Red Flags: Why to Question ‘Superfood’ Claims for Brain Health


By Gunter Kuhnle, Charlotte Mills, and Jeremy Spencer | July eleventh, 2022

Three professors of diet and meals science on the College of Studying clarify why you shouldn’t belief analysis which claims {that a} single foodstuff has wonderful well being advantages.

You’ve in all probability learn the tales proclaiming that consuming blueberries reduces your threat of dementia, or pink wine is nice in your coronary heart, or espresso protects in opposition to sort 2 diabetes – or, certainly, most of the different large well being claims for a specific “superfood.” However what’s the fact in these statements?

Whereas we – a bunch of dietary scientists – have been concerned in this sort of analysis, we aren’t liable for the headlines. Beneath these attention-grabbing tales, nevertheless, there may be vital and critical analysis that can assist to maintain us all happier and more healthy.

We research components of meals referred to as bioactives that impact well being (both good or unhealthy). Not like nutritional vitamins and minerals, bioactives, comparable to sure fatty acids, fibre or flavanols (a bunch compounds discovered, for instance, in tea or apples), usually are not important for survival, however nonetheless have an effect on our well being.

The massive problem with analysis on bioactives is to separate the impact of a meals from a person compound (meals are extremely advanced and comprise many compounds). In a cup of espresso are some phenolic acids which have a constructive impact on coronary heart well being, however different compounds that may enhance ldl cholesterol. This makes our analysis tough – but in addition thrilling.

We should discover methods to differentiate between the well being impact of various components of meals to grasp what is occurring and finally present extra confidence within the suggestions we offer.

One technique to discover out extra concerning the impact of particular person meals on well being is to match individuals with completely different diets and observe them over a very long time. That method has helped us to point out that the Mediterranean food plan – and the Nordic food plan – maintain us more healthy for longer. However this method is flawed once we need to discover out extra about particular person meals or their parts.

Meals are by no means consumed in isolation and it’s extremely tough to take this aside in such research. To make the outcomes of such analysis simpler to grasp, these findings are sometimes transformed into meals equivalents – the notorious punnet of raspberries, cups of tea or bottles of wine you need to devour for well being. In actuality, it’s way more tough.

Analysis into food plan and well being is tough as a result of there are lots of issues to think about. There are the important vitamins that we have to survive. There are dietary patterns that may have an effect on general well being and which might be the idea for suggestions, such because the UK authorities’s Eatwell information. After which there are bioactive compounds which might be discovered primarily in plant meals and which will have a helpful impact on well being.

Analysis into bioactives typically leads to headlines about wonderful meals. In actuality, it’s only a tiny a part of the meals, typically discovered elsewhere as nicely. A notable instance is blueberries. They comprise bioactives, however they’re additionally costly. Blackberries and plums present the identical bioactives, however are less expensive.

Over the previous a long time, now we have realized quite a bit concerning the chemical compounds naturally occurring in meals – what they’re and the way they have an effect on the physique. A few of them confer advantages for our coronary heart, mind and intestine that can assist us dash quicker, cycle longer, focus tougher and chill out extra simply.

Give attention to selection

A lot of them trigger issues when consumed in extreme quantities although. For instance inexperienced tea flavanols could cause liver harm when consumed in very giant quantities. We’re solely simply beginning to discover out whether or not there is a perfect quantity of those compounds that present most advantages. Till then, it’s protected to say {that a} various food plan is the very best method.

The wonderful thing about our understanding of diet is that it’s constantly evolving and bettering and we perceive a lot better what meals to look out for as analysis strikes on.

Everybody ought to construct up a form of portfolio of food plan that features the important vitamins, fibre and bioactives wanted to maintain wholesome and age nicely. Our our bodies are extremely advanced and want a number of completely different nutritional vitamins, minerals, macro and micronutrients to optimally maintain us going. It now appears seemingly that we have to add bioactives to this checklist. But it surely doesn’t matter the place they’re coming from – it’s selection that’s vital.

You ought to be cautious about dietary recommendation that implies you exclude the vary of great meals on supply and concentrate on a couple of “superfoods” that seemingly have magical properties. Vitamin is way more advanced than that – and consuming a nutritious diet is far simpler.The Conversation

This text by Gunter Kuhnle, Professor of Vitamin and Meals Science, College of Studying; Charlotte Mills, Lecturer in Human Vitamin, College of Studying, and Jeremy Spencer, Professor, Vitamin and Meals Science, College of Studying is republished from The Dialog below a Artistic Commons license. Learn the unique article.