While everyone accepts that diet plays a big role, entrenched opinions, definitions and varying viewpoints on today’s junk food culture combine to stop a clear message emerging. Battles between different dietary approaches and the views of their advocates continue to play out, using information and misinformation from both established viewpoints (who hate change and don’t want to accept they might be wrong) and from numerous health pundits. Add to that many industry groupings and lobbying groups from the Bigfood and Bigpharma categories who also chime in, concerned about the potential impact on their future profits.
Looking ahead, one thing is clear: Type-2 Diabetes, as well as being debilitating for more and more individuals is likely to become financially unsupportable for many governments. They simply won't be able to afford to care for all those afflicted. And it's all so predictable.
In a world of alt-facts, we still trust our doctor
If like me, you’ve reached the conclusion that eating a real food diet with fewer carbohydrates is the best way to go - whether you are diabetic or not - you’ve probably read books, considered the available research and carried out some successful self-experimentation. You may have been influenced by the well-researched, thought provoking nature of Gary Taubes' or Nina Teicholz’s writing, or perhaps the inspirational approach taken by Professor Tim Noakes in South Africa. Whichever the case, your new-found convictions are probably strengthening.
But for most people, to really deeply believe in the effectiveness of a health message means getting our convictions at the grass roots level, communicated to us by a General Practitioner. That's simply because generalist doctors belong to the declining group of influencers who still enjoy our trust. In a recent Ipsos Mori poll, Doctors led the field with an 89% trust factor, leaving bankers (37%) and politicians (21%) far behind.
Doctors like Aseem Malhotra (albeit a cardiologist) and Rangan Chatterjee (famous for his Doctor in the House TV series) with their lifestyle related lower-carb, higher-fat convictions, have been gaining influence. Their approach adds to the more day-to-day experience of practitioners such as Dr David Unwin in his award winning Southport GP practice, or the considered advice from diabetes expert Dr David Cavan as outlined in his bestseller, Reverse Your Diabetes. If you intuitively agree with the benefits of such a lower-carb lifestyle approach, then with doctors like these on your side, you are in good company.
On that count by the way, it is self-evident, a truism, to say that we’re all different, yet it's pretty much irrelevant when it comes to preventing or stopping the rise in Type-2 Diabetes cases around the world. After all, not everyone who smokes 20 cigarettes per day dies from lung cancer, but only the smallest minority would now dispute the validity of banning ads or adding warnings to cigarette packets. The successful battle against lung cancer has been fought with a clarity of purpose and conviction… not by nickel-and-diming interpretations and dimensions of difference.
What's true is that for most of those diagnosed as pre-diabetic, and pretty much all those who suffer from Type-2 Diabetes, the evidence is overwhelming. A lower-carbohydrate, higher-fat diet, based on eating real food helps almost everyone, and the specific proportions of carbs and fat that work best for you are indeed, a matter for personal trial and error. My personal tip: start low with the carbs and then gradually increase. I'm currently at 60-70 grams of net carbs per day - and I suppose that the fact I know this clearly puts me in the nerd category:)
Confuse them and you'll lose them
Keep it simple stupid (KISS)
Let’s begin by simplifying the communication chain:
What are the 3 core problems associated with type-2 diabetes?
From tacit agreement to conviction
OK - you're nodding your head in acquiescence, yet not totally convinced. This is where I come in - the experienced communications guy.
The oldest parts of the brain (in evolutionary terms) are responsible for your fight or flight response, but also for the final say when it comes to decision making. When you’re absolutely sure of something, your New Brain (Cortex) will decide rationally what the right course of action is to be, but you won’t completely buy-in to that decision until the instinctive part (Old Brain) chimes in and agrees. Put differently, you make decisions based on emotions and then post-rationalise the whys, wherefores and other ‘reasons’ for moving ahead.
The decisive yet instinctive Old Brain sees simple, straightforward relationships between things. It hates complexity. That’s why I firmly believe that there is little chance of shifting mind-sets unless there is a stronger and clearer starting position. That's why, Type-2 diabetes needs to be defined as what it really is, at least in 99% of cases; a disease of carbohydrate intolerance.
If it would help in reaching agreement more quickly, perhaps we could all agree on: “Type-2 Diabetes is primarily a disease of carbohydrate intolerance”.
When defined and communicated in this way - as a disease of carbohydrate intolerance – it becomes clear, logical and much easier to understand for all those at risk. "It stands to reason: I need to reduce the amount of carbohydrates I eat at every opportunity - in particular, by avoiding both sugar and starchy food".
Crucially, if your GP uses that same language of 'carbohydrate intolerance', because of that existing bond of trust, your Old Brain will chime in with its support too.
This guest post was written by: James Capon MBA, a communications expert, former President of Levi Strauss in San Francisco and partner with SalesBrain Europe. He began eating low-carb a few years back and feels much better for it.
The great lateral thinking expert, Edward de Bono likes to tell the story of a factory that needs clean water for its industrial processes and as a result, pollutes the river water for town inhabitants living downstream of the factory. Rather than passing draconian laws or getting the factory to co-sponsor water filtration in the river, the clever town council simply mandated that the factory take in its fresh water from somewhere downstream of its own industrial buildings (see below); the factory then became a victim of its own effluence!
This decision provided an existential threat to the continued use of the factory and so, not surprisingly, the problem got solved - quickly.
As a clever 'lateral thinking' approach it is also one which has been used in the real world. At an individual level, it is the equivalent of giving someone a taste of their own medicine - that being the same treatment that they dish out to others. But... Could a lateral-thinking approach help deal with our increasingly obese world and rising levels of Insulin Resistance?
Work commissioned at the start of the UN's Decade of Nutrition(1) (2016-2025) revealed a strong association between 'ultra-processed food and drink' and the spread of chronic disease. A BMJ article(2) from 2016 showed how 'added sugar' also correlates strongly with this ultra-processed category. In total, added sugars represented 1 in 5 of these ultra-processed food calories(21.1%), far higher than the other three categories of processed foods at 2.4%, unprocessed/minimally processed foods, and processed culinary ingredients grouped together at 3.7%.
Ultra-processed food(2): formulations of several ingredients which, besides salt, sugar, oils and fats, include food substances not used in culinary preparations, in particular, flavours, colours, sweeteners, emulsifiers and other additives used to imitate sensorial qualities of unprocessed or minimally processed foods and their culinary preparations or to disguise undesirable qualities of the final product.
So, is ultra-processed food just guilty by association? After all, we know that correlation does not prove causation. But there again... The UN-anchored hypothesis on the table is that a significant reduction in the amount of processed food consumed would lead to less chronic disease. That is - to put it mildly - not in the interest of large food companies, whether manufacturers, distributors or retailers, because they rely heavily on the higher levels of profit they obtain with these hyper-processed packaged foods. To stop this hypothesis becoming mainstream thought, they are fighting this connection tooth and nail.
And yet, the US based research pointed clearly at something most of us would have no problem accepting at an instinctive level. The authors wrote: "This study suggests that decreasing the dietary share of ultra-processed foods is a rational and effective way to improve the nutritional quality of US diets."
Does 'BigFood' really want what's best for us?
The 'About Us' website listings certainly make it sound as if they only want the best for us. Nestlé wants to contribute to 'a healthier future', Kraft Heinz aims for 'great taste and nutrition' while just this month, PepsiCo announced the "first eight nutrition, health and wellness brands joining its collaborative incubator programme in Europe". They all claim to be interested in our good health and in creating a better world... and yet I somehow doubt it.
Pretty much all of the packaged food, drink and fast-food they produce falls within the ultra-processed category. So these representatives of #bigfood are major contributors to arguably the biggest health problem currently facing civilisation - the huge rise in number of those suffering from non-communicable chronic diseases, such as type-2 diabetes, obesity and Alzheimer's.
That's what now provides our starting point for revisiting the successful type of approach used by that father of lateral thinking, Edward de Bono. Here goes:
Our revised starting point: Instead of repeatedly over-analyzing macro and/or micro ingredients and playing around with formulations and percentages, we should simply accept the UN recommendations that the whole category of Ultra Processed Produce (UPPs) is deeply problematic.
In the bigger scheme of things, reducing the sugar content of breakfast cereal by 10 per cent won't be of much help; nor will 20 or 30 per cent for that matter, particularly when it's often replaced by synthetic alternatives such as Aspartame. The biggest change to our eating habits over the last 50 years, as the world becomes progressively more Westernized, is that people rely more and more on processed, packaged goods. That is the real problem we face.
Because this is not clearly accepted or understood, it has not been sufficiently communicated that there is also a price to pay for such convenience; an environmental cost and a personal health cost for these 'faster', less perishable foods. In the US, UPPs already represent on average 60% of the annual calorific intake - for many individuals, it's a much higher percentage - and the rest of the world is quickly playing catch up(3).
The Idea = The Solution: I am sure managers at Food & Beverage companies do from time to time eat their own food or drink their own drinks. But what would happen if, in order to step up and become a senior manager, they needed to make one simple commitment: ...to sign up for food and drink exclusively sourced from their own product portfolio.
Why not? After all, company PR statements always emphasize the nutritious and positive qualities of their goods, often together with some expression of deep concern for humanity. We'd have to enforce it properly of course. If you were caught out, you'd have to leave your well-paid job:), but there again, what would be so wrong with that?
Perhaps as a result, one of these #BigFood CEO's would then feel obliged to state clearly that the major part of your diet should come from real food and home cooking - to be supplemented occasionally by their branded foods and drinks. In itself, that would represent just a small step, but one that would already be a very big deal; because nutritional guidelines such as the Eatwell Plate do not state anywhere that you should eat ultra-processed foods only occasionally. Yet the evidence indicates that you should.
It is my considered opinion (and supported by the UN documentation) that the most important nutrition message of all is totally missing from today's guidelines. Encouraging people to go low-fat or eat 5-a-day, even if it were a good message, is not the same as telling people that they are self-harming on too much ultra-processed food and drink.
You're thinking that this would be too limiting for these poor food execs, aren't you? Well consider this; As a senior manager at PepsiCo, you could start the day with Aunt Jemima pancake syrup on your Quaker Oats and a glass of Tropicana OJ, snack on Lays, Walkers or Cheetos during the day, drink Gatorade, 7UP or Pepsi if you're thirsty, then dip Doritos in your Sabra hummus before dining out at Pizza Hut or KFC with whom PepsiCo has lifetime contracts.
What could be so wrong with that? After all: at http://www.balanceus.org/en/, Pepsi together with Coke and Dr Pepper have "come together to support your family’s efforts to balance what you eat, drink and do". But balance might have to be interpreted and expressed rather differently when faced with eating exclusively from your own ultra-processed product portfolio. You'd be receiving a strong taste of your own medicine. What do you think?
Source for all three named companies: Website 'about us' information.
It does not help that the phrase ‘junk food’ is often used interchangeably with ‘fast food’. Maybe that’s why politicians make reference to junk food in their fiery speeches yet never in their policy decisions. Head-nodding junk food rhetoric can fire up the emotions, but there are a lot of votes at stake if you trouble the fast-food industry - a major employee category, particularly in urban areas.
In this opinion piece - Yes, a Big Read - I set out to clarify what junk food really is; why it is important that we officially define it, and why the resulting labeling should be made clearly visible on packages, in restaurants and at the point of sale. I am not trying to get junk food banned, just labeled appropriately. Then when people decide to eat that piece of cake, slice of pizza or snack-bar, they will know and better understand the role it plays in their overall diet - and what it's doing to their body.
Such labeling would bring our attention back to the importance of less processed foods, to real food ingredients, to home-cooking and provide a better platform for the re-introduction of basic cooking lessons into a school’s curriculum …until such a time as their parents re-discover what their parents don’t seem to have passed on; cooking skills and the importance of family meals.
A singular feature of NOVA is its identification of ultra-processed food and drink products. These are not modified foods, but formulations mostly of cheap industrial sources of dietary energy and nutrients plus additives, using a series of processes (hence 'ultra-processed'). All together, they are energy-dense, high in unhealthy types of fat, refined starches, free sugars and salt, and poor sources of protein, dietary fibre and micronutrients. Ultra-processed products are made to be hyper-palatable and attractive, with long shelf-life, and able to be consumed anywhere, any time. Their formulation, presentation and marketing often promote overconsumption.
The UN Decade of Nutrition at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28322183
I don't usually post book reviews as blog-posts but in this case, the review shows the real life impact of taking the low-carb, high-fat journey - including some ups and downs. To get medicine free and 'feel 30 again' at the age of 65 is surely worth the journey.
UPDATE: "As promised I am now delivering my follow up review. I must admit that after a summer vacation last year I lost my way a little and pushed my weight back up to 204 as of January 3 this year. I then resolved to truly take Sammy's advice seriously and also admit finally that my penchant for wine had to be curbed if I wanted to succeed. I made my new goal 170 pounds and am happy to say that I hit my goal on May 5, a loss of 34 pounds in four months. I did not plateau and, after the initial weight loss, lightened up at the rate of one and a half pounds per week. I have been delighted with the results across the board.
I am now totally free of all prescriptions. My cholesterol has been slightly elevated but my doctor (who is very supportive) had me take a lipoprotein A test. This cleared me from any concerns. Also at 210 pounds I was suffering from high blood pressure and taking daily lisinopril. As of March I ceased the blood pressure meds and I have had nothing but perfect readings since.
I have set a new goal of 160 for a total weight loss of 50 pounds. I just visited Europe and when I finally got my luggage (story for another day) I lifted my large suitcase, which weighed 50 pounds. I cannot believe that I have been carrying that suitcase around my waist for so many years. What an incredible relief.
I have just turned 65 and I believe I am in better health than when I was 30, thanks to the LCHF lifestyle."
Source Amazon.com; book review ‘Fat is our Friend’
Sadly, Pacific Islanders in general have become some of the fattest folks on Earth as well as leading in the race to become the most diabetic (Type-2) people on the planet. Most of them already dropped their native diets and adopted Western eating habits some 30 or 40 years ago, so a return to eating more of their traditional food is to be applauded.
Coca Cola on the other hand are continuing to follow the route pioneered in the world of ‘nutritionism’ and have set out to ‘improve’ one of nature’s gifts, fresh milk. They have lowered the fat content, increased the protein content by 50%, added 30% more calcium, decreased the amount of lactose while adding lactase so they can make it lactose-free and in so doing, have also doubled the price.
Oh – and this tinkering with Mother Nature has also helped extend the Fairlife milk product’s shelf life to 90 days!
It is ironic that because we now believe that the constituent parts, those micro and macro-nutrients found in what we eat, are more important than whether it is fresh or natural, we will probably buy this new 'improved' milk in droves. Many of us will be convinced that our children’s health will be all the better for it so it's no wonder that Fairlife's CEO Steve Jones said to Time magazine; "I hope it's Coke's next billion-dollar brand."
This is the true impact of 'nutritionism'; an approach which has led to a focus on criteria that make it easier for industrial concerns to develop packaged food that appears to be healthy, to the detriment of fresh and minimally processed foods.
One thing is for sure. It is unlikely that Coca Colas’s new range of Kid’s ‘healthier’ milk will be found any time soon in that remote part of the South Pacific.
For reference: the 10 most obese places in the world
London Gatwick arrivals Hall; not my favourite holiday destination but there I was, at 7:15 a.m., waiting patiently at the North Terminal to greet my cousin Frances who was arriving from Toronto Canada.
Yes the plane was delayed... but only by 25 minutes, so what with baggage clearance and the longer passport procedures which now seem inevitable when entering the UK, I had a little over one hour to wait.
It was still dark outside on this frosty morning and as I went in search of a warming morning beverage, my prime candidates were Costa Coffee with two locations on two levels and Jamie Oliver's Italian coffee venture upstairs in the Departure Hall.
So I decided to try Jamie's and my cappuccino was… how can I put it?…OK. Prepared as the Brits seem to like it with much too much milk (a latte by any other name…), the hot milky drink was frothed nicely with highly visible Yeo Valley organic milk, but sadly, served in its semi-skimmed variety.
I requested a regular milk option (or as my niece likes to say, a 'full-fat' version) but disappointingly, the helpful ‘barista’ advised me that soy milk was the only other option... but that's another story.
Plainly disappointing is that Jamie's Coffee shop pushes all the usual sweet and starchy cakes and snacks beloved by coffee franchise operations across the UK for their high profitability. Given Jamie Oliver's anti-sugar stance, I was initially surprised but there again, given his lack of acceptance of the role played by refined carbs in Insulin Resistance, I suppose the extensive choice of cakes, crisps, sandwiches and wraps on offer should not have surprised me. As mentioned before, Jamie is in need of better and more up-to-date advice on the role of refined carbs in the blood sugar/insulin cycle… but that’s yet another story.
Everyone sells refined carbs
Speaking of snacks, food-to-go can be found everywhere in the surrounding franchised operations whatever their primary reason for existance may be. The mis-named London News Company extends much more space to soft drinks and packaged carbs in all their forms than to newspapers and magazines and Boots the Chemist has a whole wall dedicated to soft drinks, sandwiches and sugary snacks. I wonder... Do they suspect that people buying their refined carb snacks at a pharmacy will consider them healthier?
Marks and Spencer feature a more up-market choice around their sandwich counter and as for Costa Coffee, they currently feature the most decadent array of sweet Christmassy cakes, buns and mince pies at the front of their store.
At least the pizza, pasta and burger joints are missing - they're all in the Departures Hall.
A low-carb goal for 2017
Should you want a genuine healthier alternative, it would be very, very hard to find any low-carb snacks or meals here, but the good news (for me) was that I didn’t face this dilemma. Did I come prepared? No, I was simply not hungry.
And the bad news? Well this is more of a big-picture comment. This airport experience was a further reminder of just how deeply ingrained our sugary, starchy eating and drinking habits have become, and how much environmental and cultural change will be needed to change things for the better.
The anecdote of how long it takes to slow down an ocean liner before she can gradually change course reminds me that in spite of our heightened awareness on the subject of reducing sugar levels (as demonstrated by Costa Coffee’s new addition to their website http://www.costa.co.uk/nutrition), we have not as yet even begun to put on the sea brakes, let alone genuinely change course.
So; thinking positively about the New Year, let’s make 'increased awareness', aka 'putting on the brakes' our low-carb goal for 2017; and then maybe in 2018, we can slowly begin to turn this very large, high-carb ship around.
A provocative title but... can you really make a disease disappear? Is Dr Rangan Chatterjee a magician?
No, he is not - as he explains at the start of this informative and moving presentation - but he believes he can tackle the root causes of many chronic diseases, from depression to Alzheimer's, and effectively make them go away.
Rangan Chatterjee wants to change the way we look at illness and how medicine is practiced for the future. His groundbreaking BBC TV show, Doctor In The House, gained him much acclaim from patients, his contemporaries and the media, and in this Tedx talk, he gets personal.
"Our genes load the gun, but it's our environment that pulls the trigger", he says.
"Type 2 is a blood sugar problem... but it's not. It's only a symptom, so we need to treat the root cause."
In this compelling talk, Dr Chatterjee shows that what Americans would call a holistic approach can reverse the path of many chronic diseases. I once questioned him on the use of this word holistic, which in the UK sounds a bit out-there. He prefers to speak of a 360 degree approach to health but there's no simple expression for what he advocates other than by comparison to what it is not.
Perhaps a holistic approach is better described as being "curative" (problem oriented) or "etiological", rather than "palliative" which is symptom oriented.
Did I hear you saying: "Whatever?" OK - here's my analogy: In the world of business, we sometimes borrow the medical term when we seek out a cure for our problems; put differently, we try to get ahead of the curve by looking for a 'curative' solution.
So let's support Dr Chatterjee's sensible and cost-effective curative approach by spreading the word and showing this video to many others.
"Our genes load the gun, but it's our environment that pulls the trigger"
Last month, I went to a relatively poor part of Southern Sicily, staying in a hillside town located near the stunning temples that dominate the hills South of Agrigento. These well preserved Greek temples provide a stark contrast to the concrete apartment blocks which now surround modern day Agrigento – once the important city state of Akrigas.
The small, medieval town of Naro, perched on a dominating hilltop easily accommodates its 7,000 inhabitants, down from a population four times that size 50 years ago. As an agricultural centre, work is at a premium and many younger people have drifted off to the cities or to work abroad. An influx of workers from Eastern Europe, mostly Rumanian, helps meet seasonal demand from the grape, olive and citrus fruit growers while the surprisingly lively cattle sector (doesn’t fit my Med Diet stereotype!) needs few employees.
The Castello di Chiaramonte at the town’s summit, reveals a vista of fertile land marked by rich, dark soil and crops extending in all directions. The only blight on the magnificent distant views of Mount Etna comes from elevated poly-tunnels, used to prolong the sales season for their slow-ripening grapes.
Here surely, in these agriculturally rich hills with distant sea views, I would find many elements of the famous Mediterranean diet.
Where to eat out in Naro?
With the exception of one local ‘traditional’ restaurant and the two Agriturismo on the road North-East to Canicatti, the only places to eat out are now all branded as ‘Pizzeria’. I counted 8 in total and while there’s also a McDonalds and a KFC on the coastal road, that’s a discussion I’ll leave for now.
In these Pizzerias, you can observe the younger diners eating mostly pizza or pasta dishes. Families though enjoy mixed antipasti of olives, cheese, salami, ham and octopus, but I watched in amazement as their younger kids were given French Fries and deep-fried arancini (tasty deep-fried rice balls)… followed by pizza.
I must admit… the pizzas taste great, being made from local durum wheat, cooked to perfection in wood-burning ovens and providing simple fast food.
There is one small restaurant up the hill, famous for its offal and specializing in traditional dishes, but on the occasion I ate there, the average age was decidedly elevated! The meal was excellent though.
Being also lucky enough to be invited to one home-cooked meal, I dined on sliced meats, tomatoes and cheeses, a delicious sardine and spaghetti pasta dish followed by roast veal in a tasty gravy. No vegetables were served but they assured me that seasonal veg are served with the antipasti from time to time.
… Or you can eat in.
In Naro, there are three small ‘supermarkets’ each possessing tiny entrances yet providing Aladdin’s Cave like space on the inside; Dr.Who’s Tardis provides a fitting analogy. Apart from the weekly Thursday morning market, these provide the main opportunities to purchase dry goods, liquids and freshly sliced ham, salami and cheeses.
Much of what you will find there is similar to any general goods store across Europe. Nestle seem to be the main supplier and low-fat options are the norm when it comes to milk, yogurt and pre-packaged desserts. I had to drive into Agrigento to buy regular milk and yogurt. It’s all too easy to imagine how after pigging out on pizza and pasta, younger purchasers then select a low-fat option to snack on… but I digress.
Two or three bakers and butchers complete the shopping selection with open air market stands providing fresh local vegetables and fruits. One day when preparing a ragu sauce, I purchased meat from the butcher before he minced it as a matter of course. His fresh sausages were also wonderful on the BBQ.
Access to fish is limited, but the market provides a weekly opportunity to buy fresh shellfish and octopus; I also bought the fresh sardines on display. Tuna is available in May and June (when the fish migrate past the Southern coastline) but apparently, it’s a short season and most quality fish gets sold on the export market.
The bread is good, predominantly made like pasta from Sicilian durum wheat. On the occasions when I ate it, my digestion did not suffer – a testament to the quality of the ingredients and the naturally leavened approach used locally.
Where did this leave me?
In Sicily, I observed a growing generational divide between a modified Western style approach to eating and older traditional values. This is impacted by our Western Dietary Guidelines which certainly influence the availability and choice of processed and packaged food, but as lifestyles change, 'eating' is speeding up.
The younger people I spoke to are still proud of their culinary heritage, they just don’t choose to eat that way most days, except at family get-togethers. Funnily enough, they eat more and more like the tourists whose diet of high-carb pizzas and pasta provides an affordable way to feed families on holiday.
If we just managed to get rid of our current high-carb, low-fat guidelines, we would at least remind them why their diet used to be so good.
An open letter
Dear Mr Average:
I know you don’t exist. The ‘average’ British citizen is only the sum total of what all Brits do divided by the total population. And yet I suspect that there are enough of you out there who fit the bell curve statistic, which indicates that 30-50% only vary in small ways from that average. So please forgive my impertinence and allow this small interruption in your eating life.
You see: The conventional dietary/nutrition establishment would have you believe that you eat too much, particularly those nasty animal fats, and that you probably don’t exercise enough. That’s why over the years, if you are indeed an ‘average’ Brit, you have steadily been putting on the pounds; and as you'll know, increased weight is associated with various chronic diseases, notably certain cancers, Alzheimer’s and type-2 diabetes.
To counter this, you may well have been prescribed fitness programmes and were probably also told to drink fat-free milk, eat less red meat but more chicken, use more vegetable oils and above all, avoid bacon and salt. This message started about 40 years ago and was officially formalized in the first UK food guidelines that were issued over 20 years ago.
Now, the British public is not usually seen as being a pushover, a nation peopled by those who unquestionably do just what they are told. But in this case, the funny thing is – well it’s not at all funny really; that is exactly what you’ve done. As obedient citizens, you have followed the dietary guidelines and as an unintended consequence, you are getting fatter and ‘iller’, if that word exists. Some bad joke!
The real and surprising facts are:
1/ You eat less food in total than you did 40 years ago – not more.
2/ You eat much less of that bad beef, lamb and pork.
3/ You eat much, much more ‘healthy’ white meat (chicken).
4/ You have cut right back on butter and cheese.
5/ You eat much less bacon and ham.
6/ You have almost stopped drinking regular milk because it’s full of saturated fat which clogs your arteries …and, and, and.
7/ You’ve even cut back on salt
Yet incidences of diabetes and cancers continue to be on the rise, as is dementia which an increasing number of doctors refer to as type-3 diabetes. And, incidentally, the mortality statistics for heart disease and strokes have barely changed in recent years.
“But aren’t we all just living longer so that disease is inevitably catching up with us?” I hear you say. Well, no. The highest prevalence of diabetes is with overweight 15-54 year olds, not among the oldest in our society. Something is making us ‘iller’, younger.
Less meat, less dairy, less fat but more chronic disease?
Since 1974, beef sales per person per week have almost halved to around 100 grams, and that’s down from 250 grams in post-war Britain (1950). Lamb and mutton sales are down by over two-thirds and as for milk, you’ve fundamentally changed your habits because of that fear of fat imposed by the so-called nutrition experts. The same change which has led you to believe that drinking semi-skimmed milk is quite normal, is also reflected in lower butter and cheese sales and your decision to switch from cooking with animal fats to using vegetable and seed oils.
So called ‘healthy’ white meat in the form of chicken has exploded onto the scene with intensively (mostly) produced birds providing your main source of meat at 300 grams per week in all its many forms from Sunday roasts to chicken nuggets. Compare that to 1950 when you (or your parents or grandparents) used to eat around 19 grams of chicken per week.
The real problem is staring you in the face
Highly processed foods in the form of ready meals and snacks have completely changed how you eat and together with take-away food, they now represent around half of what you eat. Along with the huge increase in vegetable seed oils such as sunflower, corn and soy, they represent what has changed most in your diet and… to be frank, it’s not doing you any good.
The decline in family meals certainly plays a role as does your desire to eat regular snacks which is now seen as normal. Long gone are the times when at about 3 pm in the afternoon, the office tea-lady would wheel round a cuppa and a piece of home-made fruit cake for that once daily snacking opportunity!
More recently of course, sugar has begun to get a bad rap and in larger doses, it certainly is not good for you. But only when sugar is combined with all those artificial sweeteners, stabilizers, emulsifiers and flavour-enhancers before being made into ready-made meals, soft drinks and snacks do you run into real problems. Grandma’s home-made jams, cakes and crumbles may have used some sugar but first, they represented occasional treats, and second, they brought out the best of nature’s natural bounty.
Where can I get sensible, fact-based advice?
There is help at hand. The Public Health Collaboration has been established by a group of doctors and well-informed nutritionists with their feet firmly placed on the ground, and their sensible advice on how to eat and what to eat is available at www.phcuk.org. They also provide links to where you can get the best advice if you are either over-weight or suffering from the early stages of type-2 diabetes.
Although those well-meaning folks who designed the original food guidelines and current Eatwell Plates meant no harm, they did not fully check their facts or examine the research back to its origins. The PHCUK members have come to understand that you are not getting ‘iller’ because you don’t follow the guidelines. It is much more likely that you are less healthy precisely because you have been following the guidelines.
Next annual update due soon: Dec 2016
Dr David Ludwig seems to be the only one at Harvard who supports and actively encourages low-carb, high fat diets.
Those of us who have either personally experienced the benefits of a low-carb, high-fat lifestyle, or have seen its amazing effect on others continue to be baffled by the stream of ‘conventional wisdom’ which emanates from the Department of Nutrition at Harvard University.
One voice providing a notable exception to that is Dr David Ludwig, an eminent Professor within that same department. He clearly leans in the higher fat, lower carb direction and yet in its PR releases, the Harvard news-team still tries to project an image of harmony and agreement which collectively supports establishment thinking.
Although he is featured in the lead photo discussing a ‘common ground in nutrition’ on the Harvard website, he notably did not form part of the group which gave ‘strong, collective support’ to the Recommendations of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Committee. In fact, not only was he absent from the Scientific Consensus Committee co-chaired by his ‘boss’, Walter Willett and Yale University’s David Katz, but he also was not one of the 9 additional signatories.
Dr Ludwig believes that traditional advice such as “Eat less, move more” is doomed to failure and in a recent interview with Experience Life magazine, he expressed his opinions about low-carb diets which over time, seem to be hardening in their conviction.
Beginning with a definition, he says that to be truly classified as a low-carb diet, you need to get to around the 20% level, in terms of total calorific input or just below. This is in stark contrast with the current US (and UK) average of between 55 - 60%. Simply counting calories and cutting back on protein, carbohydrate and fat at the same time makes no sense to him. In fact, it’s epitomized by the yo-yo dieting so many people experience with Weight-Watcher style approaches, as a battle develops between your mind and your metabolism.
He suggests that your starting point should be to consider the hormonal and metabolic effects of food. When you take that approach, you don’t count calories and go about things differently.
Insulin is in many ways the master hormone and given the direct impact of carbohydrates on insulin levels, Dr Ludwig believes that is the best place to start lowering food intake. And because fats and protein stimulate the ‘satiety’ hormone ghrelin, that means you don’t go hungry. Interestingly, he refers to type-2 diabetes which is being increasingly seen as a disease of carbohydrate intolerance, as the ultimate metabolic breakdown!
In the latest issue of Time Magazine, Dr Ludwig is even more direct:
“Like a cattle rancher, insulin herds sugar and the other calories from your meal into storage, which usually means your fat cells. This not only promotes weight gain, but it also tricks your body into believing you need more energy to satisfy your body’s needs, which in turn causes your hunger to rebound rapidly. If you also happen to be on a low-fat diet high in processed foods, all of this is intensified” Ludwig says.
At this stage, I will note that research also supports the widely held opinion that semi-starvation diets (also known as calorie-controlled diets) lead in most cases to that famous yo-yo effect. Infamously, most participants in the US Reality TV series, The Biggest Loser, found that their metabolism worked more slowly after their intense dieting. As a result, they had to continue their lives while eating less (effectively having a permanent feeling of hunger) or put on weight… which they invariable did. It is very sad to note that a number of successful contestants even weigh more now than when they started on their ultra-aggressive, calorie controlled diets.
But back to Dr Ludwig; as many readers will know, the ultra-efficient weight loss approach if you are low-carbing is known as going ‘ketogenic’ where you get as close to zero carbs as possible and your body uses body fat as its prime source of energy. It works for many, but Dr Ludwig states that dropping to 20% carbs will also bring many health and weight-loss benefits. He reminds us that an important principle of modern biology is that going 50% of the way usually brings 90% of the benefits.
Dropping to 20% carb intake or below invariably means cutting out all junk food since carbohydrates are their major ingredient. From personal experience, I can add that bread in all its forms was the most difficult ‘junk-food’ for me to avoid; for many others it is sugar, often hidden and named in ways which make it difficult to spot.
For those wanting to lose weight, I highly recommend the informative and inspirational website dietdoctor.com which cites many positive examples. Dr Ludwig’s book ‘Always Hungry?’ also provides a great introduction to this subject matter and the Experience Life video interview is well worth watching.
As for Harvard and Walter Willett, he is still adamantly against red meat although in recent years, he has moved on from being the leading spokesperson for the olive oil industry to embracing the possible benefits of regular milk as opposed to the tasteless low or no-fat versions. That being said, he’s hedging his bets and in the New Scientist earlier this year, is quoted as saying: “The picture of dairy foods and health is complicated and deserves further study”, which I guess nicely sums up much of what we genuinely know about nutrition today.
The Oldways Common Ground Consensus: http://oldwayspt.org/programs/oldways-common-ground/oldways-common-ground-consensus
Dr Ludwig’s interview with Experience Life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFHtNe0jEg4
"FAT IS OUR FRIEND" ADVOCATES A DIET RICH IN VEGETABLES, LOW IN STARCH & SUGAR, MODEST IN PROTEIN & HIGH IN FAT.
Sammy Pepys is not a doctor or a nutritionist but over the years, he has become increasingly suspicious of today's conventional wisdom about diet and health. When it comes to what we eat, he has helped many learn to eat more healthily