TV4: “Bread – right or wrong?”

06Jun11

TV4 Nyhetsmorgon
May 31, 2011

My comments
This is a transcript of a almost 9 minutes long debate from the Swedish TV program “Nyhetsmorgon” (“news morning”). I’ve done my best to get everything right, but if any of my fellow countrymen find any misstakes, please tell me so.

This was broadcasted in the morning between the news reports, and the atmosphere in these morning shows is always more relaxed than in evening debate programs. Most Swedes listen to these news and in-between-interviews or debates whilst getting ready to go to work, and most Swedes don’t want to start their day with a big frown, but loves to have something to chat about at lunch and “fikapauser” (ie coffee-and-cookie-breaks).

They had invited Ingemar Gröön from the Bread Institute and Ola Lauritzson. The Bread Institute is nothing more than an association of different Swedish bread manufacturers, and since their sales have been dropping for some time now they’ve obviously chosen to get agressive. They have launched a campaign to tackle the “myths” about bread, in hope to make the Swedes more relaxed with munching on loafs again.

Ola Lauritzson is a nutrition advicer, author and expert on Glycemic Index. He’s not very fond of mass produced wheat products.

And now over to the show!
[On the table there’s a big platter of different kinds of breads.]

Female presenter: What about bread? Is it healthy or is it unhealthy? About 35 years ago it was recommended that we eat about 6-8 slices of bread each day.

Male presenter: You could say that that recommendation stuck with us…

F: Yes it did!

M: …when we grew up in the seventies.

F: Today we’ll talk about myths regarding bread instead.

M: Yes, and it’s the Bread Institute that wishes to enlighten us. We’ll try and sort myths from truths now. Ingemar Gröön from the Bread Institute, welcome.

INGEMAR: Thank you.

M: Ola Lauritzson, you are an acknowledged expert on GI [Glycemic Index], welcome to you too.

OLA: Good morning, thanks.

M: Shall we exclude… Shall we… The recommendation of 6-8 slices of bread each day, shall we bury that?

INGEMAR: No I don’t think we should. I wouldn’t say that 6-8 slices of bread is a recommendation for everyone, but if you burn a lot of energy, then of course you can eat… Bread itself is healthy food. Some breads are healthier than others. It’s about the balance between how much you eat and how much you get rid of. If you work out a lot, if you’re a skier, if you work out much, then of course you have to make sure you get all the nutrition you need.

M: In that case you’d have a good estimate of your dietary needs. But if we look at this picture, this old campaign… But here and now you want to talk abouth myths about bread instead?


The Bread Institutes campaign from the seventies: “The Socialstyrelsen wants us to eat 6-8 slices of bread each day”

INGEMAR: Well, that campaign must be viewed in the light of those times. It was intended to create the opportunity to give bread attention, and it succeeded very well. Today we wouldn’t make it in the same manners, perhaps, it needs to be adapted.

M: Well, the worst myth then?

INGEMAR: The worst myth is… Well, Swedish consumers know very well that bread is healthy food, but at the same time it’s beleived that bread makes you fat. And that’s not the case. It isn’t an individual food that makes you fat, it’s the total amount of energy intake that makes you fat. We eat too much.

F: But is that really all we think about? That we get fat by eating bread? What do you say about that Ola?

OLA: I’d say that the problem isn’t that we eat too little of bread here in Sweden, it’s that we eat too much and the wrong kind of bread. And the problem with bread is that it contains many nutrients that are quickly absorbed in the body, and stresses the body in different ways. It raises the blood sugar and is harmful in many different ways.

F: So it’s not only a matter of losing weight?

OLA: Well, weight is one aspect, but there’s other issues too. But I agree with Ingemar, if you’re younger, exercise a lot, well then you’ll need to eat more and get more of quickly absorbed energy. But for most of us, including myself who’s sedentary at work, and is over 30, 40 or 50 years, everyday life isn’t like that. We eat too much bread, too many easily digested carbohydrates, and thats my point. I enjoy and welcome this debate because we can clearly see that 6 to 8 slices of bread that was the recommendation, on top of pasta and cereal and rice and potatoes, which Socialstyrelsen said that we should eat to every meal, we can see with todays knowledge how wrong that was.

M: Isn’t there a risk that we simplify too much? There’s so many different kinds of bread. If we look at… The kids love this one… [Holds up a plain white slice of bread.]

INGEMAR: And that might be right for them if they exercise a lot. They have a lot of gym class and move around a lot.

F: But how much? Isn’t it also a matter of amount?

INGEMAR: Yes of course, as with all things… Just because you say something is healthy you’re suddenly supposed to be able to eat any amount of it, and it’s not that simple. It’s always about finding the right levels and the right combinations for you. Just because you need to lose weight you don’t have to eat this all of the time. [Picks up a slice of white bread.] If you think this is OK you can eat it sometimes, but as an adult you’ll have to take the consequenses of what you eat…

M: Ola, what’s so dangerous about one of these? [Waves the white slice around.]

OLA: Well, if you look at many of these breads they break down fast in your body. Wheat becomes sugar in your body very fast, it affects the blood sugar and the insulin production. And I would say that we get fooled by the bread industry to think that some bread varieties are healthier than they are. And if i look at this one here [see picture below], we have a kind here that looks healthy because it’s dark and so on. But I would say that it’s not at all very healthy. It’s dark because there’s sugar and syrup in it, and that isn’t a very good thing.


F: But isn’t it also about that you get hungry sooner if you only eat white bread with only wheat than if you eat whole grain? That you’re content longer?

INGEMAR: Yes if you eat bread with whole grains, if you eat bread with whole seeds in it, if you eat bread with sourdough, then it’s an excellent way to keep the hunger at bay, and help to loose weight, partly because it’s little energy in it and parly because you’re content longer, and that… If you compare those two [points at a slice of white and a darker slice] then you’re filled longer…

F: But now you’re talking about weight again. But if you think about the intestines? How does the intestines feel if you only eat this white bread compared to this whole grain bread?

INGEMAR: Well that’s not something to be concerned about… The intestines are good at taking care of things.

F: Do you agree with that?

OLA: No, I’m sure that you’ll feel better on that bread [points to the whole grain] than the one of wheat, which breaks down so fast and causes an inflammatory effect in the body. That’s one of the problems. We’ve talked about hunger and weight, and we must stop eating so much refined carbohydrates. And what I want to say, and I agree with Ingemar, that there’s decently good alternatives. We see some of them here with whole seeds, with sourdough, with whole grains, and unsweetened bread, so I won’t say that all breads are bad.

M: No, because it easily gets to a point of pro and con bread. But if you should get a sandwich now, then what would you choose? Would you take this one? [Picks up a brown-ish slice.]

OLA: No, that’s a sweetened loaf. I have two favorites here… Here’s a sourdogh bread made of rye, I think. [Picks up an grey-ish slice.]


M: Favourite!? That’s like eating asphalt!

F: That’s really good toasted…

OLA: No this is good. If you toast it and have some strong tasting cheese on it… And this is also an unsweetended whole grain bread with whole seeds. And that’s good. [Picks up the darkest slice on the platter.]

INGEMAR: That’s good for Christmas, Easter or Midsummer and such… On Smorgasboards, that’s amazing, but then… Well I mean, in stead of… But then you shouldn’t look to much on the nutrition facts. For most of the consumers this [points to the darkest slice] is too much. Swedes like sweet bread, and Swedes have liked sweet bread for almost one hundred years, and it’s the last thirty years that we’ve seen an greatly increased intake of energy among the Swedish people, that we now see an explotion in amount of obese. So, a few percent added sugar in a bread is the compromise we have to make so that the Swedes will actually eat healthy, eat whole grains, with the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that’s in it. So that’s a compromise we can make.

[Everybody starts to chatter at the same time.]

M: It isn’t the breads fault that we have become fat, is it?

OLA: But, but, this is really interesting. Here they add extra sugar and syrup so that we’ll eat more…

M: Isn’t that so we’ll get the whole seeds and…?

OLA: [Laughs.] No, no, I really don’t think so. Here they add extra sugar and syrup, we think it’s healthier, we experience it as sweeter, the youngsters think it tastes better and wants more. And that’s the big lie in all of this that I oppose to. To fill it with sugar so that we’ll eat more, that’s…

INGEMAR: But that’s no lie. It’s about about everything… When we’re at home and cook we’ll make the food as tasty as possibly, that’s what it’s about. If the industry or the producers had set their minds to make it as healthy as possible, or make products only for the sake of the nutrition facts, then it wouldn’t be fun anymore. Where’s that aspect in all of this?

F: That’s non-existent!

INGEMAR: It must be good aswell!

M: Well, how should we approach the pleasurable aspect?

OLA: No, but we shouldn’t outlaw bread or candy or cake or beer or anything else either, I think, but you should be aware of what you eat, and that’s my whole point. We think that some sorts are much healthier than they are. I mean that as long as you make concious choises, then it’s up to you.

F: But what you also can feel sometimes is that you have a craving for sweets, like we talked about and that’s not very good at all, and if it’s sweet then you can question why we should eat more of it. Isn’t it somewhere about eating with common sense, to not overeat, because it’s easy to say “I walked home from work today, so I can eat three more sandwiches” and you think that the walk home makes it OK to add these slices.

INGEMAR: It’s not that simple, but…

F: But we do that and makes excuses for ourselves to get to eat what’s so darn good.

INGEMAR: What you can do about that is to inform the consumers how things are linked… How energy intake and loss are linked, how are foods rich in nutrients linked… And how you’re supposed to eat to live in a constructive way, or a healthy way for you. And then the products are out there to choose from. Sweden have one of the worlds widest ranges of bread sorts, so you can just choose. You can choose!

M: Perhaps you can read the information yourself?

INGEMAR: As long as they have the information, and we try to make sure that they do, then they can choose among our products.

F: If you take two sandwiches, could you take one of this and one of that? [Points at the whitest and darkest slices.]

M: I’ll take one of each!

F: Good for you!

Ingemar: Well, then you’re not exactly very consistent as consumers…

M: Thank you for coming.

Link to the broadcast of the show at TV4 Nyhetsmorgon online.
Link to the Bread Institute’s Swedish homepage.
Link to Ola Lauritzson’s Swedish blog.

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