HEALTH: THE TRUTH ABOUT YOUR FOOD FEARS; Worried and Confused about the Contents of Your Fridge? We Asked British Nutrition Foundation Dietician Dr Sarah Schenker to Sort out Your Food Concerns

Article excerpt

Byline: Words: Rhiannon Vivian.

FOOD FEAR Eating sugar will give me diabetes

Some nutrition advisors claim eating sugar sends blood glucose rocketing and gradually wears out the pancreas, which triggers Type II diabetes.

SARAH SAYS: OSugary foods can be high in calories, and eating too many of them can contribute to obesity. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for diabetes, but there is definitely no simple link between sugar itself and diabetes. Of course, eating sugar will raise your blood sugar levels, but for most healthy people this is not a problem. The body is designed to regulate blood sugar and keep it even at all times. Athletes have huge amounts of sugar in their diet as they need it for energy. They donOt develop diabetes as they lead healthy lifestyles and are doing exercise.O

FOOD FEAR Red wine is the only healthy tipple

Numerous studies have claimed drinking red wine reduces the risk of heart disease, while white wine hasnOt been mentioned, leading people to assume it has not got the same benefits.

SARAH SAYS: OThis is a myth. Both red and white wine contain antioxidants that help fight cancer and heart disease. Anything plant-derived (like grapes) usually contains antioxidants. Although red wine contains more varieties of antioxidants, both red and white contain some of the most powerful antioxidants in nature [ETH] resveratrol, quercitin and epicatechin. Also, people who enjoy a moderate alcohol intake [ETH] in any form [ETH] are generally healthier and more relaxed than teetotallers. But remember, two units a day is the limit for women.

FOOD FEAR Diet drinks are dangerous

A study in Norway claimed the artificial sweetener found in diet drinks may possibly damage brain cells.

SARAH SAYS: OEvery food additive has to undergo rigorous testing and countless clinical trials before itOs approved by the Food Standards Agency. If a sweetener has been passed, people should be confident they can consume it safely. I have nothing against diet drinks with sweeteners. For people watching their calorie intake, they are better than drinking an ordinary can of cola which contains 9 tsp of sugar.O

FOOD FEAR Tuna and salmon are toxic

According to Government advisors, farmed salmon has at least three toxic chemicals in it, including the residue of the pesticide DDT. Tuna is also a concern. The Food Standards Agency says pregnant women should limit their intake due to its high mercury content which could damage their unborn childOs nervous system.

SARAH SAYS: OChoose your fish carefully as salmon from different places is contaminated to different degrees. One recent study found farmed and North Sea salmon are more contaminated as they come from more polluted water, whereas Alaskan salmon tends to be purer. It is true that tuna, both tinned and fresh, contains small amounts of mercury, but the Food Standards Agency says you can safely eat up to four portions a week (two for pregnant women). Never eliminate oily fish from your diet as itOs a great source of omega-3 fatty acids which are important for heart health. The benefits outweigh the risks as long as you stick to the guideline limits.O

FOOD FEAR Burnt toast

will give me cancer

Over-cooking foods so they are slightly burnt on the outside causes chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons to form. These chemicals are known to help cause cancer.

SARAH SAYS: OYes, those burned bits have been proven in labs to be a carcinogen (cancer trigger), but you would have to eat an incredible amount for them to have any effect. Also, how often do you eat really badly blackened toast? If you singe a small area round the edge you will be taking in very few carcinogens. If youOre worried, make sure there are lots of antioxidants in your diet by getting five portions of fruit and veg a day. These will neutralise the impact of any carcinogens from burnt food. …