Foods like broccoli and blueberries which have long been described as superfoods may not pack as powerful a nutritional punch as long thought, after researchers found that antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties may not actually make it past the gut.
The new findings out of London’s Kingston University may debunk exaggerated health claims and challenge the purported health benefits of certain fruits and vegetables touted as superfoods, scientists say.
That’s because while polyphenols may work well under laboratory conditions, in the human body they may be less efficient if they’re unable to get past the gut membrane and to the rest of the body, explained lead author Lucy Jones.
For the study, researchers used a model that mimics the small intestine where nutrients are taken up and assessed whether or not nutrients are able to penetrate the membrane.
The model used, the Caco-2, is made up of a single layer of cells that mimics the characteristics and function of micro-hairs which work to help in the absorption process.
So far, the research team has tested herbs such as parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme -- herbs which have been touted for their anti-cancer properties -- and found that while they may have a local effect in the gut itself, their impact on the rest of the body was negligible.
Despite the results, fruits and vegetables are good sources of fiber and other nutrients. In another study out of the US last year, researchers suggested teaming broccoli up with spices like mustard, horseradish or wasabi to help with absorption in the upper part of the digestive system and enhance the cancer-fighting properties.