Blueberries and other super foods may be good for you, but they won't cure incurable diseases.
Blueberries and other super foods may be good for you, but they won't cure incurable diseases.

If there’s one takeaway from the recent election campaign on which we all could agree, it’s this: There was a compelling factor at play that swayed vast numbers of voters — for better or worse — and that is social media.

An ocean of information surges through our digital lives every day, much of it exaggerated, lots more totally incorrect.

Some would say, that’s politics — say anything, do anything it takes to get elected.

But the phenomenon of having an enormous amount of online content available 24-7 leads to an inescapable conclusion, namely, that the more pernicious problem isn’t that we’re ill-equipped to reject conspiracy theories and over-the-top allegations that are provably false, but rather that there is so much information that is fairly accurate, somewhat correct, seemingly plausible — but ultimately inaccurate.  

You log onto some website. It looks professional. There are nice graphics and engaging images, often some apparently well-documented data. But closer examination reveals that its so-called solid information is as soft as cotton candy.

Here’s a great example, and it involves a debilitating and ultimately deadly disease: Alzheimer’s.

Anyone who’s watched a loved one descend into dementia as a victim of this syndrome knows just how devastating Alzheimer’s can be, so it’s understandable that an article claiming that there are “10 Foods That Fight Alzheimer’s” would generate a lot of click-throughs.

If only.

If only there were a handful of foods that could deal with a disease for which, so far, medical scientist’s best efforts have proven impotent. That would be fantastic.

Fantasy would be a better word, though.

“Understanding how different foods can help us combat various illnesses can certainly help to keep us on the correct path to long-lasting health not only now, but also in our distant future.”

That’s how this article on something called BrainDiet.com starts out, and it continues: “We will focus on foods that fight Alzheimer’s disease, an illness that is troubling for many people, especially those who may have family members fighting the disease.”

I would offer a stronger word than “troubling,” but at any rate, let’s look at the list of foods that will (allegedly) fight off Alzheimer’s.

·         Leafy vegetables. “Kale, spinach and broccoli are high in vitamin A and vitamin C, which can promote brain activity and health.” What they don’t promote, however, is excitement about what’s on the dinner table among family members facing a meal of kale, broccoli and spinach.

·         Nuts. “They are high in healthy fats, fiber and a whole host of different antioxidants, something that your brain is going to absolutely love.” Really? If you’re eating nuts to stock up on enough antioxidants to forestall Alzheimer’s, all I can say is, good luck with that.

·         Blueberries. “This wonder berry has been shown to be extremely effective at helping to combat a wide range of illnesses or diseases, and Alzheimer’s is just one of them.” Right. Show me one clinical study where a “blueberry diet” significantly improved outcomes in dementia syndromes, and I’ll personally eat an entire barrel of them.

·         Beans. “They are low in calories and unhealthy fats, but high in protein, which your brain needs in order to function correctly.” It doesn’t get any more simplistically ridiculous than this. Your brain needs protein. Beans contain protein. Eat beans and you won’t get brain disease. Please.

·         Salmon. “There are omega 3s in [salmon], which are known to help [brain] health and even combat depression.” Again: a reference, please, citing a clinical study comparing salmon-eaters versus a control group that showed how eating fish succeeded in dealing with depression where psychological and pharmaceutical therapies failed.

There are more — five more foods, to be exact — including red wine, olive oil and raw tomatoes, which basically mimics the Mediterranean Diet. A great choice if you happen to live in southern Italy or the Greek islands and can embrace the entire way of life in those areas: Low-stress occupations, lots of outdoor exercise and high levels of community engagement. Not to mention hundreds of warm, sunny days all year ’round.

Add that all up, and yes, the Mediterranean lifestyle is a very positive choice, and if I win the Lotto anytime soon, I’m definitely going to look into picking up an Italian villa in which to test out the total Mediterranean experience.

The odds of that, unfortunately, are about as long as those that predict eating more greens or switching to olive oil could prevent Alzheimer’s.

In that vein, let’s close with the conclusion that the “10 Foods That Fight Alzheimer’s” article posted:

“Alzheimer’s has genetic links, so nothing can truly halt it.”

Not even regular meals of kale, blueberries and beans.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran industry journalist.