Gelatine is not a superfood

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

We've seen fish oils come and go, coconut oil may be passed its heyday so what's the next new trendy superfood on the shelves? It's hard to believe and even harder to stomach – boiled bone broth? I'll stick with my morning cuppa thanks! 

This week, Channel 4 broadcast Superfoods: The Real Story. This programme examines so-called superfoods and reveals the science (if any) underlying the claims, or so they claim.

First up was gelatine, we didn’t know that was a superfood now! It’s the clear, wobbly stuff derived from collagen from various animal body parts. Gelatine is commonly used as a gelling agent in foods such as jelly, pharmaceutical drugs, vitamin capsules, photography and cosmetics.

Various claims have been made for collagen particularly in the field of skin care. At face value, the idea of making skin healthier from within makes sense, but are these 'nutricosmetics' just a spoonful of expensive pseudoscience? Would you be better off just eating well and drinking plenty of water?

Cosmetic companies have been pushing collagen creams and drinks but with limited success as the science just isn’t there to back up the claims. In 2015 the Advertising Standards Authority ruled against the company Minerva’s TV advert for Pure Gold Collagen (containing fragments of collagen extracted from fish). They said it misleadingly implied the product directly affected the quality and collagen properties of consumers’ skin. Last year Minerva were again told to cease an advert that claimed their product could help you achieve younger-looking skin, healthier hair and stronger nails. Again, the scientific evidence was even more absent than the wrinkles!

So Channel 4’s Superfoods: The Real Story decided to investigate gelatine (because that’s an easier hook from a journalist’s perspective than ‘collagen’). They wanted to find out if gelatine could help you build collagen around muscles and bones thus increasing strength and protecting against damage.  

However, instead of looking at the strongest people in the world who have the least bone fractures, the programme’s presenter Kate Quilton hopped on a plane to where she described as ‘hip health food Mecca’ Los Angeles where she hung out in a hipster bar that now sell the latest fad – bone broth – in trendy Mason jars for $9 a pint.

She then met Prof Keith Barr at the University of California who is investigating the effects of gelatine on building new collagen in the body. Quilton ate some jelly, did some speed-walking, then a blood test showed she was making more collagen than earlier – when she hadn’t been speed-walking! The programme then inferred that jelly could help reduce aging wrinkles in the face. Hurrah – a new magic bullet. This seems to be the point of nutrition journalism today rather than searching for the truth.

It’s very tiresome having to repeat the same mantra over and over – there is no magic bullet. Coconut oil, honey, fish oil, goji berries… none of them are the elixir of life. However, antioxidants (found in abundance in fruit and vegetables) delay deterioration and help combat aging. Some studies show that prunes, apples and tea (especially green tea) can be beneficial. Peas, beans and lentils are a rich source of nutrients that have a protective effect on the body too. Meat and dairy on the other hand have an adverse effect. Not as sexy as one new trendy food fad but far more effective.

A number of studies show that vegans live longer. For more information on longevity and mortality see here

It's easy to go meat-free! Try our free 30 Day Vegan free program. You can start anytime and we're here to help  

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