Science

Drinks and “superfoods”: which ones are beneficial? – Sciences and future

This article comes from the journal Sciences et Avenir – Les Indispensables n ° 205 of April / June 2021.

Water, without hesitation

It goes without saying: water is the drink of choice. Not drinking enough can lead to dehydration and brain disorders, especially in children and the elderly.

You should drink at least 1.5 liters of water a day. Natural mineral waters have minerals and trace elements that give them beneficial health effects: magnesium-rich waters (Contrex, Courmayeur) help combat muscle fatigue, soft drinks (Vichy Célestins, Quézac, etc.), to compensate for losses due to sweat in Athletes. Be careful, these are not suitable for everyone, because they can increase the risk of high blood pressure. The mineral composition of spring waters varies according to its origin.

As for tap water, which often arouses suspicion, it is highly controlled. If certain rivers and groundwater are polluted in some places, nitrate contamination of tap water becomes rarer and exceedances of pesticide standards less frequent.

Tea or coffee ?

The third most consumed beverage in the world, after water and tea, coffee, at the rate of three cups of filtered coffee or an espresso per day (around 100 mg of caffeine), is associated with a 40% reduction in the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma. , the most common liver cancer, according to the work of 95 studies and meta-analyzes published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2020. Rich in polyphenols, antioxidants, it does not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, although it is considered a stimulant. In fact, if caffeine tends to increase blood pressure, this effect would only be temporary and would even seem to disappear in regular users.

White, red, black, or green tea is also known for its health benefits. Among other things, it would reduce the risk of developing heart disease or suffering a stroke, as long as you drink at least three times a week, according to a study published in 2021 in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

Rich in antioxidants, a cup of green tea contains up to 20% phenolic compounds (almost 400 mg of total polyphenols), according to the National Food Safety Agency (Anses). However, be careful not to overdo it. A polyphenol in the catechin family, EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), could damage the liver if too much is ingested.

Alcohol and soft drinks, homeopathic dose

Even moderate alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of cancer. And this, whatever the type of alcohol that is drunk in a standard glass: half beer (25 cl), whiskey glass (3 cl), wine ball or champagne glass (10 cl), all contain the same amount. . Pure alcohol (about 10 grams). Also watch out for “house” glasses, which are often served more generously. Unfortunately, it’s not about comforting yourself with sugary drinks.

According to a large French study carried out from the Nutrinet Santé cohort and published in 2019 in BMJ, the large consumption of soft drinks or even fruit juices without added sugars would be associated with an increased risk of cancer, particularly breast cancer.

Turmeric, a spice against cancer?

Its anti-inflammatory properties are linked to the presence of curcuminoids, antioxidant pigments such as curcumin, already recognized as beneficial against osteoarthritis. This substance could also play a role in the fight against cancer: in mice, it has shrunk the tumor in 81% of rodents with a particular brain cancer, glioblastoma (Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 2012).

However, an American study published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry in 2017 cast doubt on it. After reviewing more than 120 clinical trials, he determined that none of the double-blind trials had proven positive. On the other hand, according to researchers at the University of California, curcumin would improve memory and mood (The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 2018). Therefore, the work continues. The truth is that this oriental spice has not finished talking about it.

The business of food supplements

Zinc-copper-silver, vitamin C, beta-carotene … Advertisers continue to praise the benefits of these small capsules to stimulate vitality or strengthen the immune system.

But are they so necessary? Not really, because minerals and vitamins are already naturally present in the diet. Therefore, eating a balanced diet every day is enough to meet your nutritional needs. Except for vitamin D, which is mainly synthesized in the deep layers of the skin under the action of the sun’s ultraviolet rays on cholesterol. The “25 OH vitamin D”, whose level should be between 40 and 45 ng / ml, can be analyzed by a simple blood test. From 22 to 30ng / ml, it is recommended to take 2000 to 3000 IU of vitamin D per day, for an adult, in the form of ampoules or drops. Below a blood level of 22 ng / ml, the daily dose is increased to 5000 IU. Supplementation with vitamin B12 is also recommended in people who do not consume any animal products.

Also, too many vitamins can be toxic. Vitamins A and E, taken in excess, are not excreted in the urine, with a deleterious effect on the liver or kidneys. Worse still, in high doses, antioxidants would have the opposite effect to that sought, that is, a pro-oxidant action. Therefore, high-dose supplementation (30 mg / day) with beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, has been associated with an increased risk of digestive and lung cancers in people exposed to tobacco or asbestos. Without the advice of your physician, we will prefer to abstain.

Spirulina: beware of contamination

Available in flakes, powder, or capsules, spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) is a blue-green cyanobacterium that thrives in fresh lake waters. Praised for its high protein and iron content, it has caused several cases of adverse effects (digestive disorders, allergies, muscle or liver damage). Therefore, ANSES warns consumers, for possible traces of lead, mercury and arsenic in spirulina food supplements, but also for contamination by cyanotoxins and bacteria. Half of the marketed spirulina production comes from China, so it is better to use products that bear the mention “100% French spirulina” or “grown in France”, where it is subject to stricter control.

Acai and goji berries, chia seeds, kale … powers overrated

These foods are trending: acai berries, acclaimed for their exceptional antioxidant content, chia seeds touted for their high omega-3 and protein content, or kale for its vitamin C. However, its nutritional value a Sometimes it seems overrated. Example: goji berries, whose antioxidant potential is not higher than that of red berries from our gardens (3290 for goji berries versus 7957 for black currant and 9090 for blueberries). Therefore, consuming locally allows you to have fun, while remaining eco-responsible.

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