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Readers reply: are there any foods that have not at some time been considered harmful in a study? | Life and style

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Are there any foods that have not at some time been considered harmful in a study? Tony Clancy, Malvern

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Readers reply

The vast majority of credible academic studies in the field of nutrition conclude that no food is harmful provided that it is picked up within five seconds of having been dropped. Mobilepope

Pretty much anything is harmful if you consume enough of it – including things that will also kill you if you consume too little. Water is a good example. Too little, and you die of dehydration, but it will also kill you if you drink too much, because your blood-sodium level drops too low (“hyponatremia”). This may well have been the cause of death in some people who died after taking the drug ecstasy (MDMA) – while trying to keep hydrated, they overdid it. Shasarak

The answer must be no. I started doing random searches of “<food name> dangers” and after 10 I gave up as there were too many hits. Admittedly, several had won the Ignobel award. For bananas, the top hit was an academic study of the dangers of using the skins to treat nipple fissures. MabLlechIdris

The problem is that advice from governments in the past was deeply flawed. Partly, it’s alleged, due to lobbying, partly due to thinking the consumer couldn’t handle understanding that unsaturated fats were OK or good, but saturated bad. I think that complicates matters, as people see official advice changing it “feels” like you’re being told not to eat eggs one day then they’re encouraged the next. _Be_Kind_

I think it’s more that people seemingly struggle with anything that can’t be summarised into a tweet or six-second soundbite, because people are after simple binary answers. Is this good or bad … and the general reality of most scientific answers is that generally “it depends on the specific circumstances such as …” which is the point most people have switched off. Paperingover

MSG (monosodium glutamate). For years, numerous science researchers and baseless smears have hoped to convict MSG, trailing the racism term “Chinese restaurant symptoms”. Despite overwhelmed efforts to slander it, MSG has sustained its innocence in the FDA’s Gras (generally recognised as safe) list and continues to be one of the most used and safest additives in the food industry. JJ

My mother was 3st 4lbs when she died, 11 years ago. A lifetime devotee of the Daily Express and an avid reader of Top Santé magazine, she was sectioned twice, where effectively force fed. She believed what she read, had no understanding of any ulterior motive in publishing an article on the dangers of tinned salmon or toasted tea cakes. Taking it all as gospel, she cut out every foodstuff once a bad word was published about it. She died believing that statins were, or were not, the answer to everything. The sole remaining item she would willingly eat were organic tomatoes. Did she somehow overlook that article, did it postdate her death or are they still safe from the scrutiny of the Express? John Roughton, Hereford

Part of the conflict for me is exampled by publishing flawed studies, eg too few samples, too short a time frame, self-reporting, lack of sufficient peer review and/or sponsorship by a stakeholder. Additionally, when I read “probably, may be the case, it seems likely, needs further review, perhaps, would seem to indicate” I immediately perceive rubbish. The presence of certain words such as “superfood” should be enough to dismiss whatever follows as hyperbole. Unfortunately, most of what is published about food, exercise, healthcare, diet, etc is simply worthless fog. phrixus

In the 21st century, it’s the way in which food is produced, processed and marketed that is bad for us. Also, moderation in all things; wealthy western countries suffer from food allergies and so on far more than countries in say south-east Asia or the Indian subcontinent. Expecting to eat burgers every day is bad for everyone. It is expectation that is the problem that needs to be addressed. Coqauvin

I have often wondered how globe artichokes were recognised as a good thing to eat. Especially considering that they are basically thistles and we aren’t Eeyore. They can’t have looked particularly tempting when they were first tried – it’s only the development of them by breeding the better plants that have made them one of the more delicious vegetables we have today. Mind you, wild carrots were bitter and unpromising way back when as well. Vicc

I was chatting to my family about chick peas the other day. Buying them raw, on the packet it says that you should soak them in water for 12 hours and then boil them for an hour before eating – and definitely do not eat uncooked. How on earth did people find out that more than half a day in water would make something edible? And who discovered the consequences of eating them raw … and just what are those consequences? snickers4ever

Yes, I’ve often wondered about that with prawns. Let’s face it, they aren’t exactly Mother Nature’s most beautiful creation are they? You would have to be pretty desperate (or pretty hungry) to look at one and think: “I could eat that.” Mark_MK


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