Sunday Shutdown Series

#34 Milk and dairy (Part II)

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This is a question I get asked at almost every workshop or talk I run, via my social media and from friends too. Is dairy harmful for human health? I have written a Sunday Shutdown on it already (check my website) however I wanted to elaborate further.⠀

Summary of the evidence

In 2016, a review (Thorning et al.) was published summarising all the evidence on milk and dairy products and their impact on human health. The analysis looked at obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, cancer and all-cause mortality. It’s important to note that butter was not included in the overview, and given its nutritional profile is very different to other dairy products it’s quite good it’s been left off.⠀

Some important findings from the overview were:⠀

  • Magnesium is important for bone health, and in children pretty much all their intake comes from dairy. This is also true for calcium. Whilst plant based milks have calcium added into them it isn’t organic to the product and there is limited research on how this reacts in the human body. Does it work in the same way or not? The products are so new it’s impossible to tell.⠀
  • There is still very limited evidence on dairy and some cancers. A 2011 World Cancer Research Fund report concluded that dairy consumption probably reduces the risk of colorectal cancer. This was further shown in a 2014 meta-analysis (Ralston et al) particularly in adult males, yet not females. However, other than this type in particular, most studies are inconclusive or indicate a positive effect. There are none which indicate a negative effect.⠀

Plant based alternatives

Whilst plant based alternatives may be trendy they tend to have a very low protein content compared to dairy which is high (this is good). This is with the exception of soy which is comparable. We know that the protein content in many peoples diets currently may just meet the UK Governments recommendation. Yet we also know this is no where near enough for optimum health. I advise all my clients to be consuming in excess of 1g/kg of body weight as good practice.


All in all there are very few adverse effects which have been proven about consuming milk and dairy. And prior to the introduction of plant milks on the market there were no other alternatives. My fear with removing dairy completely is the long term health effects of reduced protein, calcium, magnesium and iodine intake. We can certainly all consume less, just not remove completely unless for medical reasons.

#33 Mushroom supplements

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SUNDAY SHUTDOWN #33 MUSHROOM SUPPLEMENTS have hit the headlines and I’ve been asked about them a few times recently. Last year, there was even a mushroom latte released from a London coffee chain claiming to improve immunity. I mean please.

There is no doubt that mushrooms themselves have great dietary properties, they are a brilliant food, low in calories, a source of fibre and a plant. Something the majority of us should be including more of in our diets.

The back story

Mushrooms have been used in traditional herbal medicine for centuries. And that’s about as far as it goes. Herbal medicine, which isn’t based on science but moreso on the natural elements of plants and traditions doesn’t have much if any clinical evidence to support its claims. One of the main issues is that many herbal remedies aren’t regulated, you don’t need a licence to sell or produce them yet some can have the same side effects as regulated drugs and medicines. But you never hear those stories, do you? Just about the miracle cures. Would you buy conventional medicine from Jane who lives down the road rather than your pharmacist or doctor?

Claims include supporting the immune system, enhancing mood, being anti-aging, increasing endurance and more scarily helping to fight cancer growth.


Supplement forms are available as powders, tablets, broths, teas, coffee and even shower gels. Yet there is no evidence to supports any of these claims being true in humans. The majority of evidence for immune support exists in rodents where high doses have been used. You cannot compare injecting mushroom supplements into mice with drinking a herbal tea or orally taking a capsule.

Any effect you see is likely to be a placebo, which if that helps your symptoms then great. But also think about if you made any other changes at the same time you started taking these and could that have been the reason you feel better?

#33 New years resolutions

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SUNDAY SHUTDOWN #33 NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS: because they will be across your feed for the next few weeks.⠀

The truth is…

it’s estimated that around 80% of NY resolutions fail. Why. Quite simply because for most of us we want to do everything at once.⠀
❗️We are all or nothing.⠀
❗️Which means we do everything or we do nothing.⠀
❗️Which means when we miss one thing, we deem ourselves a failure.⠀
❗️Why does New Year = New You?⠀
❗️And even moreso why do you need a new you?⠀

So yes I’m shutting down the new years resolution because you can make a change at any time. And I’d urge you to ask yourself if the new year is the right time as more than likely you’ll be starting a whole host of other things too.⠀

If it is, then great but it’s best to start with one thing, just one.

If it’s related to eating better perhaps aiming for 5 portions of fruit & veg a day is a good place to start, or having a meat free day per week, meal prepping for one extra dinner or just being more conscious around your food choices and journalling to reflect that.⠀
If it’s related to exercise and movement, start with one or two sessions a week, then move to three and maybe four. Not everyday.⠀

Also, perhaps don’t tackle both food and exercise at once. Just a thought.⠀

Finally, don’t forget to make note of what you’ve changed. Be accountable to yourself that you will do what you’ve set out. Have clear goals, clear intentions and review them. Just like you would for a meeting at work.⠀

On that note, Sunday shutdowns will return in the new year, and we’ve got a pretty good line up.⠀

#32 Collagen

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Collagen supplements are relatively new to the market and claims about health include maintaining a healthy gut, glowing skin, improved mood as well as promoting healthy hair, nails and skin. It comes in the form of tablets, drinks, topical creams, bars and powders.

With our skin starting to age from our mid 20’s onwards, many are actively freaking out about lines and wrinkles and will do anything to stop it.


There are many studies showing collagen works in a laboratory environment but move away from there and into the real world and there is pretty much no evidence for its positive use in humans on any of the health claims listed above. Once you consume collagen, it has to survive being digested (the stomach is very acidic) get into your blood and then be transfused into your skin before it can be used. Collagen is once again cleverly used to pray on our insecurities.

However, the good news is taking collagen supplements is unlikely to be harmful due to the minimal doses being consumed within these supplements. Personally I wouldn’t recommend spending your hard earned cash on something that’s not proven to work. However, that’s up to you. Some of the best things you can do to protect your skin is stay hydrated, wear sunscreen, eat lots of fruit and veg, exercise regularly and don’t smoke or consume alcohol excessively.

There is a little bit of research into the positive effects of collagen hydrolysate supplementation on bone density and joint health, however you ain’t gonna get this from a drink with collagen added to it. Yet again these studies were a mix of animal, lab and human studies with doses of up to 12g per day and the effects were short term. For perspective, in a tablet you’ll get about 1 gram. (Porfirio, E 2016 and Liu et al 2018)

What do the the experts say?

Whilst on the topic of skincare and the effect ingesting collagen can have on your skin, I’d recommend taking a look at Anjali Mahto on Instagram. Clear cut evidence for your skin who also supports that the science here is sketchy at best.

#31 BCAA’s

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What are they?

Branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s) have been big business in the health and fitness industry for a while now. That being said I still get asked about them and I still know people taking them. It makes me angry sometimes.

Out of the nine amino acids that make up protein, three of them are of the branched chain variety:

The most important of the three in terms of muscle gain and maintenance is leucine, the other two have no added benefit. So here’s your first hurdle, you are paying for those extra two for no reason. No benefit, nada.

Why do people take them?

Most individuals currently taking or considering taking BCAA’s are those who actually give a sh*t about training and nutrition. They will already be taking on additional protein and be conscious of what they consume throughout the day. They will also be easy to market new products to. The thing is, if you are hitting your protein target/threshold per day then there is absolutely no benefit in taking these. The only time they may be beneficial is in super low protein meals, which you are unlikely to be eating.

The science?

An in depth review of the science conducted by Wolfe in 2017 found no human studies that showed an increase in muscle protein synthesis after taking BCAA supplements orally. And when taken intravenously it actually resulted in muscle breakdown and less muscle synthesis.

A time when they may be useful are for those participating in ultra-endurance events, think #ironman. And this is due to the severe carbohydrate depletion towards the end of the exercise period, we are talking like 6 hours in. Once your carbohydrate stores are gone, your body will start to breakdown protein to use for fuel, not ideal, but by taking BCAA’s this can limit the amount of protein broken down which is going to assist with your performance right to the end and also your recovery too.

If you are an avid BCAA user, try investing your money elsewhere and perhaps think about other areas of your diet and or nutrition which may have got you those results. #justsayin

#30 Manuka Honey

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SUNDAY SHUTDOWN #30 MANUKA HONEY, is it worth the price tag?⠀

What is it?

Manuka honey is native to New Zealand and is a product of the manuka tree where bees collect their honey from. In recent years it has landed on the shelves of many health food stores and even supermarkets with a price tag upwards of £20, some even coming in at £70. Health claims on manuka honey (and any products containing it) include it’s positive effects on your gut health, treating cancer and diabetes, boosting your immune system and generally being good for oral hygiene. It is both marketed for external or topical use and for ingestion as well.⠀

All types of honey have been praised for thousands of years on their antibacterial properties and have been used for wounds and burns. Manuka honey has a special chemical called methylglyoxal which has specific antimicrobial properties, this compound is not found in standard honey and is what makes it different. However, the benefits of methylglyoxal found in Manuka honey is not quite known just yet. In general terms for wound care there is medical grade honey which is licensed around the world. Manuka honey is not medical grade. And you should not use any honey purchased from a supermarket to heal your wounds at home.⠀

What does the science say?

Most people will see manuka honey and buy it for ailments such as a sore throat and because it costs more and has a fancy rating system on it then surely it must work, right? False. Despite all the claims you read about manuka honey there are no large scale human trials that have looked at its effect on cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol or gut health (or anything for that matter). Most of the limited research conducted using manuka honey has been done in a lab or in animals therefore it cannot be applied to humans.⠀

And finally…

So whilst a well known remedy for a sore throat is a hot cup of water with lemon and honey, the standard stuff will do just fine. And a side note from a sustainability perspective, our bees are in danger so plant some bee loving varieties in your garden next spring or buy some bee bombs, the kids will love them.⠀

#29 The Alkaline Diet

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What is it?

The alkaline diet is based on the idea that the food and drink you consume can alter the pH of your body. It is sometimes also known as the alkaline ash diet or the acid alkaline diet. The diet promotes the idea that eating acid forming or acidic foods will cause damage to one’s health and alkaline foods will improve it. Claims have also included curing diseases such as cancer. The diet states that foods such as meat, fish, dairy, eggs, alcohol and grains are all highly acidic and damaging and those such as fruits, nuts, seeds, veggies and legumes are alkaline and therefore beneficial.

What is pH?

pH is a scientific measurement of how acidic or alkaline the body is and the pH of the human body as a whole is 7.4 which is just above neutral. Somewhere like the stomach has a pH of 2 as it contains acid to digest food whereas something like bleach has a pH of 12 and falls into the alkaline category. The body maintains its pH of 7.4 very strictly as this is where we can function. Just like it maintains our body temperature. If the pH of your body changed you are at risk of death, very quickly if untreated. Foods have the ability to affect the pH of our urine, however that’s something the body is getting rid of. In fact that is one of the ways your body maintains it’s pH by getting rid of very acidic or alkaline substances.

Is it safe?

Products marketed as alkaline are not regulated in the UK and any claims made on them are unfounded. A few years ago in the USA, Robert Young (claiming to practice as a doctor at the time), defrauded terminally ill cancer patients by informing them his baking soda infused drips would cure them. Many stopped their conventional treatment and subsequently died. In 2016, he was convicted of practicing medicine without a licence and sentenced to almost four years in jail. I appreciate this in an extreme, however people like this prey on the vulnerable and when you have tried anything and are at your wits end, you are likely to believe them. This is the severe danger of the nutrition industry. Food is not medicine. Please remember that. None of the claims made by this diet have scientifically been proven in humans.

#28 The Fast 800

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A relatively new diet plan developed by Michael Moseley focusing on weight loss. But is it all it’s cracked up to be?⠀

The diet focuses on 3 stages (we will discuss 2 of these today)⠀
🔸 800 calories a day⠀
🔸 5:2 or intermittent fasting⠀
🔸 Maintenance⠀

Stage 1

800 calories a day is severe food restriction. And whilst for some people with a lot of weight to lose this may be a good way to start (especially when motivation is high) for many people this can be dangerous. Really anyone on a diet this low in calories should be under professional supervision. It’s recommended for between 2 and 12 weeks. 12 weeks with no supervision in my professional opinion is unsafe and setting yourself up to fail. It’s based on meal replacement shakes and whilst this is only advised for people with a large amount of weight to lose anyone can buy the shakes online. Not good.⠀

Stage 2

800 calories for 2 days a week, eating on the others days but with smaller portions, otherwise known as intermittent fasting. Yes, you will lose weight because you are still consuming less calories than your body requires. The thing that gets me here is not the weight loss but the fact it states the benefits of fasting include: cancer prevention and increased life expectancy. There is no clinical evidence to support these claims. Even on the science page of the website, only journal papers relating to weight loss are mentioned. You can reduce your risk of getting cancer, you cannot prevent it.⠀


Stage 1 is not safe, stage 2 will more than likely result in weight loss (you can do this without buying shakes, just consuming 800 calories, 2 days a week) and stage 3 is eating a balanced diet. If this will keep you accountable to someone or something for weight loss then it may be worth a try. However it’s worth remembering, this doesn’t stop at the end of your 12 week programme. This is a new way of life. This is building lifelong habits, not going back to the ones that got you in this situation in the first place.⠀

#27 CBD

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What is it?⠀

Cannabidiol (CBD) is an oil derived from the cannabis plant. It is well known for its role in pain management and can be prescribed via the NHS in the UK for this and motor sensory disorders. However, we are now seeing it on the shelves of pharmacies and health food stores, in both tablet form and as an oil. It’s expensive. A quick online search had me finding prices for the oils between £20 for a 10ml bottle and £34.99 for 60 tablets. Just this week I saw it mixed with coffee beans (@biffinskitchen), then there are also smoothies and breakfast items containing it being marketed as a master supplement. I’m not going to get into the detail of its role in medicine, but as it’s now promoted as a nutrition supplement, there is a need for me to have a voice!⠀

The research

A meta-analysis (lots of research all reviewed together) conducted by Bonaccorso et al this year, 2019, looked at the evidence for the use and safety of CBD in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Now this certainly isn’t my area of expertise as a nutritionist, however further reading in these types of areas is important and helps expand my knowledge. The results showed limited evidence for benefits to chronic psychological disorders but some therapeutic effects for specific disorders such as substance abuse and anxiety. And as for research on its nutritional benefits, there is 0.⠀

In summary

The safety of CBD’s use is still being researched, there simply aren’t enough trials or evidence of doses and the impact of taking too much. There are also no approved health claims which manufacturers can use on packaging. So in essence, any food product claiming it contains CBD and that it will bring benefit to your health is false. Please do not waste your money thinking this is a magical fix, it isn’t.⠀

#26 Gluten

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The reason this has come about is purely through anecdotal results. That’s when individual people report “I cut out gluten and I lost weight, or my digestive problems stopped or I just feel better”.⠀

What do we know?⠀

That people who have been diagnosed with celiac disease should not consume gluten. There are also people who may have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, this means they have an acute reaction to gluten, but not full blown celiac disease and also shouldn’t consume it. You can also have an allergy to things like wheat or rye which contain gluten and these can be tested for. Other than those groups of people, there is no reason why gluten needs to be avoided and can form part of a healthy diet. It shouldn’t be labelled as bad or have fear associated with it.⠀

But why do people report feeling good when they cut it from their diet?

One of the main reasons this can occur is not from the act of removing gluten itself but from the act of making a change to their diet in general. Gluten is found in many products. A lot of those products are things we as humans find easy to consume a lot of. Bread, pasta, processed snacks. By removing these foods not only are you removing gluten but also removing a large proportion of food you more than likely were eating too much of. This in turn may also result in some fat loss, as in essence you are consuming less calories than you were beforehand.⠀

Just an idea, but rather than cut it out, try to consume less of it. This is harder than it sounds, we’ve all smelt the fresh loaf of sourdough and ended up eating more than we should have. But how about⠀
– halving your portion of pasta and adding in some greens⠀
– having an open sandwich with one slice of bread⠀
– or trying to consume bread at one meal a day only⠀

There have been no scientific studies in healthy individuals showing an inflammatory or negative effect on health when consuming a diet containing gluten. Just because something is gluten free that doesn’t mean it’s healthy, arsenic is gluten free and it can kill you!