Thursday 03 May 2018


This week I want to focus on the television programme that ran on Thursday 21st of August on ITV at 7.30. The title of the programme was ‘Superfoods are they fact or myth’.

It was really interesting with some powerful brains behind the subject and I was very pleased to see Robert Thomas oncologist at Bedford hospital do his bit because I have been to see him lecture and was impressed then. He specialises in prostate and breast cancer and has a passion for nutrition which is very refreshing.

Anyway about the programme. The idea was to explore the superfood industry simply because 61% of the population said that they buy specific foods that are given a super health claim. For example we buy 4 million tons of quinoa a year, 16m tons of kale, 2 ½ tons of almonds and a whopping 200m tons of blueberries a year.  

Why are some foods called superfoods?

Super foods is of course a marketing term and not a medical term. Even so it seemed to be the general theme of the programme that by enhancing the natural properties of foods that they could support conventional medicine in the fight and prevention of chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

So why are they called superfoods. Basically they are foods that have been shown to be very high in natural food compounds called anti- oxidants. Antioxidants protect the body form highly reactive oxygen molecules that develop in the body as a result of everyday stresses in life, For example too much sun will create these highly reactive oxygen molecules, which are very volatile can also develop as a result of smoking, too much alcohol, pollution, stress and poor sleep. If the level of these reactive molecules is too high then this can lead general poor health and the onset of chronic disease.

Blueberries and antioxidants

During the programme a department at Newcastle University carried out an experiment to test the effects of antioxidants. 5 women were chosen at random and asked to eat blueberries every day for 8 weeks. Blood samples were taken before the experiment to measure the level of oxidative stress in the body and after the 8 weeks another blood test to see what impact the anti-oxidants in the blueberries had. The results were quite profound. Over all there was a 60% reduction and in one lady as much as 90%. This was of course a small experiment using blueberries but with significant results that could be seen as very positive.

Professor Robert Thomas talked about his food form Supplement called Pomi T. This was developed as a result of his research into the natural chemicals found in foods and the impact that they have on cancer cells. The supplement contained natural extracts from pomegranates, green tea, turmeric and broccoli. These particular foods were chosen to represent fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. Each food had a different compound that affected the cancer cell in a different way. Cancer cells go through a series of biochemical pathways in order to grow fast, invade adjacent organs and metastasise. A number of laboratory experiments using cancer cells and normal cells in petri dishes has shown that some foods can directly inhibit these pathways. Research also tells us that cancer survivors that eat a diet rich in antioxidants were found to have lower relapse rates. Professor Thomas won an award for his research.

Next year results of a 5 year experiment are to be published on diet and lifestyle and cancer recovery which will be interesting. One of the participants was on the television programme showing how she had over hauled her diet after having the convention treatment for aggressive breast cancer. She focussed very much on natural whole foods and a good variety in her diet.

Coconut oil/butter
I did feel that there was one error in the programme regarding coconut oil/butter. This appears to be the latest super food and sales have soared. The nutritionist that was talking about this did explain that it is a saturated fat, as we know, but he also said that it was high in cholesterol which is not healthy. I think is misleading.

Coconut is rich in Lauric acid which has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels particularly the bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase the good cholesterol (HDL) which improves the cholesterol ratio in favour of the good cholesterol, which is heart protective. Also the new thinking about cholesterol is that it is not the baddy that we have been led to believe and that it is only when it becomes oxidized in the body that it causes any health problems. So by eating a diet high in natural antioxidants then this should not be an issue and certainly coconut products should be included as part of a healthy balanced diet the same as all ‘super foods’.

It was refreshing to see a programme that embraces the use of foods for health promotion and I do feel that in time this idea will become more mainstream and convention medicine will meet complementary medicine in the middle and work nicely together. After all if we can reduce the side effects of conventional treatment by using something natural then that has got to be the way forward.

Blog written by Caroline August 2014

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