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Red Wine, Raspberries, Strawberries, Pomegranate, Oregano, Olive Oil,

Super Foods: Are They or Aren’t They?

Author
- Wes Porter  Monday, November 5, 2012
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Earlier this year Peter O’Toole, announcing his retirement as a thespian, explained: “I have no intention of uttering my last words on the stage. Room service and a couple of depraved young women will do me quite nicely for an exit.”

Those with other tastes might consider alternative routes – and perhaps roots – to living long and healthful lives. After all, happiness and mental health are highest among people who eat seven portions of fruit and vegetables a day, according to a report published just last month in Social Indicators Research.

Every day though the popular press print yet more claims in support of the newly minted ‘superfoods’ Many will observe such with a jaundiced eye rather than through rose-coloured glasses. Some are suggested by studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, although the research may have been funded by commercially interested organizations.

Gardeners are a notoriously long-lived bunch, doubtless in part because we enjoy eating – and drinking – what we grow. From files of the past year or so let us take a look at some recent suggestions for achieving good health and delaying attentions of the mortician.

Peter O’Toole is not exactly unknown for imbibing certain amounts of alcohol so let us start off on the right foot, so as to speak . . .

Alcohol

A study exploring the influence of alcohol on creative problem solving suggests a small amount of booze could help you find some answers, noted New Scientist magazine of research by Andrew Jarosz and colleagues from the University of Illinois at Chicago, published earlier this year in Consciousness and Cognition. Another study found that men who drink moderately after a first heart attack had a 42 per cent lower risk of dying from heart disease than non-drinkers (Daily Mail) it is, of course, all too easy to overdo it, as numerous other studies have shown – and the headstones in cemeteries.

Apple

You’re the apple of my eye thought you’re rotten to the core, a smart-# might proclaim. But it has been claimed that eating an apple a day might help keep the cardiologist away. New research suggested an apple a day lowers levels of a blood chemical linked to hardening of the arteries a study, funded by an apple industry group and published in the Journal of Functional Foods, noted. Two apples might be even better in protecting women against heart disease by cutting their cholesterol levels, according to research appearing in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Avocado

Inspired by the dangling fruit, the Aztecs called it the ‘Testicle Tree.’ Now research conducted in Mexico, the world’s largest avocado producer has demonstrated its power to combat destructive rogue oxygen molecules. The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at San Diego, California last April. The end result is to “fight off disease” and “keep you young.” Oh, yes: and an avocado diet is said to “triple the chances of success’ for couples undergoing IVF. May be the Aztecs were onto something.

Beer

Beer may one day help people lose weight and fight off diabetes. In Belgian research, a compound found in hops has helped obese and diabetic mice become skinny. However, health professionals warned it’s not a licence to drink more beer, says Australia’s NT News out of Darwin where the principal import is said to be bureaucrats and that of export empty beer bottles.

Black Tea

Drinking three cups of black tea daily over months may help lower blood pressure a study suggests in a research paper released in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
A Düsseldorf study of European populations found that countries that drank four cups of tea a day – the British average – had a 20% lower risk of developing diabetes.
A review shows regular drinking black tea, with or without milk, can reduce the risk of heart problems by cutting levels of bad cholesterol and blood sugar. A review in the journal Nutrition Bulletin found drinking three or more cups a day of black tea a day protects against heart disease and two or more cups a day may protect against type 2 diabetes.
Glasgow University found that men who are heavy tea drinkers are 50 per cent more likely to develop prostate cancer, according to a controversial study published that contradicts previous research about Britain’s national drink. The Tea Advisory Panel said that research was flawed.
A study found women were 27 per cent more likely to become pregnant if they regularly drank tea compared to those who did not (Source: Mail on Sunday).

Blackberries

Strong scientific evidence exists that eating blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and other berry fruits has beneficial effects on the brain and may help prevent age-related memory loss and other changes, scientists report. Their research on the value of eating berry fruit appeared in ACS’ Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.
Those who ate berries at least once a week could cut their risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by a quarter compared with those who never ate them, a study by British and U.S. scientists has found. About 130,000 men and women took part in the research, published in the journal Neurology.

Blueberries

Strong scientific evidence exists that eating blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and other berry fruits has beneficial effects on the brain and may help prevent age-related memory loss and other changes, scientists report. Their article on the value of eating berry fruit appeared in ACS’ Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.
Those who ate berries at least once a week could cut their risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by a quarter compared with those who never ate them, a study by British and U.S. scientists has found. About 130,000 men and women took part in the research, published in the journal Neurology.
While there’s no doubt foods such as broccoli, blueberries and whole grains contain polyphenols – compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties – the academic experts at London’s Kingston University in the U.K. contend that little of these health-giving properties actually make it past the gut.

Broccoli

While there’s no doubt foods such as broccoli, blueberries and whole grains contain polyphenols – compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties – the academic experts at London’s Kingston University in the U.K. contend that little of these health-giving properties actually make it past the gut.

Brussels Sprouts

Half a cup contains 80 per cent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C, folic acid and dietary fibre. But it is a glucosinate called sinigrin that has aroused the most interest. In tests on rats, a dose of sinigrin has inhibited the growth of precancerous cells, explained Rowan Hooper in New Scientist.

Cabbage

A Chinese study involving more than 5,000 patients found a link between higher consumption of cruciferous vegetables such as greens, cabbage and broccoli, and reduced breast cancer rates. The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Chicago, March 2012.

Carob

Leaves of the tree that yields carob – the substitute for chocolate that some consider healthier than chocolate (see below) – are a rich source of antibacterial substances ideal for fighting the microbe responsible for listeriosis, a serious form of food poisoning, according to a report in the ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Carrots

Researcher have discovered a link between low vitamin C, beta-carotene levels and dementia, meaning antioxidant rich fruit and veg – such as spinach, carrots and apricots – could help fight the disease’s devastating symptoms. German scientists looked at the differences between 74 people with mild Alzheimer’s and 158 healthy subjects. Their study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Little Leo Barnett has been nicknamed the ‘Tango Kid’ because carrots turn him orange. The three-year-old, from Oldham, Hampshire, is believed to be the only person in the U.K. to suffer from hyper-beta carotenema.

Cereals

Old-fashioned cornflakes used to be the standard breakfast food. Not anymore. Reinvented by food conglomerates as cereal bars, they are so packed with sugar they can contain nearly half a child’s daily allowance, warned The Sun tabloid.

Cinnamon

The Cinnamon Challenge has been around for years but appears to be growing with the prevalence of social networks, according to the Toronto Sun. The dare game involves trying to swallow a spoonful of cinnamon in one minute – impossible to do and possibly dangerous.

Cherries

Eating cherries can reduce the risk of gout by more than a third, according to new research. A study of 633 patients found those who consumed the fruit over a two-day period were 35 per cent less likely to suffer an attack. The findings, published in Arthritis & Rheumatism, also showed gout attacks were 75 per cent fewer when cherry intake as combined with the uric acid reducing drug allopurinol, sold under the brand name of Zyloprim.

Chia

Forget Chia Pets. Chia seeds, dietary staples of the Maya and Aztecs, are catching on in America for their omega-3 fatty acids and fiber content, according to the Los Angeles Times. Nutritious as for Central Americans they may have been, the same didn’t have to pay top dollar. Such reports raise suspicions of commercial promotions.

Chocolate

The higher a country’s chocolate consumption, the more Nobel laureates it spawns per capita, says a study by the New England Journal of Medicine. The Swiss, of course, lead the pack, closely followed by the Swedes and Danes. The U.S. is somewhere in the middle and the nation would have to up its cocoa intake by a whopping 275 million pounds (125 million kg) a year to produce one more laureate, said Franz Messerli, who did the analysis. Messerli admitted the whole idea is absurd, although the data are legitimate and contain a few lessons about the fallibility of science.
Chocolate can improve memory – at least of snails according to research by Lee Fruson and Ken Lukowiak from the University of Calgary and published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Eating a modest amount of European chocolate each week may help prevent stroke, a study of Swedish men suggests. The study in the journal Neurology suggests that men who ate one-third of a cup of chocolate chips had a lower risk of stroke than those who didn’t eat any of the sweet treat.

Researchers from the Science and Technology Institute of Food and Nutrition in Spain found having daily doses of cocoa reduced the risk of developing bowel cancer.

Susan Ofria, clinical nutrition manager at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, said the real food of love is dark chocolate and red wine. Resveratrol which lowers blood sugar is found in red wine and also dark chocolate, making them ideal for heart holidays, reported Science Daily.

Citrus

Increased consumption of flavonoid-rich foods such as certain citrus fruits may help reduce the risk of strokes in women, suggests a study by European and U.S. scientists. The study was published in Stroke, a journal of the American Heart Association, according to CBC News.

Coconut
Researchers in Ireland found that, when coconut oil was treated with digestive enzymes, it became a powerful killer of the main bug responsible for tooth decay. Speaking at the Society for General Macrobiology’s conference in August, the Irish researchers from the Athlone Institute of Technology say that coconut oil also attacks the yeast that cause thrush.
Endurance athletes who drink coconut water after their workouts could save their money. Pop makers in the U.S. market coconut water – the liquid from a young coconut – as a refreshing drink after hitting the gym. “They are certainly safe, but if you are counting on them for serious rehydration, you should either pick them very carefully or look elsewhere,” said Dr. Todd Cooperman of consumerlab.com, which investigates health claims of products such as vitamins, told CBC News. “If you have water with some pretzels, you will get more sodium than with some of these products.”

Coffee

Drinking several cups of coffee every day may help you live longer. A study of more than 40,000 people found that drinking coffee may reduce the risk of death from heart disease, lung disease and even infections, researchers reported in the 17 May, 2012 New England Journal of Medicine.

Drinking three cups of coffee daily could help stave of Alzheimer’s disease according to a study by scientists at the University of South Florida and the University of Miami who monitored 124 people aged between 65 and 88.

Drinking decaffeinated coffee could improve your memory, a study suggests. Researchers said the drink could improve the memory of people suffering from diseases of the brain or age-related forgetfulness, and maybe even prevent symptoms from appearing in the first place. Dr. Giulio Maria Painetto of the Mount Sinai School in New York led the research.
Coffee drinkers have no more risk of getting illnesses such as heart disease or cancer, and are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, according to a German study involving more than 40,000 people over nearly a decade (Source: Straits Times)

Coltsfoot

An ingredient in a new herbal product that experts suspect may be smoked in New Zealand has been shown to cause tumours in rats and liver failure, a toxicologist told The New Zealand Herald. Tussilago farfara, or coltsfoot, was once included in bronchitis cigarettes until its carcinogenic properties were revealed.

Cranberries

Researchers say sufferers from bladder infections would have to drink two glasses of cranberry juice a day for months to gain any benefit. The team from the University of Stirling in Scotland gathered evidence from 24 studies involving a total of 4,473 people. The work is published in the highly respected Cochrane Library collection of research.
Regularly drinking low-calorie cranberry juice may help you get your blood pressure under control, according to new findings presented at the American Heart Association’s High Blood Pressure Research 2012 Scientific Sessions. The study was funded by Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc.
Meta-analysis suggests that cranberry juice may have value for women who have recurrent urinary tract infections. The evidence is not conclusive and further stringently designed studies are needed. To find out more, see the Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews at 1.usa.gov/d525a5 – Ed, ‘The Last Word,’ New Scientist under the headline, urine in and out.

Daffodils

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen found compounds from South African flowers Crinum and Cyrtanthus – related to daffodils and snowdrops – were able to pass through the blood brain barrier. They may in time be used to treat diseases originating in the brain. The results of the study have been published in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology.

Echinacea

Echinacea, the popular herbal remedy used to ward off colds, should not be given to children under 12, as it can trigger allergies, according to the U.K. drugs watchdog.

Garlic

Researchers at Washington State University have found that a compound in garlic is 100 times more effective than two popular antibiotics in fighting the Campylobacter bacterium, one of the most common causes of intestinal illnesses. Their work was published recently in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.

Gingko

French researchers conducted one of the longest and most rigorous studies ever conducted on ginkgo biloba found no proof that it helped prevent the Alzheimer’s among older people starting to have memory problems. Taking gingko is a ‘waste of time as it doe not improve memory.’ The study was published in the medical journal The Lancet.

Grapes

Grape consumption is associated with healthier dietary patterns in U.S. children and adults, according to a report from – guess who? – the National Grape and Wine Institute.

Green Tea

It has long been believed that drinking green tea is good for the memory. Now researchers have discovered how the chemical properties of China’s favourite drink affect the generation of brain cells, providing benefits for memory and spatial learning. The research is published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.
Powerful new drugs based on green tea could soon be developed after scientists found an extract from the beverage could make almost half of tumours vanish. The University of Strathclyde team made 40 per cent of human skin cancer tumours disappear using the compound, in a laboratory study. The results have been published in the journal Nanomedicine.

Those who drank the most green tea were the least likely to develop ‘functional disability’ according to the Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine. Green tea could help pensioners stay in the pink, said the study. Those who drank the beverage stayed more physically active than their peers, researchers found. Coffee and standard tea did not provide the benefit, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported. In addition, the Japanese researchers also found that green tea drinkers tend to have a better life style including healthier diets, more educated, lower smoking rtes, greater mental sharpness and more socially active.

“I drink the stuff religiously. Will I stay green forever?” H. Trevis of Graz, Austria inquired of the Daily Mail.

Herbal Tea

Virgin’s mantle (Fagonia cretica) is already drunk by women in rural Pakistan who have breast cancer, but until now its use as a treatment has been regarded as folklore, according to Britain’s Daily Mail. Research by scientists at Aston University, Birmingham, and Russells Hall Hospital, Derby, suggest it contains potent anti-cancer agents that act singly or in combination against the proliferation of cancer cells.

Liquorice

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin have now discovered that liquorice root also contains substances with anti-diabetic effect. These amorfrutins not only reduce blood sugar, they are also anti-inflammatory and very well tolerated. Thus they may be suitable for use in the treatment of complex metabolic disorders (Science Daily).

Mango

In tests, extracts from mango skin appeared to ‘inhibit the development of human fat cells.’ In other words it could help you lose weight. The secret is in phytochemicals found on the outside of the fruit, say researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia (Daily Mail). Omitted was any mention that mango skin may cause severe allergic reaction.

Olive Oil

According to research, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, just a daily two tablespoons of olive oil almost halves your risk of dying from heart disease. The equivalent of one tablespoon cuts the risk by around 28 per cent. It does not appear, however, to reduce cancer deaths.

Oregano

Oregano seasoning could be a powerful weapon against prostate cancer. Researchers from Long Island University, New York, studied carvacrol, a chemical in oregano. Added to prostate cancer cells in the lab, it rapidly wiped them out (Daily Mail). This was in vitro, or in the test tube – how much would be required to safely have the same affect in the human body? 

Peaches, Nectarines, Plums

Peaches, plums and nectarines have bioactive compounds that can potentially fight off obesity-related diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to new studies at Texas AgriLife Research (Science Daily)

Pomegranate

A daily glass of pomegranate juice for a fortnight produced a surge of testosterone, which increases sexual desire in both men and women, according to Edinburgh researchers. The study, by researchers from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, involved 58 volunteers aged between 21 and 64.
However, similar claims in the areas of prostate cancer, erectile dysfunction, and cardiovascular performance by the makers of Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice have been brought to a halt, reported Michael Hilzik in the Los Angeles Times. A U.S. Federal Trade Commission judge has weighed the evidence underlying such claims and applied a label of his own to them. In food-related terms, his conclusion is baloney, writes Hilzik.

Potatoes

A study to check the effects on eating potatoes on blood pressure in humans concluded that two small helpings of purple potatoes (Purple Majesty) a day decreases blood pressure by about 4 per cent without causing weight gain, reported researchers in the ACS’ Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.

Raspberries

Strong scientific evidence exists that eating blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and other berry fruits has beneficial effects on the brain and may help prevent age-related memory loss and other changes, scientists report. Their article on the value of eating berry fruit appeared in ACS’ Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.

Those who ate berries at least once a week could cut their risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by a quarter compared with those who never ate them, a study by British and U.S. scientists has found. About 130,000 men and women took part in the research, published in the journal Neurology.

Red Wine

Susan Ofria, clinical nutrition manager at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, said the real food of love is dark chocolate and red wine. Resveratrol which lowers blood sugar is found in red wine and also dark chocolate, making them ideal for heart holidays, reported Science Daily.
A study shows that natural antioxidant compounds in red wine are good for your heart health. But, the alcohol weakens the ability of red wine to cut blood pressure. The study, by Spanish researchers, was published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation Research.

In a stride towards better health in later life, scientists have reported that resveratrol, the co-called “miracle molecule” found in red wine, might improve mobility and prevent life-threatening falls among older people. The finding, believed to be the first of its kind, was presented 19 August 2012 to some 14,000 scientists and others gathered at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society [Source: Science Daily].

A study by the International Forum on Alcohol Research found that women who drink about two glasses of wine a day had a drop in the loss of old bone.
Just the thought of a glass of wine could help you relax because of the power of positive thinking, scientists have claimed. Writing in Current Direction in Psychological Science journal, researchers from Victoria University in New Zealand said: “The effects of suggestion are wider and often more surprising than many people might otherwise think.”

A study in the May 2012 issue of the Cell Press journal Cell Metabolism appears to offer vindication for an approach to anti-ageing drugs that has been at the centre of a heated scientific debate in recent years. The new findings show for the first time that the metabolic benefits of the red wine ingredient known as resveratrol evaporate in mice that lack the famed longevity gene SIRT1. “Resveratrol improves the life of mice on a high fat diet and increases life span,” said David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School. The question was how.
If you thought that all the news reports that wine was good for your health was too good to be true, you could be right. Some of the research was faked, says the University of Connecticut. A three-year investigation by the university concluded that Dipak Das, head of its cardiovascular research center, “is guilty of 145 counts of fabrication and falsification of data.” (Sources: Nature, Science, New Scientist)

Rice

The more white rice people eat, the higher their chances of developing type 2 diabetes according to a review of four studies involving around 350,000 people (Source: Daily Mail)

Seaweed

Scientists claim seaweed ash can cut acne spots by two-thirds. It is a problem that has always plagued teenagers but seaweed could finally put an end to acne woes, according to a clinical study (The Mail on Sunday)

Spinach

TV presenter Stacey Solomon claimed eating spinach “nearly every day” helped her lose weight following the birth of her second son.
German researchers discovered a link between low vitamin C, beta-carotene levels and dementia, meaning antioxidant rich fruit and veg – such as spinach, carrots and apricots – could help fight the disease’s devastating symptoms. The study was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Strawberries

Strong scientific evidence exists that eating blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and other berry fruits has beneficial effects on the brain and may help prevent age-related memory loss and other changes, scientists report. Their article on the value of eating berry fruit appeared in ACS’ Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.
Those who ate berries at least once a week could cut their risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by a quarter compared with those who never ate them, a study by British and U.S. scientists has found. About 130,000 men and women took part in the research, published in the journal Neurology.

Strawberry extract acts as protection against ultraviolet radiation and reduces skin damage from over-exposure to the sun, according to researchers from Universita Politecnia delle Marche in Italy.

Tomato

Tomatoes may provide the best defence to keeping skin young and safe from sun damage, scientists say. Tests show eating tomato paste could help protect against sunburn and skin ageing caused by sunlight exposure according to U.K. researchers (Source: Adelaide Now).

Health investigators have linked the celebrity chefs’ favourite, dried tomatoes, to outbreak of hepatitis cases in the U.K.. Seven people developed symptoms of hepatitis A, which is infectious and can lead to fatal liver complications.

Walnuts

Eating around two handfuls of walnuts a day improves sperm health in young men, a study in the journal Biology of Reproduction suggests. Botanically, walnuts are Juglans, which translates as Jupiter’s nuts.

Professor Joe Vison, from the University of Scranton, Pennsylvania, said walnuts inhibit the growth of ‘bad’ cholesterol.

Watercress

Watercress is the latest wonder food in the battle against ageing – visible improvements to models’ skin after eating veg for one month, the Daily Mail quoted a study by – well guess who? – the Watercress Alliance.

This limited review of reports from the past twelve months unfortunately must give a pass on much fascinating. McGill University researchers reported, for example, that sex before sport won’t ruin your chances of a medal. However research published last April in the Journal of Sexual Medicine warned that extramarital sex can kill – it’s known as ‘sudden coital death.’ Scientists at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland established that flatulence might assist patients with high blood pressure. Help in achieving that might also come from indulging in spicy foods – and better yet eating curry once or twice a week could stave off dementia, research published in the journal PLoS One suggests. One thing you can be sure of is, in Frank Sinatra’s words, “The best is yet to come.”

Wes Porter is a horticultural consultant and writer based in Toronto. Wes has over 40 years of experience in both temperate and tropical horticulture from three continents.

Wes can be reached at: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)