The newspaper The Colombian from Medellín published an article a few days ago titled: “Chicharrón is healthier than some vegetables, according to a new study.” The news began forcefully: “If you say the word pork, you automatically think of the word fat, and immediately afterwards, the word unhealthy, however, there is nothing further from the truth than that.” To support this idea, which contradicts all the scientific evidence known to date, the journalist stated that researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine had published a scientific article in the journal Plos One which showed that pork skin was better for your health than spinach, carrots and cauliflower.

On the same day, the magazine Week, the most read media in Colombia, wrote a similar article: “Surprising study revealed that consuming pork rinds would be healthier than some vegetables.” The newspaper Time did the same: “Chicharrón could be healthier than some vegetables, according to a study.” Caracol Television, the magazine Change, InfobaeNoticias Uno and many other prestigious media outlets in Colombia published the same article with some slight variations, but maintaining the thesis.

The news jumped from the media to social networks and became a topic of discussion among family and friends. To the point that the most listened to radio stations in the country, with several million people daily audience, included the topic in their morning news tables. This Monday, journalist Néstor Morales, Blu Radio news presenter, introduced the discussion like this: “There is a study that comes from California, from the community of scientific libraries, that recommends eating pork rinds for health.”

The news was also published on portals in Venezuela, Mexico and Spain. Even several media outlets in the United States made their own version in English. The problem is that the study on which all the press publications were based was not done by doctors from Boston University and was not published by the journal Plos One, or any other, because it does not exist. It’s a hoax. Fake news. A lie that grew little by little until it reached, for example, the Health and Science section of the Spanish newspaper La Razón, which wrote: “Scientific surprise: a study suggests that torreznos (pork rinds) could be better than some vegetables.” .

Although it is not known with certainty what the origin of the news was, Juan Camilo Mesa, Colombian dietitian, nutritionist and microbiologist, explains in an interview with EL PAÍS that the first reference to this supposed study is in a Facebook post that went viral. Later it was published in the TN media in Argentina and there it began its journey through the world’s newsrooms, growing like an immense snowball of misinformation. “The Colombian media began to replicate the first news story and did not change a single comma,” Mesa says indignantly from his home in Stockholm, Sweden, where he earned a master’s degree in nutritional sciences. “In the database of the scientific journal there is no article about pork rinds and vegetables, it does not exist.”

Mesa explains that none of the more than 100 press articles on the web about the health benefits of chicharrón make direct reference to the original research: “No publication mentions the authors, nor the date on which was published, nor the title of the supposed scientific work, as usually happens in serious media when a scientific article is reviewed,” he says. And she adds: “It’s all a big lie, fake news replicated without thinking by the media to gain clicks and audiences.” EL PAÍS also reviewed the magazine’s database and did not find any related article.


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Colombian doctor and endocrinologist Óscar Rosero also denied the existence of the article: “Everything seems to indicate that many news portals use Chat GPT more than necessary. All the portals cite an article from the magazine Plos one, but they do not provide the link. I looked in the magazine and in the last year there are no publications that talk about the subject in that way.”

Nutritionist and dietitian Catalina Echeverry explains in conversation with EL PAÍS that with this news the media is generating mistaken beliefs in citizens, which can have serious consequences for public health. “What is going to happen in the short term in Colombia, and more so during this Christmas season, is that the consumption of pork rinds will increase and the consumption of vegetables, which is already very low, will decrease.”

Echeverry affirms that this increase can, in the long term, generate diseases. “The increase in the consumption of saturated fats, such as pork rinds, is related to cardiovascular problems. This is demonstrated by scientific evidence.” The recommendations of the American Heart Academy and the World Health Organization, and even the Colombian health system’s own guidelines, say the same thing: high consumption of saturated fats is related to heart disease.

The Colombian nutritionist is forceful in explaining the risks of pork rinds: “It does not depend on whether you prepare it in canola oil, palm oil, or even in the air fryer, it is a fatty protein that can affect your health.” Echeverry agrees with her colleagues in denying the existence of the scientific article, but goes further. “If it existed, it would be poorly designed,” she says, “It is inconsistent to compare animal proteins with plant proteins because they are simply completely different food groups. It is obvious that chicharrón has more protein than a vegetable, but vegetables are not responsible for covering our daily protein requirement, but rather they are responsible for providing us with fiber, vitamins and antioxidants.”

The media in Colombia not only replicated an article based on a study that does not exist, but to give it validity they interviewed people who, without scientific argument, defend a diet based on high consumption of pork rinds. Dr. Bayter, a food influencer who proposes absurd diets, with more than four million followers on Tik Tok, had several spaces in the media to induce people to eat more pork rinds and, above all, to abandon vegetables.

Nutritionist Mesa assures that these diets go against all the consensuses that medicine has reached in recent years. “Science says the complete opposite of what Byter proposes. We must favor foods of plant origin: fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans, chickpeas, lentils, nuts, seeds, and reduce red meat, which includes pork rinds.”

For Echeverry, the reason why newspapers and radio stations call out people who misinform like Byter is clear: “They have a giant network of followers, that generates more views, it is viral content, the ratings go up. The problem is that no one curates the content, no one makes sure it is true. It is very irresponsible and dangerous.”

Mesa and Echeverry insist that numerous and compelling scientific articles associate high consumption of red meat with an increased risk of suffering from some types of cancer. For example, consumption of more than 50 grams per day of red meat was associated with a 22% and 36% increased risk of colorectal cancer and colon cancer, respectively.

Julio Basulto, a Spanish food and health popularizer, has explained on his social networks that, in addition to it being a lie that pork rinds are good for your health, the serious thing about the publication of these hoaxes is that the consumption of vegetables is underestimated: “The Science unequivocally shows that a diet based on foods of plant origin protects population health, less type 2 diabetes, less cardiovascular disease, less cancer and fewer premature deaths. There is a systematic review and meta-analysis, with more than 2 million participants that proves it.”

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