Chris Bavin and Gloria Hunniford explore claims and messages about food. Gloria discovers whether diet can help combat some of the painful symptoms of arthritis.
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Can what we eat really conquer some of the most common
medical conditions and transform your health?
Well, plenty of reports say it can.
So today, we'll be putting that to the test.
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 and welcome to Food: Truth Or Scare,
the series that clears up all the confusion and contradictory claims
about the food we eat.
And today, we're not just talking
about the powers of individual foods,
but what happens when you put those foods together.
Which is really interesting, because there are a lot of claims
about how changing your whole approach to food
might transform your body, or indeed your brain.
And in some cases, swapping entire food groups
is said to work wonders against certain conditions.
So on today's programme,
we're putting some of those ambitious claims to the test.
And as you'll see, the very good news is that the ones that work
really can make an amazing difference.
Coming up - food and mood.
Can changing your diet improve your mental health
and even combat depression?
There is so much information out there.
One week, you read that something is good for your mood.
The next week, you read it's not very good for your mood.
It can be quite confusing and quite stressful.
And the diet that involves only eating raw foods.
Celebrities may love it, but many experts don't.
Having a lack of vitamin B12 can increase your risk
for cardiovascular disease, and we actually know that for some foods
there are benefits to cooking them.
So, Gloria, you're always lovely and happy,
but are there any particular foods that put you in a good mood?
At my stage in life, I base life on energy.
If I have the right energy to do whatever it is I want to do,
then my mood's going to be better.
So eggs give me good energy, and I have eggs a lot for breakfast,
and I can work all through the day virtually on that.
Well, look, there's no doubt that what we eat can affect
how we feel in the short term, but there are also a lot of claims
about the long-term effects,
especially when it comes to mental health conditions like depression,
and while no-one's saying that diet should take the place
of medication or professional help,
I went in search of the truth about the foods that can help our mood.
There's nothing like a plate of comfort food when we feel a bit low.
What food would you go for to cheer you up?
-Lots of veg, yeah.
-Oh, lovely. Nice big plate of it?
I do feel better after eating something like sweet potato.
-Like a really good carb.
I really like mashed potato,
particularly when I'm feeling unwell.
It's just something that I had as a child
and it's always something that's very warm and comforting.
Feel-good foods are one thing, but according to recent reports,
what we eat could have a much bigger impact on our mental health
than just giving us a comfort boost.
Some stories claim food can fend off depression or even help overcome it,
while others say the very foods many people turn to for comfort
might actually cause depression.
The reports all make different claims about what foods
will make us feel good, but I want to delve deeper
into which ones can have an impact on our long-term health,
as well as just our mood.
One person keen to understand that too is 54-year-old Lowell.
He's a mental health nurse,
but has also suffered with depression for the past decade.
I think all my life I've suffered from depression on and off.
I can get a little bit paranoid and a bit oversensitive
if something goes wrong.
When he's low, Lowell's no stranger to comfort food.
When I'm feeling a bit flat, I tend to comfort eat.
Maybe have a bar of chocolate or something, like...
I know that would give me sort of an energy boost.
But a bar of chocolate and a cup of tea,
but I know it's very much a quick fix.
And the rest of the time,
Lowell admits his diet isn't exactly the healthiest.
With me working 12 hour shifts,
a lot of the food I would have would be convenience food.
Processed. Such as ham,
also crab sticks.
Probably not that good for me.
Depression is one of the most common mental health problems in the UK
and it can have a devastating effect.
Could you give us a sense of what it's like to live with depression?
Because a lot of us would have no idea how that feels.
Sometimes it can be more difficult for people to want to get up
in the morning, to want to go out,
to want to meet people. It can be a real slog
because when your mood is so low,
and if you're having sort of negative thoughts,
sometimes you just want to stay in bed.
You just want to be on your own.
So sometimes even the most routine things or mundane things
can seem like a real battle?
Sometimes, Chris. Yeah, sometimes.
Lowell treats his depression with medication, but he's keen to see
if any of the claims about how diet might help are true.
There is so much information out there.
One week, you read that something is good for your mood.
The next week, you read it's not very good for your mood.
It can be confusing for people who are pretty desperate.
If they're reading conflicting stories in a newspaper
about what's good for them and what isn't good for them,
it can be quite confusing and quite stressful for them.
Mental health issues account for
around one in every three sick notes issued by GPs.
So if diet can help improve things for even just a fraction of people,
it could make a huge difference.
Lowell's keen to learn more, so he and I are meeting up
with mental health dietitian Helen Barrett.
Thanks for meeting us. This is Lowell.
-Pleased to meet you.
Helen advises her patients on how a few simple changes to their diet
can make big differences to their mental health.
The three of us are going in search of the best lunch to do just that,
and I've spotted something that looks just the job.
What about this? This has got to be good for lunch, isn't it?
What, fish? Yes. Yeah, so fish is a really lean source of protein.
Oily fish is really good because
it's actually a good source of omega-3.
And omega-3 is known to reduce inflammation in the body,
but it also has a role in the brain as well.
Omega-3 fatty acids help keep
the brain's internal transmitters healthy,
along with other nutrients like magnesium, selenium, and B vitamins,
which are also found in oily fish.
The research is actually still quite new,
and definitely more does need to be done,
but there is quite a lot of research behind them to support their use
in mental health.
Here we go. So, look, we've got a vegetarian option here
-which, on the face of it, looks like it would be a good option.
But there's been reports recently that vegetarians are twice as likely
to suffer with depression. What's that about?
Well, unfortunately some of the micronutrients
that are implicated in depression
are more plentiful in animal products.
Mainly the B vitamins and particularly B12,
so B12 is actually only found in animal products,
and so it's quite difficult for a strict vegetarian or vegan
to get in enough of vitamin B12.
If we don't, it could be linked with depression?
They have a role in producing brain chemicals,
so making sure we've got enough of those brain chemicals
to be able to keep the brain healthy is definitely important.
-You eat meat though, don't you?
-Yes, I do.
Yes, I like chicken.
OK, so Lowell will be getting enough B12 presumably in his diet?
Potentially, if you do eat meat and meat products.
Although B12 is naturally found in meat, fish, and animal products,
it can also be found in fortified foods like breakfast cereals
and dairy substitutes.
That doesn't mean the vegetarian option is off the menu entirely,
but both Lowell and I choose seafood for lunch.
One crab burger, and I'll have the squid and prawns, please.
But one healthy lunch isn't going to have much of an impact.
If diet's going to make a difference to Lowell's depression,
he will need to change what he eats in the long-term.
And over the past week, he's been keeping a food diary
so that Helen can scrutinise his diet and recommend some changes.
Straight away, she's picked up on something important.
The number of portions of fruit and vegetables that you have
throughout the day is on the lower side.
So green leafy vegetables, that would be an option.
So thinking about maybe spinach, broccoli, kale,
those kind of things, and making sure that they're present
in your evening meal.
So why do I need to be eating more leafy greens, Helen?
So, green leafy vegetables are a source of iron,
-which can help us feel less tired, less fatigued.
The other thing it's a good source of is folate.
Folate is one of the B group of vitamins,
and those vitamins are the ones that help support brain health
because they help the production of brain chemicals.
But there's a bigger factor in Lowell's food diary
that Helen's sure is having an impact on his mood.
Long shifts at work means he eats
a lot of processed and convenience food
that is likely to be causing big spikes and dips in his blood sugar.
The aim is to try and avoid big swings between high and low
blood sugar levels, because when they're high or low,
it can make us quite irritable, quite tired, quite fatigued.
So is that something that you can recognise?
Sometimes I do, yeah.
But sometimes I attribute it to the medication.
It's probably more to do with if our foods are highly processed,
they're more likely to be of the higher GI.
GI stands for glycaemic index
and it's basically a measure of how quickly carbohydrate and glucose
is released into our blood stream.
Low GI foods like whole grains, oats and pulses
release their energy slowly.
And whilst Lowell's diet already includes some low GI foods,
Helen can see one simple swap that will boost that even more -
his breakfast time white sliced loaf.
One of the changes that I would recommend you make
is maybe going for a seeded bread for your toast at breakfast time,
-if you can.
-Seeded bread. Why is that?
Well, because it's got seeds on,
it actually slows down the carbohydrate release
into our blood stream.
Seeded bread is actually a lower GI than wholemeal bread,
which I think surprises a lot of people.
Helen says that avoiding those big spikes and dips in blood sugar
helps to keep your energy levels stable,
and that can have a positive effect on your mood.
So, even though our main courses are finished,
dessert isn't on Helen's mental health lunch menu.
This is the classic pick me up, isn't it?
A nice piece of chocolate or a piece of cake to lift you,
make you feel happy. Is that OK?
It's everything in moderation.
You know, every now and again. But if you were having these too often,
those big spikes in blood sugar levels that we are trying to avoid,
maybe not such a good idea.
As well as having fewer desserts,
Helen also said we should avoid too much coffee,
because while a few cups a day is OK,
too much caffeine can make you feel anxious.
So, with that advice,
Lowell heads home to stock up his kitchen in preparation.
I've got my leafy greens. I've got my oily fish here.
This is my seeded bread.
It's not normally what we would eat.
This would be a little bit different than my typical shop.
Lowell's going to follow Helen's advice
and see if changing his diet could help his mood.
He won't see results overnight, but I'll catch up with him
in a few weeks to see if he can tell any difference.
There are lots of factors at play with our mental health,
so how much does food contribute to the bigger picture?
I'm hoping that Stephen Buckley from
mental health charity Mind can tell me.
Stephen, can you give me some sort of scale of the issue
of mental illness in the UK at the moment?
We think there's roughly one in four of us
experiencing a mental health problem right now,
so it's clearly a significant issue at the moment.
And Stephen, what do you make of recent reports that suggest
that certain foods or a certain diet can actually treat
or even prevent some mental illnesses?
Some of that research is interesting but I don't think it's yet
well-developed enough to say with certainty that there are
particular foods to eat that can improve mental health.
Diet's just a small part of our mental well-being,
it's not the whole picture.
And there'll be many people who might have a brilliant
and healthy diet, but they still need extra support,
extra help with maintaining their mental health.
There are other things as well that people can think about -
make sure you're getting enough sleep,
try and get a bit of physical activity in,
maintaining good relationships with your friends or your colleagues.
Also, people should remember to be a bit kind to themselves as well.
You know, shouldn't strive for the perfect diet.
Try and eat broadly healthily, have the odd treat, enjoy what you eat,
but generally try and look after yourself.
And in Northallerton, Lowell has taken that message to heart.
OK, so we're starting the food diary.
Steak is very rich in protein.
The asparagus contains most of the vitamins that I need.
And probably the most unhealthy aspect of this diet is the chips.
Chips aside, Lowell's been able to work many of Helen's suggestions
into his diet, and after all,
everyone needs a little treat every now and again.
I'm willing to determine myself to work on the diet.
As you can see, I've got
toasted granary bread, baked beans,
poached eggs, and a cup of tea
with semi-skimmed milk and sweetener.
And five weeks later,
I'm catching up with Lowell to see if he's noticed a difference
after following Helen's advice.
You've been trying the new diet. How has that been going?
I think it's been going well, to be honest.
I've been more disciplined. I've certainly been making an effort.
And I've started to enjoy things
that I've never eaten much of before.
Sometimes with my work,
I haven't been able to adhere to it as strictly as I would like to,
but overall, I think, yes, I think I've done quite well.
Excellent, and it's having the desired effect.
You're feeling better within yourself?
I would certainly say so, yes, Chris.
And I mean that sincerely. I do feel it has made a difference, yes.
It's great to hear that Lowell thinks his new diet
is helping support his mental health,
and he's fully committed to keeping it going long term,
so he can hopefully see further improvements in the future.
As Steve told me,
it is complicated and there are no quick fixes
when it comes to something like depression.
But it is good to know that in this case,
there is definitely some truth behind the headlines.
For recipes that help to boost your mood and banish winter blues,
visit bbc.co.uk/food where you'll also find other meal ideas
for topics discussed in this series.
There are healthy foods, there are healthy diets,
and then there are healthy lifestyles.
And the subject of our next film falls very much
into the last category.
It's called the raw food diet,
and as well as having a big celebrity following,
it takes a fair amount of commitment.
But while its fans say that all the hard work results
in a transformation to your health,
critics say that in the long term, it could even be dangerous.
So, never one to shy away from a scary report,
Danny Craig's volunteered to give it a go and find out
which side of the argument is right.
Roast, steamed, fried, grilled or even flambeed.
For lots of people, me included,
half the pleasure of food comes from how it's cooked,
so it's hard to imagine only eating food that's not been anywhere
near a hob or an oven at all.
But that's exactly what the raw food diet is all about -
entirely unprocessed, uncooked meals.
And the customers in this raw food cafe rave about it.
The essence of raw food diet is organic, which means less chemicals,
less insecticides, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides.
And fresh, fresh!
That's where you get the energy from.
I think the thing I like the most about the raw food diet
is it's about getting the most nutrients out of your food.
While most of the people here just eat raw some of the time,
the diet's hard-core followers do it full-time,
and they're usually vegans, too.
So, that's no meat or fish, no dairy,
and absolutely nothing that's been cooked above 48 degrees centigrade,
or refined, pasteurised, or processed in any way.
So say goodbye to most aisles in the supermarket,
including cereals, bakery, rice and pasta,
and my favourite, baked beans.
The theory behind why raw food is so good for you is that heating food
destroys some of its natural enzymes
and makes it harder for our bodies to digest.
But its critics say that's rubbish,
and headlines like this one claim followers would starve to death
within six months.
Now, that's scary,
but I'm intrigued by how even part-time raw foodies
talk about how great it makes them feel,
so I'm going to join their ranks for just a few days.
But first, I need some guidance from a committed follower.
Theresa Hardman has been a raw foodie for the past six years.
Theresa, I think it's fair to say you're a strong advocate
of a raw food diet, but how did you end up eating like this?
When I became vegetarian, I started to research raw food,
and it just made so much sense to me.
Six years ago, decided to just get rid of my cooker
and just go whole hog.
So, I don't have a cooker or a microwave
or anything like that now.
Instead of cooking, Theresa juices, blends, soaks and dehydrates
her food, adding herbs and spices as well.
Like most raw foodies, she doesn't eat meat or dairy,
but there is more to this lifestyle than just fruit and veg.
So, Theresa, what are the staples of a respectable raw food diet?
Lots of seeds.
Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, there's lots of zinc in there.
And you've got your omega fatty acids, which you really need.
Nuts as well, lots of protein, and the flaxseed, very good fibre,
which, as you know, is really, really important.
Looking around Theresa's kitchen,
I'm starting to worry that following a raw food diet might be
a bit too complicated for me.
But she hopes this simple raw cauliflower, rice and falafel dinner
will convince me otherwise.
So, Theresa, is it a hard diet to follow?
Not at all. It's the easiest thing in the world
because you haven't really got to cook anything.
It's nature's fast food.
It's packed full of vitamins and minerals, antioxidants,
it's got protein.
If you're eating like this three times a day every day,
you'll find it really hard not to be healthy.
So, you've been on a raw diet for six years now.
Have you seen any negative impacts?
I've seen none whatsoever, no.
I've just become increasingly healthier and healthier.
My skin's stayed clear, my hair's really strong and healthy,
and I've got a lot more energy.
In next to no time, dinner's ready.
And I have to say, this is making me much more optimistic
about trying raw food out for myself.
Right, bon appetit. Enjoy.
This is absolutely delicious. It's really hard to believe
that there was no cooking involved in this at all.
-Especially with the falafels.
-Yeah. Everybody's amazed about that,
because they taste like they've been cooked.
And it doesn't have the texture you'd expect from raw food.
For dessert, there's an amazing cake,
and a good helping of advice to get me started.
Back home, I'm stocking up on the staples
to see me through my venture into raw foodism.
I'm not going to lie.
This is probably one of the most nerve-racking things
I've ever had to do, because I'm a little bit out of my comfort zone.
I still don't even know what my first meal is going to look like.
Except a pile of vegetables, and outside of that, it's a mystery.
But before I work out what's for dinner,
there's something I need to do first.
To avoid any temptation, I'm going to shut the oven off.
But on the plus side, I'm going to save a few quid on electricity.
I'm keeping a diary of my progress,
and inspired by Theresa's amazing falafel,
I'm giving something similar a try myself.
Some beautiful raw ingredients here. Nice spices to go in now.
But I'm still not sure I'm going to love the fact
that they're not cooked.
That's not something I'll be doing again.
So, my first meal wasn't a hit.
But it's not the taste of the food that's led to such heavy criticism
of the raw food diet.
In 2017, the British Dietetic Association,
which represents dieticians like Priya Tew,
said it was a diet no-one should follow.
Strong words. What does Priya think?
Obviously, we want people to be
eating more fresh fruit and vegetables,
but there can be an issue with not having enough protein in the diet.
And also, there are some nutrients that you can end up lacking.
So, vitamin B12 is one of those, for example.
We know that having a lack of that can increase your risk factor
for cardiovascular disease.
And then with calcium,
there has been some research suggesting that
on the raw food diet,
you could be at risk of having low bone mineral density.
As well as nutrients, calories are high on that list, too.
Some people will say, I'm going to go on a raw food diet
because it will lead to me losing weight.
And yes, it will lead to weight loss because you're having less calories
and less energy.
But that therefore means that you're going to be missing out
on some energy that your body needs.
It's this very risk that puts
raw foodism in the headlines,
with one prominent biologist claiming
that with so many calories
and nutrients missing from the diet,
hard-core followers could starve to death
after just six months.
Of course, Theresa is proof that doesn't have to be the case.
Priya says that with the right planning,
it is possible to follow the raw food diet long-term.
But even with extra supplements to replace any lost nutrients,
she'd never recommend it,
because the risk to your health of not getting it right
could be very serious.
So, if there is these risks involved,
why do people believe that it has so many health benefits?
I think it comes down to the fact it just looks so nutritious
and it looks really healthy.
But we actually know that for some foods,
there are benefits to cooking them.
So, if we take carrots, for example,
we know that if you are to cook carrots,
you actually get more beta-carotene from them
than if you are to eat them raw.
Would you say that a raw food diet is going to benefit me in any way?
No, I don't think it will.
I think overall,
you could actually end up deficient nutritionally on a raw food diet,
and you are far better off eating a great range of foods
that are cooked and raw.
Priya's concerns are about an exclusively raw diet,
not one that includes some raw meals alongside cooked ones, too.
And I have to confess, that sounds much less daunting
than the idea of only eating raw food.
So, back home, it's time to get the kids involved
in tonight's raw dinner
and my courgetti spaghetti is going down a storm.
I've always got a little help in the kitchen with me.
Albert, he's my chief taster today. So, Albert,
do we give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down?
Now, if raw food advocates are right,
that courgetti spaghetti, and indeed other raw veg too,
will be better for me and Albert than the cooked version,
because heating it destroys the nutrients inside.
To put those claims to the test,
I've brought a whole host of veg to food scientist Haleh Moravej
at Manchester Metropolitan University.
If I take my pepper, for example,
what are the benefits or the pros and cons of cooking it
and not cooking it?
OK, red peppers are a really good source of vitamin C.
Vitamin C is light sensitive and heat sensitive,
so as soon is you cook it,
the levels of vitamin C drop.
If you can, having it raw probably is more nutritionally beneficial.
The same goes for other veg too, including courgettes.
High levels of vitamin C, high levels of potassium,
high levels of vitamin K.
The skin is actually going to have lots of different antioxidants.
When you cook it, you do destroy
some of these water-soluble vitamins.
So I can see why raw food advocates believe
it's a much healthier way to eat.
But there is a twist.
While my tomatoes will give me more vitamin C raw,
Haleh says I'd miss out on a more powerful nutrient
that's released during cooking.
It has an antioxidant that is actually called lycopene,
which gets released when you cook it.
Research suggests that it's good for prostate cancer prevention,
so we recommend it to men on a regular basis.
So, cooked tomatoes will be a really good source of lycopene.
So it seems like a fairly delicate balancing act.
To see which might be better for me,
I've asked Haleh to test the vitamin C and lycopene levels in two batches
of marinara sauce - one cooked and one raw.
The vitamin C was, as expected in the raw food,
was at least three times more than the cooked food.
The tomatoes also lost some of their lycopene content
when they were cooked, but crucially,
heating them would have made the remaining lycopene
easier for the body to use. After ten minutes,
the lycopene is around 25% easier for the body to absorb,
so you get more from cooked rather than raw tomatoes.
But Haleh says, cook them for more than ten minutes
and the level of lycopene starts to drop.
And after around half an hour,
you could get more lycopene from raw tomatoes.
Looking at the results,
I think we do need a combination of raw and cooked food.
We need both in the right amounts.
As we always say in nutrition,
moderation, variety and balance is the key.
But as Priya told me earlier, it's not just lycopene.
There are a whole host of other nutrients
that can easily be missed on a raw food diet.
While Theresa shows that with the
right sort of passion and commitment,
it is possible to follow it,
I certainly couldn't sustain a diet that cuts out
so many of the foods I enjoy.
Time then for one last raw meal.
Hopefully, this chocolate cheesecake will be a hit.
Go on, try it. Let me know what you think.
-Yeah, I don't think that's a success, do you?
You like it! Albert, it's all yours.
Still to come - with countless claims and old wives' tales
about how food affects arthritis,
I'm finding out if any of them really work.
-Do you ever try them?
-Do you know what? I did try the aloe vera.
-No, I'm still creaky.
All week, we're taking some of the latest fashionable food fads
and asking whether their popularity is based
on genuine health credentials or hipster hot air.
So, what have you got for me today, Gloria?
Feast your eyes on this. This is what's known as bone broth.
-Right, OK, so what's that?
-Are you familiar with that?
When I was a girl, my old mum, bless her,
she used to make something that looked a lot like this,
and she just called it stock.
But it's flying out of cafes right across the country
because it's apparently extremely beneficial for many things,
That's why I'm on it, but of course, you don't need it.
New York Fashion Week, home to global trendsetters,
dedicated followers of fashion,
and one of the latest food fad phenomenon to hit America.
Bone broth. It's the diet sweeping the country.
Throw in a few celebrity endorsements and soon enough,
health-conscious hipsters were glugging gallons of the stuff.
Sorry, did you say bone broth, is that it?
Bone broth, yeah.
This is bone broth and this is one of the hottest trends right now.
And with claims that it can help you lose weight, prevent illness,
and even roll back the ageing process,
it's no surprise that it's now made it onto the UK high street.
I think it's a good, nourishing dish, but it's one of those things
people have been cooking for hundreds of years.
Sort of thing your great granny would have cooked.
I would say it's good. I would love to try it now.
Bone broth is made using the bones and connective tissue of chicken
or beef, fresh vegetables, water and seasoning.
Hardly ground-breaking stuff,
so what sets this apart from your mother's soup stock?
According to the experts, the key to unlocking the health benefits
lie in the cooking of it for up to 36 hours.
And what do you get for your patience?
Well, a broth brimming with protein, vitamins and minerals.
And as dietitian Linia Patel explains,
it claims to pack quite a punch.
Bone broth has some big and bold claims.
So, for example, it claims to alleviate arthritis, heal your gut,
and also has some anti-ageing claims as well.
In terms of gut health,
glutamine and amino acid from the bone broth
are thought to heal your gut
and close the leaks that are in your gut.
And as we get older, we have less collagen,
we can't make as much, and this is why we get wrinkles.
And it's thought that in the bone broth,
the collagen that you drink then helps you make new skin.
But can these shoppers be convinced that bone broth
is anything more than expensive stock?
It's all rubbish.
It is a very useful stock,
but I really don't see how it can have these properties.
I think it's a good nutritious food, but it's not going to cure all.
Well, it turns out they're probably right to be sceptical.
Linia doubts that bone broth can live up to the promises.
Despite the bold claims that come with bone broth,
sadly there just isn't enough scientific evidence
to back up this fad.
There's lots of other ways that you can actually get a healthy gut,
including bio live yoghurt in your diet every day
is a much better way to get a healthy gut.
In terms of arthritis,
make sure you get your omega-3 by having at least
one portion of oily fish a week.
So, if you want to use a tasty broth as a base for a soup
or a stew, by all means, do,
but it's important that you're not using that to replace whole meals,
because it's not going to be a miracle cure.
Now, when it comes to helpful headlines
about which foods can transform your health for good or ill,
then anyone who suffers with arthritis is likely to have seen
more than their fair share.
The only problem is that not many of them actually agree with each other.
So I set off to find out if changing what you eat
really can make it easier to live with arthritis.
These look pretty strong crutches to me.
-So, when do you use those?
-Use these every day.
Every day, in the house and outside the house.
Catherine Manning is 37 years old,
but she has a condition most people would associate
with someone much older, rheumatoid arthritis.
She started to develop it at the age of 12, and since adulthood,
it's influenced every part of her life.
But over the years, she's found ways to maintain her independence
and plenty of gadgets to help her day-to-day.
Is this special cutlery?
These are good for me, because they've got a shaped handle.
Show me in your hand how that helps.
-It gives you a better grip?
-Gives me a bit of grip.
This is a higher bench than normal.
Yes, the kitchen was all made higher,
so that I don't need to lean over.
And do you try to do a bit of cooking or have you given that up?
I've kind of given it up. I dropped a pan out of the oven,
with the children in the kitchen,
and my occupational therapist said that it was probably best
-that I don't do anything...
But if reports are right,
Catherine's kitchen could be the key to combating her arthritis,
and the secret is in what she eats.
The only problem is that reports don't agree on what could help
and what could hinder the condition.
Take, for example, the breakfast staple, orange juice.
According to this report, it could help fight her arthritis.
But these listed amongst the sugary drinks
that could make arthritis worse.
Meanwhile, anyone reading this article
will see tomatoes and peppers are among six foods
that people with arthritis should avoid.
But five months later,
exactly the same newspaper listed them both amongst ten foods
that could help the condition.
And that's just the tip of an iceberg of confusing messages,
which leave patients like Catherine baffled.
I often get e-mails or phone calls from friends that will then tell me,
"Oh, can you drink this concoction?" Or, "Can you drink aloe vera?
"Because you're going to be cured."
Or, "White wine vinegar is going to cure your arthritis."
And do you ever try them?
Do you know what? I did try the aloe vera.
-No, I'm still creaky.
If it really flares up, how does that affect you?
I don't get out of bed.
I've had flare-ups which have just reduced me to tears.
I've had flare-ups that have meant that I've been admitted
to hospital for weeks at a time.
All the more reason why Catherine is desperate to find out
if there's any truth in the headlines about which foods
could reduce her chances of a flare-up.
And it's something that a fair few members of this over-60s dance class
in East London...
..are very keen to find out as well.
Do any of you have arthritis or touches of it?
Quite a lot.
So, who better to ask which foods can affect it?
You up for that?
-Let's go, then!
Martin Lau is a dietitian who specialises in arthritis.
What do you think of this?
He wants to know which foods our group think
will help with their condition...
-This is good.
-Is that good?
..and which foods could be bad for arthritis...
-This is bad.
..by splitting them into two groups.
Milk. So good or bad?
What do you think?
-They're all good, actually.
-That's a bad one.
So, how have our dancers done?
First up, something they thought should go on the bad table,
but Martin has other ideas.
Milk shouldn't belong to the naughty table.
Those people, especially women,
who are drinking more than seven glasses of milk per week,
they have found that the progression of arthritis
is actually less than the ones who don't drink any milk,
so milk should belong to the good table.
The study behind that nugget didn't differentiate
between skimmed, semi-skimmed or full-fat milk,
but dairy products that are much higher in saturated fat like cheese
don't share milk's place on the good table.
Cheese is worsening the progression of osteoarthritis,
because we know a lot of saturated fat can damage our cartilage.
Next, the dancers choose something else
that reports have said arthritis sufferers should stay clear of -
But Martin says following that advice might mean you miss out
on something that could actually help.
Coffee is actually protective for people with rheumatoid arthritis,
funnily enough. Yes!
Because if you look at coffee,
it has got quite a lot of active phytochemicals in.
So, I would say that coffee, really, as long as you don't overdo them,
it should be absolutely fine.
And finally, two foods containing acid that has long been thought
to make arthritis worse.
Quite a few of my patients do find that eating too much tomatoes
or citrus do aggravate some of the symptoms.
Is that because of the acid?
No, because we know for a fact
that the acid-based hypothesis has been refuted.
It might not be the acid they contain,
but Martin says there are compounds found in both tomatoes and citrus
that can cause painful inflammation
in some, but not all, arthritis sufferers.
So there's no need to avoid them
unless you know that they're bad for your arthritis.
And, in fact, that's the message for everything here.
There's simply no hard evidence that individual foods
are always good or indeed bad for arthritis.
I think the most important take-home point is we need to follow
a healthy eating regime.
What we also need to look at is be active as well,
because what we talk about, anti-inflammatory,
exercise is the best way.
So these dancers are doing the right thing already.
There is one food the headlines seem to agree on, though - oily fish.
It's been claimed it can actually reduce swelling in joints.
I'm taking Martin to meet Catherine
at a restaurant that serves plenty of that.
Will he confirm the headlines are right?
Do you eat a lot of fish?
Yes. I love salmon. I like tuna.
I also like cod, haddock...
Is it fresh tuna that you have?
Of that list, only the salmon and fresh tuna count as oily fish,
because they contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids,
which Martin says really do help to ease arthritic pain.
If you can manage roughly around two servings per week,
that seems to be a good way to start.
Which sort of fish would you then recommend?
Your sardines, tinned sardines,
and they're relatively inexpensive.
Your mackerel, your fresh tuna.
So all of the fish that you like to have absolutely fit this case.
However, canned tuna is not on the list
because it doesn't contain enough omega-3
to be classed as an oily fish.
And that's not the only advice Martin has for Catherine,
because some of the other reports are on the money as well.
What all these stories have in common
is that the things they say could help arthritis
are all components of one particular diet that's been dubbed
the world's healthiest, the Mediterranean diet.
You've got lots of green vegetables, olive oil,
lots of fish and restricted red meat, and whole-grain cereal.
So, those are the things that could be really useful for you to try.
Would you overall say that general health and a good diet is overall
the thing that you should aim for?
Definitely, a healthy eating regime is utmost important.
And if that's not the silver bullet against arthritis
you were hoping for,
there is new research that may soon see that change.
It's investigating how the bacteria in our guts,
which live on the food we eat every day,
could have a big influence on the condition.
Dr Benjamin Ellis is a rheumatology consultant
involved in the research.
In rheumatoid arthritis,
something called the microbiome might be important.
Now, the microbiome are the collection of bacteria
that live in our gut.
We each have a unique collection, and obviously,
they're being fed by what we eat.
Now, these bacteria interact with our immune systems,
and this may be why some people with rheumatoid arthritis
are saying if they adopt a particular type of diet,
it seems to be having an effect
on their joint pain and stiffness and swelling.
By studying the gut bacteria from lots of patients,
the programme could help find a diet that reduces the chances
of those painful flare-ups.
We know that changing the pattern of food that you eat
changes the microbiome.
The next challenge will be to understand what the microbiome
is doing and then we need to understand how we can manipulate it.
Is it through giving people supplements?
Is it through giving people bacteria?
So, how do we change the microbiome
to help people with rheumatoid arthritis?
The study is in the early stages, but while it's encouraging,
conclusive evidence is a long way off.
In the meantime, while countless column inches
might tell you otherwise, Dr Ellis is adamant
there's no single food that can trigger or indeed halt
rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups.
It's not surprising that when claims are made for a particular food
or a particular supplement
that people with arthritis want to try them.
Sadly, the evidence is that most of these things
don't seem to make any difference.
But all the experts do agree that oily fish can at least help
ease the symptoms. So, back with Catherine.
She's committed to eating more of it in the hope
that it might at least help reduce the pain
that she's suffered for the last 25 years.
I want to try anything that obviously is going to help me,
and if I'm eating something that's detrimental to my health,
then obviously I will try and eliminate that and see if
that's going to have a benefit to my arthritis
and my stiffness and my overall pain.
There's no doubt that what we eat can have a big impact
on individual conditions, as well as our overall health.
But there are so many conflicting claims
that it seems hard to know what to do for the best.
And when those reports recommend changing your whole diet,
the last thing you need is another article
suggesting the complete opposite.
Yes, that's where the real confusion sets in.
Now, the best advice really is not to make any big changes
without speaking to your doctor first.
Because making the right choice,
as some of the people in today's programme have found out,
can make all the difference in the world.
And on that positive note,
I'm afraid that's where we have to leave it for today.
But for the moment, it is a big goodbye and thank you from us.
Gloria Hunniford and Chris Bavin uncover the truth behind more headline-grabbing health claims about favourite foods to see which ones can be safely ignored. Today, Gloria discovers whether diet can help combat some of the painful symptoms of arthritis, Chris investigates claims about food's powers for mental health, and Danny Crates tests out a controversial diet made up entirely of raw food. Plus is bone broth the health-giving elixir that some now claim?