Dietary Timeline

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Atkins reissues his diet book again. At least four other low-carb, high-protein diets and their ancillaries hog the bestseller list: "Sugar Busters!," "Protein Power," "Eat Great, Lose Weight," "The Zone."

Chewing The Fat: Morsels From Dieting History. The Washington Post, Style Section, October 12, 1999


Eating fibre 'won't prevent cancer' The report will come as a shock to nutritionists. Eating high-fibre food will not limit the chances of getting bowel cancer, according to new research from the United States. The BBC's Pallab Ghosh: "Doctors still think that fibre keeps us in good shape" A 16-year study involving nearly 90,000 people found no evidence that natural fibre in the diet reduces the risk of cancer. High-fibre diets have been recommended by doctors since the 1970s after scientists noticed that bowel cancer in Africa – where vegetables and grain is the staple diet – was rare. © BBC

Two bananas a day keep blood pressure at bay The health benefits of bananas are being investigated worldwide. Two bananas a day can help control high blood pressure, offering a cheap alternative to expensive drugs, according to scientists. The finding supports earlier research that potassium-rich food such as bananas could play a role in controlling blood pressure. A 1997 study suggested people would have to eat five bananas a day to have half the effect of a blood pressure-controlling pill. © BBC


Cancer experts back fibre Cancer experts still back a high-fibre diet. Eating lots of fibre does protect against bowel cancer, despite reports to the contrary, say leading experts. The Cancer Research Campaign (CRC) says cancer specialists from around the world still believe a high fibre, low fat, low calorie diet can reduce bowel cancer – the second deadliest cancer in the UK. A US study of nurses published last month suggested fibre had no effect on bowel cancer rates. But according to Professor Gordon McVie of the CRC most research is still positive about the beneficial effects and one recent study shows that it may even help prevent breast cancer. © BBC


Caffeine drives up stress levels – drinking four or five cups of coffee a day makes the body act as if it is under constant stress. Combined with additional work pressures, it can increase blood pressure significantly, leading to an increased risk of long-term heart disease, says a US report. – Duke University Medical Centre

Vitamin E 'limits menopause harm' Vitamin E supplements: Do not help prevent heart disease Eating foods rich in vitamin E reduces cholesterol damage – including heart disease – in menopausal women, according to a study by scientists at Michigan University. But the same researchers have warned that vitamin E supplements do not confer the same effect and could actually make women more susceptible to the effects of cholesterol. The Michigan Department of Epidemiology's Dr Lori Mosca said: "It's possible that vitamins taken in supplement form may block some of the benefits of vitamins taken from food. © BBC


Tapioca treatment for cancer. For many adults, tapioca is inextricably linked to school dinners. Tapioca pudding – widely known as frog's eggs by many school pupils – may after all be good for you. Scientists say the plant from which it is derived may help cure cancer. Tapioca is derived from the cassava plant. It is one of many plants which manufactures cyanide to deter animals who might want to eat it. It does this by producing a chemical called linamarin which releases hydrogen cyanide when it is broken down by the linamarase enzyme. Geneticists at Newcastle University have been taking genetic material from the cassava plant and adding it to a virus. © BBC


study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association – coffee may prevent gallstones

Michael F. Leitzmann (1999) A Prospective Study of Coffee Consumption and the Risk of Symptomatic Gallstone Disease in Men JAMA / volume:281

Pregnant women who drink too much coffee may increase the risk of their babies developing epilepsy.

Café et accouchement : un cocktail propice aux crises d'épilepsie du nouveau-né Institut National De La Santé


Vegetarian diet linked to genital defects A vegetarian diet may put babies at risk. A vegetarian diet could be responsible for genital defects in baby boys, according to BBC-funded research carried out by scientists in Bristol. Researchers found that boys born to vegetarian mums are five times more likely to suffer from hypospadias, a condition that effects the male urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries © BBC


Cancer study into artificial sweetener Many soft drinks contain aspartame.Scientists are to study whether an artificial sweetener used in popular diet drinks is linked to an increased risk of malignant brain tumours. Researchers from King's College, south London, will spend the next three years scrutinising the effect of the sweetener aspartame, marketed under the name NutraSweet. Aspartame is 200 times sweeter than normal sugar. It is used in many low-calorie and no-calorie drinks, as an additive in foods and as a sweetener for hot drinks such as tea and coffee. © BBC

Chocolate 'is good for you' Evidence is growing that chocolate is good for you Chocolate may be better for your health than tea because it contains more of a chemical that could prevent cancer and heart disease, researchers have said. The BBC's Karen Allen reports: "Having chocolate with a cup of tea does you good" The findings follow earlier research revealing that moderate chocolate consumption offers health benefits. The new research measures the amount of catechins – the chemical thought to be behind the benefits – in different types of chocolate. © BBC


Protein diet 'aids breast cancer survival' Poultry can help improve survival A low-fat diet does not help women with breast cancer survive the disease – despite conventional wisdom – but one rich in protein from dairy produce and poultry can, scientists have said. Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, used findings from the ongoing Nurses Health Study, which began in 1976 and involves 121,000 women who fill out questionnaires on a regular basis. © BBC

Salt linked to osteoporosis Osteoporosis is estimated to cost the NHS …600m a year Reducing salt intake could delay the onset of the bone-wasting disease osteoporosis, say researchers. They believe eating too much salt can raise the blood pressure and that this, in turn, speeds up the body's loss of calcium which could lead to osteoporosis. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke, kidney disorder and heart disease. © BBC

Onions 'prevent brittle bones' Onions – the latest cure-all food? Onions, garlic and a range of other salad goods may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis – the crippling bone disease that affects one in three women, usually after the menopause. The claim comes from researchers at the University of Bern in Switzerland who conducted experiments on rats. They said that 1g of onion a day can help prevent the process that causes the condition – resorption, where calcium seeps from the bones making them brittle. © BBC

Suicide link to cholesterol. One in three could suffer from a mental illness, such as depression People with low cholesterol levels are more prone to suicide and depression, according to a large Finnish study. The results show that cholesterol tests could be used to back up a diagnosis of depression, say the researchers. They believe depression may lower blood cholesterol levels, leading to a chemical reaction which allows aggressive instincts free rein. A recent US study of women showed similar links between low cholesterol levels and depression. It suggested boosting cholesterol levels could improve mental health. The eight-year Finnish study of 29,133 men aged 50 to 69, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found that those reporting depression had significantly lower average blood cholesterol levels than those who did not. © BBC

Soy sauce can cut cholesterol. Heart disease rates are lower in China. Certain types of soy sauce – popular in Chinese cookery – have been shown to greatly reduce the levels of harmful cholesterol. But experts have suggested that other warnings about the high salt content of soy sauce could confuse people aiming to improve their diet. Both high levels of cholesterol in the blood, and high blood pressure are contributory factors in the development of coronary heart disease. © BBC


Fruit and vegetables may improve lung health. A diet rich in fruit and vegetables could improve lung health. Middle-aged men who eat a lot of fruit and vegetables have healthier lungs than those who do not, according to research. The BBC's Richard Hannaford reports on the research. The study, published in the journal Thorax, analysed data taken in the 1960s and 1970s. It found that the lung capacity or "forced expiratory volume" (FEV) of people with a high intake of two particular vitamins – C and E – was better than average. Eating bread was also associated with improved lung health. © BBC

Alcohol and caffeine 'treats stroke'. Stroke patients may benefit more from the medical equivalent of an Irish coffee than some conventional drugs, researchers have found. A team from the University of Texas in Houston has found that a measure of alcohol followed by a cup of coffee may work just as well to limit stroke damage. © BBC


Children's diet better in 1950s. Modern children's meals are less nutritious than in the 1950s. Child nutrition in the 1950s was superior to the 1990s, according to researchers – despite the food shortages of the post-war period. Modern children fare worse for intake of several key nutrients, including fibre, calcium, vitamins and iron. The project looked at the diet records of 4,600 children aged four in 1950, and compared them with similar records taken in 1992. The researchers discovered that 1950s children:

  • Ate more bread and milk, increasing their fibre and calcium intake
  • Drank few soft drinks, deriving less of their energy from sugar
  • Got most of their vitamin C from vegetables rather than juices and drinks
  • Ate more red meat, giving them more iron
  • Had more fat in their diet