Over the weekend I was delighted to read an editorial piece in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by Frank B Hu focusing on the publication of the significant study by Jakobsen et al comparing the association between the intake of saturated fats and carbohydrates. This is the largest epidemiological study ever done looking at the replacement of saturated fats with good and bad carbohydrates and is also notable for its long duration.
To converts like myself the outcome of the study brings no surprises and shows that you actually increase your risk of heart disease etc when you replace saturated fats with carbohydrates.
What Frank Hu very kindly points out, in his editorial summary, is that the low fat carbohydrate based diet (approximately 70% carbs) which is traditional in Asian populations has the potential to cause havoc in a western population. The Asian communities are generally very active and lean in the first place. Therefore the high carb low fat diet is fine. Mix this diet with a passive overweight community and you create an obesity diabetes crises and the reason for this is insulin and insulin resistance.
So the simplistic idea that we should look at thin people around the world and copy their diet is based on a lack of sophisticated thinking and quality biochemistry knowledge.
Let us all hope ( especially those that are obese or diabetic) that this small editorial piece is the first of many shouting from the roof tops that the problem in our diet today is not the fat or the protein but the starch and sugar!
The latest research out of the US suggests that dieting cant work because of the hormone cortisol which is released in stressful situations and causes the body to max out on glucose conversion. This is really not that surprising as stress is linked to our fight / flight survival mode which means that when we are in a stressful situation our body is designed to either make a run for it or fight both of which require energy and both of which will stimulate other hormonal responses. The other hormonal responses are a release of adrenalin and insulin. So when you are stressed your body will turn as much food into glucose as quickly as possible so that it is ready for the fight or flight. If you then sit down as we do and tap away on a keyboard the excess glucose, created by the release of cortisol, will then stimulate a release of insulin which will in turn ensure that you create fat. And so it goes on.
Anyone that has read my blogs before will know that I am definitely in the camp that sees insulin as a critical stimulant of our obesity epidemic and that for many people in the UK eating less and doing more simply won’t work.
Accepting that cortisol has a role to play in weight management is a step in the right direction because it shows that the body is far more complex than the silly notion that a body responds simply to calorific intake. The human body has evolved over thousands of years into a very complex unique machine.
In reality cortisol doesn’t stop all diets working but it will stop low calorie diets working because they do not deal with hormonal response. A really smart researcher should have thought about that before they completed the research.
An article published in the Sunday Times this weekend touched upon the latest big idea out of our beloved government through the Food Standards Agency. Their big idea is to follow the NY idea of asking food outlets to provide calorie guidance on retail / restaurant food.
The big question to ask oneself is this? Does calorie counting work? Clearly the authors of the article published last week thought otherwise . Are they right? Could the government be wrong?
Whilst the basic idea of eating less and doing more seems totally logical the logic does not account for two very real sciences – physics and bio chemistry. The world looks flat but isn’t.
Unless you drop your calorific intake to starvation levels (Very Low Calorie Diets) there is simply no evidence to show that calorie reduction, as recommended by government, will work. In fact the published peer reviewed science in this subject shows quite the contrary. When I wrote Big Fat Lies I had hoped to engage the government in a discussion on this topic to discover what piece of research I had missed that showed calorie counting as effective in weight loss. Unfortunately the only response I got from the Food Standards Authority was an attack on my status as a lawyer. It is unbelievable that the government continue to peddle this nonsense when there is more than enough evidence to show that it doesn’t work. Here is a short list of reasons why calorie counting is total rubbish:-
• Reduce calories and you reduce your metabolic rate
• Measuring food by reference to calories doesn’t tell you about the quality of the food
• The key is to burn fat and not muscle – calorie counting is more likely to reduce muscle rather than fat
• The rules of thermodynamics show that higher calories can mean more fat burn if you eat the right type of food
• Linking food to numbers is a very bad way to show people how to value food.
• Calorie counting will create a dependency on mass manufactured food.
These are just a few of a long list of reasons why calorie counting is a complete waste of time and perhaps explains why we are all fatter now than we were in the 70s before calorie counting started.
We need to start a campaign which actually works across experts who are united in one message which is stop the calorie counting and start looking at real nutrition.
A big thank you to Dr John Briffa who has responded to a ridiculous blog on the Food Standards Agency web site by Dr Wadge.
Dr Wadge decided to attack Big Fat Lies on the basis of my involvement in golower and the fact I am a lawyer. He does not even begin to challenge the real basis of Big Fat Lies which is science.
Turning to the issue over conflict of interest I suspect that the general public would find it far more worrying that Unilever sit on all the scientific committees. That is a true conflict of interest. Yes I started golower but this is not advertised or promoted in the book which is focusing on science and not product.
The whole problem with the current guidelines on “healthy eating” is that they are not based on robust evidence and experts in evidence are lawyers and not doctors or scientists. The reason I wrote Big Fat Lies is because the evidence supporting a low calorie low fat diet to manage obesity is poor and would not stand up to interrogation in court. It is also true that many of the statements made on the Food Standards Agency website are misleading and fundamentally wrong. If an expert makes misleading or wrong statements which are relied upon then they are breaching a duty of care which exists in law. That is why a lawyer is just the right person to attack the government agency which is actually fuelling the obesity crises by publishing misleading and wrong information.
The shame of Dr Wadge is that he did not confront the science in Big Fat Lies and for that reason it shows that either he doesn’t understand the science or doesn’t know it and in either case he is just another so called expert talking total and utter nonsense with complete disregard for the damage he is doing to the general public who are getting fatter and fatter sicker and sicker..