“I Can’t Eat that Mom, I’ll Get Cancer”
Posted by Anna Potorski
In a world with so much access to information, it’s everywhere. Fake science news preys on people hungry for answers. Oftentimes, it is easy to believe that those little pink pills you picked up from the store are magical and will make you lose the weight overnight. In all reality, those little pills you want so badly to work are probably just caffeine. That’s right, you just spent all that money for caffeine. And the itWorks company selling you herbal wraps to soak the fat right from your gut, those are just dehydrating you and that’s why you feel so terrible after using the product. It’s so easy to get soaked into trends when searching for answers. But, just because it is trending or popular, does not mean it is true or good.
When identifying fake science news, it is essential to know what you are looking for. Oftentimes fake science news will contain broad language. For instance, the article may only briefly discuss the topic and may not go into very much depth. This is because the author has little information. Fake science news may also just be a brief rehashing of the actual article. Fake science news is often no more than an advertisement. Whether the company wants you to believe that their wraps are soaking up your body’s fat or the diet pills are going to make the weight fall off, the science behind the product wants you to believe.
One particular study recently done had everyone running in circles. Suddenly, Nutella causes cancer. Suddenly, eight-year-olds won’t eat their lunch because their PB and Nutella is going to kill them and moms are spending hours cleaning out the cabinets.
Nutella contains palm oil. In 2016, the European Food Safety Authority began expressing concerns over two contaminants that form during the processing of palm oils. They are 3-MCPD and glycidol. In researching this, scientists used lab rats to examine the tolerable daily intake of both contaminants.
The study showed that the rat’s tolerable daily intake was 0.8 µg/kg bw per day for 3-MCPD. These numbers were based on a study in rats which the lowest “BMDL10 of 0.077 mg/kg bw per day for renal tubular hyperplasia in males was derived and application of an overall uncertainty factor of 100.”
Let’s just be realistic here – if a mom of three kids ranging from 5 to 12 read the quoted above, would she do more research? Most likely not. I know I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t question the uncertainty factor of 100 or what any of this means.
What is being said here is that the amount of 3-MCPD caused rat’s kidneys to contain too many cells indicating cancer. The findings of the experiment in general were rather shaky and to be safe, the scientists divided the number the developed by 100, which is how they developed 0.8 µg/kg of body weight as the tolerable daily intake.
Similar methods were used in researching glycidol.
What struck me first about this article was how random it was. Second, the language. The language used was incredibly scientific and would have led me to believe that the information was sufficiently backed by hard evidence. In my efforts to further my knowledge, I came across an article expressing the concerns of the numbers in the experiments regarding tolerable daily intakes. This is when it dawned on me: why Nutella?
Tons of foods contain palm oil. Ice cream, cookies, margarine, chocolate. Palm oil happens to be one of the most largely used vegetable oils. So, why are we picking on Nutella? Of all the foods, how come this hazelnut chocolate spread that goes great in sandwiches, on strawberries, or straight from the jar, is being picked on?
It’s fake. That’s why. The scientist wrote an article that made them sound knowledgeable. The language was sufficient with what was expected in a report on a study. There was in fact experimental data collected. But, is that enough to simply believe?
The biggest red flag was the discrimination against one particular food rather than palm oil itself. Further evidence and research would need to be done in order to prove that Nutella causes cancer. Better yet, further research on palm oil itself should be conducted should the scientists choose to better the evidence backing their rather flaky claims.