Food to make you live forever – and other nutrition ‘facts’
The secret to a long life is eating in moderation, drinking a glass of good wine every day and avoiding chasing women, says the world’s oldest living twin brothers Belgians Pieter and Paulus Langerock. The 102-year-old brothers’ advice made the headlines in a week crammed with conflicting news stories on how to increase our longevity through food.
We’re used to the conflicting advice when it comes to what we eat. Fruit is both the fountain of youth, and the source of all sugary evil.* Wine will help you live longer (as the Langerocks clearly demonstrate) and also be your downfall. Every day the headlines scream with new ‘research’. The Atkins. The Zone. Paleo. 5:2. Good fats, low carb, no sugar. These are all words we are conditioned to understand and follow, backtracking and changing our diet and lifestyle each time a new one is announced. Gluten free food cost the NHS £116 million last year, as they bent to dietary needs of patients – even though a gluten-free diet has no medical backing. Good fats (coconuts, almonds, avocados) are now officially back on the menu, but for how long?
Regardless of what foods actually do what, nutrition is clearly the new lucrative market. Brands are jumping onto the nutrition bandwagon with both food and pharma companies competing over the nutraceuticals space, a market expected to be worth $280 billion by 2018. Adding the word ‘superfood’ to anything you produce is proving to be a brilliant marketing tool for any health company. Even companies you may not expect to join in the debate are making headlines. Nestle, famous for all of your favourite sweets and chocolates, is booming ahead in the nutraceutical race with the Nestle Life Science unit, which is currently looking into how to manage Alzheimer’s disease through certain food products.
Our personal favourite food story from 2015 comes from John Bohannon, a journalist who fooled the world into thinking chocolate helps with weight loss. Posing as scientist Johannes Bohannon Ph.D, his mocked-up and heavily doctored evidence that chocolate triggered metabolism was a global headline, making front pages from Huffington Post to the Daily Mail. The story sped around the internet and beyond, making news in more than 20 countries and half a dozen languages.
Bohannon’s prank doesn’t mean we can’t trust medical studies (a topic we’ve delved into before on this blog), but as consumers we should heed his cautionary tale. Dietary trends fade and change and newspapers and brands love them because they make headlines. However the long-living Langerock brothers’ advice is merely to moderate diet, not drastically yo-yo between different ones. Maybe it’s time we took all diet advice in newspapers with a pinch of salt.**
* To find both these links we googled ‘fruit bad for you daily mail’ and ‘fruit good for you daily mail’. There was no shortage of search results.
**But perhaps no more than our daily recommended 3.75 grams of organic sea salt.