Recently I bought an ostensibly Columbian instant coffee, which confidently claimed that 2 cups of coffee per day relieves muscle pain after workout by 48%, protects against liver cirrhosis, lowers risk of diabetes and heart disease and makes you energetic. The claims were based on the ‘findings’ from ‘studies’ conducted by leading medical journals and universities and didn’t mention the brand but only the generic beverage. Isn’t that the way to appear objective and authentic?
That caffeine relieves pain and gives energy is a no brainer, and so one can believe the first and last claims, but the rest is pure hot air. I was even more disinclined to believe it because the coffee was obviously locally sourced with loads of chicory in it.
These ‘studies’ are not only vague but also often false and confusing to boot. Coffee, for instance is made and drunk in as many ways as there are drinkers of the beverage. So what kind of coffee do the dubious studies specify? Black, strong, brewed, instant, with sugar, without sugar, with/without milk, flavoured? Add to the list, my favourite ‘filter kaapi’ and the ‘coffee flavoured sweet milk’ that some prefer. And what is the size of the serving supposed to be? Some people have huge mugsful, while others drink less than 150 ml.
Which is why the same beverage that is sold as being healthy, based on favourable ‘findings’, turns into a villain a few days later – based on more such ‘findings’. It doesn’t take a genius to know that these studies are commissioned by the commercial entities selling the said product, to give them an advantage over their competitors.
And yet, awed as we are by ‘studies’ especially by any western university or institution, we blindly fall for them and the stats they peddle as scientific proof. Why, even I used to fall for them some decades back.
As Mark Twain said, ‘Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.’ But the problem arises when manipulated stats are sold as facts.
It would be hard to believe that such dubious studies with tiny samples, conducted over short periods, and confined to specific geographic locations and demographic groups, are extrapolated to global levels and used to change the very lifestyles of entire countries — by aggressive multinationals. These MNCs are the frontline soldiers of modern-day western colonisers, since cultural colonisation is the modus operandi of the colonisers in the 21st century.
Remember how ‘studies’ made us scramble for refined oils in the 70s? Far from being refined or good for health, these oils had a stubborn stickiness that stuck to the containers they were stored in. I used to wonder what all that stickiness did to the arteries if they could stick to metal and ceramic containers. While filtered, unrefined kardi and sunflower oils are indeed healthy, this fact was/is conveniently hidden by the glitzy ads for the refined versions of these oils, stressing only on the names of the oilseeds and a whole lot of hogwash about trans fats, zero-cholesterol and other such claims. Was it a coincidence that heart problems suddenly started spiking in the 70s, when we had junked our traditional cooking mediums?
The cooking oil mafia was not done yet. With the opening up of the economy and globalisation in the 90s, came olive oil, which was touted as the healthiest oil in the world. In their enthusiasm to appear globalised every middle-class matron from metros to villages rushed in to buy it and fry pakodas and vadas in it! The assault by the multinationals continued on traditional Indian breakfasts like Poha, upma, parathas and idlis, to be replaced by ‘breakfast’ cereals and 2-minute noodles led by Kelloggs, Quaker Oats, Top Ramen/ Maggi noodles and the like. Gullible Indians fell for the promise of the added vitamin C, iron and minerals claim of these products, backed of course, by ‘studies’. As for the 2-minute wonders, even social media ‘influencers’ swear by its nutritive value, thanks to some lucrative deals, no doubt.
The MNCs had still more in store. When these products had managed to globalise even rural kitchens, came a new set of ‘studies’, that suddenly ‘discovered’ the miraculous nutritive values and healing powers of coconut oil and the goodness of ghee with its ‘good’ fats – the very same cooking mediums they had said were dangerous to health!
Even premier research institutes of social sciences are not above pushing commercial or ideological agendas for a price. Some of their studies and ‘findings’ need to be seen to be believed. After all we live in times when narratives are kings or queens — or whatever pronoun the flavour of the day might be.
Just as lab studies manipulate the chemical composition of the food item they are trying to either sell or trash — depending upon what their brief is — research papers into social science topics or global surveys that tend to veer towards a predetermined outcome, one that often plugs an ideological or political agenda. And if it is also commercially sponsored, what better?
The research papers and surveys rely on questionnaires that elicit the desired responses, which can be further manipulated by getting a favourable sample segment.
When Maggi noodles had come back into the market in 2018 after the SC ban on it was lifted, there was an avalanche of ‘research studies’, some by premier institutions, and a slew of articles in print and digital media — all rushing to prove with ‘facts’ and figures how the 2-minute wonder was not only highly nutritious, but was also a great social leveler that worked to erase caste divides, no less!
The company made no secret of having funded the media blitz and research studies. (Link)
The paper from Amity University which had also conducted a survey on Maggi’s role as a social equaliser says it all:
“A sample size of 64 was selected from different demographic groups across age, gender and marital status through self-administered questionnaires. The main demographic targeted were the people who were more conscious & aware about the brand. People who have been consuming noodles were better able to answer the questions.”
A sample size of 64 for a pan India product! What a ridiculously tiny size, extrapolated to arrive at such a sweeping conclusion! What is more, it was limited to just the NCR, as if it is representative sample of the country. But who cares? If it is by a reputed university and lists the ‘scientific’ methods used, it should be right, surely?
If such studies are laughable, the global indices that have been unanimously discrediting India, especially in the last eight years, are fit to be chucked into the bin, since they also follow the ‘bottom-upwards’ rule stated above, while not even trying to hide the agenda.
If you want to know how these global indices are fixed to get a predetermined outcome — to discredit India in these cases — do read this excellent article by @AbhishBanerj, where he has detailed the methodology adopted to achieve the aim. It is superficially ‘scientific’ but dig deeper and you will find a lot of bunkum.
- The Global Hunger Index ranks India at 101, while Sri Lanka is leagues ahead of us at 65th. And yet, while Sri Lanka is burning with food and fuel shortage, India is sending food and aid to that country.
- The Global Index on Food Security, again ranks the economically bust and starving Sri Lanka above India, while the truth is that all through the pandemic, more than 80 crore Indians got free food grains! Recently The World Bank even ‘advised’ India to look into its Food Security concerns based on this index! Read to know more about it here.
- The World Happiness Index ranks India at 136 on the global scale — again, below Sri Lanka and even Pakistan!
- The Environment Performance Index 2022 takes the cake of all the studies, where India is ranked in the last 5!
- Then we had ‘reputed’ global economists ridiculing India for being poorer than Bangladesh. Never mind the parameters that they used to come up with the claim.
It is about time to stop being influenced or impressed by such motivated study findings, leave alone getting brainwashed by them. I, for one, have started listening to my body as to how many cups of my type of coffee it can withstand. As for the country, as long as I can see for myself where my country rightfully stands in such global indices, I am at peace!
Images: Homepage: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/ , This page: https://www.nbcnews.com/, https://www.tasteofhome.com/, https://www.thehindu.com/, https://time.com/
Often, these studies are used “manipulate” people’s opinions and serve commercial gains. People take these at face value without bothering about the authenticity of the research and the people behind the research.
A profound observation! There are several deep-pocketed lobbies at work to promote these MNC products and no wonder we see so much sickness around and over dependence on medicines
Oh, it is not just MNC products, but their ‘surverys’ and ‘studies’ too, which we put so much store by. I think the need of the hour is atmanirbhar thinking, just as much as atmanirbharta in other things!!
Very well researched and elaborate.
Thank you Geetashree. So nice to see you here 🙂
You have written an excellent article touching upon not only the basics of the food items and how the brands try to fool around for selling their product. Also you rightly mentioned the foreign media or the research organisations trying to malign India’s name. Keep it up.
Indeed, at one level all of us – whether we be a small consumer group, an entire nation, a region, all humanity – are just carefully reared, ever-hungry, ever gullible ‘bakras’ for the great and monstrous global shepherd whose brain is the transnational business-industry cartel, and whose limbs wield the triple astras of media, advertising and marketing.
The masterstroke – or mortal blow – is that these very limbs of control and exploitation are strengthened and sustained by cadres of eager youngsters, generation after generation, who seek and find lucrative employment in the myriad professions associated with media, advertising, marketing.
Truly sustainable degeneration! Pardon the cynicism…
The old principle, that a discovery becomes ‘science’ (i.e. ‘truth’) only when the discovery is peer-reviewed by others of intellect and wisdom, has been corrupted into utter rottenness during the past 50 years because all ‘refereed journals’ are populated by editors who pack their review panels with industry nominees (remember how Lancet and other once-hallowed medical journals disgraced themselves in concealing/obfuscating hard evidence that Covid-19 originated in the Wuhan labs?). And so, any attempt to amend the rot, to shine the light of truth on organized falsehood, is itself dismissed as falsehood and the light extinguished as though it never were…
After all, he who pays the piper calls the tune.
Yet I do believe and take heart – as you do – that change will come. Better times will come.
Add ideology to the triple astras to make it a quadruple, for other than product studies, the rest are all ideologically and consequently, politically motivated. “Truly sustainable degeneration!” Oh Mani, you do crack me up with your quips 😀
“And so, any attempt to amend the rot, to shine the light of truth on organized falsehood, is itself dismissed as falsehood” — talk of fake ‘fact checkers’ who spread fake news with authority!
And yeah, we live on hope, forevermore!!
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Brilliant article and analysis. We ourselves were a pawn shown and played by what others wanted, they did and we kind of followed without ever questioning or examining. I feel atleast Indians(not all) in last 8 years are slowly coming out of a slumber which carried on for centuries.
What I feel better about now is we are standing up and talking, questioning and even re-butting.
Thank you, Narayan for your kind comment. Yes, we have begun questioning now but we can see any action only when it becomes a movement. As of now, only SM handles are raising these issues and questioning their validity. We need to educate people about these sham (and scam) studies to make a dent in their impact. Unfortunately, the so-called English educated lead the pack and the others follow blindly to be seen as cool, which lapping up the findings of these studies.