Natural Health Claims, Fact or Fiction

By on December 22, 2015

This year, the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) commissioned a national survey on popular natural health claims to see if Canadians can distinguish fact from fiction. We asked 1,500 Canadians from coast to coast 15 true-or-false questions to test their knowledge, with surprising results!

Here are ten natural health claims that Canadians understand.

  1. Most Canadians get enough fibre: False

Over 90 per cent of Canadians know that we are simply not getting enough fibre in our diets. A Western diet full of processed foods means whole foods are sadly lacking, and fibre intake falls far short of the recommended 25 grams a day for women and 30 to 38 grams a day for men.

Fibre comes in two major forms: soluble and insoluble, and both are necessary for optimal health. It can make you feel fuller for longer, helping to maintain a steady weight and it’s also great for feeding and supporting good gut bacteria.

  1. Honey has antibacterial properties: True

Our survey found that 84 per cent of Canadians knew that honey has antibacterial properties. Researchers at the University of Guelph found that unpasteurized honey can be as effective as some medical creams and ointments at healing tissue and killing infecting agents.

Skin care is another interesting use for honey. Its nutrients and natural antibacterial enzymes can help to gently clean dirt and bacteria from our skin. Check out chfa.ca for a DIY honey face mask that is easy to make at home.

  1. Calcium is only important for strong bones and teeth: False

Ninety-nine per cent of the calcium in our body is stored in our bones, but the other one per cent plays an extremely important role in overall health. Canadians are keen to this fact, with over 75 per cent reporting an understanding that calcium’s importance goes beyond our bones and teeth. Calcium plays a critical role in regulating blood pressure, nerve transmission, muscle contraction, blood clotting, ensuring a balanced body pH, and also works to aid thousands of enzyme and hormone reactions.

According to a Health Canada, calcium the single most inadequately consumed mineral among Canadians of all ages.

  1. Probiotics have been linked to immunity: True

We have an estimated 100 trillion bacterial cells living in and on our bodies, outnumbering our human cells 10 to one. In recent years, Canadians have begun to appreciate and understand the vital role that they play in our overall health. About 70 per cent of survey respondents understand the link between probiotics and immunity. This link goes far beyond the gut, as probiotics are finding new applications in mental health, immune system support, and skin health. 

Probiotics have been shown to play an important role in “priming” our immune system to track and eliminate invading winter bugs. A recent study of school children found that kids who were given a probiotic drink were significantly less likely to get the flu than their classmates who did not receive the probiotic.

  1. Tea can help us stay hydrated during the dry months: True

It is common knowledge that caffeine is a diuretic, but a cup of tea (even with some caffeine) can have an overall hydrating effect. Only 65 per cent of the 1,500 Canadians who answered our survey said they knew that tea can keep Canadians hydrated throughout the winter. Some studies have even found no difference in hydration between subjects who drank tea compared with those who drank water. 

This ancient beverage can do far more than just hydrate. Some teas contain antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties from the bioactive plant compounds they contain called polyphenols.

      6) Eating organic foods significantly reduces exposure to pesticides: True

The media is full of mixed messages about the benefits of choosing certified organic foods.  The good news is the majority of Canadians are not, with 60 per cent answering correctly when asked about organics and pesticide exposure.

Certified organic products are produced and grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, GMOs (genetically modified organisms), hormones or antibiotics. By following a simple guide, “the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15,” (link) developed by the Environmental Working Group, you can minimize your consumption of pesticides by as much as 80 per cent, leading to cleaner diet for you whole family.

In Canada, organic products can be identified by the Canada Organic logo. Organic produce often carries a “9” before the four-digit product number on produce stickers. Being informed about organic products can lead to real benefits for you and our environment.

  1. NHPs must be supported by proper evidence before they are licensed for sale in Canada: True

Three out of five respondents understood that NHPs produced and sold in Canada are highly regulated to ensure safety and quality. Before ending up in the hands of consumers, these products are assessed and licensed by Health Canada. The licence can only be obtained if companies provide evidence that supports the products’ health claims. In Canada, NHPs include vitamins, minerals, probiotics, herbal products and homeopathic remedies.

NHPs manufactured outside of Canada must be evaluated and licensed by Health Canada before they can be sold in the Canadian market. All products licensed for sale in Canada have an 8-digit Natural Product Number (NPN) or Drug Identification Number-Homeopathic Medicine (DIN-HM).

Here are five natural health claims that are currently confusing Canadians.

  1. Vitamin C can ward off the common cold: False

Vitamin C has long been touted as a cure-all for the immune system, but Canadians just can’t seem to get the facts straight. Only 22 per cent answered correctly when asked if vitamin C can ward off the common cold.

High-quality studies show that vitamin C won’t cure (or prevent) the common cold. Despite mixed findings, vitamin C is still an important nutrient, and plays an integral role in the growth and repair of bones, teeth, skin and other tissues.

  1. Vitamin D is naturally occurring in many whole food sources: False

Only 32 per cent of the Canadians we surveyed are aware that vitamin D is not naturally found in many food sources. The actual amount of vitamin D in many whole foods varies dramatically, making it difficult for Canadians to reach their recommended dosage of this vital nutrient.

Vitamin D supplementation is almost universally recommended. Health Canada recommends vitamin D supplementation during the dark winter months.

  1. 95 per cent of our “feel-good hormone” serotonin is produced in the gut: True

What most Canadians don’t know  — 72 per cent answered incorrectly — is that 95 per cent of the body’s serotonin, our “feel-good” hormone, and 50 per cent of the body’s dopamine are produced in the gut! Research shows that bacteria in the gut can influence the production of “neurotransmitters,” which are signalling molecules used by our neurons to pass messages around the body. Serotonin and dopamine are the two neurotransmitters most closely associated with feelings of happiness and well-being.

  1. Consuming protein before sleep can boost strength: True

Three-quarters of Canadians answered this question incorrectly. Conventional wisdom suggests that eating before bed packs on the pounds, but for active Canadians looking to add muscle mass, taking a protein supplement before bed might help achieve those goals.

A recent study found that men who were actively weight training had more muscle gains when they took a powdered protein supplement before going to sleep.

  1. Caffeine improves exercise performance: True

Caffeine is often considered a vice and our findings reveal that most Canadians still think the only benefit of this stimulant is that it wakes us up in the morning.  Only 34 per cent of Canadians responded correctly when asked about caffeine’s impact on exercise.

Extensive research has shown that a dose of caffeine before a workout can improve endurance, mental clarity and performance. The most common dose used in scientific studies is 6 mg/kg of body weight, taken an hour before exercise, allowing time for the caffeine to be absorbed. The options are endless, but speak with your health care practitioner about adding caffeine to your workout routine.

To see how Canadians scored on the other survey questions, please visit us at chfa.ca.

About Charleen Wyman

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