We could hardly have got it more wrong. All these years you’ve been depriving yourself of butter on your bread when it’s the bread you should have been worrying about!
Twenty thirteen was the year when the volume of opinion in favour of low carbs for health (not just weight loss) was impossible to silence, and when the evidence started to stack up.
Twenty fourteen will bring more of the same. The case is building beyond reasonable doubt that Government recommended eating guidelines both in the US and UK advocate a level of carbohydrate – gluten grains and fructose in particular – that is fuelling the obesity and diabetes epidemics. The resulting raised insulin levels are creating biochemical shifts that are driving our bodies beyond their ability to maintain homeostasis, with the result that we are suffering from unprecedented levels of metabolic disease.
If my blog is sometimes quieter than it used to be, it’s chiefly because I struggle to convey the sheer enormity of the mistakes we’ve made. I have a renewed interest in watching my words to make sure I don’t make the situation any worse which is, in turn, exacerbated by an almost complete lack of reliable scientific data to read and report on. Unravelling the myths around carbs and fats, butter and margarine, sugar and sweeteners, cholesterol and heart disease, saturated fat and every disease known to man, is a tall order.
Last year, I told you that almost everything you ever learned about nutrition is wrong. I’m sticking to that theme. Although the origins of the scientific method date back over 600 years, the first randomised double-blind placebo controlled trial was carried out as recently as 1835. It didn’t really catch on as a methodology until about 120 years later. Yes, the body of science we rely on so heavily to make critical decisions about the health of the human race is only about 50 years old.
For most of the time this body of nutritional (and medical) research has been accumulating no one with both the qualifications and funding has intelligently questioned one of the most fundamental variables: diet. Any researcher worth his PhD should have the acuity to ask questions about the impact of key macronutrients on the cellular environment. If a drug acts on ‘pathway x’ after eating bread, will it continue to do so after eating butter, or will it act on ‘pathway y’. We know the former diet will invoke an insulin response and the latter not. We can guess that the result will change.
This alone is enough to show that much of our ‘evidence’ is flawed. Which means we can’t rely on anything we’ve been told about diet and health. To make matters worse, in the same time frame quantum theory has emerged, showing that the intention of the observer can radically change the results of an otherwise ‘identical’ experiment.
So the fundamental variables haven’t been properly accounted for and, anyway, the results change according to who’s doing the experiment and what they’re trying to prove.
But still we base our costly and critical health care decisions on these shaky ‘facts’.
For me that’s not only infuriating, it’s also daunting. What chance have independent natural health practitioners got in the face of institutionalised mistakes on this scale? It’s very hard to make our voices heard and, perhaps more frustrating, our views are often so contradictory that we risk sounding a little unhinged!
Of course you’re going to be more inclined to believe what your doctors tell you about your cholesterol levels than me. They’ve got a stethoscope and a white coat for goodness’ sake! But if your doctor is aged 30 or over you can be certain that the data they based their medical training on fall into the category discussed above. They were never invited to consider what might happen to human health if we created a radical biochemical shift through diet alone. Today’s medicine is so seductively high tech that it seems unthinkable that something as simple as the food we eat might hold the answer to the biggest challenges facing the health service. No matter that most of the measures doctors use to evaluate your health – cholesterol, weight, calories etc – don’t correlate with the outcomes they expect to see, or respond to the advice they give.
So you, me, the sick, the elderly, the nation, the whole Western world, can remain stuck in this time warp while the lumbering dinosaur that is medical opinion and public health policy has enough committee meetings, commissions enough research, and publishes enough findings for the doctors who are qualifying in the future to be certain enough to formulate new policies relating to the food we should be eating in order to reverse the epidemic levels of disease that surround us. Or we could risk taking a step into the unknown, using a bit of common sense (and centuries of observational data) that show (after allowing for infectious disease) we were a lot healthier before refined grains and sugars were introduced into the diet, and before saturated fat became public enemy number 1.
You can continue to believe that ‘there can’t be much wrong with our diet’ and carry on drinking fruit juice and watching The Great British Bake Off, or you can take the blinkers off and realise that 90% of what passes for food on our television screens and supermarket shelves is, in fact, a sort of addictive, processed, often sugary mush.
You can continue to be a guinea pig in the biggest and most flawed health experiment of all time, or join the revolution and watch your health, and your sense of wellbeing, and your ability to participate fully in your own life, transform.
As a way to turn on, tune in and burn out the modern diet scores a lot of points but as a route to vitality and longevity it leaves a lot to be desired.
If you want to join the revolution, here’s the plan:
Four Food Rules for Twenty Fourteen
1. Reduce your carb intake as far as possible.
In terms of human nutrition, there is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate. Focus on eliminating carbohydrate dense ‘foods’ in the following order:
- sugar in sweets, biscuits, cakes, drinks, processed foods in general
- added fructose in lots of ‘healthy’ cereal bars, soft drinks, fruit juice, smoothies
- other sweeteners such as maltose, dextrose, concentrated fruit extracts etc.
- gluten grains such as wheat, spelt, barley, rye (though for some people this is the most revolutionary health-transforming step).
- white potatoes
2. Increase fat intake as far as you dare and then some.
But absolutely not until you have made significant progress with Rule 1. Specifically increase your intake of nuts, seeds, olives and olive oil, avocado, organic butter, coconut oil, oily fish and organic/free range/grass fed meats. I hope it goes without saying that you can increase your fat intake by eating doughnuts and fish and chips but I don’t recommend it. Fat is generally a healthy food but the more processed and/or heated it is, the more care you need to take about consuming it in high quantities.
3. Eat high quality protein in moderate portion sizes.
One of the myths of the low carb diet is that you need to replace the missing carbs with protein. Not only is that expensive, it’s also unhealthy and unsustainable. Two playing card sized portions of protein daily is enough for most people. By choosing cheaper cuts of meat you can hit the targets for rules 2 and 3 at the same time. Eggs are an excellent and highly sustainable form of protein that suit most people.
4. Prepare and eat most of your meals at home.
My busy clients are often worried by my focus on eating real food based mainly around fats and proteins because you can’t buy it on the run (yet). I sympathise. But once you have got rules 1, 2 and 3 under control your appetite will change drastically. No longer driven by insulin highs and lows, your body will be able to manage energy intake gaps across long periods, exactly as nature intended. Hunger and cravings will be a thing of the past. You will be able to traverse a normal work day without 18 skinny lattés and a low fat muffin or two. I promise. Home-made food puts you back in charge of the quality and quantity of your meals. It also saves you shed loads of money that you can spend on new, smaller-sized clothes. If you’re stuck for ideas have a look at these.
It’s entirely possible that years of dieting, eating the wrong foods, serial pregnancies, stress and bouts of ill health have left your body nutrient depleted and unbalanced which will make the regaining of homeostatic equilibrium more difficult than it needs to be. If you’d like to fast track towards your healthy biochemical state with help to overcome cravings and hunger and the general ups and downs of dietary change, then please come and see me for some help. It takes all the hard work out of it!
Happy New You!