Each week we analyse some of the hot headlines in health and nutrition news

HEADLINE 1: Could sugary diets fuel Alzheimer’s disease? Scientists discover link between high levels of glucose in the brain and memory loss symptoms

The story linking sugar to Alzheimer’s disease was reported in The Daily Mail, The SunThe Express and Hello Magazine

Behind the headlines: the Nutrilicious dietetic view
This news was headline-grabbing indeed, with all the stories suggesting that diets high in sugar could be linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

The story is based on a study finding that there were significant abnormalities in glucose breakdown in patients with Alzheimer’s – resulting in high levels of brain glucose.

However, the actual reasons for these abnormalities remain unclear and cannot be drawn from this study. The study is still at an early stage and more research is needed to investigate whether genetic or perhaps environmental factors are the cause of such abnormalities. The headlines may lead people to think that high sugar diets cause Alzheimer’s. However, the study did not directly test this and no causal relationship can be assumed at all.

Nevertheless, as part of a healthy diet, sugar should be limited. SACN advise that less than 5% of daily energy should come from free sugars (which amounts to 30g per day for an average person over 11 years).

Where to find useful information on the topic

BDA Food Facts, Sugar
Alzheimer’s Society, Risk factors and Prevention

HEADLINE 2: Arthritis: Following THIS diet could help stave off the crippling condition
SWITCHING to a superfoods diet can help fight rheumatoid arthritis, research has found

The story in the Daily Express was also reported by:
NDTV: Scientists reveal the diet and superfoods that can beat arthritis
Daily Mail: Diet to beat arthritis
The Sun: Blueberries, ginger and olive oil offer pain relief to thousands of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers
Times Now: Rheumatoid arthritis: Indian scientists list foods that may help ease the condition

Behind the headlines: the Nutrilicious dietetic view
This headline is based on a list of ‘superfoods’ that has been produced following a review of journals publishing on the subject. The list of foods includes blueberries, olive oil, green tea, pomegranates, dried plums, ginger and more. Those who carried out the research also recommend avoiding meat and including probiotics.

Many studies seem to hit the headlines regarding so called ‘superfoods’ (a term for which there is no official definition). However, no single food can outweigh the impact of the rest of one’s diet and hence a whole diet approach is recommended.

What we know is that no single food can cure arthritis. Rather than following a list of ‘superfoods’ as this headline suggests, having a healthy balanced diet, Mediterranean style, with a variety of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, beans, fish and healthy fats would be advised.

The links given below discuss in more detail key aspects of a healthy diet for arthritis, the role of vegetarian diets and the potential role of supplements for the condition:

Arthritis UK, Diet and Arthritis
BDA Food Facts, Diet and Rheumatoid Arthritis

HEADLINE 3: Cheers! Red wine cuts diabetes risk in women: Moderate drinking found to reduce chance of the disease by 27%

The story in The Daily Mail was also reported by:
The Express: Type 2 diabetes symptoms: Drinking RED WINE could help LOWER risk of condition
Health Spectator: Drinking tea and red wine reduces type 2 diabetes risk

Behind the headlines: the Nutrilicious dietetic view
This study looked into the eating habits of women aged between 40 and 65 years old. Through a food questionnaire it concluded that a diet rich in antioxidants (foods including red wine, dark chocolate, tea, fruits, nuts and vegetables) will reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 27%.

From this type of research, it cannot be proven that a diet rich in antioxidants, or as the headlines specifically say drinking red wine, reduces diabetes risk; it is an association found and more studies are needed. Food questionnaires, as used in this study, have questionable accuracy and the study can only be applied to middle aged women. Whilst many of the foods listed in this study such as fruit and vegetables play an important part in the diet, alcohol can have detrimental effects to our health and should be limited (no more than 14 units per week).

Looking at the bigger picture, it is interesting to note that the WCRF recommend for reducing cancer risk as much as possible, we should not be drinking alcohol at all. For type 2 diabetes prevention, the most important lifestyle factors are to maintain a healthy weight, eat a balanced diet and be active.

For more information, go to:
NHS, Drinking and Alcohol 
WCRF Alcohol and Cancer Risk
Diabetes UK, Preventing Type 2 Diabetes

 

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