What You Should Consider Before Following A New Food Trend

Did someone say "health benefits"? Say no more!

We all love a good old-fashioned food fad. Kale, pink Himalayan salt, and acai bowls have all had their time in the spotlight as superior food products that can save the day with their ace nutritional content. And while we love them all (okay, maybe we love acai bowls more than we love kale), is it wise for us to be hopping on every new health food bandwagon?

Dr. Michael Blaha, director of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, says it's not (per Johns Hopkins Medicine). Blaha explains that the media loves to latch onto new research suggesting that one food or another has certain health benefits, and then blow that bit of information up. But because scientific studies are simply presentations of data rather than statements of fact, lots of contradictory information exists on the internet, which can be rather confusing.

Instead of running out to the grocery store every time TikTok goes into a tizzy over some newfound superfood, Blaha suggests prioritizing an overall healthy eating pattern instead. Here's why.

The pitfalls of food fads

Johns Hopkins Medicine asserts that the trouble with making dietary decisions based on the findings of scientific studies lies in the fact that headlines can often be misleading. Blaha points out that because food research is largely conducted on an observational basis rather than in a controlled study, these studies often cannot provide conclusive evidence. Instead, they mostly provide theories.

The American Heart Association (AHA) explains this further, citing the relationship between correlation and causation. Participants being observed while eating a particular food are not leading identical lifestyles. So while the data might indicate that some people involved in the study experienced a particular outcome — like weight loss, for example — that does not necessarily mean that the food in question is the cause of the weight loss. The presentation of data may make a correlation between the food and weight loss, but the weight loss might actually be caused by a myriad of other things the participants were doing to lose weight.

The AHA also implores you to consider the role of marketing in these explosive food fads and the reality that sometimes, certain foods are highlighted in the media as a way to generate income in an area where it may have been previously lacking.

So, instead of looking for a cure-all in individual foods popularized by the media, Blaha declares that it's best to adhere to an overall healthy eating pattern, like the Mediterranean diet, and make food decisions in line with that.