Funny Health Claims in Reader’s Digest

“How to Shape Up”

Reader’s Digest Publication

It’s hard to imagine in 2013—when sugar added to processed foods shoulders much of the blame for America’s obesity epidemic—that this May 1964 ad depicted sugar as a diet aid. “Sugar … takes the edge off pretty girls’ appetites so that they don’t need or want heavier, fattening foods. Sugar is the sensible weight-watcher because it doesn’t leave you feeling draggy.”

“Are You Dieting?”

Reader’s Digest Publication

This December 1964 ad for One A Day multivitamins makes an interesting point that many experts today still agree with: “many diets are notoriously vitamin-poor … while winning the calorie battle, you may lose the vitamin war.” The research on taking multivitamins to improve your health, however, is mixed. While you run the risk of missing out on vitamins when you slash your overall food intake, filling your plate with nutrient-dense fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean meats, nuts, and fish should help ensure you get the vitamins and minerals you need from food.

“Polyunsaturating Her Entire Family”

Reader\\\’s Digest Publication

The sixties issues of Reader’s Digest were packed with ads from various margarine and vegetable oil companies, touting the benefits of unsaturated fat—like this Mazola one from February 1969—as experts warned about the heart risks of saturated fats in butter.

But the latest science shows that this understanding was a little too simplistic. In a 2013 study published in the journal BMJ, researchers found that not all unsaturated plant fats are created equal. Those rich in linoleic acid—or omega-6 fatty acids—may be linked to greater risk of heart disease and deaths from any cause.

“In the 1960s all polyunsaturated fats were considered the same,” Christopher Ramsden, MD, a clinical investigator at the National Institutes of Health, told “They were grouped together under one mechanism of being able to lower blood-cholesterol levels. Then, over the ensuing decades, it became clear as science progressed that there were multiple types of polyunsaturated fats, and these compounds potentially have distinct biochemical and health effects.”

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