We’ve all seen the commercials: Athletic shoes that tone your butt, junk food that’s billed as “whole grain” or “contains more calcium than a glass of milk,” diet systems that promise you an athlete’s body by just popping a few pills. The list goes on and on. And people keep snapping up these and other products looking for a quick fix. If you had just landed on Earth from another planet and all you had to go on was advertising, you’d think that we were the fittest, healthiest people in the Universe. But as we all know, we may very well be the unhealthiest and unfitteset people in the Universe.
The FDA supposedly monitors manufacturers’ health claims–and they even have something that’s informally called the “jellybean rule” that’s supposed to protect us from inaccurate, deceptive, and even dangerous food and health ads. The Jellybean rule basically says that you can’t add some vitamins and nutrients to an otherwise unhealthy product and then claim it’s healthy. As Sean Gregory wrote in the New York Times, “A sugar product is a sugar product: you can’t say a jellybean fights heart disease because it contains no cholesterol.”
So how are mere mortals supposed to tell whether ads are actually accurate? Try the Leanwashing index, which has lists of the best and the worst health-related ads. You can post new commercials you’ve seen, and add your ratings–positive or negative. An excellent resources (and no, I’m not being compensated in any way for writing this).