Food fads having serious impact on health, conference warns

Rise in unqualified ‘experts’ blamed for rise in popularity of nutrition ‘crazes’

Popular fads and ‘myths’ about nutrition and exercise are having a serious impact on the public’s health, speakers at a food industry conference have warned. Photograph: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Popular fads and ‘myths’ about nutrition and exercise are having a serious impact on the public’s health, speakers at a food industry conference have warned. Photograph: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

 

Popular fads and “myths” about nutrition and exercise are having a serious impact on the public’s health, speakers at a food industry conference have warned.

The rise of unqualified “experts” is encouraging people to “follow the latest craze” or make significant changes to their diet or exercise programmes without proper investigation, according to dietitian Sarah Keogh.

“Nutrition is almost unique in that people with little or no training are influencing people’s nutrition choices and impacting on their health,” she told the annual conference of the Nutrition and Health Foundation, which is funded by the food industry.

“Sometimes this is positive but it can also have negative effects. Consumers need the best advice and not just information on the latest craze.”

Dr Muireann Cullen of the NHF claimed consumers were being “bombarded” with information on food and fitness and the best approaches to take for a healthy life.

“However, not all of this information is valid or accurate and this is intensifying the problem of obesity.”

Prof Robert Pickard, University of Cardiff, said red meat had a role as part of a health diet.

“Human beings thrive best on a balanced diet, where they eat a little bit of everything and not too much of any one thing.

“Lean, red meat is the most satiating food and helps to curb appetite. It is also the richest source of vitamins and minerals in the diet.

“Cows, sheep, and pigs share 80 per cent of their genes with humans so most of the molecules that they make are needed by humans.”

Welcoming the Government’s newly-unveiled national obesity policy, Prof Pickard, a former director general of the British Nutrition Foundation, said it was important to empower people by giving them the knowledge to look after their own health.

Sports scientist Dr Brendan Egan of Dublin City University said a number of myths and misconceptions were affecting how people incorporate exercise and physical activity into their modern lifestyles.

“Accumulating activity throughout the day is critical. Too much time spent sitting is a real threat to healthy ageing.”