“Not a grain of truth: Bread has been ‘demonised by TV nutritionists and is a vital part of our daily diet‘” screamed the Daily Mail headline on Friday 14th September.
I was pretty disgusted by this on a number of levels:
1) Conflict of interest
The article talked about nutrition scientists and then went on to explain that by this they meant people working for the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF). They even called them “Researchers at the British Nutrition Foundation” and this was a quotation from the article: “Researchers at the British Nutrition Foundation said that people are instead going without vital vitamins and minerals that are contained in each loaf.”
Here are the sustaining members of the British Nutrition Foundation. Check out Coca-Cola, Danone, Sainsbury, Kellogg’s, Kraft foods, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Tate & Lyle, The ABF Grocery Group and Unilever. The Associated British Foods (ABF) member alone is the conglomerate behind Allingson breads, Kingsmill breads, Speedibake bakery products, Sunblest breads, Burgen breads and Tip Top breads and baked goods. Kraft and Sainsbury’s will similarly welcome any support for bread – as will Unilever, as their sales of hydrogenated, bleached, deodorised and emulsified gunge – also known as margarine or spreads – needs to go on bread.
Einstein famously said that “It isn’t research if you know what you’re looking for.” I do not accept that the conflicted BNF would bite the many, many hands that feed them and therefore they will undertake ‘research’ into bread with the clear goal that it must be eulogised as an outcome.
Those were just the sustaining members. The BNF also has even more just plain members. These include the major supermarkets that benefit from selling bread: ASDA; Marks and Spencer; Morrison’s; The Co-operative Group and Waitrose. Then we have bread makers: General Mills (Pillsbury dough); Kerry Foods (Homepride); and Warburton’s. We have the bread retailer Greggs – is there anything in Greggs that is not made from flour? Just as we had Tate & Lyle (sugar) as a sustaining member, so we have British Sugar as a member – have you ever tried to buy a loaf of bread that does not contain sugar? United Biscuits are also a BNF member, as is The National Starch company. Finally, you may not even recognise Nabim as a member. Nabim, as their web site proudly states: “is the representative organisation for the UK flour millers and represents virtually 100% of the industry, which uses around 5.1 million tonnes of wheat a year to produce 4.1 million tonnes of flour.”
That’s the scale of the financial alliances held by the BNF, which need to be protected from naughty (TV) nutritionists advising people to avoid bread.
The ‘research’ should have openly and clearly declared this conflict of interest – as the ‘researchers’ would have to have done had this been published in a journal. No such declarations were even mentioned.
2) Adding vitamins & minerals does not make a fake food healthy
Back to the absurd quotation from the ‘researchers’: “Researchers at the British Nutrition Foundation said that people are instead going without vital vitamins and minerals that are contained in each loaf.”
Warburton’s is the biggest bread brand in the UK and, conveniently, a member of the British Nutrition Foundation. Revenues are in excess of £700 million – mouth watering levels.
If you check Tesco on line shopping, Warburton’s has nine white bread variants and four brown bread variants available. Normally virtually the only nutrients in processed bread are vitamins and minerals that have been added in by the manufacturers. Interestingly there is no sign on the ingredients list that Warburton’s have even bothered to add any nutrients to their white bread ranges. Here’s an example, which has the ingredients Wheat Flour, Water, Yeast, Vegetable Oil, Salt, Flavouring, Soya Flour, Preservative Calcium Propionate (added to inhibit mould growth), Emulsifiers E471, E481, Flour Treatment Agents Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), E920. Vitamin C looks to have been the only vitamin added, which means that the white bread will have the nutritional content of its main ingredient – white flour – which is negligible – see below.
Warburton’s brown bread also has no evidence of added nutrients. This has a very similar ingredients list with wholemeal flour in place of white flour and dextrose (sugar) in this one: Wholemeal Flour (57%), Water, Yeast, Dextrose, Vegetable Oil, Salt, Wheat Gluten, Emulsifiers E481, E472e, E471, Soya Flour, Preservative Calcium Propionate (added to inhibit mould growth), Flour Treatment Agent Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C).
Most breads in the UK do have vitamins and minerals added, but this does not mean that the product is healthy. You may as well take a vitamin/mineral tablet and save yourself the unhealthy intake of flour, sugar, vegetable oil and emulsifiers. Better still – eat real food! Steak, salmon, eggs and cheese don’t need vitamins and minerals to be added – they are found in abundance naturally in these products.
Here is a nutrient comparison between some real foods and white and brown flour – the main ingredient in the bread being defended by the BNF:
(All per 100g)
Folic Acid (mcg)
Please note that the highest value has been highlighted for a quick glance as to the highest calorie foods (flour) and the most nutritious foods (liver and sardines).
You will notice that brown flour is slightly better than white, but neither can hold a candle to liver and sardines. I wonder why the BNF are not in the Daily Mail raving about these super foods, but perhaps a check of their member list will explain why.
Please note that the above table is comparing 100 grams of each product. Flour has over three times the calories of liver, making flour products even worse if you compare them on a calorie for calorie basis.
3) If you want to be slim and healthy – ditching bread is a great idea
Did you know that the average UK citizen is consuming 1,150 calories a day from just two ingredients – one with no nutritional value and one with so little that it is subject to fortification legislation, with a requirement to add back in nutrients removed in processing?[i] World Health Organisation data tells us that the average UK citizen consumes 38 kilograms of sugar per year.[ii] Statistics from the Flour Advisory Bureau note that UK per capita flour consumption reached 74 kilograms in 2008/9.[iii] This represents a few calories short of 1,150 per person per day from those two ingredients – when did that become a healthy balanced diet?
If anyone asked me for the top substances to remove from their diet, my number one tip would be sugar – no nutritional value whatsoever – and my second tip would be flour – virtually no nutritional value. The brilliant book Wheat Belly by Dr William Davis will also give you several reasons for avoiding wheat – from belly fat to arthritis with many other ailments in between.
Without exception, people I work with to lose weight and gain health do better without wheat. They have found wheat addictive in the past, as it is the main ingredient in biscuits, cakes, pastries, pies, pizza, pasta – things that they have craved. They come off wheat, drop pounds in days, banish bloating, overcome food cravings and report many other ailments clearing up – from Irritable Bowel Syndrome to joint and muscle aches. They lose virtually nothing nutritionally, as the facts have now shown. In fact they gain masses in terms of vitamins and minerals because – as the rare people in the UK not consuming 1,150 calories of sugar and flour daily, they are having those calories in the form of steak, salmon, cheese, vegetables, seeds and so on instead. So they lose weight and gain health. As they lose lbs, the fake food companies lose £’s – hence the need for this article.
So, don’t listen to representatives of the multimillion, if not billion, pound bakery industry, otherwise known as The British Nutrition Foundation. The facts are that bread is pointless nutritionally compared to real food and has some pretty nasty fake ingredients in the processed loaves that adorn the supermarket shelves.
If you want to eat bread – either bake your own with the highest quality, most natural whole wheat flour you can find. Add yeast, olive oil and a few sunflower seeds and that’s it. You may also be able to get a decent wheaten dense kind of loaf from a farm shop or farmers market. Give the packaged stuff a wide berth and don’t believe anything that comes from The British Nutrition Foundation.
An excellent summary is available at: http://www.sustainweb.org/realbread/flour_fortification/