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50 Food Myths Busted (Part 4)

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Joan Chew, Poon Chian Hui, Ng Wan Ching, Joyce Teo on 04 May 2018

The Straits Times

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MYTH 39: EATING MORE FIBRE HELPS TO EASE CHRONIC CONSTIPATION

 

FACT

 

Fibre is not the panacea to constipation. While it binds to water and softens stools, it is unlikely to work well in people whose constipation stems from a narrowing of the large intestine, pelvic floor disorders or slow colonic movements, said Dr Eric Wee, head of the division of gastroenterology at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital’s department of medicine.

 

Soluble fibre, which are found in food items like oats, apples and nuts, reduces pain and one’s need to strain when moving his bowels, as well as improves stool consistency. 

 

But there is conflicting data on the effectiveness of insoluble fibre, which passes through one’s gut almost unchanged. 

 

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In general, if you are eating too little fibre to begin with, try increasing the intake gradually. 

 

If this does not work, or cause symptoms like bloating and discomfort, try taking over-the-counter laxatives. Examples are lactulose and polyethylene glycol. 

 

And if you still experience constipation after these measures, consult a doctor. 

 

MYTH 40: ACIDIC FRUIT CAN TRIGGER OR WORSEN GOUT, WHICH IS CAUSED BY A BUILDUP OF URIC ACID IN THE BLOOD

 

FACT

 

The natural acids found in fruit, such as citric acid, malic acid and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) are unrelated to the level of uric acid in our blood, said dietitian April Cheung from Alexandra Hospital.

 

Fruit are also naturally low in purines, a natural substance found in many types of food from which uric acid is produced.

 

Consuming seafood, offal, meat extracts, such as stock cubes and gravies, as well as yeast-containing food like beer, increases the risk of having gout because these are high in purine.

 

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Limit your daily intake of meat, poultry and seafood to one or two servings.

 

A portion should contain just 60 to 90g.

 

Limit raw oatmeal to 2/3 cup daily, and ½ cup of vegetables such as asparagus, cauliflower, spinach, mushrooms and green peas.

 

Try to have more vegetable soups instead of meat-based soups.

 

Abstain from alcohol if you have having an acute gout attack. On other days when you are well, consume no more than one standard drink (1 can of beer, 1 glass of wine or 1 shot of hard liquor) a day. 

 

CHAPTER V: WHAT WE DRINK

 

MYTH 41: MIXING ALCOHOL WITH ENERGY DRINKS GETS YOU DRUNK FASTER OR HARDER

 

FACT

 

It is more likely that energy drinks, which contain stimulants, would mask the depressant effects of alcohol, based on current studies.

 

While the true effects of the combination remain a controversy, it is popular among people who are seeking to increase their tolerance to alcoholic drinks, said Ms Teresa Ng, senior dietitian at Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s department of nutrition and dietetics. 

 

This way, they can engage in longer periods of social activities without getting intoxicated.

 

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It is not advisable to consume both drinks together, as this may impact your health negatively, said Ms Ng. 

 

A reduced sensitivity to alcohol intoxication, for instance, can lead to alcohol poisoning, poor judgement, diarrhoea, vomiting, headaches and an increased heart rate, among other problems. 

 

Those who mix energy drinks with alcohol are also three times more likely to binge-drink, studies have shown. This habit leads to major health issues like liver cirrhosis and brain damage, said Ms Ng.

 

MYTH 42: ICE-COLD WATER, OR LEMON WATER, HELPS YOU TO LOSE WEIGHT

 

FACT

 

There is no scientific evidence to prove that drinking cold water can help speed up a person’s metabolism. Eating lemons also does not help with weight loss, though its vitamin C content may have some impact on weight loss, said Ms Sarah Sinaram, senior dietitian at Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre.

 

A study done in 2005 suggested that those who are deficient in vitamin C may find it harder to lose fat mass. It found that those who take sufficient amounts of vitamin C can increase body fat oxidation during a moderate bout of exercise compared to those who didn’t.

 

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To lose weight, your energy intake needs to be less than your output. This means that you need to either eat less or increase your physical activity, said Ms Sinaram. 

 

There is some research that vitamin C may help to burn fat so you can include foods that are high in vitamin C, such as fruit, in your diet, she added.

 

MYTH 43: EATING A BIG MEAL BEFORE DRINKING ALCOHOL WILL HELP TO KEEP YOU SOBER

 

FACT

 

The presence of food in the stomach may delay a person from feeling drunk, but it will not stop it completely, said Dr Taufique Ahmed, a consultant hepatologist at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital’s department of medicine. 

 

Food in the stomach, the type of alcoholic beverage and the person’s constitution influence the rate of alcohol absorption by the body.

 

The main mechanism for a slower absorption of alcohol is a delay in gastric emptying, or the time it takes for food to empty from the stomach and enter the small intestine.

 

This is observed when alcohol is ingested along with food, especially fatty or heavy, solid or protein meals.

 

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Many studies have shown that when alcohol is ingested together with or after food, it is absorbed more slowly than when it is consumed on an empty stomach.

 

However, this does not mean that one can drink a greater amount of alcohol on a full stomach – you will still become intoxicated, just that it will take longer.

 

MYTH 44: DRINKING MILK BEFORE BEDTIME CAN HELP YOU GET A GOOD SNOOZE

 

FACT

 

There is a lack of evidence that milk can promote sleep.

 

MYTH 43: EATING A BIG MEAL BEFORE DRINKING ALCOHOL WILL HELP TO KEEP YOU SOBER

 

FACT

 

The presence of food in the stomach may delay a person from feeling drunk, but it will not stop it completely, said Dr Taufique Ahmed, a consultant hepatologist at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital’s department of medicine. 

 

Food in the stomach, the type of alcoholic beverage and the person’s constitution influence the rate of alcohol absorption by the body.

 

The main mechanism for a slower absorption of alcohol is a delay in gastric emptying, or the time it takes for food to empty from the stomach and enter the small intestine.

 

This is observed when alcohol is ingested along with food, especially fatty or heavy, solid or protein meals.

 

TIP

 

Many studies have shown that when alcohol is ingested together with or after food, it is absorbed more slowly than when it is consumed on an empty stomach.

 

However, this does not mean that one can drink a greater amount of alcohol on a full stomach – you will still become intoxicated, just that it will take longer.

 

MYTH 44: DRINKING MILK BEFORE BEDTIME CAN HELP YOU GET A GOOD SNOOZE

 

FACT

 

There is a lack of evidence that milk can promote sleep.

 

Milk contains an amino acid known as tryptophan, which results in the release of a neurotransmitter, serotonin, that boosts calmness and helps regulate sleep.

 

Tryptophan is also a precursor to melatonin, which is a hormone that helps a person fall asleep and sleep through the night.

 

Despite that, the tryptophan content in milk is probably too low to have any significant effect on promoting sleep, said Dr Michael Lim, a consultant at the division of paediatric pulmonary and sleep at National University Hospital. 

 

Other amino acids in milk also compete to reach the brain, so tryptophan’s effects on the brain may be dampened due to the presence of other amino acids.

 

TIP

 

To improve sleep quality, try to avoid alcohol and caffeine.

 

Other tips include keeping the bedroom cool, quiet and dark; keeping entertainment gadgets out of the bedroom; and establishing a routine that helps one to relax before bedtime, such as light reading or listening to soothing music. 

 

Do not eat dinner too close to bedtime and drink enough fluids so you don’t get thirsty in the middle of the night – but not so much that you have to get up to use the bathroom.

 

Exercise a few hours before bedtime so that the stress hormone (cortisol) generated during physical activity will drop to a level that will not affect your sleep quality.

 

MYTH 45: COLLAGEN-RICH DRINKS GIVE YOU BETTER SKIN

 

FACT

 

After consuming collagen supplements or collagen-enriched food, the protein is digested into amino acids – this is no different from any other proteins, said Dr Ang Por, a dermatologist from a Paragon clinic.

 

Milk contains an amino acid known as tryptophan, which results in the release of a neurotransmitter, serotonin, that boosts calmness and helps regulate sleep.

 

Tryptophan is also a precursor to melatonin, which is a hormone that helps a person fall asleep and sleep through the night.

 

Despite that, the tryptophan content in milk is probably too low to have any significant effect on promoting sleep, said Dr Michael Lim, a consultant at the division of paediatric pulmonary and sleep at National University Hospital. 

 

Other amino acids in milk also compete to reach the brain, so tryptophan’s effects on the brain may be dampened due to the presence of other amino acids.

 

TIP

 

To improve sleep quality, try to avoid alcohol and caffeine.

 

Other tips include keeping the bedroom cool, quiet and dark; keeping entertainment gadgets out of the bedroom; and establishing a routine that helps one to relax before bedtime, such as light reading or listening to soothing music. 

 

Do not eat dinner too close to bedtime and drink enough fluids so you don’t get thirsty in the middle of the night – but not so much that you have to get up to use the bathroom.

 

Exercise a few hours before bedtime so that the stress hormone (cortisol) generated during physical activity will drop to a level that will not affect your sleep quality.

 

MYTH 45: COLLAGEN-RICH DRINKS GIVE YOU BETTER SKIN

 

FACT

 

After consuming collagen supplements or collagen-enriched food, the protein is digested into amino acids – this is no different from any other proteins, said Dr Ang Por, a dermatologist from a Paragon clinic.

 

Though ingesting collagen is harmless, it has not been proven to directly or significantly boost skin collagen production.

 

Collagen is the main component of skin, connective tissue, cartilage, ligaments, tendons and bones. It breaks down over time from wear and tear and has to be replaced, said Dr Ang.

 

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Some ways to directly stimulate skin collagen formation include using topical products called retinoids and undergoing procedures such as laser therapy, chemical peels and light treatments. 

 

Retinoids that are available over-the-counter include retinol and retinaldehyde, while adapalene, tretinoin and isotretinoin can only be bought with a doctor’s prescription.

 

MYTH 46: ENERGY DRINKS HAVE MORE CAFFEINE THAN REGULAR COFFEE

 

FACT

 

Coffee is actually the stronger pick-me-up – it has about 30 per cent more caffeine than an energy drink. 

 

One cup (250ml) has about 104mg of caffeine, compared to about 80mg in the same amount of Red Bull energy drink, said Ms Ler Yi Bin from Mount Alvernia Hospital’s nutrition & dietetics services.

 

While energy drinks may contain other ingredients like taurine, glucuronolactone, herbal extracts and B vitamins, some studies claim that caffeine remains the core ingredient for their stimulatory effects.

 

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Drink no more than three servings of caffeinated drinks day, said Ms Ler. This includes both coffee and energy drinks. 

 

Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, giving the body a sense of alertness. But it also increases one’s heart rate and blood pressure and dehydrates the body. 

 

An overdose (more than 300mg) can affect your sleep pattern, quicken your heartbeat and cause headaches and dehydration.

 

MYTH 47: A BEER BELLY IS NOT DIRECTLY CAUSED BY DRINKING BEER

 

FACT

 

You get a beer belly when you consume more calories than the amount that is burned. 

 

The excess energy is stored as “belly” fat, said Ms Gina Lin, a dietitian at Singapore General Hospital.

 

As alcohol is quite energy-dense (1g packs 7 calories), and it is easy to overindulge in it, drinking can actually contribute significantly to an excessive calorie intake. 

 

It doesn’t help that foods that are commonly consumed together with alcohol are energy-dense too, such as peanuts, potato chips, fried chicken wings and pizza.

 

But alcohol may not have much to do with beer bellies among older adults. With age, it is easier to put on weight due to lower calorie needs. Many may also lead less active lifestyles as they get older.

 

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There is no one magic diet that can help people lose abdominal fat more efficiently. 

 

In general, eat fewer calories and participate in regular physical activity to burn more calories. Limit the amount of energy-dense food like alcohol, sugary drinks, pastries and deep-fried items. 

 

MYTH 48: GOING ON A JUICE DIET PERIODICALLY DETOXES YOUR BODY

 

FACT

 

A juice cleanse replaces all meals with cold-pressed juices made from fruit and vegetables, for a period ranging from a day to a week.

 

Such a diet is not backed by scientific evidence, so no one can pinpoint the exact toxins that are flushed out, or prove that a prolonged juice diet is safe, said Ms Gladys Wong, chief dietitian at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

 

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Healthcare professionals will not condemn a short-term juice diet, though they would not endorse it either. 

 

While it is relatively safe for one to live only on juices for up to five days, such a diet will not meet a person’s usual energy requirement, said Ms Wong. 

 

Plus, he is likely to feel hungry even after taking the juices. 

 

This is because the act of drinking does not exercise the jaw, unlike munching or chewing, which contributes to satiety, she added.

 

MYTH 49: TAKE SOYA MILK OR OTHER SOY-BASED PRODUCTS TO GET MORE CALCIUM IN YOUR DIET

 

FACT

 

Soy milk, made from soya beans, is generally lower in calcium than cow’s milk. Therefore, it is not considered a good source of calcium, said Ms Ruth Ho, a dietitian at Alexandra Hospital. 

 

Similarly, other soy-based products such as soy yoghurt and tofu are generally lower in calcium. 

 

However, they can be good sources of calcium if they are fortified with the mineral. 

 

Calcium is vital for maintaining bone health and reducing the risk of osteoporosis as one ages. The daily recommended amount of calcium for an adult below 50 is 800mg.

 

Adolescents and those above 50 should increase their calcium intake to 1,000mg a day.

 

TIP

 

Purchase soya milk or soy-based products that are enriched or fortified with calcium. 

 

This means that they have had calcium in the form of calcium phosphate or calcium carbonate added into them. Look out for these ingredients on the food packaging. 

 

Vitamin D, which is made in bodies when one is exposed to ultraviolet rays of the sun, is equally important as it helps bodies absorb calcium. 

 

MYTH 50: ADDING MILK TO TEA ALTERS ITS ANTIOXIDANT ACTIVITY

 

FACT

 

This has not been proven for sure, said Ms Gina Lin, dietician at Singapore General Hospital.

 

Tea contains flavonoids which, when consumed, act as antioxidants in bodies. These substances are believed to help counter the damage caused by free radicals, which are released when bodies use oxygen for daily processes.

 

But excessive amounts of free radicals can damage our body cells and tissues. 

 

Environmental factors like cigarette smoke can also cause free radicals to form in our bodies.

 

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When preparing tea, infusing the tea in water for a longer duration may maximise the tea’s antioxidant activity. Infusions that make use of loose tea leaves, instead of tea bags, may have a higher level of antioxidant activity too. 

 

All in all, decaffeinated, bottled tea and instant teas may have less antioxidant activity than freshly brewed versions.

 

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.

 

 

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