Superfood hype – Really just a marketing tactic

The food industry try to promote certain produces above the rest hence coined the phrase “superfoods” to attempt to convince everyday people to purchase such produces. There is no agreed definition for such “superfoods” among nutritional scientists or dietician, hence the food industry can really add what ever it likes to this marketing category. However generally speaking such foods that we have witnessed this label tend to be high in nutrients with antioxidant properties and omega-3 fatty acids with claims that they can reduce the ageing process, prevent or even cure cancer, boost physical ability and even intellectual ability. But if we return back to the true experts in the field, dieticians and nutritional scientists, then in the nearly all cases the extent of what is being claimed is contested.

The food industry & nutritional supplement providers go to lengths with this marketing strategy by having lab research done on these so-called superfoods trying to give their claims a level of authenticity among the everyday people – in reality it is a form of quackery that needs to be exposed. The fundamental problems with these research is in applying the results to real life diets and that is due the conditions under which foods are studied in the lab are often very different to the way these foods are normally consumed by people in their everyday lives, such as studies showing benefit;

1.In animal models – human and animal physiology although have similarities they are not identical and thus there are many cases where results of human studies oppose animal studies.

2. On human cells (at a cellular level) – this disregards the digestion, absorption and initial metabolism of the produce and often the amount of produce that is needed to give the claimed benefit are much, much larger than that which are consumed in real diets.

3. The studies are over a short duration and the medium or longterm benefit is unknown. Sometimes the produce can have another property that has not been investigated and while one property is beneficial the other un-investigated property can be harmful when taken in large amounts or on a regular prolonged basis.

All of these studies from a medical & scientific research perspective are speculative requiring further studies to establish a definite causation of benefit.

Really what is needed is a balanced middle path avoiding

Negligence of those that eat large quantities of potentially harmful food on a daily basis

Extremism of those that focus on a select number of “superfoods” and the like on a daily basis

Rather what should be the case is a balanced diet, rich in fruit, vegetables and whole grain foods eating a variety of food but incorporates in to it acceptable treats.

It certainly does not need to be explained academically with speculative studies confusing everyday people and overburdening them into submission. My advice as always is that unless we have an Islamic textual evidence for something then return to the experts in the field of diets and nutrition. I will post a couple of links for these. Be cautious of people or sites that frequently talk about “superfoods” as it is an indication that they are likely to be from those who are duped by the food industry and fallen into the extreme category of selective eating of such foods.

Further reading from real experts of ‘superfoods’:

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