This month’s article is written by Lisa Irvine, a nutritionist and writer. I asked Lisa if she could write an article on “super foods” since so many of my patients are interested in taking or are already taking various supplements and vitamins. Part Two will appear next month.
Super Food Or Super Phony: Researching Nutrition -Part One
The blossoming awareness of nutrition`s importance in our life is a positive thing, encouraging people to think clearly about what they eat and how it affects their body and their health. Unfortunately, nutritionists have jumped on the bandwagon to promote themselves, and newspapers and magazines gladly follow suit in order to sell more copies. This has led to a series of overhyped“super foods” and nutrients which are suddenly, bizarrely in vogue, as if nutrition could be fashionable. Thinking critically about the latest dietary craze is an important part of good nutrition, particularly if alternative health claims lead you to stopping medication or mainstream treatment. Scientific studies have been conducted on a number of the latest food fads and health rumors, and what they’ve discovered may surprise you.
Take antioxidants, for example. If you’re like most people, there’s no question: antioxidants are good for you, counteracting the harmful effects of cell-damaging free radicals. However, the story is rarely that simple, and that holds true here. Early studies showed that people who ate fruits and vegetables (full of antioxidants) and who took antioxidant pills seemed to live longer than people who didn’t, forming the basis of the hypothesis that antioxidants may prevent cell damage and cancer. Of course, scientists recognized that since correlation doesn’t imply causation, it might be that the kind of people who ate thoseantioxidant-high foods also took care of their health in other ways, and so further studies were conducted. The results? In massive double-blind tests pitting antioxidant pills against placebos, those on the antioxidant pills did no better – or even worse – than those on placebos. Research is still being conducted, and antioxidants in pill form may be different than those in real foods, but the answer is clearly not so simple as “eating this high-antioxidant food will keep you healthy”.
Foods rich in other vitamins and minerals are also potentially suspect. Vitamin C is now regularly added to almost everything you can consume, and people still take supplements by the handful, particularly when they start to cough and sneeze. However, the body can only process a certain amount before it gets rid of the excess through the kidneys – those supplements are hardly going to help if they’re turned into expensive pee! Even if taking excessive amounts of vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) did cause it to remain in your body, studies have been done for years on vitamin C’s ability to fight illness and disease, and the results aren’t encouraging. At very high doses it may help to cut your cold short by half a day or less, and for everything else – including cancer – it appears to do nothing. While everyone needs a certain amount of vitamin C, supplements and “super foods” boasting about their vitamin C content can safely be ignored by most people.