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The truth about five diet myths

Does coffee stunt your growth? Can grapefruit burn calories more quickly? Does eating certain foods cause acne? TODAY nutritionist Joy Bauer separates fact from fiction.1. Coffee stunts your growth NO. Research suggests that coffee consumption has no effect on height. This myth was started decades ago when it was thought that caffeine in coffee may be a risk factor for osteoporosis, and subsequent
/ Source: TODAY

Does coffee stunt your growth? Can grapefruit burn calories more quickly? Does eating certain foods cause acne? TODAY nutritionist Joy Bauer separates fact from fiction.

1. Coffee stunts your growth

NO. Research suggests that coffee consumption has no effect on height. This myth was started decades ago when it was thought that caffeine in coffee may be a risk factor for osteoporosis, and subsequently lead to reduced bone mass.  Experts now believe that much of the previous research that linked caffeinated beverages and osteoporosis were made in populations that also had low calcium intakes. These people were more likely replacing calcium-rich milk with coffee or caffeinated sodas.  *Low calcium intake is clearly linked to reduced bone health.

More recent studies suggest that even if caffeine does offset calcium absorption, the effect is both slight and easily offset by adding some milk in your coffee. Of course, you’ll also need an appropriate daily dose of calcium throughout the day from low-fat dairy, fortified foods, certain greens and/or supplements.

So coffee won’t stunt your kid’s growth, should you still limit their consumption? Yes, because there are other potential adverse side effects including stomach discomfort, nervousness, shakiness, rapid heartbeat, insomnia, and irritability.

2. Certain foods, like grapefruit, celery, or cabbage soup can burn fat and make you lose weight. 

NO. Based on anecdotal stories, this belief has no scientific back up. It’s true these foods are low in calories (and loaded with nutrients), but they do not actually burn fat.

Rumors have also circulated claiming the act of chewing certain foods burns up more calories than the food contains. Cucumbers and celery top the list of these so-called “negative calorie” foods. While it may seem like you expend a lot of energy when you chew some things, in reality, it’s only about five measly calories per hour. 

BOTTOM LINE: If you lose weight when you add grapefruit, celery or cucumbers to your eating plan, it’s probably because you’re substituting these foods for another food that has more calories. For example, instead of snacking on pretzels (130 calories per ounce), substitute with celery sticks and cucumber slices (14 calories per cup).

3. Gelatin and calcium supplements will strengthen your nails

NO. There’s no scientific proof that gelatin helps nail strength. And although many people believe that calcium supplements help build strong nails, that too has been debunked. Researchers from New Zealand tested the effects of calcium on nail health. Nearly 700 post-menopausal women took 1000 milligrams of calcium every day for a year, and demonstrated that taking calcium supplements made no difference in reported nail strength. So although I recommend calcium for so many different health issues, nail health isn’t among them.

Three nutrients that WILL help your nails include:

  • Protein is necessary for nail growth and strength
  • Zinc keeps nails from weakening
  • Iron keeps nails from distorting into spoon shapes.

Go out of your way to get these nutrients from food not supplements. If you think you’re a candidate for supplements, always speak with your doctor before starting anything new. Unnecessary mega doses of iron and zinc can be dangerous and detrimental to your health.

4. Can greasy foods cause acne breakouts?

NO. You won’t break out from eating high fat greasy food, like Buffalo wings and fries… but you may break out from touching oily finger foods and then touching your face. That’s because topical contact can definitely cause pimples, but you won’t necessarily break out from eating fried stuff.

5. Can dairy foods cause acne breakouts? 

POSSIBLY. Cows are given iodine-fortified feed to help fight infection, and some of it naturally finds its way into the cows’ milk. Some experts believe that the amount of iodine found in milk—although low—is enough to cause skin problems for some sensitive people.

Another study published February 2005, in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology, found a positive association with acne and milk…. and researchers hypothesize that the association was because of the presence of hormones. Dairy cows are allowed to become pregnant while they're lactating and the pregnancy hormones get into the milk. 

If you want to test your personal reaction, I recommend eliminating all dairy foods from your diet for one month. This includes milk, yogurt, cheese, sour cream, and ice cream. (No matter what your age, if you’re a woman, be sure to get enough daily calcium from non-dairy sources or take 1000 milligrams of calcium supplements daily to make up for what you’re missing.) If you see no difference, then dairy is not a problem for you. If your acne improves, add dairy back into your diet—two servings a day for four or five days. If your acne comes back, then dairy is a definite acne-booster for you.

For more information on healthy eating, visit TODAY nutritionist Joy Bauer’s website at www.joybauernutrition.com