Open Accessibility Menu

Health and Nutrition Myth Busters (Part 1)

Health and Nutrition Myth Busters (Part 1)

By Jody Long, MS, RDN, CDCES

With all the ho ho ho and holidays behind, many are now heading warp speed into the "New Year, New Me” craziness. You know, the ritual of resolutions. The internet and social media are swarming with all kinds of slick and scary advertisements promising health, weight loss, and cures.

Anything goes, and all sorts of influencing celebrities, unsubstantiated testimonies, and shock doctors are used to convince and confuse you with blaming, shaming, and demonizing foods. How do you spot these false promises and avoid being hoodwinked, wasting money, and jeopardizing your health?

Here are a few myths dispelled to help you steer clear of the nonsense, along with some reliable resources to help you with science-based information and truth.

Myth 1: Natural means better, healthier, and safer

Not. At. All. It just means it was sourced from nature. A lot of what is synthetically produced (i.e. chemically altered on purpose) is done to improve stability, quality, or performance of the ingredients. Synthetic chemical ingredients can be entirely lab-created or can be harvested from nature and processed in a lab to refine the raw chemical material.

News flash! Everything—air, water, and our bodies included—is made up of chemicals. It is the dose level that makes something harmful and everything and anything can be toxic or not in certain situations. There is little risk to our health for most things we are exposed to at the typical level of exposure. Natural is a ‘feel good’ marketing term and has been exploited to imply anything contrary to natural is bad. Beware of the fear spreaders who will try to play on your emotions and convince you otherwise.

Natural Doesn't Mean Necessarily Mean Safer, or Better (NIH)

Food Color Facts (Food Insight)

Myth 2: Detox, cleanse, juice and fast to rid your body of toxins and get HEALTHY

My answer to this? Urine, feces, respiration and sweat are all your body’s way of eliminating toxins. Our liver, kidneys, lungs, and skin help us dextox everyday. Thank you, body, for saving me money and some potentially unpleasant and potentially damaging fate from these tactics. There is more potential danger lurking in these body cleansers that are often unregulated for safety and efficacy. The fact is, at this time of year many are interested in implementing better lifestyle habits and are more vulnerable to misinformation. 

If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably isn’t true. Of course everyone’s body functions differently, and genetics, environment, diet, lifestyle, and health status are influencing factors. If the body’s threshold for detoxing is exceeded, then toxins can be stored in fat cells, soft tissue, and bone and impart a negative effect on health. Try supporting your body’s natural detoxing instead with these actions:

  • Consume the Recommended Daily Allowances for fiber each day from fiber-rich foods like vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fruit
  • Maintain adequate hydration
  • Minimize saturated and trans-fat intake
  • Limit processed foods
  • Avoid a sedentary lifestyle
  • Alcohol intake in moderation

A dietitian unpacks the science behind detox fads

Myth 3: Apple cider vinegar reverses diabetes and weight gain and cures everything in between

Sorry, no. There is no cure for diabetes, though it is possible have blood glucose numbers in the range of people without diabetes, and it is possible to reduce and eliminate diabetes medications, too. Your diabetes would be considered well managed in this scenario.

A few Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) studies have indicated positive results in blood sugar lowering. One suggested a lowering effect on fasting blood sugar if taken the night before and another indicated improvement in insulin sensitivity (i.e. the body responds better to insulin allowing better transport of glucose from the bloodstream into cells). There is variability of effectiveness of ACV intake depending on the type and amount of mealtime carbohydrate source. A few studies suggest ACV works better with starch than sugar carbohydrate sources. Overall, studies and data are slim. While ACV may moderately lower blood glucose levels, it shouldn’t replace diabetes medications. It is generally safe as an addition to current treatment if kidney disease isn’t a factor. The best options for blood sugar management are still staying active, having consistency to mealtimes and carbohydrate levels.

How Do You use Apple Cider Vinegar for Diabetes? (YouTube video from Diabetes EveryDay)

Weight-wise, in one study with participants using a low-calorie diet and exercising, those consuming ACV lost more weight than those who didn’t, though the weight loss wasn’t significant. Weight loss was realized in another study with high volume of ACV consumption. The weight loss ceased when ACV was ceased, and the length of the study was only 12 weeks. Overall, the results of ACV impact on weight loss are about the same as with its impact on lowering blood sugar. Slim.

ACV has become the jack of all trades when it comes to wellness elixirs, as more and more celebrities are ranting and raving about its alleged benefits. It’s been touted to cure cancer, heal genital herpes, fix bloating, improve your cholesterol, and boost your immune system. As with blood sugar management and weight loss, effective studies outcomes are lacking.

Without the superman wellness cape, ACV is known to enhance taste of foods like various vegetables and is great as a salad dressing. It is often incorporated in sauces, used for pickling and as a house cleaner. There are side effects with large levels of consumption. Drinking it or taking ACV pills or gummies can cause burning of your esophagus and stomach lining, cause gastrointestinal upset, and destroy teeth enamel.

Debunking Apple Cider Vinegar for diabetes, weight loss and other health issues (University of Chicago Medicine)

Effect of Apple Cider Vinegar on Glycemic Control, Hyperlipidemia and Control on Body weight in Type 2 Diabetes Patients (International Journal of Medical Research & Health Sciences)

Beneficial effects of Apple Cider Vinegar on weight management, Visceral Adiposity Index and lipid profile in overweight or obese subjects receiving restricted calorie diet: A randomized clinical trial (Journal of Functional Foods)

Myth 4: Carbs are BAD! REALLY BAD! Avoid them all.

Please don’t! Our bodies' preferred source of energy is CARBOHYDRATES. Without these, our body will resort to less efficient means of obtaining energy. It does a metabolic switch of sorts, and can turn to fat or protein stores for its energy needs. By now, most folks have heard of ketosis, ‘burning fat for energy’ and the popular Keto and other low carb diets. When the body needs fuel, and carbs aren’t available, it will turn to and burn fat for fuel, creating by-products called ketones.

Normally, we have some small levels of ketones present when we’re in a fasting state (think first thing in the morning after sleeping all night). In excess, these ketones can disrupt the natural balance of your blood and can lead to serious complications. The focus on increased fat consumption can also encourage higher amounts of unhealthy fat intake, putting you at jeopardy of cardiovascular disease and cancer risk over time. In addition, fat has the highest number of calories per bite, 9 calories per gram versus protein and carbohydrates each 4 calories per gram.

The body may not always turn to fat stores first for energy needs. It could turn to protein stores too and this can lead to muscle wasting. (SHOCKING, I know). Carbs are not the culprit for weight gain. It's excess CALORIES beyond what our body needs that causes extra weight. ANY excess energy nutrition can contribute to weight gain.

Back to carbs though, I suggest you consider the company your carbs keep. If your carbs are a food source providing beneficial nutrients—fiber, water, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals—found in the likes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, then good for you! Bang for your bite! Don’t walk, run from anyone trying to steer you away from or telling you to avoid healthy carbohydrate food inclusion in your diet. What to be wary of are carbs with little to offer beyond added sugar, calories and fat- sweet stuff like cookies, candy, and cola, which are nothing more than empty calories.

How carbs fit into a healthy diet (Mayo Clinic)

The Ketogenic Diet: What it is and what it isn't (Today's Dietitian)

Much more misinformation is out there and much more is on its way as well. So buckle up with some reliable resources to help dispel and decipher viable and reliable information using the resources below. Stay tuned for more sequels on health and nutrition myth busters.

To find reliable sources of information about diseases and their treatments, visit, a site operated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and The Federal Trade Commission Consumer Advice website offers information on spotting false promises, recognizing fake stories, other things to watch out for and how to report scams. The National Institute of Health offers an overview of Dietary Supplements for Weight Loss.

Check out the Healthy Moments videos on the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK) website or their NIDDK YouTube Channel. The focus of these are one-minute tips on living a healthy lifestyle with various health and disease concerns. Various other videos are available on the YouTube channel and worth attention. Finally, the National Institute of Health (NIH), Office of Dietary Supplements, offers a collection of fact sheets and other resources from various federal government sources on information about dietary supplements and their ingredients. ODS dietary supplement fact sheets,

If you're interested in no-nonsense nutrition for your health, wellness and weight loss needs, come see us, the nutrition squad at MWHC diabetes and nutrition outpatient counseling