Thousands of consumers are unnecessarily changing their diet and excluding foods containing important nutrients either as a result of Googling symptoms or self-diagnosing, reveals a survey by the Flour Confectioners and Bakers and Association (FCBA), the organisers of next week’s National Bread Week (9th – 15th October).

The findings show that people are jumping to the wrong assumptions about bread and cutting out it over alcohol or caffeine because they think it is unhealthy. The problem is caused by faddy food trends that shun bread’s nutritional contribution to a balanced diet and the mistaken belief that excluding certain carbohydrates is good for them. Half of those questioned said that they have stopped consuming bread in an effort to eat healthier or lose weight. This compares to 53% who have cut sugar, 48% who have cut alcohol and 17% who have cut caffeine. However, none of these provide much more than calories to a daily diet unlike bread, which is an important source of carbohydrate, protein, fibre, calcium and iron.

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Women in particular are quick to blame bread for health complaints – half believe bread causes bloating (versus 27% men) and bread was also thought to cause weight gain (31% women versus 26% men). The results suggest that many people believe they have suffered an allergic reaction or food intolerance directly related to eating bread – in fact 1 in 5 women (21%) and 10% men. If they have symptoms, 40% said that they talk to friends and family and/or Google their symptoms before going to a doctor.

Self-diagnosis is rife – 44% say that they have diagnosed themselves with an illness. The symptoms most commonly Googled were tiredness / lethargy (37%) followed by bloating and weight gain (both 30%), headaches, food allergy / intolerance and bowel problems.

Abstinence is a solution chosen by many – 39% say that they believe excluding certain foods from the diet is good for them, 17% have cut bread out of their diet because they believe it is unhealthy and 8% have removed gluten from their diet as a result of things they have read.

Ciara Kelly (credit David Cantwell)GP and National Bread Week ambassador, Dr Ciara Kelly said: “These results are worrying because cutting any major food group can produce an imbalance in the diet. The danger of self-diagnosis is misdiagnosis. These findings show that people are cutting out important foods such as bread based on something they have come across online or in the media. I would urge those concerned about any symptoms to visit a doctor or registered dietitian before making any significant changes to their diet.”

Bread tops the list of foods / ingredients people feel they have suffered an allergic reaction or intolerance to (18%) followed by wheat, dairy, alcohol and sugar. Yet when questioned about how many calories they thought the average slice of white bread contains, 38% estimated this to be much higher than the 87 calories per 40g slice of a typical white loaf.Dr McCreery (2)

Registered Dietitian Dr Mary McCreery said, “There is no evidence that bread causes bloating or weight gain. Actually, bread is low in fat and sugar and it provides a host of nutrients – protein, fibre, calcium and iron as well as carbohydrates. Carbohydrate should provide approximately 55% of our total energy intake, equating to approximately six-12 different portions per day. Two slices of bread is equal to one portion of carbohydrates. This is particularly important in Ireland because people get more iron from bread than they do from meat or fish dishes and bread is the second highest contributor to the calcium intake of the Irish population.”

Speaking on behalf of the industry, President of the FCBA, Dermot Kelly said, “It’s time to dispel the many myths that consumers have about bread. Ireland has a fantastic bread heritage and the quality of the bread we produce is second to none. We need to celebrate bread and recognise the role bread can play as part of a healthy balanced diet.”

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