Nearly Half of Millennials Believe These Food Myths

Wednesday December 18, 2019

From thinking that swallowing a seed will cause a watermelon to grow in their stomach, following the "five-second rule" and eating carrots to enhance night vision, two in five millennials grew up believing food myths, according to new research.

A new survey of 2,000 millennials (aged 23—38) asked about a variety of food myths and found that 44 percent of respondents currently or previously believed a myth about food.

Top food myths were found to be believing gum takes seven years to digest when swallowed, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are always less healthy and everyone should drink eight glasses of water per day.

That's in addition to believing the five-second rule and thinking that fat-free/low-fat foods are always better versions.

Mom was the one most likely to spread these food myths (65 percent), followed by dad (57 percent) or an older sibling (44 percent).

Commissioned by Ajinomoto and conducted by OnePoll, results reveal that the average millennial who believed food myths outgrew them by age 14.

Interestingly enough, 69 percent of millennials surveyed said social media and access to technology makes it more difficult for their generation to be told food myths.

But even though respondents might not believe food myths anymore — that doesn't mean they don't act on them.

The survey found that the majority of respondents would still follow the five-second rule depending on the situation — especially if their food wasn't messy (49 percent) or if they were at home (46 percent).

Interestingly enough, 68 percent agree: They're more likely to believe a food myth if it aligns with what they already know or believe about food — showing how deeply these misconceptions can affect us.

Results also showed that six in 10 respondents (61 percent) still avoid eating food with MSG, a habit which might be rooted in another commonly-shared food myth — even though just 13 percent currently believe MSG is bad for them.

"Food beliefs, especially when influenced by friends and family, can stick with you for a long time," says Tia Rains, PhD, Nutrition Scientist at Ajinomoto. "It's interesting to see that even though scientists, regulatory agencies and public health organizations have stood by MSG's safety over the last 30 years, these misperceptions still exist."

Thirty-one percent of millennials surveyed believed — or currently believe — that MSG is bad for them, but many don't know what MSG is.

Only a quarter of those surveyed (26 percent) knew what MSG stood for — monosodium glutamate — while 38 percent incorrectly believe that MSG gives most people headaches.

Just over half (54 percent) were aware that MSG is a seasoning used to enhance the flavor of food.

"There's something to be said for what we miss in perpetuating some of these myths."

"For example, MSG has two-thirds less sodium than table salt, so it's a great tool for sodium reduction — and it can add umami taste to plant-based dishes," continued Rains. "But we were pleasantly surprised to find that 67 percent of people agree that perpetuating food myths is harmful — people are more eager than ever to set the record straight."


• If you swallow gum, it takes seven years to digest

• Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are always less healthy than fresh ones

• Everyone should drink eight glasses of water a day

• You need to wait an hour after eating before swimming to avoid stomach cramps

• The five-second rule (you can still eat food for five seconds after dropping it)

• Fat-free and low-fat foods are always better for you than full-fat versions

• Eating carrots will let you see in the dark

• Brown eggs are healthier than white eggs

• Eating spinach will give you superhuman strength (like Popeye)

• An apple a day keeps the doctor away

• A watermelon will grow in your stomach if you swallow a seed

• Eating celery burns more calories than it takes in

• Turkey makes you sleepy because of the serotonin it contains

• When the ice cream truck plays music, it's out of ice cream

• Eating bread crusts will make your hair curly

• Black watermelon seeds are poisonous

• MSG is bad for you

• Coffee stunts your growth