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These 5 foods are claimed to improve our health. But the amount we'd need to consume to benefit is..

Time:2019-05-22 08:06wine - Red wine life health Click:

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These 5 foods are claimed to improve our health. But the amount we’d need to consume to benefit is… a lot

May 14, 2019 4.13pm EDT

Emma Beckett, University of Newcastle, Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz, University of Wollongong

Authors

These 5 foods are claimed to improve our health. But the amount we'd need to consume to benefit is..

Emma Beckett

Lecturer (Food Science and Human Nutrition), School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle

These 5 foods are claimed to improve our health. But the amount we'd need to consume to benefit is..

Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz

PhD Student/Epidemiologist, University of Wollongong

Disclosure statement

Emma Beckett receives funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council. She is a member of the Nutrition Society of Australia, the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology and the Early and Mid Career Researcher Forum.

Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Food gives us the nutrients we need to survive, and we know a balanced diet contributes to good health.

Beyond this, many people seek out different foods as “medicines”, hoping eating certain things might prevent or treat particular conditions.

It’s true many foods contain “bioactive compounds” – chemicals that act in the body in ways that might promote good health. These are being studied in the prevention of cancer, heart disease and other conditions.

But the idea of food as medicine, although attractive, is easily oversold in the headlines. Stories tend to be based on studies done in the lab, testing concentrated extracts from foods. The effect seen in real people eating the actual food is going to be different to the effects in a petri dish.

Read more: Health check: can eating certain foods make you smarter?

If you do the maths, you’ll find you actually need to eat enormous amounts of particular foods to get an active dose of the desired element. In some cases, this might endanger your health, rather than protecting it.

These four foods (and one drink) show the common healing claims around the foods we eat don’t always stack up.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon, which contains a compound called cinnamaldehyde, is claimed to aid weight loss and regulate appetite.

There is evidence cinnamaldehyde can reduce cholesterol in people with diabetes. But this is based on studies of the chemical in large doses – not eating the spice itself.

These studies give people between 1 and 6 grams of cinnamaldehyde per day. Cinnamon is about 8% cinnamaldehyde by weight – so you’d have to eat at least 13 grams of cinnamon, or about half a supermarket jar, per day. Much more than you’d add to your morning porridge.

Red wine

The headlines on the health benefits of red wine are usually because of a chemical in grape skins called resveratrol. Resveratrol is a polyphenol, a family of chemicals with antioxidant properties.

It’s been claimed resveratrol protects our cells from damage and reduces the risk of a range of conditions such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease.

There is some limited evidence that resveratrol has benefits in animal models, although studies done in humans have not shown a similar effect.

These 5 foods are claimed to improve our health. But the amount we'd need to consume to benefit is..

We often hear that drinking red wine is good for our health. From shutterstock.com

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