- The image of a food or drink can go in
and out of fashion with the regularity of flares. And it's hardly surprising
we get confused about whether we should indulge when so many go from vice
to virtue and often back again.
- Potatoes, wholemeal bread and eggs all
spring to mind, and some foods, such as butter, are on their second time
round the circuit. The following five have had the most public metamorphosis,
and here's how things stand now.
- In celebration of the lifting of rationing,
the consumption of butter was encouraged with the advice: "Eat it
up, it's good for you."
- Basking in this healthy image, the post-war
nation indulged in butter, eschewing margarine as the poor, manufactured
- So what precipitated butter's cataclysmic
fall from grace? How, by the 1980s, had butter become synonymous with heart
- Some might say it was a simple case of
spin-doctoring. That margarine-makers were eager to push the then emerging
view that saturated fats (in which butter is rich) were responsible for
raising cholesterol and thus heart disease.
- Strangely, the fact that their products
then contained trans fats, which are considered equally damaging to arteries,
- The verdict: Tom Sanders, professor of
nutrition at King's College, London University, says the average consumption
of yellow spreads in this country is 10g a day and it makes little difference
whether this is margarine or butter. So the argument appears to have come
- When Edwina Currie committed ministerial
hara-kiri with her salmonella clanger in 1988, she was sealing the fate
of a food already beleaguered by the nutritional press. It was well known
that eggs contained cholesterol " 231mg each, to be precise.
- With well-intentioned doctors banning
them from the diets of those with raised levels of blood cholesterol, this
scared the rest of us into limiting our intake to three a week as a precaution
against future furring of our arteries.
- New research from the United States now
refutes the idea that eggs raise cholesterol. Wanda Howell and Donald McNamara
of Arizona University analysed 224 trials conducted over the past 25 years,
and discovered that dietary cholesterol eaten in foods is not a big contributor
to elevated levels in the blood.
- This confirms research by Dr Robert Clarke
of the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, who found that reducing dietary cholesterol
by 50mg a day has little effect on the reduction of blood cholesterol.
- The verdict: for those who do not have
an inherited propensity to high blood cholesterol, eating three to seven
eggs a week makes little difference to blood cholesterol.
- The potato has always maintained a strong
emotional and nutritional place in our diet, but it fell from its esteemed
position as a national staple in the 1960s with the introduction of the
first low-carbohydrate diet. Suddenly any woman in pursuit of the Jean
Shrimpton look was warned to avoid them.
- This legacy lives on, and many still
find it hard to indulge. Perhaps, according to a new wave of slimming diets
crossing the Atlantic, they were right after all. For plotting the potato's
second downfall are a batch of books that tell us they cause rapid rises
in blood sugar, elicit a high production of insulin, and so cause weight
- The verdict: confused? Join the club.
British scientific circles point out, however, that potatoes are a low-fat,
- Current advice decrees this is the best
kind of diet to follow to shed weight and keep it off. The potato earns
an honorary reprieve.
- Banned from the tables of Delia disciples,
ketchup for many is confined to kids' chicken nuggets and roadside cafes.
But according to research from North Carolina University, they are missing
a trick. For people who regularly dig into pizza toppings, baked beans
and ketchup apparently halve the likelihood of having a heart attack.
- Professor Leonore Kohlmeier, who conducted
the study, believes protection comes from the red antioxidant pigment lycopene
present in tomatoes and tomato products, which stops arterial damage.
- The verdict: Gary Rhodes better get a
publishing deal for 101 Ways With Ketchup. The future is red, Gary. The
future is ketchup.
- Chewing Gum
- Certain sugar-free chewing gum is sweetened
with the natural sugar alternative xylitol, extracted from wood chippings
of the silver birch in Finland.
- Professor Edgar, president of the British
Society for Dental Research, concluded in a recent review of current research
that chewing xylitol-sweetened gum can help reduce tooth decay.
- It inhibits the accumulation of the decay-causing
bacteria streptococcus mutans, encourages remineralisation of the teeth
and helps to maintain an alkaline environment in the mouth.
- Furthermore, the American Paediatrics
journal now reveals it can reduce middle-ear infections and, thus, antibiotic
use in children.
- Professor Matti Uhari, author of the
study, says: "Xylitol appears to move from the mouth into the tube
that joins the middle ear to the throat. Here it inhibits the growth of
pneumonacocci and coats the tube lining. This helps stop bacteria attaching
and multiplying, reducing the risk of infection."
- The verdict: forget lingering reservations
over manners. Check the labels for xylitol, stock up on sugar-free gum
and get chewing. Like all things in life, moderation appears to be the
- Take the French. They adore foie gras
and rich sauces and yet boast one of the lowest rates of heart disease
in Europe. The key to good health probably lies in not overdoing one particular
food and washing it all down with a glass of antioxidant-rich red plonk.
Perhaps it is time to follow suit.