Podcast Snake Oil

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of podcasts.  The quality is very up and down between one producer and another.  Some people have been doing it for years and have big budgets while others seem to be using their computer microphones and just uploading almost unedited content.  Production quality aside it can be enjoyable to get the diverse set of perspectives on various topics.  I listen to podcasts on everything from gardening to running to general health.  Unfortunately with the demands of my schedule I’ve been stuck in the car the better part of a day for the past couple weeks.  I’ve therefore needed to amp up and podcast list to not run out of things to listen to.  A quick scrub of some related podcasts brought back a wealth of new producers, but with it a discovery of some dubious advice.

I didn’t find anything malicious or intentionally misleading in any of the podcasts.  I didn’t find anything that didn’t seem genuine about what the people were saying.  Some of the producers were hocking their own customized diet, exercise or fitness regime.  Others were just pontificating on their view of personal health.  Had I not been exposed to a lot of this material before I don’t think I would have been able to tell the BS from the factual.  Thankfully most of the material I listened to fell into the latter category, but there was enough of the BS that I found myself shaking my head more often than I would have liked.

I’m not going to call out a specific producer or a specific podcast.  Most of the material was either specifically contrarian to our standard knowledge of health practices or was giving advice that was just the latest fad “common sense” that is running virally through the health community.  For example, did you know that while there are no downsides to eating any meat products there can be a lot of downsides to eating vegetable products?  Anything sound fishy to you about that?  How about the supposedly worst way to lose weight is to do long duration cardio, where long duration is half an hour.  A last example is that supposedly modern fruits and vegetables only have 10% of the nutritional content that they once had so it is impossible to survive without supplements.

Each one of those statements are demonstrably false, yet if someone was finally getting the urge to get off their couch and do something about their health would they be able to tell the difference?  I can imagine this well intentioned person running across this advice eschewing the vegetables that they really need to be amping up, failing to do the walking or running that would be a substantial increase in their exercise levels and promote muscle building since they were coming up from a sedentary life and then becoming overwhelmed by trying to figure out which supplements they were supposed to be eating.  Unless they fell into one of these “the one cure” systems, if that was the podcast they were listening to anyway, they would probably end up giving up and being back on the couch doing no exercise eating nothing but garbage food again in no time, if they ever got started in the first place.

I’m sure that the producers hearts were in the right place, or at least I like to think so.  However I really wish they would think about the ramifications of the messages they are putting out when it is going to actively discourage people from making changes in their lifestyles that would be healthier for them, even if those things don’t fit into the exact product packaging that they have in their mind or are trying to sell to people.