Welcome to Ask A Dietitian, a new series where Yahoo Canada digs into food trends and popular nutrition questions with registered dietitian Abbey Sharp.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.
New health and weight loss trends make the rounds on social media every few months, while some old ones keep resurfacing.
To see what's currently trending, Yahoo Canada checked in with registered dietitian Abbey Sharp. With more than 240,000 followers, the dietitian and YouTuber gets hundreds of comments daily asking for advice on trending health hacks.
She gave us the scoop on three recently most-asked questions:
Does lemon water actually detox your body?
Is berberine really 'nature's Ozempic?'
Is it safe to eat a lot of soy/tofu?
Read on to find out what the expert has to say.
Can lemon water detox your body?
Some health and wellness influencers claim lemon water "detoxes" the body and helps with digestion and weight loss.
One TikToker went viral last year with a tutorial on how to prepare the drink: mixing warm or room-temperature water with fresh lemon slices. User @sabrinabawa said it was part of her "detox challenge."
According to an expert, the body already has detox mechanisms that run naturally.
What is a detox?
Sharp says the term "detox" has been adopted by wellness culture to mean we need to "take something external in order to cleanse ourselves of alleged poisons in the body.
"In scientific terms, it's really just your body's natural way of ridding itself of what it doesn't need," Sharp explained. "So peeing, pooping, sweating, breathing — plus our liver's natural detoxing mechanisms."
Do lemons help?
While the body already naturally detoxifies itself, there are some things people can do to aid the process. One of those things is drinking lots of water.
"The reality is, lemon water is essentially flavoured water," Sharp claimed.
There's nothing we can do to detox.Abbey Sharp
"Water is going to help us pee... it's going to promote regularity. So lemon water is just a tasty way to get your hydration in, which is going to support our body's natural detoxing mechanisms."
Why lemons? Well, Sharp explained there is a "small bit of truth" that bitter foods — such as lemon rind — can help stimulate the bitter receptors of the gallbladder and the pancreas in the stomach, which can "increase digestive enzymes and stomach acids."
But, unless you're grating "a ton" of lemon zest into your water, the lemon won't make a difference to your gut compared to just regular water.
Sharp said lemon is not even the best source of vitamin C compared to other fruits (like strawberries), and added claims that lemon alkalizes the body because it lowers the pH value of water, have also been debunked.
Is it recommended?
The dietitian said she's not sure why "lemon got all the glory," but "any water is good water in my books."
To help your body's natural detox mechanisms, Sharp recommends hydration, eating fibre-rich foods and getting lots of movement.
Can berberine — 'nature's Ozempic' — help with weight loss?
Berberine is a bitter-tasting chemical found in some plants, which "might" help regulate how the body uses sugar in the blood and could help people with heart conditions.
It went viral on TikTok at the beginning of June, after TikTokers alleged they lost weight after taking what's been dubbed "nature's Ozempic" — Ozempic, of course, being the controversial type 2 diabetes treatment. User @beingsavv claimed she lost seven pounds after taking berberine for seven weeks.
Why is it called 'nature's Ozempic'?
Abbey Sharp says berberine has been around for centuries, but the recent interest in the supplement is likely due to the interest in Ozempic, which some celebrities were rumoured to be using for weight loss.
"People [are] kind of desperately clamouring to find an alternative that's cheaper and more accessible, that they don't need a prescription for," Sharp said.
According to her, berberine — like Ozempic — naturally increases the production and release of an intestinal hormone called glucagon-like peptide-1. The hormone promotes insulin and helps to stabilize blood sugars.
"Most of the data to date on berberine has shown that it's effective at reducing blood glucose," she explained.
Ozempic will reduce blood sugar by about 2.5 millimoles per litre, while berberine will reduce fasting glucose by 0.82 millimoles per litre.
"It is still very effective, but it's not as effective as powerful pharmaceutical."
Can it help with weight loss?
When it comes to weight loss, it's the same story.
Sharp said Ozempic results in on average about 15 per cent of body weight loss, whereas three months of berberine supplementation only results in about 3 per cent.
"If you were 200 pounds and you went on berberine for three whole months, that's just a half a pound a week," she outlined, adding it's a slow pace to lose weight.
Her expert opinion: berberine isn't completely useless and it has a lot of potential, but "it's definitely not 'nature's Ozempic.'"
Is it recommended?
Side effects of berberine include: GI distress, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation. It can also interact with medications, so consulting a professional is key.
"I wouldn't recommend it to everyone across the board, [but] it's something that you could absolutely speak to your doctor about," Sharp said.
Do people need to be cautious with soy products?
Soy is rich in isoflavones, which are plant antioxidants called phytoestrogens that are thought to mimic our body's natural estrogens, though evidence in humans is lacking.
In recent years, rumours that soy negatively impacts people's hormones and shouldn't be consumed in large quantities have been popularized, with some even claiming it can makes breasts grow.
Why are people scared of soy?
Sharp claims caution around soy is "nothing new."
One worry people have is that because phytoestrogens are thought to mimic natural estrogen, there is concern soy may impact hormonal-based cancers like breast cancer, Sharp explained.
It has no effect no feminizing effect on men.Abbey Sharp
She added one "really, really bad mouse study" is also likely to blame.
"This old mouse model study found that isoflavones stimulated the growth of these estrogen related tumours like breast cancer... Those two things is the connection to phytoestrogens mimicking estrogen."
However, Sharp said evidence in human studies debunk that.
"The important thing to know is that isoflavones differ in the body from the hormone estrogen, and we also metabolize isoflavones very differently than mice do," she claimed.
"We know from lots of research, it has no feminizing effect on men; it doesn't cause gynecomastia; it doesn't cause a reduction in testosterone."
Should people be eating soy?
Sharp said she is "constantly trying to educate the public about the benefits of soy." She added "the larger body of research demonstrates that it's very healthy content to consume."
Soybeans are rich in: fiber, protein, B vitamins, potassium and magnesium.
When it comes to breast cancer risk, the dietitian said research on humans — not mice — shows soy doesn't increase the risk of cancer, and it might actually lower the risk of certain types of cancers. She referenced:
One study found 26 per cent lower risk of prostate cancer in the men who ate the most soy based foods.
Another study found women who consume soy after breast cancer diagnosis are less likely to die from from cancer.
Half a cup of cooked soybeans every day helps reduce hot flashes in menopause by almost 80 per cent.
It's been shown to help with memory, because soy improves cerebral blood flow in older adults.
According to Sharp, about 50 grams of soy protein per day is not only safe, but could help provide many health benefits.