Monday, April 11, 2011

The slimming super-fruit: How blueberries can slash body's fat cells by up to three-quarters

A study in laboratory glassware only

Slimmers should start snacking on blueberries, as they slash the number of fat cells in the body by up to three-quarters, say scientists. Researchers found the fruit can break down existing fat cells and prevent new ones from forming, making them a potentially powerful weapon in the fight against rising obesity.

Blueberries, which have already been lauded as a superfood for their ability to help prevent heart disease and Type-2 diabetes, contain high levels of polyphenols – groups of chemicals with potential health benefits.

Tests revealed polyphenols can cut the number of fat cells in the body by 73 per cent with a large dose and 27 per cent with the smallest dose, the American Society for Nutrition’s Experimental Biology 2011 meeting heard.

Using tissue taken from mice, scientists looked at what effect the polyphenols in blueberries might have in fighting the development of fat cellsand inducing lipolysis, the break down fats within the body.

Results, presented at the Experimental Biology 2011 meeting for the American Society for Nutrition, showed that the highest dose of blueberry polyphenols caused the lipids in the mouse tissue to decrease by almost three quarters at 73 per cent, with even the lowest dose cutting the amount of lipids in the tissue by over a quarter at 27 per cent.

Study author Shiwani Moghe, a graduate student from Texas Woman’s University, claimed the findings showed ‘promise’. She said: ‘We still need to test this dose in humans, to make sure there are no adverse effects and to see if the doses are effective. ‘The promise is there for blueberries to help reduce fat tissue from forming in the body.’


"A fool and his money are soon parted"

Walk into any of the 200 or so branches of Pret A Manger across the country [Britain] and you’re bombarded with messages about the chain’s commitment to providing fresh, natural food. ‘Pioneering natural foods since 1986,’ screams one sign on the sandwich shelves. ‘Just made in this shop’s kitchen, never from a factory,’ says another.

The Pret hot wraps are ‘fresh from the oven, naturally’, while the crisps, popcorn and cakes are ‘100 per cent natural’.
Pret's website claims its shops cook freshly-made preservative-free food using natural ingredients

Pret's website claims its shops cook freshly-made preservative-free food using natural ingredients

It’s a great sell to the metropolitan, middle-class, professional crowd that cram into Pret each day for the irrefutably delicious sandwiches, salads and snacks that have helped the chain’s profits soar by 37 per cent this year to a massive £46 million.

This is because we care about how our food is made, where it comes from and what’s in it, don’t we? And Pret has got it just right — hasn’t it?

On the Pret website it talks of kitchens in every shop where the food is freshly made daily using preservative-free, natural ingredients and avoiding ‘obscure chemicals’.

Pret might not actually use the word ‘healthy’ in any of its marketing material — it’s all worded very, very carefully — but for most people, words such as ‘fresh’, ‘natural’ and ‘preservative-free’ go hand-in-hand with healthy eating.
It's a great sell to the metropolitan middle-class crowd that go there for lunch every day

It's a great sell to the metropolitan middle-class crowd that go there for lunch every day

So you’d be forgiven, perhaps, for thinking two things. First, that the food is made from quality, constituent ingredients on site, rather than from pre-prepared fillings in tubs or soups in cartons, for instance. And, secondly, that the food is all healthy and you can eat it guilt-free.

Sadly, you’d be wrong on both counts.

Last month the Mail revealed that Pret’s tomato soup contains, in one small pot, 4.5g of salt. That’s the same as the amount in nine packets of crisps. And when you consider that the recommended daily allowance for salt is 6g a day, you can see that 4.5g is a frighteningly high figure.

Although there are many healthy options on the menu, the soup is not the only Pret product with worrying credentials on the healthy-eating front.

Take the Posh Cheddar & Pickle Baguette. It contains almost 800 calories and 15.6g of saturated fat — that’s about the same as a Pizza Express American Pizza (the individual-sized one from a supermarket) and not dissimilar to a Big Mac and medium fries.
The ham, cheese and mustard toastie has almost the full recommended daily allowance that a woman should eat

The ham, cheese and mustard toastie has almost the full recommended daily allowance that a woman should eat

Then there’s the Hoisin Duck Wrap, which contains the equivalent of three teaspoons of sugar — making it higher in sugar than one of Pret’s own milk chocolate bars. And take a look at the Ham, Cheese & Mustard Toastie. It has 696 calories and 18g of saturated fat — almost the full 20g amount a woman is advised to eat in a day —and 4.25g of salt. Eek!

There seems to be mayonnaise in almost every single sandwich, even the Hoisin Duck Wrap (er, why?), the Posh Cheddar & Pickle Baguette, and the Wiltshire-cured Ham & Pickle sandwich. Is that dollop of extra fat and calories really necessary?

As nutritionist Angela Dowden says: ‘Freshly-made and with no additives is to be applauded, and Pret is undoubtedly good at that. But “fresh” and “natural” isn’t synonymous with “good for you”.

‘When you’re eating something that has as many calories and as much saturated fat as a burger and chips, the fact that it may have a few more vitamins doesn’t make it any less fattening and artery-clogging than the fast food.’

Pret’s spokesman told us: ‘While Pret is, of course, compliant with current Food Standards Agency guidelines, we are aware of public concern about salt.

‘We continue to explore with our chefs how we can reduce salt levels without sacrificing taste. Pret is one of the few High Street retailers that gives customers calorie and fat information on the shelves and through its website so they can make an informed choice.’ It hardly sounds like the chain is desperate to change things.

Meanwhile, its response to public criticism on its website seems arrogant at the very least, and perhaps closer, even, to irresponsible.

‘Often, the media gets hung up on calories and fat,’ it says. ‘Of course, these have to be checked and regulated, but they should also be balanced with a factor that seems to get forgotten in today’s fat-obsessed environment: nutrition. We talk about salt, sugar and fat, but never anything else.’

Yes, Pret sandwiches tend to be high in protein and certain vitamins and minerals. But, as Angela Dowden points out, they may not have as many positive attributes as you would imagine.

‘Rocket, herbs and other “posh” leaves give an illusion of health properties,’ she says. ‘But you’d still not be getting even one vegetable portion in your average Pret sandwich, wrap or baguette.’

What’s more, the chicken for Pret’s sandwiches is barn-reared as opposed to free-range, and is marinated and roasted far away from those many Pret kitchens, and arrives in a cooked, shredded form, along with tubs of pre-made egg mayonnaise and cartons of soup.

So much for all the food being freshly made in the shops. Pret labels each item on the shelves with its calorie and saturated fat content and detailed nutritional information for every product is available on its website.

But in case you need some help negotiating the menu, here are ten Pret products we think you might be best to avoid . . .


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