Researchers at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) delved deeper into the claims of certain ‘superfoods’ and health food brands, to see if there was any truth behind the labels.
The products, that are often sold at high prices to reflect the big claims on their labels about their health benefits, ranged from protein balls to kombucha.
QUT Faculty of Health nutritionist Dr Helen Vidgen revealed to abc that her team were surprised to discover that all of the products they looked at pushed health benefits that were based on, “weak and flimsy” evidence at best.
“Many of these products claim to benefit health but when you go back to the research they claim supports them, it’s weak and unfounded, having been extrapolated in a way that’s not very relevant,” Dr Vidgen explained.
The products, which are all marketed as a, “quick fix” to support a healthy lifestyle for busy people, were found to barely include even just one or two of the five core food groups necessary for a healthy and balanced diet.
Analysing the claims behind five different products, including protein balls, shop-bought kombucha and green “veggie” powder, the researchers concluded that the nutritional claims on the labels didn’t stand up to close scrutiny.
For example, when assessing the promise that certain protein balls which contain cashews and other nuts will boost your mood when eating them after a workout, Dr Vidgen and her team found that the evidence to support this claim was, “really tenuous.”
“The nuts containing nutrients are such a small component of the ball that no effect is likely on mood,” Dr Vidgen said.
“High in saturated fat, sugar and calories, they could also lead to weight gain if you eat too many.”
Similarly, with shop-bought kombucha, the researchers found that while the popular ‘health’ drink is marketed as being good for gut health and general wellbeing, there is no actual scientific evidence to support this this – as all of the studies so far have been conducted on animals, not humans.
A lack of scientific evidence was also found to be supporting claims on ‘superfood’ green vegetable powder which is marketed as an antioxidant full supplement with the equivalent benefits of up to six serves of fruit and veg.
Chucked into a smoothie or sprinkled over the top of a healthy looking breakfast bowl, the powder may look the part, but the research team say that the scientific evidence doesn’t add up. Dehydrated vegetable powder is a poor source of nutrients, and if you want the benefits and fibre content from fruit and veg, you’d be better off eating the real deal.
“Don’t be tricked by these foods because they are just emptying your wallet,” Dr Vidgen concluded.