Gloria Hunniford and Chris Bavin settle the argument over whether tea and coffee are good or bad for us - and if the same is true for both.
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If you've settled down to watch this with a nice cuppa,
you'll be particularly interested in one of the stories we're investigating today.
You will, because we're going to get to the bottom of some overboiled,
and in some cases rather frightening, stories that
the papers just love to repeat, even though not all of them are true.
Every day we're bombarded
with conflicting information
about our favourite foods.
One minute we're told something's good for us, the next it's not,
and we're left feeling guilty about what we're eating.
Well, we've been wading through the confusion
to separate the scare stories from the truth,
so you can choose your food with confidence.
Hello. We're very glad you've been able to join us
for Food: Truth Or Scare.
Now, this is a programme
that scrutinises some of the more terrifying headlines
that might just prompt you
into giving up things that you love to eat.
All too often, you know, they don't give you the full story,
-but we're here to set the record straight.
-And just as well,
because if you believed all the headlines we'll be looking at today,
you could be making big changes to your diet
for all the wrong reasons.
Because while we do still tend to be influenced by what we read in
the papers, some reports do get the latest research a bit muddled
and end up giving us the totally wrong message.
Which is not good.
So as we unpick all of that,
you might welcome the news to come out of today's programme,
and in one case it's no exaggeration to say it could save lives.
We drink millions of cups of tea and coffee every single day,
but which of the two is better for us?
And for those who just can't get enough,
could it be doing more harm than good?
It's a pick-me-up. It keeps me going through the day
and especially winter, you can't do without tea.
And we reveal the food often touted as a cure for cancer,
when in fact it's a lot more dangerous.
It will also kill your normal cells as well as your cancer cells
and people have died of cyanide poisoning taking these,
so they're extremely dangerous.
Right, Gloria, I'm going to interrupt your cup of tea with
a quick question for you. How much tea and coffee do you drink?
Now, you're sitting there asking
an Irishwoman how many cups of tea that she drinks every day!
You have watched me drinking tea right throughout this programme.
-I never drink coffee.
-I don't like it.
It gives me a headache. So I only drink tea, and lots of it.
Right, OK, well, I must admit I do rely on caffeine
to get me through those early mornings and long days,
and while I don't think I could live without my cup of coffee,
I have felt a bit worried after seeing those headlines
that say caffeine is addictive
or even that too much of it can lead to cancer,
so I wanted to find out if I really need to be concerned, and if I do,
whether I'd be better off switching to a different brew.
We've long been considered a nation of tea drinkers
and whether we go for Earl Grey or builder's,
we're each said to get through hundreds of mugs of it every year.
But these days it's actually coffee we drink the most,
and that's usually the only brew you'll find in my mug.
This is the first of about five or six cups of coffee
I'll drink most days,
but you don't have to look too far to find some headlines
telling us that caffeine is bad for us, or worse still,
even addictive, and it's not just coffee - tea's in the frame too.
The headlines are pretty confusing.
Some say our daily drinking habit
could be really bad for us and even cause cancer,
but the same papers also report the exact opposite -
that tea and coffee can actually fight cancer
as well as slash the risk of heart disease and protect your liver.
So after reading those headlines,
I now have no idea if I drink too much coffee
or even if I should be drinking more,
and the shoppers I spoke to couldn't help me make up my mind.
-So I see you've both got a cup of tea.
Is that what made you choose that?
I tend to be caffeine free.
It gives me sort of the jitters, even a small amount in tea.
Do you drink much tea and coffee?
I tend to have between 15 and 20 cups a day.
15 to 20 cups a day?
Do you think that level of tea drinking is safe
or healthy or unhealthy?
I haven't had a day off in 20 plus years so that must say something.
Do you drink much tea?
Yeah, I've got into fruit teas a lot recently
-because I've given up caffeine.
-You've given up caffeine?
Because I found it was giving me quite bad heart palpitations.
What is too much tea and coffee, or is there such a thing?
Coffee, I don't know, two a day... Two caffeinated coffees, like,
you know, because it's stronger. Tea's not as caffeinated, right?
-Or I assume it's not.
-I don't know.
-I feel like it's not.
You can have a tea before bed and you'd still be able to sleep,
whereas I think if I had a coffee before bed, I'd be like...
Our tea drinkers are right.
A mug of ordinary tea has about three quarters of the caffeine
that's in the same sized mug of instant coffee.
I drink about five cups of coffee a day but I worry that might be
too much. I've arranged to meet GP Dr Aisha Sharif...
-How are you?
Very well, thank you.
'..who's quick to tell me
'there's no need to be quite so cautious about caffeine.'
For most normal, healthy adults,
we don't specify a limit to the caffeine.
Obviously, for pregnant ladies,
there is some guidance and we say 200 milligrams is safe.
With too much caffeine linked to low birth weight and an increased
risk of miscarriage, pregnant women are advised to drink no more than a
couple of cups of instant coffee or just under three cups of tea a day.
For the rest of us, though, there's no official limit,
and because our bodies all react differently to caffeine,
there's no hard and fast rule for how much it will take
for any side effects to kick in.
There are problems with drinking large volumes of caffeine.
You may be having a bit too much stimulation, so you may be finding
that your heart races and a huge problem for me as a GP is insomnia.
So lack of sleep, what does that do to people?
Well, I think it starts to... If you have got some anxiety problems,
it can heighten your anxiety.
If you are susceptible to having certain heart conditions,
for example, we have quite a rare condition called SVT,
which is where the heart starts to race faster than it should,
which can be potentially dangerous for certain people.
Experts say our bodies and brains
naturally regulate the amount of caffeine we drink,
and we're actually very good at stopping when we've had enough,
and while some people say that caffeine gives them the shakes,
Aisha says that that's just a short-term effect
and there's no long-term harm.
So she finds all those scaremongering headlines laughable.
"Are you addicted to coffee?
-"Doctors are now treating caffeine use disorders with therapy."
I've yet to meet a doctor who's actually doing that.
I don't find that that's a huge problem, certainly where I work.
"Are you a secret caffeine addict?
"The health dangers of drinking too much tea and coffee."
-I think that's overplaying a very safe drink.
-Is it addictive, though?
Is caffeine an addictive substance?
Most common-sense feeling on that is yes, you do desire a cup
when you've been used to drinking a cup in the morning
and people do notice they get headaches and feel sluggish
when they stop drinking coffee.
But that's a reasonably short-term...
Exactly, one or two days and it's out of your system.
So my five or six cups, you're telling me that
that's perfectly safe and I'm absolutely fine to continue with it.
Absolutely safe, yeah.
So if we're safe to ignore those terrifying headlines, what about
the ones that tell us that tea and coffee can do us all manner of good?
I want to find out if there's any truth to those too.
So I'm going to stage my very own battle of the brews.
I'll fight the corner for coffee,
but I need someone to head up Team Tea.
-Hello. How are you?
-I'm very well, thank you. I'm not here for a haircut, though.
But I do hear you make a mean cup of tea.
I'm going to make you one, then, and you can tell me if that is true.
Yes, please, yeah.
-Just like me, nice and strong.
-Thank you very much.
'Lady Job runs this hair salon in South London, and like many of us,
'she can't get through a working day without a few brews.'
What's the secret to a good cup of tea?
The secret to a good cup of tea, to be honest with you,
brew very well, not too strong, though, and a bit of biscuit.
So how many cups of tea would you say you drink every day?
Do I need to tell you that? Um...
I think maybe something like a minimum of five. It might be more.
More than five? How many more than five?
Confession, maybe around seven.
'Clearly tea is an essential part of Lady's day.
'In fact, she reckons she couldn't live without it.'
-So what do you think tea's good for?
-It's a pick-me-up.
It keeps me going through the day
and especially winter, you can't do without tea.
I actually read somewhere that caffeine is good for the hair.
Well, you're drinking lots of tea and you've got fantastic hair.
-So I think there might be something in that.
-Oh, well, what can I say?
'So, with Lady drinking even more tea than I do coffee,
'which of us is making the better choice?
'I've arranged for the pair of us to meet Professor Gary Williamson.
'He's an expert in how our bodies are affected by the food we eat
'and he's been studying tea, coffee and caffeine for years.'
So, Gary, the lovely Lady here is a huge tea fan. I'm a big coffee fan.
We both drink enough of it to sink a battleship.
Whose drink is healthiest?
Well, it's not really as simple as which one is the most healthy
because it really depends on what health parameter,
what health impact you're going for.
Tea and coffee, they're both quite healthy.
So let's see how many of those headlines about health benefits
are true, starting with one saying
tea can help if you've got high cholesterol.
If you have lots of tea, there's been plenty of studies
to show that you can reduce some cholesterol.
It's not going to be as much as taking drugs.
It's not going to rescue you if you've got high cholesterol
but it's a subtle effect, like most things in nutrition.
-Are you happy to hear that?
-Very happy to hear that.
'But coffee's got some pretty impressive benefits too.'
If you look at something like type II diabetes, actually,
coffee is really well protective against developing type II diabetes.
But tea is also good,
-but it's not quite as good as coffee for diabetes.
But if you look at heart disease,
then probably tea is a little bit better, and especially green tea
is particularly good for protecting against heart disease.
'And while your cuppa isn't going to instantly cure anything,
'it doesn't take much to get that extra bit of protection.'
Once you have about three or four cups, drinking more than that
-is probably not going to make too much difference.
But it's really down to your individual preference for caffeine.
And you know some people can tolerate it better,
some people can tolerate it less well.
'Tea and coffee can be good for us
'because they both contain something called polyphenols,
'naturally occurring chemicals known to have huge health benefits,
'but how many of those all-important polyphenols we get from a cuppa
'depends on the type of brew we choose and how we make it -
'whether it's decaf, filter, teabags or instant, Gary says
'they can all be good for us, but some are even better than others.
'So I've asked him to help us rank the best of the best and put some
'of our most popular hot drinks in the order he thinks is healthiest.
'First up, a herbal favourite.
'It's believed to help us get a better night's sleep,
'so is chamomile tea actually good for us?'
Right, I would say that's up there with one of the best.
That's a good one. It's got lots of polyphenols in the chamomile.
-It's got no caffeine...
-And it's got no calories.
-No calories, no caffeine.
-And lots of polyphenols.
'As Aisha told me earlier, there's no problem with having caffeine,
'but because it's a stimulant and some people are more sensitive
'to it, it's the drinks with less caffeine that Gary ranks highest,
'which has a surprising impact on how he rates the coffees.'
-I'd put espresso probably somewhere in the middle.
'Filter coffee, which has less caffeine than espresso,
'is a little higher.'
So now we've got instant coffee.
I would have that reasonably high.
Not too much caffeine, plenty of polyphenols, you know,
-relatively easy to drink and prepare.
So I think I would probably put that fairly high.
So if we put that up there, yeah.
And now we've got an instant decaf.
-Polyphenols, and no calories.
And no calories, so I would put that high.
-I would pretty much have that top.
I would pretty much have that top.
-Because there could be no negatives.
-Because there's no negatives.
'Coffee connoisseurs might say there are tastier cups,
'but with plenty of polyphenols, no calories and no caffeine,
'your mug of black decaf instant coffee would top Gary's list.
'Some other coffees go much further down.
'If they haven't been through a filter,
'they will contain more of the compounds that have been shown
'to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease,
'so that breakfast table favourite, the cafetiere,
'is the lowest scorer so far.
'So does that mean Lady's favourite tea, English breakfast,
'is destined for the top of the table?'
One of the problems with the breakfast tea is that
the polyphenols are not so easily absorbed by the body.
It's all in there, it's all about how our body absorbs it.
Right, OK, so we're going to put this one, unfortunately,
probably what's drank most in the country...
It's not so high.
-That's a shame, isn't it? That is a shame.
-I know, it's very annoying because I love tea.
-I'm sorry, Lady.
So we keep it here.
'But the nation's favourite tea isn't lowest on the table.
'It's just about level pegging with a relatively obscure one
'called rooibos, or redbush, which, like English breakfast tea,
'doesn't release its polyphenols quite as easily as coffee.
'If our table was bigger, green tea and some herbal teas would be
'right up there with chamomile as being super healthy.
'But, according to Gary,
'they're all trumped by that instant decaf coffee.
'It's at the top of the table because it's got no caffeine,
'no calories and plenty of easily absorbed polyphenols.
'It might have come out top here,
'but Gary says there are no losers on this table.'
I think we've done quite well in ordering them,
but just remember that all of them really are quite good.
-So, yes, we haven't gone from good to bad, we've gone from...
..very good to still pretty good.
'But I'm still a competitive chap, so I've got to say that
'I'm delighted to see coffee coming out ahead of Lady's favourite, tea.
'Of course, whichever is your preference,
'adding milk and sugar like Lady does will mean there's more calories
'in your cup, and while I can't convince her to switch to coffee,
'she is prepared to make some sacrifices
'that can only make her drink healthier.'
Now I think what I have to do is to cut down on the milk,
maybe reduce the amount of sugar, if that adds a calorie to it.
And the biscuits with it.
-You have to have biscuits!
-No, you do.
Who's drinking all of this?
-Or who's paying for it, more to the point? Taxi!
Now, if there is one claim we regularly see made for what we eat,
it's that certain foods can either cause
or alternatively help combat cancer.
There can't be many things that the papers haven't linked it to -
foods such as red meat and sugar have been blamed for making it worse
and everything from chilli, green tea and broccoli
can apparently fight it, but I suppose the question is,
-how much of it is true?
-Especially as in some cases
the same foods that one day we're told might cause cancer,
another day, up pops a headline saying that
they may be something that could actually help fend it off,
or, better still, even possibly cure it.
Now, sadly we've both had cancer in our families
and it's very easy to see how anyone who has the condition,
because it's tough, will do whatever they can
to improve their chances against it.
But, you know, those headlines really don't help
when you're looking for a definitive answer, so I wanted to find out
which of them might be correct
and which might be completely barking up the wrong tree.
It's estimated that around half of us will get cancer at some point
in our lives, and although that's a very sobering figure,
thanks to improved treatments and better research,
over half of those diagnosed will now survive.
But anyone who's been told they have cancer will say
they'll do whatever it takes to fight the disease,
including making big changes to their lifestyle and their diet.
And that's something that I'm afraid I know only too well.
When my daughter Caron was diagnosed with cancer,
she searched high and low, and indeed worldwide,
for anything that might help her deal with cancer in a better way,
but I really want to point out that
she did all of that in conjunction with her orthodox medical treatment,
in other words, with guidance from her doctors.
Since then, of course, the internet has been flooded with
even more so-called health websites peddling miracle cures,
and open any newspaper and you'll be confronted with articles
claiming that some foods could help you conquer the condition.
You know, some of the headlines are absolutely ridiculous
and they contradict each other,
and others just seem to be too good to be true,
but on the other hand, inside all of us, I think,
and particularly those dealing with cancer,
they have that little glimmer of hope that some of it might work.
Well, one person who's seen and indeed tried lots of the so-called
solutions touted by the papers is Carl Denning from Leeds.
Carl has battled with pancreatic cancer for four years
so of course he takes seriously
any claims made about foods that could help him fight the condition.
I've tried everything from veganism to alkaline diet.
I've started so many different things
and also because there's so many different diets out there,
you're trying to take them all on board.
I think it's good to be open-minded about any claim.
Being open-minded is one thing,
but Carl says he's getting fed up with all the mixed messages.
When you do all your research and when you read all your newspapers
and you get bombarded by it on social media
and your friends send you links and your family,
putting you on a diet, and people buy you the newest book
and by the end of it all, you get so many different mixed messages.
In Carl's constant search for that Holy Grail food that might help
beat cancer, he's compared and contrasted dozens of
contradictory newspaper claims and put them all into a spreadsheet
to see how many foods the reports agreed on.
Unfortunately, it was a very short list.
The only things that were really safe at the end of it all
were, like, yams and lemons.
I like my food and no-one can live off yams and lemons.
But like me, Carl doesn't think it's right that the reports seem
to contradict themselves so often, and he wants to take a straw poll
of what shoppers in his home city of Leeds make of some of the headlines.
"How green tea can kill cancer cells."
What do you think when you read an article like that?
I am aware that food plays a big part in the health of your body
and you have to be careful what you eat.
"Yoghurt and cheese protects women from breast cancer."
When you read that, do you think there's any truth?
I don't take any notice of these headlines.
I think any advice is worthwhile listening to
and some things are scary,
but it's not there to scare you. It's there to help you.
My gorgeous daughter Caron spent seven years battling cancer,
and while she did make some changes to her diet and fitness
to give her body the best possible chance of winning that fight,
there's undoubtedly so much more information out there now
than there used to be.
Carl and I have come to Maggie's, a national cancer charity
'offering support and advice on all kinds of issues,
'including what to eat.'
-And this is Carl.
-Nice to meet you.
'Catherine Zabilowicz is one of the charity's nutritional advisors
'and specialises in helping people who have been diagnosed with cancer
'to find the best possible things to eat to help their recovery.'
We've obviously heard how Carl has tried pretty well everything
and looked into all the diets, so when a person is diagnosed
with cancer, what are they advised to eat or not eat?
So research shows that we know that
eating a predominantly plant-based diet can be very helpful,
so when you're eating a good variety of your vegetables and fruit,
you'll be getting lots of these plant chemicals
and we know they all have anti-cancer properties,
so if we're eating lots of colourful fruit and vegetables,
we're getting more of those into our body, so variety, probably,
is the spice of life.
'It's a message that Carl had been given by his doctors
'and it led him to make a big change to his own diet
'by becoming a vegan.'
I've tried the vegan diet. I've tried non-dairy at the beginning,
and you do seem to try to take everything on board.
'But after a few weeks, he had to stop because he was so hungry
'and really wasn't enjoying it.
'So now, after seeing headlines linking meat to cancer,
'in both a good and a bad way, he wants to know
'if it's really something he should be eating at all.'
We hear an awful lot about meat in all sorts of conditions,
but in terms of cancer, what's your advice about meat in the diet?
Well, I'm a proponent of meat.
I think that actually it gives us a lot of nutrients,
good protein, particularly some meats like organ meats
and things like that, which we don't tend to eat so much of now.
For people who are under treatment or have cancer,
anaemia is often a problem,
so meat, really, and especially organ meats, are one of the best
ways of actually counteracting that.
'But not all meat comes with such a ringing endorsement,
'and here again, it's so easy to see why people like Carl
'could be so confused about whether it's safe or not
'because in 2015 the World Health Organization revealed that
'processed and red meat could cause cancer.'
Most of the research really points
to the processed meats being the ones that we should avoid,
you know, your bacon and ham and salamis and things like that,
and I always say to people, "Don't eat too much meat."
I certainly don't recommend a high meat diet.
-What, once or twice a week?
'So while those meat headlines are backed up with science, Catherine
'says not every story we read is based on such solid evidence.'
The problem with a lot of this research is that
so often it's just seen a petri dish or seen in animals.
There aren't the human trials quite often but the media picks up on that
and obviously runs with a sensational headline.
Does that frustrate you?
Oh, it really does, because yeah,
people do latch on to it and then they often get into difficulties
and it becomes disempowering to the person,
and that's certainly what we don't want,
but if someone feels positive about what they're doing, that of course
can have a huge influence and we know about the placebo effect.
We know how strong that is
and I think, you know, to some extent there's an element of that
when we feel that we're putting the right food in our body.
I genuinely believe that Caron lived much longer than her prognosis,
and I believe that's because of her positivity.
She felt that she was doing something that made her feel
better and stronger at that time.
I think it makes a massive difference, that,
to have a real positive outlook
and also just keep your mind active on more positive things.
Totally agree, yeah.
Whether it is just a placebo effect
or something more powerful we'll never know, but I have to say
I'm really disappointed that more than 12 years after we lost Caron,
the list of foods that definitely can help
doesn't seem to have got much longer.
Caron had a very, very positive attitude and she made many changes
to her diet and her lifestyle
in the hope that she could conquer her cancer
or at least manage it, and whereas,
very sadly for me, and for all our family,
it didn't work out like that,
nevertheless, when I look at some of the headlines, I can see how
perhaps she would have been lured in by the hope that they represent.
And there's one food in particular that's been singled out
and even called a miracle cancer killer - apricot kernels.
Now, they're found inside the stones of apricots and contain a chemical
that it's been reported directly attacks cancer cells.
At the time I remember Caron used to eat them, and I can understand why
'but you know, I'd completely forgotten about them
'until I saw this headline last year, claiming that
'far from curing your cancer, eating them could actually kill you.
'The question is, are they a cure or a killer?
'Well, I've come to see Dr Justine Alford from Cancer Research UK
'to determine the truth.'
Apricot kernels, you know, it's been hailed, really,
as a magic cure in some way or if you eat them it prevents cancer.
Is there any truth in that whatsoever?
There's absolutely no truth in that whatsoever, unfortunately.
In fact, not only is there no evidence that
apricot kernels can cure cancer,
there is evidence that they are very dangerous and that's because
apricot kernels contain an ingredient that
once inside your body gets broken down into hydrogen cyanide,
so effectively yes, that does kill cells,
but it will also kill your normal cells as well as your cancer cells
and people have died of cyanide poisoning taking these,
so they're extremely dangerous and we would never recommend that
people try taking apricot kernels as a treatment for their cancer
or for any other illness.
A recent surge in the popularity of apricot kernels
led the Food Standards Agency to warn that
they should not be eaten at all.
Now, I know my daughter Caron ate only a few each day
in the hope that it would help, but the news that
they're potentially so dangerous is chilling.
I've got to say, though, it's great to get such a definite answer
on at least one food because it seems we are constantly bombarded
with reports that all manner of foods might be linked to cancer.
Just last month, for example, the Food Standards Agency warned
that overbrowning toast, chips and roast potatoes could mean
that you take in too much of a chemical that could cause cancer,
but where things get especially confusing is when different
news reports might one day suggest a particular food causes cancer
and then the next day says it protects against it,
and that very mixed message is especially the case with dairy.
My daughter was told not to have too much dairy,
not to have too much cow's milk.
Well, the evidence for dairy is actually inconclusive.
The jury's still out
when it comes to whether dairy can affect your risk of cancer.
'Justine says there's only evidence that eating dairy could
'reduce the risk of bowel cancer and there's certainly no proof
'that other forms of cancer can be caused or cured by it.
'So headlines like this may not be giving you the full picture.'
Justine, is there any proof whatsoever that what we eat
could actually help prevent cancer?
There have been a lot of studies into diet and cancer but
so far the evidence suggests that there is no specific single food
or drink that can prevent us from getting cancer,
but what you can do through your diet is lower the risk of
developing certain types of cancer.
So while there's no proof that any food can cure cancer
and the jury is still out on whether some others could help
fight against it, eating well and feeling happy about the changes
you're making can have a very positive effect,
and back in Leeds, that's certainly the case for Carl.
Now he's preparing for another round of chemo
but he's taken some of the advice he's heard on board in the hope that
eating the right foods might help his body cope with the treatment,
and he's consigned his spreadsheet of conflicting headlines to the bin.
My advice is don't take everything word for word,
do your little bit of research, look into it.
The thing is, if you're going to follow a certain diet
and actually put more stress onto your shoulders,
you're going to add anxiety to your life
and you're already in an anxious situation,
so there's no point of doing that.
I'm very happy to say that Carl is here. Lovely to see you again.
-Good to see you again, Gloria.
-And this is Chris.
-Lovely to meet you.
How have things been, then, since we met before?
Great, thank you. They've gone really well.
So what changes to your diet did you make?
I've started a low carb, no sugar diet. I feel better.
The side effects of the chemo have been a lot shorter
and I'm really enjoying actually cooking more.
Less take-aways. Hopefully it will be a little bit better on my waist.
What I'm interested in is your cancer reading.
Has it made any difference to
the readings that they give concerning your blood?
Everything is kind of going in a positive direction.
So that could be because of the chemo as well?
I think the majority is the chemo, in all honesty, but I'm sure
that the effects from the chemo have also dramatically dropped.
You're saying these changes to your diet actually reduce
the negative effects of chemotherapy?
You know, I only can kind of speak personally, but I do think
that every bit of help regarding chemo or food has helped.
-And he looks remarkable, doesn't he?
-You look great.
-Thank you very much for coming to see us.
-No, thank you very much.
-And it's marvellous news that just a bit of extra knowledge
and a change of diet has made such a difference to Carl's life,
but you know, as a final thought, remember that
all changes are individual and may not necessarily work for everybody.
Worked for Carl, may not work for everybody, and of course,
any changes need to be made with the help of your doctor,
but what is truly fascinating to me is that changing what you eat and
having the knowledge can make such a positive change to your wellbeing,
and perhaps that's a lesson for all of us, so thank you, Carl.
Thank you. Thank you very much.
If you're looking for ideas on
how to get more fruit and veg into your diet, as recommended
by experts across the series,
you can find plenty of simple recipes at...
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Newspapers love to tell us stories
about food and drink that do us all manner of harm,
but the scare stories don't stop there.
Now they're telling us what we drink FROM could be dangerous.
Every day millions of us will buy one of these,
and when we've finished with it, instead of throwing it away,
we'll reuse it, filling it up from the tap,
but recent headlines might make you think twice as to whether
that's a good idea or not,
so to test out whether reusing plastic bottles is dangerous,
we've enlisted the help of some guys who certainly get plenty of use
from theirs, Paralympian Steve Brown and his wheelchair rugby team.
Over the last few decades,
us Brits have developed a serious love affair with bottled water.
Three billion litres of the stuff is sold every year,
but instead of buying a new bottle every time,
plenty of us will just fill up the old one from the tap.
But whether you're putting one in your work bag, schoolbag,
or, like me, your sports bag,
some very alarming headlines say that
us committed refillers
could be playing fast and loose with our health,
because some water bottles could apparently be dirtier
than our toilet seats.
I've been playing wheelchair rugby for more than a decade
and my trusty water bottle comes with me wherever I go.
If we drop the ball, we don't beat ourselves up.
To complain and hit our wheels gets us nowhere.
'For the team I coach, their water bottles are as much
'a part of their kit as their gloves and their shirts,
'but I, for one, don't wash my water bottle every time I wash my strip.'
Right, so, who, like me, refills their water bottles?
-Yeah, I've had mine a couple of weeks.
-Yeah, you refill your water bottles? Tim?
-I don't, mate, no.
-I get a new bottle every time, yeah.
'But according to some of the papers,
'those of us who don't wash our water bottles could risk suffering
'a nasty bout of food poisoning.'
"How your plastic water bottle
"could be harbouring more germs than a dog bowl."
The amount of times I get licked and him picking up my bottle for me.
You and your dog share the germs?
It's probably... We've probably got the same amount of germs.
The same germs. Yeah, beautiful.
'Tim's possibly the worst offender here.
'He says he's not washed his bottle for around a month,
'and worse still, his helper dog regularly picks it up in his mouth.'
So not only do I lick the end of it
but it does get the dog's saliva on it as well.
And your bottle has ultimately
-been on the floor in the process as well.
'OK, so that sounds disgusting
'but does it mean Tim's water bottle is harbouring
'any more dangerous bacteria than the rest of the team's?
'Well, to find out if there's any truth to those scare stories,
'we're going to run some tests.'
Guys, what I'd like to do is send our water bottles off for analysis
and see if they really are as dirty as dog bowls.
'I'm bagging up the bottles and taking them away.
'Omar, Harry and Ben's are all brand-new.
'But the rest of us refill our bottles without washing them.
'I can't wait to see what the tests make of this lot, especially Tim's.'
'I'm taking these sealed bags to London Metropolitan University
'for testing by microbiologist Dr Paul Matewele.
'He'll be checking the levels of bacteria lurking inside and
'around the tops of the bottles.'
Paul, thank you very much for inviting me down this afternoon.
I've brought my own bottle along with all my team-mates' bottles.
What are you expecting to find?
I'm expecting to find
some microorganisms that you get from the gut.
'There could be a cocktail of bacteria lurking inside
'some of these bottles, and they might cause anything from
'a dicky tummy to serious abdominal pains and even worse.
'I had never imagined I might pick up something like that
'from my water bottle.'
One of my team-mates, and I'll leave you to find out which one,
has got a helper dog and when he drops his bottle,
his dog picks the bottle up for him and passes it back to him.
Oh, my goodness. In that case, we'll expect to see...
We all have bacteria,
but the animals also have their own bacteria,
so that one, I'm expecting to see loads of dog bacteria...
..that you'll find in the mouth of a dog.
'Of course, as well as bacteria that could lead to
'a bad bout of gastroenteritis,
'Dr Matewele's tests might uncover some not so nasty bugs too.'
What about those wives' tales around,
"Well, a few germs don't hurt you," and all that kind of thing?
Surely that would be the same for the bottles.
In theory, it's quite a good thing to be exposed,
for the body to be exposed to bacteria,
because it builds up your immune system,
but there is a critical number
and if it goes beyond that critical number,
then probably we need to worry
because the immune system can't cope with that.
So to put that into context,
my water bottle could be sitting in my car for two days, three days,
I could fill it up and there wouldn't be a problem,
but if I went back to that maybe five days or six days later,
then the bacteria's built up to a point where it does cause an issue.
I think I look forward to finding out but I'm not sure, Doctor.
Thank you very much and I will see you in a couple of weeks.
After that conversation, I dread to think what Dr Matewele might find,
but while I leave him to run those tests, there's a whole raft
of other news stories suggesting an even more serious health threat.
Some have even claimed that
drinking from plastic bottles can cause cancer.
I'm going to try something here.
I'm going to type in "water bottle cancer" and let's see what comes up.
"Plastic bottles and food containers, cancer,"
"cancer, water bottles,"
"the plastic plague."
"Exposure to chemicals in plastic." There's loads.
These online stories all relate to
the plastic that some water bottles are made from, which contain
chemicals known as BPAs.
It's been suggested that
if these bottles are used over and over again,
the BPAs can dangerously contaminate the water.
Now, these sorts of headlines
have been getting a lot of attention on social media,
shares and comments.
And while it's never wise to believe everything you read online,
some of these stories come from reputable publications
so there's no wonder the message is getting through to some people.
I read that if you use water bottles too much over again,
they give you cancer.
I did believe the stories about cancer and water bottles
but I can't remember why and I'm still not clear today.
But are any of these scare stories actually true?
In fact, according to Cancer Research UK,
they're almost entirely unfounded
and started from a string of hoax e-mails and social media posts
designed to make it look like
they're backed up by scientific evidence.
There have been lots of hoaxes
about plastic bottles, specifically things like
leaving them in a car or freezing them or reusing plastic bottles
and whether that could increase a person's risk of cancer,
so it might be that people have received that e-mail themselves
or have heard about these hoaxes from their friends or family
and then it can be really hard to work out what's true and what's not
because often they try and claim
that they're from reputable institutions or universities,
but those universities have released statements saying that
the e-mails were not from them,
they don't support them and that the research really isn't there
to back up those claims.
Fiona says that whilst
there is a slight risk that BPAs might leak into the water,
it's only been found to happen under extreme circumstances.
Lots of the tests that have been done looking at plastic bottles
have used things like very high temperatures or storing things
for a very long period of time,
and day to day, that's not
something that a plastic bottle that someone's drinking from
is likely to be exposed to, and it's also important to remember
that even in those cases, the vast majority of that evidence
isn't showing that the levels of chemicals like BPA
coming from the plastic bottle into the water itself
is above a level that scientists consider harmful.
So, despite those reports online and in the papers,
my water bottle isn't going to give me cancer,
but I still wonder if it could make me ill in other ways.
It's been two weeks since
I took the team's bottles to Dr Matewele for testing,
and he's come down to our practice session to deliver the results.
This is going to be a moment of truth, so, lads, are you ready?
OK, so, Omar...
..Harry and Ben, OK,
cleanest bottles in the team.
'No surprise there.
'Those three all bought new bottles on the day they were tested.'
Third place was Andy.
Second was joint between myself and you, Dave.
'Interestingly, the six-day-old bottles belonging to Andy and I
'had no more bacteria than Dave's two-day-old bottle.
'They were all still perfectly safe to drink from.'
And dirtiest of all, Tim, was yours, pal.
'Tim's water bottle hadn't been cleaned for a month, and remember,
'his helper dog often picks it up when Tim drops it.
'Those things make it a breeding ground for bacteria.'
Well, so, Doctor, what was there?
All the other bottles had bacteria
-but Tim also had mould inside the bottle.
-Mould inside the bottle?
Yes. Whereas everyone else's had bacteria.
'It might sound bad but the mould in Tim's bottle was actually
'the same kind that grows on blue cheese, so pretty harmless,
'and despite his bottle having the highest number of bacteria too,
'Dr Matewele says that unless Tim has been ill,
'there's not really a problem.'
In terms of infection, I don't think it's something to be worried about,
but it's a sign that something has got to be done
to clean up the bottle slightly more regularly
than is the case at the moment.
'The fact his bottle hasn't made him ill yet doesn't mean it won't
'if he doesn't wash it soon, because the tests also found
'low levels of other, more serious strains of bacteria.'
The other bacteria which were lower levels,
if they are allowed to climb up, those are the ones
that we would worry about because they are pathogenic.
'If it's left to fester,
'this pathogenic bacteria could cause some serious health problems.'
So if a dirty water bottle can make you ill,
was any of our water bottles at the sort of level
that you're starting to worry about that with?
All the bottles that I looked at,
at this moment in time there's nothing to worry about,
so it looked fine and they're not pathogenic.
So it would seem, really, that we need to treat our water bottles
the same way as we treat the rest of our kit in terms of,
after training we wash it thoroughly, we make sure that
it's stored properly and we make sure we look after it
the way it deserves to be looked after.
Exactly. That's the message that we seem to get from these findings.
So, Gloria, we're both well aware that a grabby headline is great for
selling papers or getting someone to click on an article online.
That's why they do it.
It is indeed, but it's so easy for someone to believe what they've seen
without getting the full context of what's behind the research.
And I'm afraid it's rarely quite as simple as some of the headlines
would have us believe,
and certainly when it comes to something like cancer,
people really will do almost anything in the hope
that it just might help, and you can understand that,
so I really trust that the official warning about how dangerous
those apricot kernels could be takes hold soon because
to me that's really a big worry.
And while no one food is going to cure cancer, as Gloria found,
there are some that can help, and you can of course find
recipes and ideas for some of those ingredients at...
But for now, though, that's just about
where we have to leave it for today.
I hope we've put your mind at rest over some of the scare stories
that you might have read or heard about,
so thank you very much indeed for your company.
-Until the next time, from both of us, bye-bye.
Gloria Hunniford and Chris Bavin settle the argument over whether tea and coffee are good or bad for us - and if the same is true for both. There is also the truth about a food often touted as a way to fight cancer. And, after reports suggesting reusing plastic water bottles is a bad idea, tests reveal if we should be using a fresh one every time.