Gloria Hunniford, Chris Bavin investigate reports about some surprising foods it's claimed could help you lose weight, including chocolate cake and chilli.
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Chocolate cake for breakfast, butter in your coffee and foods that burn fat.
Just a few of the pretty unorthodox recommendations we're unravelling today.
So are they really secret weapons for losing weight
or simple flights of fancy?
Well, we're going to be finding out.
Every day, we're bombarded with conflicting information
about our favourite foods.
One minute we're told something is 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 and welcome to Food: Truth Or Scare,
the series that untangles the mixed messages that we're fed
about the food we eat.
I have to say, it doesn't get much more confusing
than the endless claims about which foods to choose
and which ones to avoid if you want to shed a few pounds.
It really can be confusing, can't it?
But today, we're not talking about long-term diets
or complicated weight-loss regimes.
Instead, we're investigating some very surprising claims
about food that really divide opinion.
Well, we can't promise you a silver bullet
but we can say that by the end of today's programme
you will know which of those claims you can put your faith in
and which it's much safer to ignore completely.
Coming up... It's one of our favourite guilty pleasures,
but can chocolate really be as good for us as some reports claim?
-You're a dietician. Do you eat chocolate?
And they are used in dozens of foods,
but are artificial sweeteners really safe?
"One diet fizzy drink a day raises the risk of stroke and dementia."
Very worrying for someone that does drink one diet fizzy drink a day.
Well, right at the top of the show, we promised we'd be unpicking
some unorthodox claims about certain foods,
so let's talk about one you'd probably never imagined
could be good for you and that's chocolate.
Now, that is unorthodox. I don't believe you.
No, well, it is hard to believe, isn't it?
While you and I might see it as an occasional treat
that shouldn't be considered healthy,
that's not the impression you'd get from a quick search online
or a look at some of the papers.
As well as saying that chocolate cake for breakfast could help you lose weight,
it's also claimed that chocolate can lower your risk of heart disease,
improve your memory and even be good for your teeth.
Hang on a second, can you imagine me saying to my grandchildren,
"By the way, kids, chocolate is really good for your teeth, so use as much as you want."
I've spent years saying the opposite.
But in fact, when the team back in the office realised quite how many
positive stories there are about chocolate and started looking
for negative ones, they really struggled to find them.
So, do we need to rethink our opinions on this one?
Well, I jumped at the chance to find out.
And I'm furious you didn't take me with you.
As a boy, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory was my favourite book.
This tale of a young lad being let loose amongst endless confectionery
kept me entertained for hours.
Real life, however, was quite different.
When I was growing up, chocolate was a treat
and something that we weren't allowed a great deal of.
And now I'm a parent,
I try to not let my children eat too much, as well.
But when I saw headlines telling us that chocolate was good for us,
I really felt that I'd found my golden ticket.
Yes, you heard me, claims that chocolate can be good for you.
Scientists have found that chocolate need no longer be a guilty pleasure.
A compound in chocolate called flavanols
can help reverse memory loss in older adults.
There's a growing list of claimed health benefits
and suggestions that rather than an occasional treat,
we should be eating chocolate every day.
It sounds good to me. Gives me a good excuse to eat it.
I don't think chocolate will help, really.
Take it with a pinch of salt. Or a bar of chocolate!
But the boldest claim of all has to be this one -
that chocolate cake for breakfast could help you lose weight.
I'm very dubious about that.
It sounds awesome. I want some!
Probably promoted by the chocolate-cake industry.
I've never heard of it, but I mean if it works, I'd probably try it.
But I doubt it would work.
It might sound far-fetched,
but those news reports aren't making it up.
They're reporting on a genuine scientific study from Israel.
The science says that if you eat your cake in the morning
when your metabolism is at its highest,
you'll have all day to burn off the calories and, also,
you're going to be less likely to be tempted by sweet treats
throughout the rest of the day.
so in Food: Truth Or Scare tradition,
I'm going on the chocolate-cake diet. Cheers!
I'm certainly looking forward to seeing
if I can get the benefits that study claimed.
But that's not the only report that could make you feel
a little less guilty about indulging.
So first, I want to hear some of the other evidence
as to why chocolate is supposedly good for you,
with the help of expert chocolate-maker Ama Uzowuru.
So, as a chocolate-maker, you must be delighted
when you read headlines telling everybody
that chocolate's good for them?
Well, yes and no, because not all chocolate's created equal.
And so, when we talk about chocolate being good for you,
it's the quality and what's in it.
And rather than your average milk chocolate bar,
Ama's chocolate is a little more exotic.
So, chocolate-making starts with the cocoa bean.
-And these are some beans from Belize.
We roast it, crush it and take the shells off.
Once the shells are taken off, we are left with cocoa nibs,
so this stuff here.
Right, OK, so this is where it starts?
This is what you then go on to make chocolate from?
-Can I try this?
-You can. Have a taste.
-It's like a chocolatey nut.
And that contains all the antioxidants,
the anti-inflammatories and also a stimulant called theobromine.
In short, they are all the things that the reports are talking about
and theobromine is a natural compound that's been used to treat -
amongst other things - high blood pressure
and it occurs naturally in cocoa.
But - and here is the bad news - not in much mainstream milk chocolate.
Most of what you see on the high street
will be... not great quality beans, over-roasted beans,
so almost burnt. The anti-inflammatories and theobromine,
it's all burnt off at phase one.
After roasting, the beans are crushed and the cocoa solids,
which are the crucial ingredient in making chocolate, are separated.
While dark chocolate contains a high percentage of cocoa solids,
milk chocolate has much less.
What's more, mass-produced bars often contain fats and emulsifiers
that are added to keep the manufacturing costs down.
First of all, it's just to make the bar cheaper,
so cocoa butter is usually added to most chocolate,
but if the price of cocoa is really high,
the cost of cocoa butter is also really high,
so in order to make a cheaper bar, you add vegetable oil.
Alongside that vegetable oil,
cheaper chocolate also has a lot more sugar,
which of course isn't good for us.
But my chocolate-cake diet isn't about the benefits of chocolate itself,
but the potential plus sides of having a high-calorie breakfast,
which it's claimed will stop me craving treats later on
and could ultimately even help me lose weight.
Day two, it's all going well, though I must admit it feels a bit strange.
I mean, this is odd. It goes against everything you ever believed.
Before there's any time to crave the sweet treat,
there are some other claims about chocolate to get to the bottom of.
It's also been reported to help lower cholesterol,
reduce your risk of heart disease and improve memory.
Is there no end to chocolate's powers?
I'm hoping dietician Kaitlin Colucci won't burst my bubble.
What is it in chocolate that's good for us?
Well, the beneficial thing that's in chocolate is the cocoa solids
and it's these cocoa solids that contain what we call flavanols.
And these flavanols have been proven to help reduce blood pressure
and can be beneficial for cardiovascular health.
Flavanols are powerful plant-based antioxidants
that have been linked to heart health, brain health,
good cholesterol and more.
They are found in cocoa solids but Kaitlin's about to demonstrate
that actually the chocolate we eat most
has so few of those that it's of no real benefit.
So, here I've got some 80% dark chocolate
and I'm going to weigh out 45g.
How much milk chocolate do you think you would need to eat
to get the same amount of cocoa solids
that 45g of dark chocolate contains?
-So I've gone 95.
Brilliant. Quite a bit under.
Your average milk chocolate will contain around 20, 25% cocoa solids.
So really, you'd need about 180g of milk chocolate
and then that would be almost 1,000 calories worth of chocolate.
Wow. But you're not saying that we should eat
four times as much milk chocolate to get the health benefits, are you?
Definitely not, because milk chocolate will contain more fat and sugar
and that will definitely outweigh the health benefits that the cocoa solids provide.
Now, I'm going to ask you, what do you think about white chocolate?
I think we might need a bigger plate!
-Whole jar, half a jar?
-All of it, I think.
-The whole jar.
OK, well, it's actually a bit of a trick question.
White chocolate actually doesn't contain any cocoa solids whatsoever.
White chocolate is made from the cocoa butter only
and no cocoa solids are added back into the chocolate.
-So it's not even chocolate?
It's a derivative of chocolate.
But, before you go out and stock up on dark chocolate,
a word of warning from Kaitlin.
While it does contain more beneficial compounds than any other kind,
they are not in great quantities and the sugar and fat content
far outweigh any small benefit from the cocoa.
So, with those hopes dashed,
what does Kaitlin make of the apparent appetite-suppressing powers
of my chocolate-cake breakfast?
Can that be healthy? Can it help you lose weight?
So, when you go and look back at the original studies
that these headlines first came from,
they actually used groups of people
that were already significantly overweight.
And what they found was that people who ate a larger meal for breakfast,
whether that included a piece of chocolate cake or not,
was found to lose more weight than the group that didn't.
But what that doesn't mean is that you should replace
your whole breakfast with a slice of chocolate cake.
OK. So, look, you're a dietician, you've got my health,
the nation's health at the very forefront of what you do.
Would you recommend that I stop or carry on
with the chocolate-cake diet?
I would recommend that you stop the chocolate-cake diet.
I would suggest to start your day as you mean to go on,
so start your day with a healthy, balanced breakfast,
high in protein, high in fibre.
So something like a big bowl of porridge, throw in some fruit,
maybe some seeds on top, or even some eggs on toast
to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
I can't say Kaitlin's advice took me by surprise.
Let's face it - we all know the kind of mass-produced chocolate
we buy so much of in this country isn't good for us.
But the reports calling it a veritable health food just keep coming.
Do you know what? I can't find one story on here
that says chocolate is bad for you.
But this one I found particularly shocking.
"The benefits of chocolate for your teeth, according to a top dentist."
I mean, that goes against everything I thought I knew. But here it is.
The article says cocoa beans contain antibacterial agents
that can help reduce cavities.
Which could be good news for the patients and staff
at this dental practice.
There are recent reports suggesting that chocolate
can actually be good for your dental health.
What do you think about that?
That sounds a bit dodgy to me.
What do you think of recent headlines
saying that chocolate can actually be good for your teeth?
I think it's crazy, but if it's what they're saying,
I'm going to take it.
You think it could be plausible, could be believable?
-Sounds a bit silly, doesn't it?
But what about the man who looks after their pearly whites?
Doctor Stefan Van Vuuren has some surprising news.
There are a lot of antioxidants in dark chocolate.
They inhibit the development of bacterial plaque around the teeth
and they also have an anti-inflammatory effect on the gums.
But, yet again, it all comes down to the kind of chocolate you choose.
It is absolutely true,
providing you use or eat chocolate of about 70% cocoa content,
rather than the milk chocolates that you buy over the counter.
But everything in moderation.
If they want to eat chocolate with high sugars,
of course keep it to one or two sessions a day.
At least that will give your saliva a chance
to neutralise the pH in your mouth.
But forgetting all the other ingredients
in a normal bar of chocolate that could damage your teeth,
Dr Stefan says raw cocoa's antibacterial powers
could be better than fluoride toothpaste.
There is a compound called CPH in dark chocolate
which could potentially replace fluoride in our waters,
toothpastes and mouthwashes, and the effect is proven to be actually more
effective than fluoride in preventing cavity formation.
That study wasn't of course talking about chocolate,
but the compounds found in cocoa, and the same can be said
for the other health benefits pinned on chocolate.
So you can't excuse overindulgence by calling it a health food.
But that doesn't mean you can't indulge every now and again.
So, you know a lot about this, you're fabulously informed, you're a dietician.
-Do you eat chocolate?
And what chocolate do you go for?
So, I always try and choose dark chocolate where possible
and I would recommend to have about 100g of chocolate per week.
That's about two to three squares of chocolate a day.
So, chocolate can be part of a balanced diet,
but we should never think of chocolate as a health food?
Chocolate can be enjoyed in small portions
and when you do eat it, you should really savour every mouthful.
So, those claims aren't quite the golden ticket
that I and the nation's chocoholics were hoping for.
In the end, I guess our favourite treat has to remain just that -
Well, now to something that's been at the centre of controversy
for decades - that of artificial sweeteners.
And even though the health scares linked to the first sweeteners
that were launched in the '70s and '80s
have pretty much been put to bed,
I still see reports with worrying regularity
that claim sweeteners just aren't safe.
But after reading one such story recently,
I can see why people can be utterly confused
as to whether it's better to ask for the diet soft drink
with sweetener or the regular one with sugar.
So we thought it was high time we found out once and for all.
Now, which of these two drinks would you choose?
The one sweetened with sugar
or the one that contains artificial sweetener?
If I'm going to have something with sugar in it,
I'd sooner have the sugar.
I think we always go for artificial sweetener, don't we?
We're just educated these days to stay away from sugar.
Artificial sweetener is even worse than sugar.
When we let the shoppers of Cambridge help themselves, well,
over half of them chose the sugary drink over the sweetened one.
Anything that's artificial is bound to have something nasty in it.
Many said they trust it more than they trusted sweeteners
and that's a big statement, because over the past decade or so,
sugar has been at the centre of a public health outcry.
A tax would reduce the amount of sugar people consume -
that is the verdict of a new report by MPs.
As well as obesity, it's been linked to conditions like diabetes,
heart disease and cancer, and that's seen some manufacturers
reduce the amount of sugar in their foods.
Cereal producer Kellogg's
is reducing the amount of sugar in its products.
In some cases, the sugar has been replaced with artificial sweeteners,
but they are almost as controversial.
For a long time, people have been saying, I don't kind of trust the artificial sweeteners.
That's right, exactly.
And yet there is this drive against sugar?
Yes, they've been linked to conditions including heart disease,
stroke, dementia and type two diabetes.
All of which makes it impossible to know
if you're making the right choice.
And for the members of this weight-loss group in Cambridge,
finding the answer to that question is really important
because artificial sweeteners are the cornerstone of many diet plans.
We've had a really successful day.
We've lost over a stone and a half, so well done, everyone.
Some of the members here say that part of their weight-loss success
is down to switching sugar for sweeteners.
We are now almost 70 stone lighter...
But all those conflicting claims about whether sweeteners are safe
makes some members, and indeed the group leader Alison,
wonder if they are making the right choice.
In terms of sweeteners, what's your attitude towards them?
I do find it helps me with my weight loss,
because I do have a sweet tooth, so I have replaced sugary snacks
with things that have got artificial sweeteners in.
Fizzy cola, I do drink.
My daughter has cartons of squash in her lunch bag at school.
You know, mother and daughter, we do a lot of baking together, so I tend to use them in cooking.
Do you worry about what you read about artificial sweeteners?
Absolutely. I think it's hard not to, isn't it?
The media can tend to whip up these things, as well,
so I do see a lot and I read a lot,
but I don't actually know if we should be doing it or not.
If it's that bad, it wouldn't be on the market, would it?
But that doesn't stop claims
about the dangers of artificial sweeteners.
One big study generated a lot of headlines last spring
when it linked them with strokes and dementia.
"One can a day triples the risk of stroke and Alzheimer's."
"One diet fizzy drink a day raises the risk of stroke and dementia."
Very worrying for someone that does drink one diet fizzy drink a day.
I would be quite scared if it was proved true,
because I know a lot of my members drink diet drinks.
-And your child.
It's in the fridge and it's in the house all the time,
so that would be very worrying.
Four months after the headline,
another scientific study linked sweeteners to diabetes.
Artificial sweeteners raise the risk of type two diabetes.
Now, within your group, I'm quite sure you have a lot of people who are struggling with that.
We have quite a lot of diabetics and when they are following a healthy eating plan,
they do replace sugar with artificial sweeteners
and they do lose weight successfully
and it does help the health problems that they have.
It is very confusing and I would like to know a lot more
so that I can obviously put it into place in my own life
but also for my members, to support them.
With headlines like that, is it any wonder that people fear
what was supposed to be a healthy choice
may actually be doing them harm?
-So, have you ever used them?
-Yes, I do.
You know, I have Diet Coke when I go out.
-I feel guilty about it.
-Why do you feel guilty?
I suppose because it's hammered into you
that sweeteners aren't good for you, sugar's not good for you.
But I have a sweet tooth.
It's a dilemma that's been running for decades.
There's been suspicion of artificial sweeteners on both sides of the Atlantic
ever since they gained popularity in the '60s and '70s.
Sweet is as sweet tasting as sugar.
For years, there were fears that they could cause cancer,
but even though billions have been poured into research
that proves they're safe,
our distrust of sweeteners doesn't seem to be going away.
Oh, yes, that's sugar all right.
Even though they are now appearing in place of sugar
in a lot of different foods,
as registered nutritionist Charlotte Sterling Reid explains.
Artificial sweeteners are found in quite a wide variety of products in the UK,
so we do tend to find them in things like jams, sauces, jellies,
diet drinks and energy drinks,
yoghurt products that are low-fat,
crisps, popcorn and even a lot of non-food products
such as mouthwash and toothpastes.
And actually, it's likely that we'll see them used even more going forward.
That's probably because when manufacturers are trying to reduce sugar,
one of the best ways and easiest ways for them to do that
is to replace that sugar with artificial sweeteners.
There are about one dozen different sweeteners used in our foods,
from familiar ones like Aspartame
to natural sweeteners like Stevia and Truvia.
They are derived from plants
and they are being used in an increasing number of foods,
but there's no need to learn all their names.
There is a simple way to spot a sweetener.
Anything that is labelled as diet or no sugar
is likely to contain sweeteners.
Choosing those types of products and avoiding sugar
will undoubtedly be better for your teeth,
could help you lose weight and reduce your risk
of developing conditions like type two diabetes.
But what most concerned Alison and me
are those reports that said just the opposite -
that artificial sweeteners could raise your risk
of developing type two diabetes
as well as conditions like dementia and strokes.
So we've come to Anglia Ruskin University where Dr Havovi Chichger
is leading research into the effects sweeteners have on our bodies.
Particularly on the cells that form a protective barrier
in the lining of our guts.
So, is this what our gut should look like?
This is what it should look like under normal circumstances.
-This would be the equivalent of drinking a glass of water.
And these are happy, healthy cells.
And now we move onto cells after what?
You've a drink of something with sweetener in?
So let's say a can of artificial sweetened drink.
This is what your cells would look like.
So we can see little areas where there is some damage.
Unlike water, sweeteners damaged some of the cells
that make up the gut lining,
but the effect sugar has is much greater.
Immediately, even I can see with the naked eye
a lot more damage to the gut.
This is the equivalent of a can of drink which has sugar in it.
The research by Dr Chichger shows that the damage allows
more glucose to leave the gut and enter the bloodstream.
There's lots of gaps, the cells are dying
and this is linked with that increase in blood glucose levels
and over time, this can lead to prediabetes and diabetes.
While sugar's links to conditions like obesity
and type two diabetes are well known,
research into its effects on the gut lining is still in its infancy.
And even though it suggests sweeteners have a similar but smaller effect,
Dr Chichger says it's too early to link them to diabetes -
as some headlines have -
because they don't have quite the same effect on blood sugar levels.
But what about those so-called natural sweeteners like Stevia?
They've not been studied in detail yet,
but Dr Chichger expects that they'll have a similar effect
as artificial sweeteners.
So with so many options available to Alison,
and indeed the members of her weight-loss group,
there is one burning question...
So, it's far better, in terms of health,
to go for something that's got artificial sweetener in it.
However, presumably, then, if we had that on a prolonged bases,
that damage would keep increasing?
-OK. We all just need to drink water!
That's the ideal!
In small amounts, there's no problem with sugar.
But it's widely accepted that we should limit our intake
to avoid increased risk of conditions like type two diabetes.
And that's where Dr Chichger believes sweeteners
really can come into their own.
I think we have to remember that these are replacing sugar.
That's what they were developed for, and that's what they're doing.
So, for people who have diabetes or want to lose weight, it's a good option.
You're avoiding sugar. These can be a very useful tool.
There's still one claim Alison and I are both keen to get answers to,
because it's the one that worries us both the most.
"One diet fizzy drink a day raises the risk of stroke and dementia."
Now, in my family, my dad died of strokes
and my sister died of dementia.
So I would look at that and I would automatically think, "Oh, my goodness."
So, is there any truth in that headline?
I think it's very difficult, because when you look at the study,
you see, in fact, it's looking back at a population.
The study was based on questionnaires
given to over 4,000 people about their health and diet,
relying on them to report everything they'd eaten or drunk accurately.
There are links made that are through retrospective studies,
but these are very slim, they're very low levels.
And really, they're blown quite largely out by the headlines.
The study itself isn't definitive.
There needs to be more study to look into it.
Many experts have urged caution with the study,
because when you take into account all the health and lifestyle factors
that could have had an influence, the researchers found no link
between artificially sweetened drinks and strokes or dementia.
And after years of studying the effects of sweeteners herself,
Dr Chichger is in no doubt that they are definitely safer than sugar.
From a mother's point of view,
is it OK to be giving these to our children,
or is it going to cause any health implications that we should be worried about?
From all the research that has been done and from what I've seen from my own research,
the artificial sweeteners are a better choice.
Specifically for children, where high sugar can cause young diabetes,
can cause dental issues,
artificial sweeteners are still a preferential choice to the amount of sugar they would take.
That said, there is always a better option.
If we're talking about the ideal,
then you would have no artificial sweeteners, and water to drink,
but I think we have to be realistic.
Sweet taste is enjoyable, we enjoy it, that's why we seek it out.
So these offer an alternative which can be very good.
And Alison can take that reassuring news back to her members,
who are safe to carry on choosing sweeteners,
and keep losing those extra pounds.
Still to come... Can what we eat really help burn belly fat?
I'm not losing it, and it's expanding.
We're tackling more of the reports many of us hope might be true.
All week, we're unpicking some of the latest food fads
to find out if the impressive claims made about certain foods
really stand up to scrutiny.
So, Chris, what have you got up that sleeve of yours today?
Well, I've got you this, Gloria.
It looks pretty unappetising to me, it just looks like a coffee.
Well, on the contrary, this is no ordinary coffee, this is bulletproof coffee.
I have no idea.
I've heard of bullet-proof in many fields, but not in coffee.
Well, thanks to some unusual ingredients,
one of these instead of breakfast is supposed to supercharge your body
ready to take on the day and stop you feeling hungry.
And it's taken some of the trendiest parts of the world by storm.
So, when you say it supercharges your body, you mean it kind of keeps you on the move?
Well, I think there's an element of that, yes.
Maybe I'll try that one to see what it tastes like.
Before you do, you might want to find out what's in it.
As headline-grabbing food fads go,
the so-called bulletproof coffee is up there with the greats.
It's got celebrity fans.
-I had this thing yesterday called a bulletproof coffee.
I tried it today. I feel pretty good.
It promises incredible results.
Some are saying that it really helps with some weight-loss.
It keeps me full and satisfied.
You burn energy slower and, like, longer.
At it involves drinking something you might find unpalatable.
-That is not good.
A combination of oil, butter, hot water and coffee.
And that's bulletproof coffee!
Celebrities, food bloggers and fitness gurus might swear by it,
but what do the people of Manchester think?
I've never heard of bulletproof coffee.
Is it one of those kind of slightly pretentious hipster coffees?
It's quite an acquired taste, but it's quite nice.
Yeah. I could see me sort of having that and then getting out the door.
I'm imagining it's something
that will make you feel ready for the day, indestructible perhaps?
Devotees claim a bulletproof coffee for your breakfast
can kick-start your metabolism,
turning your body into a fat-burning machine
and keeping hunger pangs at bay.
Add to that improved mental focus,
and is it any wonder their popularity is booming?
But nutritionist Linia Patel is sceptical this fad
can live up to the hype.
Bulletproof coffee has some big claims.
Now, in essence, the ingredients used to make bulletproof coffee,
if eaten individually in the context of a healthy, balanced diet,
are absolutely fine.
But the concept of putting them all together and using that
as a replacement for breakfast is just not right.
What you're doing is you're missing out on key nutrients, like protein,
like fibre, that are really integral to a healthy, balanced breakfast.
Linia says cutting protein and carbs from a balanced breakfast
isn't a healthy way to satisfy your hunger.
And at around 500 calories, one bulletproof coffee
accounts for a quarter of an average woman's daily intake.
The claims that bulletproof coffee make are not validated
by any evidence or research out there.
In fact, there's overwhelming evidence that the saturated fat
in the butter and oil leads to obesity and heart disease.
No registered dietician or registered nutritionist would be
recommending that much saturated fat in one drink!
Linia says there's so much nutritionally wrong with bulletproof
coffee that this is a fad no-one should take seriously.
Lucky, then, that most of the people we spoke to
-weren't falling for the hype.
-No, not for me.
Am I allowed to say what I really think?
If I knew that had 500 calories in it, I wouldn't have it every day.
As attention-grabbing headlines go,
"Eat Yourself Skinny" is a very tempting one.
And when they go one step further and say that certain foods
can target your tummy, even better.
Because let's face it,
who wouldn't like to eat and lose weight at the same time?
But can anything we eat really help us shed the pounds?
We asked Danny Crates to investigate.
For many of us, there's one part of our bodies
we're not all that happy to show off.
-Round the middle.
Round the midriff.
-On your tummy.
-Your stomach and your bottom.
-Straight to the belly.
-On the stomach.
So much so, the only way we could get people to show us theirs
was if we promised we wouldn't show their faces, too.
It's something millions of us struggle with.
It could do with a bit less, you know, a bit less fat, yeah.
But it's very stubborn when you get older.
The weight tends to go round my middle.
Very easy to put on, a lot harder to take off.
Oh, well, I'd like it to be about ten inches smaller!
I'm not losing it, and it's expanding.
With studies saying up to a third of us are unhappy with our bodies,
it's hard not to be intrigued by health websites,
newspaper headlines and magazine articles
that all claim what we eat can actually burn fat.
From chilli to mustard, apple cider vinegar to green tea,
certain foods can apparently boost our metabolism, burning fat
around our middles, meaning we can wave bye-bye to the belly.
To help me get to the bottom of those ambitious claims,
I'm recruiting a guinea pig at a legs, bums and tums class.
Inhale, prepare. Exhale, crunch.
36-year-old Zyla from west London feels like she's losing
-the belly-fat battle.
-After having spine surgery,
I became very sedentary and a lot of comfort eating,
which meant that I put on quite a lot of weight,
got into Pilates and aqua fit, but unfortunately
there's always going to be stubborn belly fat.
And I keep reading all about miracle cures that various different food
types are good for you, bad for you, and I didn't know which way to turn.
The man who's going to help Zyla and me get to the bottom of those claims
is sports scientist Paul Hoff.
He's an expert in metabolism.
-Nice to meet you.
-This is Paul, he's going to be looking after you today.
Pleased to meet you.
While the articles I've read claim all manner of foods
can boost your metabolism, the one that many seem to agree
has the most impressive powers is chilli.
So Paul's going to measure Zyla's metabolism before and after
she's eaten some chilli, to show us whether those claims are true.
So, this is a resting metabolic rate test.
-We're looking at the amount of energy you burn at rest.
So, just to do normal bodily functions.
-So, breathing, temperature regulation.
-Yep. Yep, all good.
-Just sit back, relax.
We all have different metabolic rates
which are determined by a whole host of factors,
including our age, gender and genes.
And a slower metabolism could mean
you're more likely to store excess fat,
not least around your belly.
After 45 minutes, the machine shows that Zyla needs
1,749 calories a day just to fuel her body while at rest.
If reports are right, eating chilli will boost that figure
and burn that all-important belly fat.
But we're not going to force her to munch through
a bunch of fiery chillies. Instead, Paul's got
the important ingredients in a couple of pills.
There's an active compound called capsaicin in chillies,
and it's this which is thought to raise resting metabolic rate.
The theory is, if you're increasing your resting metabolic rate,
then that's going to burn more calories over time.
OK, so if I could just get you to take a couple of these capsules...
-We've got some water there for you.
So, just relax, sit back and we'll see you in 45 minutes' time.
Brilliant, thank you.
While shredding belly fat might make it easier to fit into
your favourite outfit, there are a lot of reports that make
some very scary claims about how bad it can be for our health,
linking it to an increased risk of
stroke and even cancer.
So, Paul, while Zyla's being tested in there, can you explain to me
about the fat that we have in our body and why it can be so dangerous?
Well, we've got two different types of fat in the body.
So the yellow that we can see there,
that's subcutaneous fat which is underneath our skin.
So we can pull that away, and that's the stuff that,
if it accumulates, can get a bit wobbly.
And the red is muscle mass,
and that's a normal, healthy level of body fat.
Then we have the fat inside our body,
which surrounds the internal organs,
and this is called visceral fat.
So this is someone who has obesity,
and you can see there's some scatterings of
a yellowy orange colour in the abdomen - that's the visceral fat,
and this is the fat that can cause health problems.
With this visceral fat on the inside, why is it so dangerous?
Visceral fat secretes various hormones,
which can cause chronic inflammation,
which leads to a number of health problems such as heart disease,
and it can also lead to diabetes, as well.
The belly fat a lot of us have is made up of both types.
But there's a simple way to tell whether you have too much visceral fat.
If waist circumference is over 35 inches for women
and above 40 inches for men,
then that's a sure sign that there's an excess amount of visceral fat,
which can be really bad for long-term health.
With the benefits of shedding fat so obvious,
any food that can help do that would be invaluable.
So back in the lab,
it's time for Paul to reveal the results of Zyla's metabolic testing.
So before we see your results, do you think the chilli supplement
has made any difference to your metabolic rate?
Well, hopefully it has, it's one of my favourite foods,
so it would be nice to know whether it's a help or hindrance
to getting rid of belly fat.
Zyla's resting metabolism burned 1,749 calories.
That's the amount her body needs each day just to function normally.
If those concentrated chilli capsules have done
what the reports claim, her reading should be higher.
Come on, then, Paul, put us out of our misery.
You can see there's a very small change.
After taking the capsules, it was 1,762.
That's less than 1% difference between the two.
So very marginal, about 13 calories, so it's only a very minor change.
That's the equivalent of less than half a rice cake.
Burning that much extra every day
won't win you any weight-loss awards.
So is it fair to say that the headlines claiming that chilli
and other foods are the miracle to busting belly fat
are not quite true?
Just adding a couple of these foods to your diet, or supplements,
isn't going to make a significant change in your belly fat
if you don't change your whole diet.
But that's not all. Paul says there's no scientifically proven
way to reduce specific areas of fat.
So any claim that something will help you shed
just your belly fat is inaccurate.
There really is no trick to getting slim quickly.
It goes on to the belly,
and it's hard to get rid of.
I don't really think there's any magic pill.
I don't think there's any magic tea.
I have tried odd things, erm, fat burners from health food shops,
but not any more, they don't work.
It's not all bad news. You've probably heard that old tale
about our bodies burning more calories to digest
a stick of celery than you actually get from the celery.
Well, unfortunately, that's not true,
but it IS true that different types of food take more energy to digest.
So Paul's taking me and Zyla to meet his colleague, Johnny,
who's going to show us how.
So what we have here is carbohydrates, lipids and proteins.
That's the three main groups.
We're just going to visually demonstrate the amount of energy
it takes to digest each type.
Imagine the Bunsen burner is having the same effect as our bodies,
breaking down the food. The fats and carbohydrates burn quickly,
meaning it doesn't take much effort to break them down and either
use the energy or turn it into fat.
But the protein takes much longer.
Anything which is protein-rich, so, things such as meat, poultry, eggs,
when you eat that, it actually takes longer to digest and break down
before your body can use it.
In fact, our bodies use up about 30% of the calories in protein
just to digest it, but digesting carbs takes only 10%,
and fats just 5%, which means there's more left over.
And if we don't burn it off, it could end up boosting our belly fat.
It's fascinating knowing that having more protein within your diet
will help burn calories.
Plus, protein-rich foods have the advantage of keeping you feeling
fuller for longer, which can be helpful in reducing your
total daily calorie intake, which, despite what the reports claim,
Paul says is the only way to lose belly fat.
So the headlines stating that
simply eating chilli
can combat belly fat,
I think we can put them to bed, can't we?
I think we can. In terms of a long-term effect on belly fat,
there's no real evidence that just adding those types of food
is going to decrease your overall fat or your belly fat.
What you need to do is create a long-term calorie deficit,
and be physically active on a regular basis.
That's the best way to lose belly fat and body fat.
It might not be the news many of us want to hear,
but that's the best we can do in the battle against our bellies.
No amount of ANY food will do the hard work for you.
For healthy, high-protein recipes that will keep you keep feeling
fuller for longer visit...
..where you'll also find recipes for some of the other topics
we're talking about this series.
Do you know what, Gloria? I'm not really surprised
that I can't eat and lose weight at the same time.
-Boy, I wish we could!
But that stuff about how much more energy it takes
for your body to digest protein was really interesting.
It was fascinating, actually.
And I'm still getting over the taste of that bulletproof coffee.
-Not for you?
-Definitely not for me, thank you very much.
I just think it's a fad, and I'll happily forget all about it.
What I won't forget, though, from today's programme,
was that story about artificial sweeteners.
It just goes to show that the mistrust a lot of people have
for them - myself included, by the way - is misplaced.
So while there are those who'd still say the healthiest thing
is to have neither sugar nor sweeteners,
but if you're faced with a choice between the two,
choose sweeteners every time.
Well, on that sweet little nugget, we're out of time for today,
but we'll be back very soon investigating more of
the conflicting claims that leave us wondering
what we should and shouldn't be eating.
-But until then, thanks for joining us.
Gloria Hunniford and Chris Bavin untangle more mixed messages about the food we eat. In this episode, they investigate reports about some surprising foods it's claimed could help you lose weight.
To find out if they live up to the hype, Chris goes on a chocolate cake diet and Gloria investigates whether artificial sweeteners really are a safe alternative to sugar. Meanwhile, Danny Crates looks into claims that chilli can help in the battle of the bulge - by helping our bodies burn stubborn belly fat. Plus the team uncovers the truth about the latest weight-loss food fad - the bulletproof coffee.