942_superfoods

Snake Oil Superfoods

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Do any so-called “Superfoods” really have super powers?

Our pain-staking, hand-curated and now interactively visualized scientific evidence can answer.

See the visualization.
See the data.

Oh and we updated our classic Snake Oil: Supplements viz with all the latest evidence too.

Thanks to our head researcher Miriam Quick for amazing work. (It took months!)

Our Recipe

We’ve spent months reviewing the evidence, deep mining scientific studies, reviews, and meta-analyses, to find foods that actually have a demonstrable “super” effect on medical conditions or health in general.

What we found was a soup of mixed results (albeit a yummy one with hemp seeds in it)

An important note about the data

Unlike medicines and supplements, superfoods are difficult to test in controlled conditions. In usual medical studies, participants are ‘blinded’ to what they are receiving: a real treatment or a fake ‘placebo’ one. It’s hard to create convincing placebo foods, so these kind of controlled studies are scarce. So, for some of our evidence, we’ve had to use (less reliable) studies that statistically survey large populations of people (epidemiology) to find results.

Several foods – such as several promising seaweeds – only fall below the “worth it” threshold because a lack of studies.

What we discovered

» Folkloric confirmation Prunes really do keep you regular, and oats really do lower cholesterol.
» The fish oil controversy continues – it’s good for cancer patients and lowers levels of markers for cardiovascular disease risk. But evidence of its cognitive benefits is less clear.
» Want to lose weight? Eating eggs for breakfast can reduce your appetite for up to 36 hours.
» Fruit & veg have some role in cancer prevention – but which and in what amounts is unclear
» Eat your greens Cabbage and bladder cancer is an interesting one.
» Diabetes – No super foods seem to help the condition – we couldn’t find anything solid

Myths overturned

» Overall fruit & veg intake only plays a minor role in cancer prevention – but eating some types of veg (cabbages, broccoli, raw veg) may help protect you against some types of cancer.
» Cranberry juice does not prevent urinary tract infections. Does it help treat them? Not enough studies exist yet to be sure.

Foods of the Future

We’ll be maintaining this viz for the foreseeable future and updating it with new evidence as it appears. If you spot any, feel free to contact us or comment below the viz.

Until then, enjoy a daily bowl of barley porridge with almonds & honey. Mix garlic and sage into your scrambled eggs & salmon. Wash it down with a coffee and a glass of beetroot juice. Super!

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