21 Oct 11 The false belief in superfoods
Many people seem to think that adding acai and goji berries to their diet will give them a health kick and decrease the risk of cancer – because according to a new study by Bupa, the international medical insurance company, these ‘superfoods’ aren’t as super as they appear.
New research by YouGov, commissioned by Bupa, discovered that one in ten people (11%) in the UK believe superfoods help prevent cancer and have significant health benefits, despite there being no scientific evidence to back up these claims.
The study found that 61% of Britons buy into the superfood trend because they believe in its health benefits, with 38% inaccurately deeming them healthier than standard healthy foods like basic fruit and vegetables.
In fact, there is no medical evidence that popular superfoods like acai berries and plain popcorn help prevent cancer, which they both claim, and they are no more nutritionally beneficial than everyday foods like dried fruit, apples and wholegrains.
Experts fear that the nutritional and health promises that superfoods carry, give people false information about what they’re eating, as well as high expectations of how their health will benefit by eating these foods.
“The term ‘superfood’ is misleading as there is no clear definition and many of the supposed health claims are vague or not fully substantiated,” says Christina Merryfield, lead dietrician at Bupa.
“Some so-called superfoods like pomegranate juice and almonds can be good for you as part of a balanced diet, but giving them such a heroic sounding name confuses the public and can cause worse diet choices as people mistakenly believe they can ‘undo’ the damage caused by unhealthy foods,” Merryfield added.
“Much of the research behind foods like acai berries, black rice and plain popcorn is incomplete, inconclusive and lacks scientific credibility. No food can work miracles.”