Disease prevention comes down to living a active lifestyle and integrating a healthy diet based on nutrient dense foods. All the superfoods you will ever need are common nutrient dense fruits, vegetables and herbs. But some aspects of the industry have convinced millions that health comes in a bottle and can quickly repair damage to a neglected body. It gives hope to those desperate for solutions and ignorant to the cause of disease.
Many of them operate through multi-level marketing tactics a la "Amway" where thousands of people are duped into long-winded lectures on how effective the claimed products works to prevent almost any disease. They can then obtain royalties off the sale of these products.
Researchers and global media should better consider the validity of single scientific studies that report on supposed 'miracle foods' before promoting health concepts which clearly lack any foundation.
Anti-cancer beverages and 'miracle' foods are the dish du jour for global media who look to draw readers or viewers in with often sensationalised reports that do not consider the full weight of scientific evidence.
However, the public requires more information about the effects of diet as a whole on disease risk, as well as the importance of achieving and maintaining an ideal body weight, regular physical activity, and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle -- say experts led by Maki Inoue-Choi from the University of Minnesota, USA.
The expert commentary, published in Nutrition and Cancer , questions whether we really have sufficient evidence to make claims of 'anticancer foods' or 'super foods,' which have the power to magically prevent or 'cure' any disease to an eager public.
"Media coverage of these so-called miracle foods is often just a marketing tool," write Inoue-Choi and her colleagues. "Stories of miracle foods sell magazines and advertising space; food industries often sponsor research to show that their foods or products are superior, and supplement industries look to boost sales."
"In real life, however, we do not live on one single food item," they note. "We eat meals that consist of a considerable variety of foods, several times each day."
The 'Oz' Effect
Real food is the only medicine most people will ever need, however nutrient isolation is a big problem in the world of science who design studies that work much better in the lab than in the real world.
For example, there are hundreds of Acai beverages on the market mixed with other blended juices that make very steep health claims. Some studies show that acai fruit pulp has a very high antioxidant capacity with even more antioxidant content than cranberry, raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, or blueberry. However, it is not know what the long-term health benefits are of consuming acai in its processed form found in beverages, many of which have been flash pasteurized and possibly negating the effects of the fruit that nature intended to be consumed fresh.
Inoue-Choi and her team provide examples of scientific studies that theorise a decreased risk of ovarian cancer -- the first due to flavonoids in red onions and another due to omega-3 in sea bass.
They note that both of these studies were reported as fact on the popular US television talk show The Dr. Oz Show, which claimed these two foods, in addition to endive, "can decrease the risk of ovarian cancer by up to 75%."
However, the authors assert that with further research, five other studies would have been found that called the findings of these single studies in to question.
"A reduced risk of ovarian cancer related to higher onion intake, which was assessed after cancer diagnosis, was reported by one case-control study," they note. "Conversely, three large prospective studies...reported no association between onion intake and ovarian cancer risk."
Many red onions are now irradiated and some sea bass have high levels of metals and other pollutants. Which one's were tested?
The team warn that "although perhaps not as 'sexy' as Dr. Oz would like", the public needs better quality information about the effects of diet as a whole on disease and cancer risk.
"When evaluating potential cancer prevention benefits from the foods we eat, we need to consider diet in its totality, as well as other lifestyle factors such as physical activity, and the potential influences of genetic and epigenetic factors."
Indeed, Inoue-Choi and her colleagues note that certain foods and food components consumed together may have synergistic or antagonistic effects on health outcomes, while genetic differences may lead to differences in the health benefits of certain dietary interventions.
"If your ancestry have been consuming plant-based foods for the past thousand years and your diet primarily consists of animal protein, you may have problems, and vice versa, so genetic lines play a role," said Dr. Serge Liptone commenting on the research. "A one-dimensional approach to health or disease prevention is not realistic in the modern world--if more of us focused on eating nutrient dense foods rather than consuming the next greatest superfood beverages, we would all be much healthier with a lower incident of disease."
Nutrition and Cancer
Joe Orlandini is a Osteopathic Physician with a strong emphasis on an active lifestyle and organic nutrition which he strongly emphasizes in his practice.