Fact or fiction: top nutrition myths busted

12th June 2020 | Eativity editors

Earlier this week we reported on the results of a survey by Herbalife Nutrition that found 68% of Asia Pacific consumers are using social media to seek out nutrition info, despite the prevalence of online myths and misinformation. Now additional findings have been released, revealing that 60% of us are confused when it comes to the facts about nutrition.

In a general nutrition knowledge quiz that was administered together with the survey, a total of 48 “true or false” questions spanning nine nutrition areas – general nutrition, protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, caffeine, weight management and breakfast – were presented to survey participants. The results revealed that less than a quarter (23%) of the respondents scored above 50%.

The quiz also found that the top three areas with the biggest nutrition knowledge gaps were minerals, caffeine and protein, with only around a quarter of the people surveyed being able to answer questions about them correctly.

Based on the quiz results, Herbalife also uncovered a list of the top nutrition myths commonly believed by Asia Pacific consumers, with more than six in 10 respondents unable to provide the correct answer when presented with a nutrition statement.

A life without bread is a loaf half lived.

Top nutrition myths

MYTH #1: carbs make you gain weight

FACT: carbohydrates alone don’t cause weight gain, but consuming excess calories does. Australian dietary guidelines recommend that 45-65% of your daily energy intake should come from carbs. Healthy sources of carbs like vegies, fruit, legumes and wholegrains also provide important nutrients like calcium, iron and B vitamins.

MYTH #2: you need less protein as you grow older

FACT: starting in your early 40s, you may experience a gradual, progressive loss of muscle mass and function known as sarcopenia. Isn’t ageing fun? This process can be mitigated by boosting protein intake and incorporating resistance exercise as you age.

Your beloved coffee is fine – in moderation.

MYTH #3: caffeine causes dehydration

FACT: while caffeine has diuretic properties, a moderate intake of between 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day is unlikely to cause dehydration. A study by the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee also found that coffee can be as hydrating as water.

MYTH #4: peak bone mass can be optimised at any age with sufficient calcium intake

FACT: peak bone mass (maximum bone size and strength) is dependent on calcium intake and reaches its peak by the time you hit 30. However, sufficient calcium intake throughout life can reduce your risk of osteoporosis. Calcium supps can protect against bone loss as you age, especially for post-menopausal women who have higher calcium needs.

MYTH #5: a ketogenic diet is a healthy way to lose weight

FACT: very low in carbs, moderate in protein and very high in fat, the ketogenic diet forces the body to rely on body fat for fuel, resulting in weight loss. However, healthy carbs are good for the body, supplying energy, vitamins and minerals. To lose weight, and keep it off in the long term, you’re better off adopting a balanced diet and exercising regularly.

Super restrictive diets might cause some weight loss in the short term, but they’re unsustainable.

MYTH #6: a very low-fat diet is the best way to lose weight

FACT: studies have shown minimal reductions in weight after the first year from very low-fat diets, making it an ineffective long-term weight-loss strategy. In fact, our bodies need some dietary fat to stay healthy, as it helps to build cell membranes and hormones, and is also needed for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.

MYTH #7: the glycaemic index is a good tool for choosing the healthiest carbs

FACT: the glycaemic index (GI) measures how the carbs in a food impact blood sugar levels, but it cannot be solely relied upon when it comes to a healthy diet. The amount of carbs you eat and what you’re eating them with also needs to be considered.

MYTH #8: protein powder is not a healthy source of protein

FACT: protein powder can be as good as protein from natural foods if it’s derived from high-quality sources. Just make sure you’re also getting protein from plenty of other whole foods, too. When it comes to your diet, variety is always key!