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Cyberchondria is 'breaking bread' claims research ahead of National Bread Week

Published 07/10/2016


“Cyberchondria” is breaking bread, new research has claimed ahead of National Bread Week.

The research by the Flour Confectioners and Bakers and Association claims that thousands of consumers are "unnecessarily" changing their diet and excluding foods containing important nutrients either as a result of Googling symptoms or self-diagnosing.

Former Miss Northern Ireland Tiffany Brien has shared photographs online to illustrate her battle with bloating
Former Miss Northern Ireland Tiffany Brien has shared photographs online to illustrate her battle with bloating

This research was commissioned by the Northern Ireland Bakery Council (NIBC), organisers of next week’s National Bread Week (9th – 15th October).

The findings claim 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.

The new research today has claimed that 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.

Earlier this year former Miss Northern Ireland Tiffany Brien shared personal photographs on her social media showing  how bloated her normally flat tummy can become.

She said she believes the bloating is caused by a combination of a lack of sleep, stress, hormones and food intolerances.

Although she said she suspects food is the main culprit, she also said she cannot pinpoint exactly what causes it.

Former Miss NI Tiffany Brien: I don't always look like this, sometimes I look like that  

The Flour Confectioners and Bakers and Association research goes on to claim 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.

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[2] per 40g slice of a typical white loaf.

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