Who Is Your Health Authority?

I saw a post on social media the other day advertising the “famous last words said by Steve Jobs as he was on his death bed.” Or something like that.

The info graphic featured picture of the tech industry billionaire, looking pensive, with a text overlay of savvy one-liners about happiness, the fleeting nature of wealth, and the value of love and community. It also displayed the following quote:

“Eat your food as your medicine, otherwise, you have to eat medicine as your food.”

– not Steve Jobs

The picture struck me as funny for a couple reasons. First of all, I’d seen it before, and it had since been invalidated — Steve Jobs never said those things. Someone else made them up, posted them on a blog, and then they went viral — as things related to famous people often do.

The second reason is because in my world view, Steve Jobs should not be considered a health and wellness authority. Sure, he was a brilliant man who paved new paths in the realm of technology, many of which have been invaluable to global progress.

However…he was an engineer, not a doctor. He was a tech guru, not a health expert. His expertise was in circuits and wires, pixels and screens, not human physiology.

Likewise, the sad irony of this phrase is that although it supposes that food can cure ailments, thus preventing the need for life-saving medications, the disease that took the life of Steve Jobs has no known associations with lifestyle factors. (In other words, the food that Steve Jobs did or didn’t eat had no effect on the development of his pancreatic cancer. RIP.)

So, why am I embarking on such a critical and irreverent monologue about a quote attributed to a dead man that he never actually said?

Because even though we know it is false, people still believe it. Even though there is no authority behind the words, thousands of people see them on their screens and are nodding their heads in somber agreement. This needs to stop.

Believing someone or taking their advice just because they are famous is risky. Equating fame with knowledge and expertise is ignorant…and ignorance is not bliss in this case. A lot of people say a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean they’re right. In fact, they’re often wrong. This needs to stop.

Applying undo blame to individuals suffering from debilitating (and fatal) conditions is hurtful. Blaming food for any and every physical symptom is dangerous and harmful. Fear mongering around food creates disordered eating habits. Disordered eating is harmful. This needs to stop.

Physicians and other healthcare providers undergo years of training. They learn about the body, including health and pathology, how symptoms manifest and what they mean. Doctors are trained in identifying symptoms, diagnosing diseases, and treating them accordingly. They are licensed, and that license comes with an enormous responsibility to be careful with their words so as not to promulgate false information. They are called to protect their patients by defending truth. That’s why I’m writing.

If you have questions about health, disease, or food, ask to your healthcare provider…not Steve Jobs, not Dr. Google, not the latest Instagram influencer.


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