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No such thing as ‘bad’ foods

Top experts say labelling some foods 'bad' makes people want them even more

Nutrition experts attending the SINU (La Società Italiana di Nutrizione Umana) 36th national congress last week said singling out foods as being bad or good is counterproductive to healthy eating.

“In the absence of specific medical contraindications, it is probably counterproductive to categorize a single food as a ‘bad’ food and establish rigid bans on a specific food, because the first reaction would be to violate the ban, particularly among certain age groups like adolescents,” said Robert Gibson from the department of functional food science and the University of Adelaide, Australia in a release.

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The workshop “Foods and diet: innovating tradition” attracted nutrition experts from Australia, China, India, the United States and Italy to discuss their respective food guidelines.

Delegates were critical of publicity given to studies that are often confusing to the public about single food items such as red meat, processed meat, sugar, milk and gluten. Even hot drinks such as coffee are implicated as causing harm.

“Besides the robustness of the scientific data, it is an incorrect approach anyway; especially from a communicative and educational perspective, because it focuses on a single nutrient or food, without considering the diet in its entirety,” said Furio Brighenti, president of SINU. “We should be skeptical of this ‘reductionism,’ and instead adopt an educational approach to a balanced diet, which considers all the foods we consume, as well as our lifestyles.”

Speakers emphasized that nutritional guidelines should factor in food requirements at various stages of life and promote physical activity as something that goes hand in hand with healthy eating.

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