of health, sustainability, quality and the truth are very quickly forgotten.

There is big money involved in the food industry. There is even more money involved in the vitamin industry. Scarily enough, Australians spend $2 billion a year on Vitamin and Dietary supplements and only $1.6 billion on pharmaceuticals. That figure is predicted to increase to $4.5 billion in 2017-2018.

Do the majority of Australians need a multivitamin?

A deafening and resounding no.


But these companies are exceptionally brilliant at marketing. Of course they are; they have deep pockets that pour into wells of highly intelligent, manipulative marketing teams. Every maneuver, tactic and technique tweaked and deployed to utter perfection. The end goal? To make you, the consumer, believe without a doubt that you need it.

We peruse the myriad products lined neatly on the shelves, all beautifully packaged and designed for us to desire them. Want them. Then buy them.

We are all concerned about our health, the health of our children and friends. So when the decision comes to what particular brand or product we should buy, we may decide on the health claims that are in bold on the packet.

“Cholesterol free”. “Less carbs.” “Fat reduced”. “Added fibre”. “Omega-3s”. Etc.. The list is endless.

My top two favourites are –

  1. Olive Oil… “Cholesterol free”. Yes, olive oil is cholesterol free as cholesterol is only derived from animal products. But thanks for letting me know.
  2. Bread… “Less carbs than other breads”. I was intrigued by this one as bread is pretty much all carbs so I checked it out. Turns out that they could state it was less carbs because the slice of bread weighed less than other bread slices. So less food for twice the cost. In general, brilliant!

And this is only the food! Don’t even get me started on the aisle completely dedicated to vitamin and mineral supplements.

We are far too trusting when it comes to vitamin and dietary supplements. We assume that the research has been done on the efficacy of the product before it even reaches the shelves for us to buy. But unfortunately, this is not the case.

The regulatory body for natural medicines in Australia is the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). To sell a vitamin or dietary supplement, the only requirement is to hold such evidence that support the health claim. This ‘evidence’ is not sighted until enough complaints are made by consumers against the product that the TGA then takes action.

In some cases, action has been taken. In such events, a loophole exists where the product can still be sold if claims are based on evidence of ‘traditional use’.

So if the product starts reading… “This (insert expensive useless product here) has been a secret used by (insert ancient, possibly made up civilisation) for over two thousand years and has now been rediscovered by (insert corrupt money making corporation) for….”

There is no need to continue reading.

Simply put the product down.

Walk away.

Just a healthy warning, next time while in the supermarket, be a skeptic. It pays well as you will spend less money on bogus ‘health foods’ and their ‘health claims’.

And maybe, just maybe, take a detour down the fresh fruit and veg section. Touch, taste and smell the abundance and vibrancy around you. Fruit and vegetables don’t lie about how healthy they are. They never have. And they never will.


Sources and further reading if interested.

Complementary medicines Australia.

The Checkout - Explores with humour the TGA and the Supplement company Swisse.
Watch at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMYXKSy2fb8

Swisse tries to sue ABC and the Checkout crew for defamation.
Read at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/media/swisse-defamation-case-against-abcs-the-checkout-to-go-ahead/news-story/98a6cd35f510b356cbfdca897c07b697

Swisse wins its repeal case with the deciding judge then stating all legal fees of Swisse to be paid by the TGA.
Read at: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/swisse-wins-its-youll-feel-better-on-swisse-slogan-appeal/news-story/1a1c21281d2822aeb22bd693197dafab

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