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February 27th, 2008 at 12:05 am

Myths about food

» by in: diet


There was an interesting documentary on the BBC tonight, here in the UK, called Prof Regan’s Supermarket Secrets. It followed Professor Lesley Regan (not entirely sure what she’s a professor in) as she investigated whether the health claims made about expensive food and household products are actually scientifically proven. She looked at:

  • cholesterol-lowering foods
  • organic food
  • so-called super foods
  • probiotics
  • omega fats
  • antioxidants
  • GM foods
  • anti-bacterial cleaners
  • low temperature washing powder

Apparently the claims made about cholesterol-lowering foods are backed up by scientific studies. These include products like Benecol and Flora ProActive. However, the professor found that the claims made about organic food, probiotics, antioxidants and super foods are unproven – although in the case of probiotics there is some evidence that they help people who have existing gut problems.

I was particularly interested in the programme’s conclusion that so-called super foods (blueberries, broccoli, pomegranate etc) have no benefit additional to that of other fruits and vegetables. Although a bit sceptical, I’d always thought there might be something in that claim.

It also turns out that taking excessive amounts of vitamins – for example, by eating more foods rich in vitamin C – doesn’t help either. The body seems to take what it needs and not use the rest.

So for healthy individuals, a lot of these expensive products – organic, super, probiotic – don’t appear to have the benefits that the extra cost implies.

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  • 1

    Hi Gubes

    I watched that too, and I was in the same line of thinking as the Prof beforehand on most of them. However, the only reason I eat organic food (for certain things) is just because it’s tastier! I missed the one about omega fats – I think that one was online. Why don’t they work? I’ve heard Omega 3 said to me several times, so I thought there might be some truth in it.

    cityboy on February 27th, 2008
  • 2

    Hi mate, I don’t think there’s a problem with omega 3 per se, I think the point was that foods which proclaim extra added omega 3 have so little that they don’t really count for much on their own. Traditional sources of omega 3 such as oily fish or cod liver oil are still the best.

    gubernatrix on February 27th, 2008
  • 3

    Fantastic – I’m going to hit up the salmon then again tonight!

    cityboy on February 27th, 2008
  • 4

    Ooo yes, I love salmon. Also on my menu for this evening!

    gubernatrix on February 27th, 2008


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