Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The truth about detox and other food myths

Pretty impressed with the BBC's Truth About Food programme: lots of scientific rigour brought to bear on some food myths that are prevalent in our unfortunately not-always-rational popular culture.

The one I really enjoyed looked at the food myth that annoys me the most: the "detox diet". They took two groups of young, urban party-type girls, and put one on a detox diet and the other on a normal diet for a week. Result, predictably, was that the detox diet had absolutely no effect, apart from making the detox group feel really awful.

Another complete waste of time is drinking two litres of water a day to improve your skin.

But it's not all about debunking unscientific nonsense. They also looked at some more evidence-based diet ideas, which include eating spinach to prevent or reverse macular degeneration, and eating tomatoes to protect against skin cancer. The trials proved their effectiveness.

Pretty good stuff! You can watch all the programmes on the website.


Blogger Gary said...

The two litres thing is a good example of echo chamber journalism. It's repeated ad nauseam but if like me you get bored one day you can trace it back to a WHO publication that said the average adult needs two litres of water a day to survive. Most of that, of course, comes from food. And beer.

3:10 pm  
Blogger Stephen said...

Yeah, that's what they said in the programme, actually. (Not the beer bit!)

I've been doing a bit more reading on the site, and there's a goldmine of info there. It seems eating cheese and dairy helps you lose weight. And they also investigated the "metabolism myth" by following what two friends ate in a week. Not what they self-reported: they used hidden cameras and urine tests to record EXACTLY what they ate. The thin friend who "could eat whatever she wanted because of her metabolism", actually ate about 50% less food.

3:43 pm  
Blogger Gary said...

*actually follows link* Really should have read that first.

> actually ate about 50% less food.

Hahah, brilliant.

4:18 pm  
Blogger Stephen said...

Yeah, they mention in passing on the page that a lot of the required water comes from food, but on the programme, they went into more depth, mentioning the study, and also how everyone leaves out the second line from the study's conclusion, which actually said that most of the required water comes from food. They also illustrated it by quoting water percentages from a range of food. Meat, for example, is 60% water, which I know from making biltong: drying the meat results in about a two-thirds weight loss on average.

4:24 pm  

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