UAB Nutritionist Dr. Beth Kitchin joins us with a look at two over-hyped food fads. She says there are no miracle foods. But we so want to believe there are. But what often happens in nutrition is that one or two small studies hit the mainstream media before anything definitive is proven. Then, when the claims don't hold up, it's too late. Here are two food fads that are way over-hyped:
Coconut Oil: Here's how the hype on coconut oil got way out of control - Marie-Pierre St-Onge, a professor of nutrition at Columbia University, published data in 2003 showed that eating and cooking with medium chain fatty acids — a type of fat found in coconut oil — can help dieting adults burn fat. Study participants ate specially prepared meals rich in medium chain fatty acids for four weeks. MRI and metabolic data showed that medium chain fatty acids reduced their overall fat levels and helped dieters burn energy. But, St-Onge points out, coconut oil is only 14 percent medium chain fatty acids. Participants in her studies received 100 percent medium chain fatty acids, a custom-made concoction. She never actually studied coconut oil. Still, the media and marketers ran with it. Dieting blogs and health-food websites went nuts- claiming coconut oil was a weight loss and health miracle – curing everything from arthritis to heart disease. The bottom line: coconut oil is fairly saturated and probably heart neutral. If you like the way it tastes, fine, use it. But stick with your healthy oils like olive and canola for most of your cooking uses.
Turmeric: Ground turmeric is a yellowish spice used in Chinese and Indian cooking. It gives flavor and color to curries and yellow rice. But the purported health benefits have been blown out of proportion. You may hear that it is strong anti-inflammatory and can decrease the risk of cancers and Alzheimer's disease. But the research supporting those claims have been lab studies. While there have been thousands of studies on turmeric, none have been the high quality double-blind, placebo-controlled trials in humans that are able to show cause and effect. Also, turmeric is not very well absorbed. Also, there's a lot of debate about whether you should eat it as a whole spice, take supplements or take supplements of curcumin – the supposed active ingredient. Does all this mean you shouldn't eat it? Not at all! Future well-done studies could show benefits and it certainly won't hurt to add it to your foods. Just don't expect it to be the miracle cure it's often touted to be.