This episode of Nutrition Unlocked explores some of the myths and misconceptions that exist in the world of nutrition. Our host Cal Han chats to Karine Patel, a Registered Dietitian, founder and director of Dietitian Fit, and Duane Mellor, a Registered Dietitian and lead for Nutrition and Evidence Based Medicine at Aston Medical School, who share their expertise to help us unpack common myths around nutrition.
This podcast is sponsored by Nestlé Health Science. This podcast represents opinions of host Cal Han and his guests on the show and does not reflect the opinion of Nestlé Health Science. The content is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional for any medical questions.
Nutrition Unlocked // Nutrition Myth Busting
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Welcome to Nutrition Unlocked, the podcast celebrating innovations, advancing the role of nutrition and health, sponsored by Nestlé Health Science.
Our host is Cal Han.
Cal: Welcome back to another episode of Nutrition Unlocked. I'm Cal Han, your host for today's episode and today's episode's really exciting, because we're gonna be doing some myth busting and we have two guest experts joining us today
Karine Patel is a registered dietician and the founder and director of Dietician Fit. Nice to have you on the podcast with us Karine.
Karine: And our second guest is Duane Mellor, a registered dietician and the Lead for Nutrition and Evidence-based Medicine at Aston Medical School based in the UK. Thanks again for being on the podcast with us today too, Duane.
Cal: I'm really looking forward to this conversation. I think this is a really interesting topic and I would say highly requested by listeners. I'm looking forward to this conversation with you two as experts in this field, because there are a lot of, I would say, varying beliefs and different advice given on the topic of nutrition.
And our purpose here on Nutrition Unlocked is to get the information straight from the experts as yourself to better educate our listeners about the facts and from credible sources as well.
So maybe first to start off, I would love to hear a bit more about your guys' backgrounds and what sparked your interest in nutrition.
Duane, we'll start with you.
Duane: So I guess I've always been interested in food and dietetics was not a natural choice for an 18 year old guy who was a rugby player. But, I went in that direction and studied dietetics, worked in diabetes care in the healthcare system in the UK for a number of years. Then I had an opportunity to do a PhD, so I did a PhD in Diabetes and Endocrinology. That's the official title. It actually was in chocolate. that sort of drew me into some of these myths areas because. Unfortunately, the university got the change of direction of the cholesterol wrong on one of their media releases and that's burdened me with this challenge that I have now for many years of looking at how science is, particularly around food, is reported in the media, and see if it actually tracks back the actual science and see if there's a gap there or a miscommunication or a sometimes a deliberate change, which could be misleading for the public.
Cal: Absolutely. Karine, how about you? what sparked your interest?
Karine: My interest goes way back in college, so I randomly had to do a sports nutrition class, because one of my other classes was cancelled and I was not too keen on doing that class to start with, but I ended up loving it and I was actually gonna go study international business in university, but then I love that class so much that I completely changed the roots and I decided that I wanted to become a registered dietician. And yeah. And since then, I'm so passionate about it. I love it. And I think that's the best health job that anyone can have.
Cal: this job versus international business. Very good choice!
Karine: Yeah. Yeah Thank you.
Cal: Awesome. So thank you both for introducing yourselves and telling us a bit more about your background. Let's get straight into it I wanted to start with a myth that has cropped up in the recent years around the topic of raw food diets.
So we'll start with our first myth, which is it's always better to eat fruits and vegetables raw rather than cooked to get the maximum amount of nutrients. What do you think about this Karine?
Karine: It depends. It's not always true. So there's, some benefits to eating both raw vegetables and cooked vegetables as well. So when we cook vegetables, it can break down the fiber and make it easier for the body to digest and absorb the nutrients.
For example, taking asparagus, try to eat it raw. It will be quite hard and very long to chew. So when you cook it, it will break down the fiber and make some nutrients more easily to absorb by the body. So, for example, vitamin B9, vitamin A, C and E,
On the other side, when we cook some vegetables, it can destroy vitamins such as vitamin B and C, because they are more sensitive to heat. And the vitamins, they're water soluble, so if you cook them in water at high temperature, these vitamin can leak out into the water. So it's best to not boil them or perhaps try steaming them and to keep and preserve the nutrients if you've got to cook them
Otherwise, if ever you're cooking peas, carrots, tomatoes in the water, then perhaps try reusing that liquid after. Yeah, you could make a soup, cook it with your rice or even a stew and some nutrients found in certain fruits and vegetables can become more available if you cook them.
This is true for tomatoes, which has a very important antioxidant that's called lycopene. Lycopene has been associated with a decreased risk of prostate cancer in men, and it can also lower the risk of heart disease. So when you cook the tomato, the antioxidant content can increase. So it makes the quality of the tomato better in terms of nutrients.
And similarly, if you cook carrots, sweet potatoes, this can increase their vitamin A content. So in summary, if you've got to cook your vegetables or your fruits, try to cook them using methods such as stir frying, steaming, and baking. This will also minimize the nutrient loss and improve digestion.
So overall, we could consume both raw and fruits to vegetables to get the most benefits out of them.
Cal: That's great, thank goodness, because I thought going into this myth, it was going to be 100% raw and I can't do that Karine. So thanks for giving us tips on how to make it more palatable and keeping our vitamins and minerals intact! it sounds like, when we respond to this myth, it's a bit of, it depends, right? I mean there's a combination of yeah, we can eat stuff raw and keep the nutritional integrity, but you actually get some benefits from cooking some of things like the tomato example you gave, so that's fantastic.
So let's move on to our second myth, and Duane, this one's for you. Is there any need for people to take vitamins or supplements, because there's a common belief that we can get these things from our diet and regular foods on a daily basis.
Duane: That's a big question, I think the first thing we need to look at is if you're building a diet, it needs to be like a house. It needs to be on good foundations. So that's having regular meals, eating a variety of foods and Karine's just really well described about variety of vegetables, but also the fruits, so the dairy products, whole grains and meat or the alternative, you don't eat that. So you need that range of diet to build a healthy dietary pattern and if you can do that, for most people that should meet your requirements.
There are some groups, sometimes of year, they'll vary and probably need to go through that step by step.
So I think the first one is in the winter months, because we don't get a lot of vitamin D from our diet, you could actually argue vitamin D as a vitamin is actually a hormone, we get a lot of it from the sunlight. So if you've got a darker skin tone and you live in the northern hemisphere or the southern hemisphere further away from the equator where you get less sunlight, during the autumn and winter, spring months, your skin cannot make enough vitamin D.
So take the UK for an example. The calendar will be similar. There's generally recommendations that people should take a vitamin D supplement through the winter months. it's a small dose and that's the other thing we need to talk about vitamins. You don't need to take more than you need. More is not better with vitamins and minerals. It's about 10 micrograms or 400 international units is generally deemed adequate. And that goes across all adults.
Interestingly, a lot of countries also recommend vitamin D along with a healthy start mineral drug for young children as well and it depends on the rest of their diet. But that helps with vitamin D and vitamin A.
I think the other one that's really important, and we have good evidence from this in terms of preventing what we call neuro tube defects. Things like spina bifida is folic acid. Again, Karine's already mentioned that was also known as B9. And because you cannot get the level needed to help reduce the risk off olic acid related neuro tube defects, that is why supplements recommended, and it's different levels depending on whether you have a healthy weight. It's generally what's known as about 400 micrograms a day. But women with type two diabetes, for example, with diabetes who are becoming pregnant recommended to be higher at five milligrams. And you should really take that from when you're starting to plan a pregnancy through to the end of the first trimester of pregnancy.
Then if you're looking at special groups, it varies a little bit. If people want to choose to eat a vegan diet, it is possible to eat a fully balanced vegan diet, but you need to make good, varied food choices, because you can be at risk of things like B12 deficiency, because that's only found in animal foods. It's actually made by the bacteria in cow stomachs and other ruminant stomachs. So they don't make it, it's made for them. The long chain, omega-3 fatty acids, which you get from fish, again, they get them from things like seaweed and algae, we don't tend to eat those much in our diet. So if you're vegan, omega-3 fatty acids could be something to think about. But also then things like iron and iodine as well. In some countries, again, the UK, we don't put iodine in our salt, so it can be hard to get it from our diet if you don't consume dairy. So then we need to think about supplements there.
So it depends on the country, depends on the food supply. But yeah, there are certain people that might need supplements. If you're talking about athletes, a lot of people interested in protein supplements. For most athletes, they're probably not needed, but depending on their lifestyle, because if you've got a busy lifestyle going to work and training a protein shake might be helpful, because you might have time to eat. But you can get what you need from food if you can fit it in and build it around your lifestyle. So some things are lifestyle related.
Cal: Right. And Duane, this is, again, I would say this is a myth debunked, because it really is dependent on, like you said, lifestyles, environments, current situations, right? So it's very contextual. It seems whether this supplementation is needed. So that's fantastic.
So this next myth is for both of you and Karine, I'll come to you first on this one. So the myth is, are yogurt and probiotic supplements the only things that can affect one's microbiome? Karine, what do you think about this?
Karine: I'll just start by explaining what the microbiome is and even probiotics, cause I feel like not everyone may understand what even these words really mean.
So our gut microbiome is basically all the bacterias, the viruses, the fungi and other microscopic living things that are found in our intestine. So a microbiome plays a very important role in our health by helping our digestion, our immune system, and our central nervous system. So probiotics, where they are, they are live bacteria found in some foods. For example, it's found in yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut. And these bacterias are beneficial for a gut.
So yes, yogurt and probiotics can influence a microbiome, but they're not the only thing that will affect your gut. There's a large range of other foods and lifestyle factors that can actually influence a microbiome. for example, take prebiotics. So prebiotics, they're a type of food that will feed our gut bacterias and it will have a positive effect on our microbiome.
So prebiotics, foods, for example, they include garlic, onions, whole grains, artichoke, old bananas. And there's a lot of other foods that contain probiotics. There's also whole grains, so whole grains food contains fibers. Fibers will be digested by the bacterias of our gut. So basically they're feeding them to promote their growth and this has been shown to provide a range of health benefits, such as helping us manage our weight, reduce our cholesterol levels, reduce our diabetes risk and even reduce our cancer risks. So, to support the growth of healthy microbes or bacterias in our guts, it's best to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut.
Cal: And Duane, maybe to compliment Karine's point of view as well, what's your point of view on this too? Because we had talked a little bit about things like lifestyle, very contextual things, even beyond nutrition. Are there some things that you see in this space that would compliment what Karine had said?
Duane: Definitely agree with everything Karine said. I think the other thing that's important, we talk about microbiome. These are bacteria that happen to live in our colons. They're not good bacteria. They're not bad bacteria. We just by eating a variety of different types of plants, the fibers, that helps the bacteria, which then interacts with us, to help keep us healthy. It maintains how healthy our colon is, our gut is, but also changes signaling, so our bodies can handle the sugars and fats better. And there's even evidence it might link to mental wellbeing. And also, across our other range of health factors.
And I think we need to remember that the bacteria is like a zoo. And like a zoo, the seasons change, the weather changes, the animals behavior changes. Likewise, as our bodies change, as we age, as we are more physically active, as we're ill, that'll change the balance of bacteria and the things the bacteria are producing in our colon and that can affect our health.
So things like exercise generally improves the diversity and the health of the bacteria. If you're looking at stress, both illness and sort of psychological stress, that seems to have a negative impact on the antibiotics, because they kill bacteria, they'll kill a lot of the bacteria in our colon. And we need to make sure we eat a varied diet. And again, that's where sometimes the yogurts can be helpful, depending on the type of antibiotics to repopulate our colon zoo if you like, and then aging can have an effect and diversity on the gut. So again, that's why the fibre is important. Fibers important for an aging gut anyway, to maintain the muscles that are allowed to work and keep the bowel working healthily.
Cal: So maybe I propose we transition to a little bit more of the same, but a bit of a different format, which is more of a quickfire speed myth round. We have a couple more myths that we want to go through, some popular ones that we hear often from consumers and patients.
we'll start with this first one, rapid fire. So 30 seconds or less and the first one will be "water is the only kind of hydration I need..."
Duane: Well, if you are consuming enough electrolytes with salt and things like that, sodium in the diet, generally yes, you can live on water alone as a source of fluid. However, it is not very interesting. Most people want some flavor and there's myths that you can't maintain hydration through drinking tea and coffee. You know, I'm not talking about the coffee with lots of syrup and lots of cream in there, but if you have a regular amount of tea, coffee in your diet. that's not gonna make a difference in making you dehydrated. You know, milk can be a good sports drink and some people recommend semi-skinned milk.
For athletes, you can hear a lot of news about sports drinks. The original data is quite good, but some more recent data suggests that they might not actually be as good as rehydrating as people thought. So it's down to personal preference. Water's gotta be number one, but other things also work.
Cal: Okay, second one for you, Duane. Rapid Fire. So this is on topic of protein. So "younger people need more protein than older people". Go.
Duane: So older people as they age, muscles tend to not repair as quickly. So actually older people need more protein per kilogram body weight. So for the size, younger people might think they need more cause they're growing, but the growth means it's more efficient. So actually older people need more.
Cal: Okay. Karine to you on rapid fire. So the myth that I have is "there are certain types of food that increase the likelihood of cancer."
Karine: Well, there isn't a single food that will directly cause cancer. However, there's strong evidence that processed meats such as ham, bacon, salami, sausages, and processed chicken nuggets can increase our risk of bowel cancer. And same goes for red meats or beef, pork, lambs can also increase the risk of bowel cancer. Sugar, for example, we may have heard that it can cause cancer, but it doesn't. It's that sugar in our diet can make it harder for us to keep a healthy weight. Often we may gain weight by eating too much sugar and being overweight. Yes, it does increase the risk of cancer. And on the other side, there is also good evidence that there is not a single food that can prevent cancer. But for example, high fiber foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, pulses, have been linked to reduce the risk of certain types of cancers,
And it's also proven that around 4 in 10 cancer could be prevented by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. So not smoking, limiting alcohol and keeping a healthy weight, by just consuming a balanced diet.
Cal: And on the topic of a healthy weight Karine, the second one I have for you is "juicing or detox diets are best for quick weight loss." What do you think?
Karine: Yes, I love that one. Not too sure. I can do it under 30 seconds, but I'll try. First, the food does not detoxify our body, so we're not like cars where we need an oil change to function properly. Our body has natural cleansing and detoxifying mechanism that are much stronger than any food or supplement. So, for example, the liver produces enzymes that will convert toxins into waste and our kidneys will filter that and remove this waste. So anyone that has a liver and kidneys that function well, there's no accumulation of toxins and detox diet or juice diets will, yes, they will lead to very rapid weight loss, because you're barely consuming any calories or any food per day. But, the weight on the scale will go down. But often if you don't eat enough, what your body does is it will compensate. So you use muscles for your energy, so you lose a lot of muscles as well.
So you're not losing just fat. And the moment that you start eating again, then you'll rapidly put the weight back on and unfortunately you're gonna put back the fat, but not the muscles. Often your metabolism, over time it will decrease, which can make it even harder for you to lose weight over time, if you keep doing these rapid weight loss diet.
Cal: I see. So certainly, there's probably an acute effect, but in terms of sustainability in doing this for overall health, it sounds like there is no quick fix, huh?
Karine: Yeah, no, exactly. There's no quick fix. I always say to my clients, if you want to lose weight, always ask yourself, can I do this for the rest of my life? And if the answer is no, then there's no point of doing it. So unless you're gonna lose weight rapidly for an event and you're okay to gain it back on after, I'd say it's best just to have a good diet. You've got to change your eating habits and your lifestyle if you want sustainable results.
Cal: Fantastic. Well, just to maybe wrap this up and close out a bit, I wanted to give you two the opportunity just to give our listeners, some general advice on nutrition and finding credible nutrition.
So, let me just ask you Karine first, what is your general advice to our listeners to help them navigate this complicated nutritional landscape? Because there are so many things out there that sound really sexy and cool, but maybe don't have a lot of evidence behind it, then it's hard to believe what's truthful or not. So what would be some advice you would give to listeners out there?
Karine: I'd say if you want, true advice like that are based on science, definitely try and speak with a dietician or a health professional to be sure that you are given the true information. Because on the internet there's so many contradictory information out there.
Cal: Duane, how about you?
Duane: Check the information, the source is reliable and relevant for you. I've already mentioned that a lot of the research is published about mice. We know a lot more about mouse nutrition than humans, so check it relates to humans and people like you and your needs and situation.
Cal: Check who said it. Do you understand the science or they're just saying from their point of status? There's a number of podcasts out there, not mentioning any, where they put out opinions, but they don't necessarily back them up with science. So on that point, I just wanted to say a personal thank you to both of you for sharing some of your expertise.
Karine: I've certainly learned a lot today and I'm sure our viewers will learn a lot as well. Well, thank you for having me. It was a pleasure being with you guys today.
Duane: Yeah, it's been great talking. Thanks a lot.
Cal: So thank you again, Karine and Duane for sharing your expertise and helping us unpack some of these common nutrition myths.
For everyone at home, thank you so much for listening to this episode. We hope you enjoyed today's discussion.
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