`Superfood` hypes give false hopes of curing cancer: Study

London: More than 10 percent people believe "superfoods" can prevent cancer, although there is no medical evidence to support it, a new British research has claimed.

The new study, carried out by research firm YouGov, found that 11 percent of Britons think it can prevent cancer and many believe that there are more health benefits to superfoods than eating a balanced diet.

Of those surveyed, 55 percent were familiar with the term and of those 38 percent believed there were additional health benefits in eating "superfoods". However, 61 percent admitted purchasing, eating, or drinking specific food because they had the label, the Daily Mail reported.

Of those who knew of the term 18 per cent thought that those who ate a lot of them were healthier and 21 per cent believed they could prevent cancer.

However, tests done on foods like plain popcorn and acai berries, both of which have been given anti-cancer claims, showed that they are no more beneficial than other everyday foods like dried fruit, apples and wholegrains.

Experts at Bupa, a British healthcare organisation which commissioned the study, said the term "superfood" has no scientific definition but it is often bandied around and applied to foods with a specific health benefit, giving the public a false expectation of the benefits.

"The term `superfood` is misleading as there is no clear definition and many of the supposed health claims are vague or not fully substantiated," Christina Merryfield, lead dietician at Bupa`s Cromwell Hospital, said.

"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."

"No food can work miracles, Dr Merryfield said, adding that much of the research behind foods like acai berries, black rice and plain popcorn is "incomplete, inconclusive and lacks scientific credibility".

The label is giving people a falsely high expectation of the benefits of the foods, which frequently have no more health benefits than similar foods in the same category, the researchers said, urging people to be aware of the exaggerated claims.

Some of the myths surrounding superfoods include that almonds are good for weight loss when, although they are high in monosaturated fat which might help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, they have a massive calorie count.
Black Rice is championed as reducing the risk of heart disease, high cholesterol and bowel cancer but, while a high fibre diet is good for the bowels, the much cheaper wholegrain rice provides similar fibre levels.

Similarly plain popcorn has been branded as protecting against cancer and cell damage, but most of the evidence comes from animal not human tests and other foods are far higher in cancer-fighting anti-oxidants such as choosing a variety of colours of fruit and vegetables and including wholegrains in your diet.


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