Pseudoscience / Science Education

Extenso: French-Language Resource for Questions on Nutrition

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If you understand French and need an evidence-based resource to help navigate food-related pseudoscience, you may be interested in Extenso. I stumbled upon it recently and, while I have not looked at it thoroughly, a decent skimming of its short articles reassured me that this Université de Montréal project is based on solid science.

They even explain how they rate the scientific credibility of a particular claim. This level of rigour and transparency is encouraging, as not all scientific evidence is equal.

Their section on food myths (Mythes alimentaires) might be of particular interest to Cracked Science readership. They write about the use of zinc supplements to help combat the common cold, the pervasive myth that healthy adults must take vitamin and mineral supplements, and whether or not certain food items significantly acidify the body, a pseudoscientific belief that forms the basis of a popular diet.

If I had to be picky, I would say that stating the myths as if they are true in the headlines of their articles could contribute to the familiarity effect, in which readers remember the myth itself as being true and not the debunking of it in the main text. Also, their article on gingko biloba provides the false reassurance that, when buying natural health products, the consumer should ensure it has a NHP (Natural Health Product) number issued by Health Canada. “Without it,” they write, “Health Canada cannot guarantee the quality of the product” (translated from the French by yours truly). The truth is that Health Canada’s Natural Health Product program does not have a robust quality control process, and a recent Canadian paper demonstrated, using DNA barcoding, that of 44 herbal products available to North American consumers, “most […] were of poor quality, including considerable product substitution, contamination and use of fillers.”

Nitpicking aside, Extenso looks like a great French-language resource for evidence-based nutritional advice. We need more of these consumer-friendly websites that spotlight solid data over hype. Dr. Oz, take note.

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