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   Dec 01

So which foods really ARE good for you? Interactive tool reveals the truth about chia seeds, acai berries, wheatgrass and green tea


Data journalist David McCandless began research for the infographic two years ago

He spent nine months investigating scientific evidence backing the health benefits of various superfoods

Produced an interactive infographic, which is constantly evolving, to help people ‘wade through the murk’

Foods are divided into seven categories – strong, good, promising, inconclusive, some, slight and no evidence

Graphic shows three grams of the sugars in barley and oats each day does help lower cholesterol

Garlic really can help lower blood pressure, especially in those people with raised blood pressure

There is ‘good’ proof almonds consistently lower ‘bad’ cholesterol in healthy people and those with diabetes
And the scientific basis for another new superfood, coconut oil, boosting weight loss is ‘promising’
But there is no evidence oysters are aphrodisiacs and the evidence supporting the idea acai berries help fight cancer and chia seeds boost weight loss is slight while there’s some evidence wheatgrass is good for overall health

Do you regularly ‘detox’ with a green tea or a wheatgrass juice and pack your diet full of chia seeds and acai berry all in the hope of improving your cholesterol, combating cancer and promoting weight loss?

Are you among the millions who believe oysters are an aphrodisiac, boosting your sex drive?

Every day across the world scientists publish countless studies into the health benefits of various foods, prompting new food fads, and encouraging millions to invest in ‘the’ latest superfood.

Frustrated by the constant stream of conflicting scientific evidence, one data journalist and information designer from London was inspired to ‘wade through the murk’ to offer people a little light in the confusion.

David McCandless, author of the book Information Is Beautiful, began collating thousands of scientific studies to produce a stunning interactive Snake Oil Superfoods infographic to inform people and ensure ‘they aren’t duped’.

The 43-year-old embarked on the challenge with Dr Miriam Quick, investigating the evidence to establish which studies ‘really stand up to the test of science’, promising ‘solid scientific evidence for extra health benefits of certain foods’.

A new infographic that was four years in the making reveals the grade of scientific evidence behind various so-called superfoods. Data journalist David McCandless was inspired to collate the information after becoming frustrated with the confusing number of scientific studies

The finished, though ever-evolving, product divides a vast range of foods into those backed by ‘strong’, ‘good’, ‘promising’, ‘inconclusive’, ‘some’, ‘slight’, and ‘no evidence’ categories.

And the majority sit in the inconclusive to no evidence range.

There is no evidence oysters are good for your sex life. There is only ‘some’ evidence to back the theory that green tea is beneficial to cholesterol levels, the proof that wheatgrass is good for your general health, that chia seeds boost weight loss and heart health and acai berry helps in the fight against cancer and boost weight loss is only slight.

There is strong evidence that three grams of the sugars found in oats and barley each day helps lower blood cholesterol, and that garlic really can help lower blood pressure, especially for those with raised blood pressure.

Meanwhile there is ‘good’ proof that almonds consistently lower ‘bad’ cholesterol in healthy people as well as those with high cholesterol and diabetes.

And the scientific basis for another new superfood, coconut oil, boosting weight loss is ‘promising,’ according to the infographic.

Mr McCandless told MailOnline: ‘This is really a sequel to a previous graphic about supplements, collating the nutritional information of supplements from Vitamin D to Goji berries.

The graphic divides various foods into seven categories, rating the quality of the evidence for the health claims – strong, good, promising, inconclusive, some, slight and no evidence. Hovering over the various foods allows the reader to link back to scientific studies

‘We first created that around four years ago and it has evolved over several years.

‘I realised there were lots of foods claiming to be superfoods, and beneficial for your health. So about two years ago we started researching, it took about nine months in total, though not full time.

‘With supplements it is slightly easier because they can be tested in clinical trials. But with foods it is harder to test exactly how they affect the body.

‘A lot of the evidence is from epidemiological studies, a survey of a population for example. The grade of scientific evidence is slightly lower.

‘They might identify a beneficial chemical in red wine, for example, and then infer that food or drink carries the benefit.’

Mr McCandless told MailOnline he is ‘a bit of a health freak’, and so was inspired by his own curiosity to produce the ‘ever-evolving’ piece of work.

‘I try to live a super healthy lifestyle but have been frustrated by the grade of the evidence,’ he said.

‘I was left trying to find some sense in the murk. One day a study would say something was good for you, and the next would contradict it.

‘We want the graphic to act as a filter, allowing us to share the information with people.

‘We spent a lot of time collating the information, to make sure people aren’t duped – that’s the real goal.’

The infographic features in Mr McCandless’ book, Information Is Beautiful. His book Knowledge Is Beautiful is also out now.

Mr McCandless said the piece of work is ‘ever-evolving’ as the team at Information Is Beautiful constantly update it, as new studies emerge

Learn what a superfood is and how they can effect you

Source: Daily Mail

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