Jaminet

There are a number of popular memes I come across on the Internet connected with what we do (or don’t) eat, and how we can lighten up, lose weight, conquer obesity, get healthy, and all the rest. Some make sense to me; others seem like arrant nonsense. Some are arrant nonsense, from people who should know better—for instance, qualified medical people who apparently can’t differentiate between ketosis (good) and keto-acidosis (very bad).

If it wasn’t that I’m working to fit into my new self-image of a kindly and reasonable ordained minister (and to keep the friends I have) I would be tempted to explode and “flame”. But I just passed my 65th birthday so am exchanging that youthful but intemperate passion for the “wisdom” of increasing years.

My number one bête noir is “Diets Don’t Work”. The other is “But can you live that way for the rest of your life?” Let’s take them one at a time.

Do Diets Work?

[simpleazon-image align="right" asin="1582702187" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/514y%2BP4rk4L._SL160_.jpg" width="100"]Of course they do! I regard this as a non-question but I keep hearing people say “Diets Don’t Work” and to me this seems an empty statement.  I addressed it some time ago in a blog post, referring to Jon Gabriel and I thought I had done with the matter.  But I recently had a sweet lady, a vicar’s wife from a rural parish in the heart of England, an intelligent, erudite, educated lady, a lady with seven grand-children, actually SHOUTED at me that DIETS DON’T WORK.

So, before I lose my English gentlemanliness and my ordained-minister composure, and the aforementioned wisdom that came to me as I recently passed the grand-old age of 65, let me take a breath, put my teeth in straight, connect with higher things, and start to take this empty assertion apart.

I suspect that we will have no differences of opinion about the words “do not” so let’s start with the word “diet”.  The word is derived, according to Merriam-Webster:

Middle English diete, from Anglo-French, from Latin diaeta, from Greek diaita, literally, manner of living, from diaitasthai: to lead one’s life

First Known Use: 13th century

Interestingly, I had it in my mind that it came from the Latin “dies” referring to something daily and that it meant “that (food) which we consume on a daily basis”. Either way, we’re in the same ball park. Most modern-day dieticians and nutritionists would have a slightly wider definition.  They would take “diet” to mean the food or nutrition that we consume on a regular basis.  Well, already I hope we can see that the sentence “the nutrition that we consume on a regular basis doesn’t work” needs some further discussion.  I will put on one side, for now, the difference between food and nutrition and come back to it later.

We still have “work” to look at, and now we have introduced “we”.  Let’s start with “work”. What would we mean if we were to assert that a diet did, or did not, work.

I am going to be bold and say that for me any particular diet (that is any particular set of foods eaten on a regular basis) could be said to work if it led me to be fit and healthy, to be disease-free and allowed me to live a long and happy life. If at the same time that set of foods were highly palatable, and relatively easy to obtain without having an overly adverse effect on others or the environment, I would say that that diet could be said to work. On that basis I think that there is some doubt as to whether the nutritional plans followed by many “civilised westerners” are working, at least as well as we might like.

Others might have a different definition of whether a diet is working.

The objective of the systems built by our DNA and driven by our hormones and our psyches over millions of years might be to make sure that we have the necessary energy reserves to survive the hard times that come from time to time and to have enough energy to successfully pass on our genes. In that case I guess for many of us our diets are working… or would be, if only those hard times would come along a little more frequently in the “first world”.

Here’s an interesting aside. If you talk to anyone who was an adult civilian, living in Britain during the Second World War, they would tell you that with all that food rationing, times were hard. But apparently, apart from being bombed, the UK population has never been so healthy1. That diet worked. It worked for those that defined it: their purpose was to keep the population alive and healthy given the restrictions imposed by wartime. Many who were obliged to follow it might have said it didn’t work: it wasn’t that palatable, often left them hungry, was boring, and was hard work.

If you were a character in a murder novel hoping to bump off the fifth earl so that you could inherit, and you were doing it by feeding him dinners laced with arsenic then I’d imagine you’d be hoping for a different outcome from most people’s idea of a successful diet.  If someone had stolen your arsenic and replaced it with self-raising flour then it would be fair to say that that particular diet wasn’t working (for you: I would guess that the fifth earl would be content).

So, I’m quite happy to concede that some diets don’t work, for some people, for some of the time… it all depends on the people involved, the set of foods in question and the desired outcome.

During the 1960s there was an apparent surge in deaths from cardio-vascular disease in American men. This was an odd anomaly caused by two artifacts.  One was that previously there had been a life-expectancy of adult males of around 49 years due to a high-incidence of infectious diseases. Then we invented antibiotics; life expectancy rose and people died of different things: degenerative diseases as opposed to infectious diseases.  The other artifact was even sillier.  There is in the medical world almost a fashion as to what is written on the death certificate. At one time a doctor might have written “natural causes” where now they might write “heart failure”.  Both Susan’s mother and my mother have “heart failure” as the cause of death on their death certificates. Neither woman had a history of heart problems. Neither woman had an autopsy.  Susan’s mom wasn’t even attended by a physician when she died.  Basically the statistics say that these women died because their hearts stopped beating.  Well, yes, but those statistics don’t tell us anything useful. They told us even less back in the 1960s.

But back then nobody noticed this and one scientist who had a bee in his bonnet about dietary fat managed to get his hypothesis to hold sway, and over the last 50-60 years we have been persuaded to leave fat out of the set of things we consume on a regular basis. This makes that set of food stuffs less nutritious and less palatable.  The palatability issue was addressed when food manufacturers noticed a (for them) heaven-sent opportunity. America has a huge amount of land ideally suited to growing corn: sweet corn. From sweet corn you can easily derive high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and, provided you have a sweet tooth (and a sweet tooth is fairly easy to develop in a population, by gradually increasing the quantities of HFCS in the foods you manufacture, and judicious use of TV advertising) HFCS makes all that bland, fat-free food taste good (well, better!)

Then governments around the world got more and more worried about the failing health of their populations and the increasing cost of health care and they advocated nutritional regimes (dare we call these “diets”?) that made matters worse. They put increasing store on avoiding dietary fat, got the message about cholesterol back to front and upside down, and recommended the very things that were making us sick: cereal grains, sugars, and fructose.

These nutritional regimes resulted in an overwhelming rise in obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and, ironically, cardio-vascular disease; the very thing that they were trying to address in the first place. They were also responsible for a surge in Alzheimer’s Syndrome in the elderly (and, increasingly, not so elderly) to the point that some people are now calling Alzheimer’s Type III diabetes.

So, all right, the diets suggested by most modern, western health authorities don’t work that well. We all know they don’t work—that well. I am writing this sitting in an Internet cafe right opposite the checkout line in a supermarket in Florida. I am not medically qualified. I am not a qualified nutritionist or health adviser. But I don’t need to be to see that the majority of people going through these checkouts are not peak physical human specimens. And I’m not being arrogant saying this: neither am I! My purpose here is not to preach from the pulpit, despite my newly-arrived white collar (I’m not wearing it because the shirt doesn’t fit—yet!). My purpose is to raise the banner and see if we can’t educate ourselves and take our nutrition and health back into our own hands. And to do that we are going to need food, but food that fits into a different nutritional regime than the one(s) that brought us here.

We are going to need diets that do work.

When I read “Diets Don’t Work” I suspect that what is being referred to are those hastily thrown together dietary plans that are published in women’s (and men’s) magazines, with increased magazine circulation more in mind than increased health for the readers. But is it true that universally these diets don’t work? I don’t think so. I suspect that all of these diets have worked, according to some set of criteria or another, for some people, for some of the time.

[simpleazon-image align="right" asin="B00AWQWYVK" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/516RY%2BHkMDL._SL160_.jpg" width="100"]Before I move on to the second “nutritional meme” I just need to spend a moment with a thread I just saw on a lifestyle forum where someone had posted a question about ketogenic diets and someone else (let’s call him “John”) had posted a response:

@john: I find that these diets don’t work because people don’t stick to them.

Well, there is a sentence that could keep people from a host of different disciplines occupied for many a happy hour. But I will just stick with reflecting about the use of “I” as in “I find…” and “people”. Later on this book we will begin to look at how we can support each other and how we can build a supportive environment. One small aspect of that is “owning”. So, with our Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) hat on, we might ask @john if he can own that for himself.

“Who are these people, John”, we might ask, “who can’t stick to the diet?” We might wonder what motivated him to write that.

Now let me get on to the second “nutritional meme” that’s irritating me.

Can you live this way for the rest of your life?

No. So?

This challenge is thrown out as a criticism against various nutritional regimes.  ”This isn’t a regime”, says the pundit, “that you can follow for the rest of your life, ergo, it’s of no value at all”.  I don’t agree.

Let’s imagine that, cycling home from Winn Dixie (which is where I am right now, drinking their free coffee and using their free Wi-Fi) I get knocked off my bike, break my leg, and wind up in the Emergency Room at the local hospital. The doctors take an x-ray of my leg, proclaim that I have a fracture and propose to re-position the bones and then plaster my leg and issue me with crutches and some analgesics and instructions to take it easy while the bones knit together.

“Oh no, doctor”, I cry, “I can’t possibly live that way for the rest of my life!”

The doctor looks at me and wonders whether he shouldn’t call for the on-duty psych consultant.

“Of course not”, he says patiently. “You have broken your leg: the plaster cast will hold it in position while the bones heal themselves, helping them to heal cleanly, and when that happens we will remove the plaster cast”.

Whew! I am relieved. I thought I would be in a plaster cast for the rest of my life, and didn’t want to live that way.

So, for the next few weeks while the bones heal, I consider what I could have done, that fateful day, to have avoided being knocked off my bike. Remembering that I was in the USA and not the UK and cycling on the correct side of the road might have helped. Stopping before making a blind left turn might have helped. Indicating my intentions with hand signals might have helped.

A few weeks later I go back to the ER and have an X-ray: my leg is healing fine and they take off the plaster cast. The weeks of inactivity have left me feeling very weak. I have difficulty even walking.

“Doctor! I can’t live the rest of my life this way”.

The doctor sighs and patiently explains that I will have some sessions with the physiotherapist (“physical terrorist” as Mom used to say) and she (I hope it’s a she) will teach me some exercises that will re-condition my muscles to get me into a good shape for living the rest of my life. And I continue to reflect on my new, accident-free cycling style.

Does this seem like an extreme example to you? Well, I guess it all depends on why you want to lose weight, what else is going on with your body, how much weight you need to lose, and so on.

If you went a little wild over the holiday season and put on a few pounds so that now your favourite pants are a little more snug round the middle than you’d like, then a gentle adjustment to your lifestyle will do the trick. Probably losing 1-2 lbs a week is going to be fine: you’ll be back in shape before January is out and you’ll be on a regime that works for the rest of your life (except, perhaps, the winter holiday season!)

But that’s not the situation that I, and literally millions of people like me, am in. For whatever reason, parts of my system are as broken as my leg in the above example, and it’s fatuous for me to cry to the doctor that I can’t live like he proposes for the rest of my life.

If I don’t let the doctor reset my leg and put it in plaster my leg would get worse and worse and, quite likely, I would be crippled for the rest of my life. Maybe my life would have been shortened: gangrene setting in and so on. Could I live the rest of my life that way? Yes, obviously. But the rest of my life may be shortened and I certainly would be a less-than-happy bunny.

Well, it’s not my leg that’s broken; it’s a part of my endocrine system. The bits that are connected with the hormone insulin aren’t working properly. As a result I’m not just a few pounds over the top, I’m 65% too heavy. I have type II diabetes, high blood pressure and I can already feel the damage that high blood sugar is doing to my legs and feet. I could find a nutritional regime that I could follow for the rest of my life. It might, eventually, lead to my type II diabetes going away. If it followed the well-known “safe rate of weight loss” (1lb per week) it would take me the best part of three years to get down to my goal weight.

Whichever way you look at it, this isn’t a gentle lifestyle issue! I need to get healthy. I need a reset, I need to be “put in plaster” until my body re-builds itself, then I need a re-hab period (what we would call convalescence in the UK) until I have built up my strength around my newly healthy body. Then, and only then, I need a regime that will work for the rest of my life to stop this happening again.

Let’s go back to the broken leg scenario. Once my leg is healed, once the physio has signed me off, I might go walking to build up my strength. I might even start running from time to time. I might go and take some cycling road-safety lessons, and all of these constitute a new approach that is viable for the rest of my life. But none of it is appropriate while the fractured ends of the bones are still rubbing together. If I try walking, running, cycling before the bones have healed I will just set myself back and back and my leg may never heal.

So we are probably looking at a number of phases. Let’s look at the Emergency Medicine scenario. An accident happens. Those first on the scene, probably the paramedics, are initially concerned to make sure that things don’t get worse. Is the traffic being diverted? Are we safe from fire or electricity? Airways, breathing, circulation: the ABC of first aid. Staunch bleeding, stabilise the body with back board, neck brace. When the patient is stabilised we can take them to the hospital and the doctors can begin the therapeutic stage: having made sure that things aren’t going to get worse, we can look at how to help the patient begin to get better. The third stage is rehabilitation or convalescence: getting used to being healthy again. The fourth stage is to take advanced driving lessons.

The same is true with nutrition and nutritional ill health. If you are eating toxic food the intervention of first cause is to stop. Once you are reasonably stable we can look at therapeutic interventions: there are nutritional plans that have therapeutic effect: they can help the body heal itself from all sorts of conditions. Various forms of the ketogenic diet, for instance, have been showed to help epileptics keep free of seizures, clear cancer, and allow diabetics (even type one diabetics, to my amazement) heal themselves. And ketogenic diets, by their very nature, help obese people to burn that fat: ketogenic diets are fat-burning diets. It is possible (I know, I’ve done it) to lose weight at the rate of 1lb per day rather than 1lb per week. It’s not do-able through just reducing what you eat, and it certainly isn’t a regime anyone could (or would want to) follow for the rest of their lives. But I started that regime on a Thursday morning and, on urgent medical advice stopped my diabetes medication on Sunday morning and didn’t require it again. I was on a therapeutic diet, rather than a long-term, sustainable regime. There is a place for both.

The Jaminets (“[simpleazon-image align="right" asin="145169914X" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51AHwQW%2BtCL._SL160_.jpg" width="106"]”: I know I’ve mentioned them elsewhere) make an interesting point that helps differentiate between food and nutrition. Pretty much all mammals need the same (or very similar) nutrition. That’s the same whether you are a polar bear or an elephant, a lion or a cow, a human or a lowland gorilla.

But they all need very different food. A cow couldn’t become a carnivore (look what happened when feed manufacturers tried to make that happen: BSE!) A lion can’t become a vegetarian. Why? Because each of us has a different digestive system, designed to produce the nutrition that we need from the food that we (naturally) eat. A cow, for instance, has four chambers to its stomach and regurgitates its food so that it can re-digest it. Horses, who also eat grass, only have one stomach, but a very long digestive tract. There are foods that are natural to each type of animal: foods that its digestive system has evolved to process to provide optimum nutrition.

The problem is that most of us who live in western civilisation don’t eat what is natural. Most of us can, I suspect (I certainly can) reflect on what my parents and grandparents ate, and see how different it is from what we (I!) eat today. I couldn’t be in a better place to see this: I am sitting in an internet cafe in a major American supermarket and I am directly across from the checkouts. There are only 12 checkout lines and I can easily see at least a dozen medically obese people—and I can also see what they have in their shopping carts! Mostly packets of things my grandmother would never have seen. But this is only a perspective of 50-100 years. Human kind has been around for millions of years (probably around two million years) and has only been living an agricultural existence for around 10,000 years. That’s about 0.5% of the total. That’s not enough time to evolve to cope with the “new” agricultural diet. And it’s only been 50 years at most that we’ve had an industrial diet (manufactured food). That’s 0.0025% of the time we’ve been around. That really isn’t enough time to evolve to cope with our new diet.

So, do diets work? Well, the “Standard American Diet” certainly doesn’t seem to work as well as it could, or should. In which case, we need to replace it.

How can we decide how to change our diet?

Most of those “diets” suggested in magazines, the ones that my vicar’s wife and @john and Jon Gabriel say don’t work, are prescriptions for reducing the quantity of what we eat. Sometimes it’s the overall quantity of what we eat (calorie counting), sometimes it’s reducing some component of what we eat (such as a low-fat diet).

Do these work? Well, it’s a truism to say that for some people they don’t work. People try them and they don’t lose the weight. Sometimes that’s because the diet is not well designed, or it’s difficult to stick to (my guess is that’s the sort of diet john encountered). Sometimes it’s a matter of management of expectations. I sometimes comment on a blog about ketogenic diets and have come across people who want to switch to the ketogenic diet because they tried xxx diet for 5 days and nothing much has happened.

Very often these diet plans are based on a false assumption, or on a set of false assumptions. Often the objective is to lose weight; sometimes that is achieved. If you overdid it over the holiday season and normally you eat healthily then simply cutting down on what you eat for a short while will probably bring you to your objective. Actually, simply returning to your normal healthy diet will probably bring you to your objective, but cutting down a bit might achieve your goals more quickly. Very few nutritionists would put their name to a recommendation to do this (they would prefer that you just return to your normal healthy regime), but they won’t ring alarm bells and have you sectioned, either.

But, as someone I read recently (it was probably Paul Jaminet) said:

Eating less of a bad diet is simply a worse diet.

If you are currently eating foods that don’t support a healthy body and a healthy mind, just eating less of them won’t really help. And reading one diet book and sticking to its recommendations slavishly won’t help, either. You have to know your own body and take responsibility for its health.

You have to find the diet that does work, for you. And that might be just one nutritional plan that will work for the rest of your life, or it may be a set of diets, each designed to take you through a therapeutic process until you are well enough to move on to your lifetime plan.

The question is, how do you find that diet or diets? I will deal with that in a future post.

 

It’s been an age since I blogged.  Went through some tough and busy times this year, but am now back in Florida where it’s sunny and the sky is blue, and I decided to crack this obesity thing once and for all, even if I don’t (yet) have my Together We Can group.

So I started to “Lighten Up” the second we got back to Apopka and by the end of the first week I had lost 12lbs, but my body fat percentage had gone UP by over 10%. So whatever I was losing it wasn’t fat, and I was TIRED.  Went for a five-mile walk on the Thursday and tried to repeat it again on the Saturday and “ran into the brick wall” big time.  I couldn’t move.

And whenever I checked for ketones, there was barely a trace.

So a few days back I started Googling “ketogenic diets” and have come up with some very interesting stuff and have put myself on a ketogenic diet.  My weight loss seems to have plateaued, but the fat percentage is coming down, so presumably I am burning fat while I replace whatever it was that I lost last week.  One  of the best / simplest versions of the Ketogenic Diet I found on Mark Maunder’s blog (that’s him, looking all slim and fit over there on the right).  And it’s what inspired me, but with some changes, and those changes have been inspired by Elaine Cantin, who cured herself of aggressive breast cancer in two weeks flat, also using (her own) version of the ketogenic diet.  She has written a book describing how she used the ketogenic diet not only to cure her aggressive breast cancer, but also to cure her son’s type 1 (yes, really, type ONE) diabetes.  It’s an inspiring story.

Here’s how it works:  My friend, JP, has a car that is “dual fuel”. It runs on either LPG or petrol, and he can change between the two by the flip of a switch. LPG is cheaper, and greener, but isn’t that easily available, so he fills up on LPG when he can, but if he runs out of LPG he flips the switch and, hey presto, he’s running on petrol.

Well, the human body is the same. It is dual fuel. It can run on glucose, or it can run on “ketone bodies” – usually just called ketones. Glucose comes from carbohydrates and ketones come from fats. If you have glucose in your bloodstream then the body won’t bother to burn ketones. It is also fairly well known (well, it’s very well researched, but the news hasn’t got out to many doctors yet!) that the body runs more efficiently on ketones than it does on glucose (the brain is much sharper, for one), but it does take a little effort to get the body to switch.

[simpleazon-image align="right" asin="1477567593" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31Ntu24N%2BjL._SL160_.jpg" width="107"]But here’s the thing that I didn’t know until a couple of nights ago, and it’s the thing that made me buy Elaine’s book (I got the Kindle version so I could start reading straight away). Every single cell in the human body runs just fine on ketones … except cancer cells. Cancer cells can’t use ketones: they must have glucose. So, if you put yourself on a “ketogenic diet” and clear the glucose out of our system, then your body will appreciate it – but the cancer cells will starve to death. There are all sorts of reports on the internet, but it looks like it takes around two weeks for them to die: maybe longer if it’s a truly massive cancer.

Elaine had an aggressive form of breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy but refused chemo and radiation, and the lump came back. By the time she saw her oncologist the lump was 2cm big and the oncologist wanted to rush her to the surgeon. She had only just started her diet and wanted to give it a chance. Two weeks later the doctors could find no sign of any cancer and wondered if the oncologist had made a mistake!  And she’s not the only one to report this effect.  Check out this video from CBN News:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLClqy5CbTQ

Elaine introduced me to a simple method to know whether a food is going to work in a ketogenic diet.

Egg IngredientsCheck out this ingredient list for a fried egg.  It’s from a brilliant website called http://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition.  This is for a fried egg.  You will notice that there are 7.04 grams of fat in your egg and 6.27 grams of protein.  Add these together (we don’t need several places of decimals — let’s just call it 13).  Now compare that with the figure for carbohydrate: 0.4 grams.  If you divide both sides by 0.4 (you may need a calculator, but here it is roughly) you get a ratio of 26:1.  That makes an egg (especially a fried one) an excellent food for a ketogenic diet. We are looking for a ratio of from 3:1 to 5:1 or above.  I had been existing on almost exclusively different forms of cabbage: sauerkraut (ratio of 0:3.  Bad!), raw cabbage (0.28:1), onions (0.1:1).  No wonder I wasn’t getting into ketosis.  I was having very low levels of calories, but all my calories, few as they were and healthy as they were, were carbohydrates (I only just looked up red onions, and I was shocked!)

[simpleazon-image align="left" asin="145169914X" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51AHwQW%2BtCL._SL160_.jpg" width="106"][simpleazon-image align="left" asin="1477567593" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31Ntu24N%2BjL._SL160_.jpg" width="107"][simpleazon-image align="left" asin="193630323X" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41BWLjR7ryL._SL160_.jpg" width="134"][simpleazon-image align="left" asin="B008WTOVOC" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Sh96N1gCL._SL160_.jpg" width="100"][simpleazon-image align="left" asin="B009LNGZ74" locale="us" height="127" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41DlUcuFYnL._SL160_.jpg" width="160"]Now I am using this formula all the time.  For breakfast I had sugar free Canadian bacon (24.25 : 1 Great!!!) and scrambled eggs (14.4 : 1) with some grated Gruyere cheese (176.2 : 1 !!!).  Instead of having black coffee, I now have coffee with cream (coffee 0.5 : 1, not good, but heavy cream is 14 : 1 so that more than evens things out).  And notice that it doesn’t work with milk (1.12 : 1).  If you want to use non-dairy creamer, check the labels carefully.  Some work well, others are a disaster.

I was also inspired by two articles by Mr and Mrs JaminetKetogenic Diets, I: Ways to Make a Diet Ketogenic and Ketogenic Diets 2: Preventing Muscle and Bone Loss on Ketogenic Diets.  This inspired me to order their book, The Perfect Health Diet, but it won’t be here until after Xmas (make a Kindle version, please, Mr and Mrs Jaminet!)

It’s going to be fun applying the formula to turkey and Brussels sprouts over the next few days.  Unfortunately it looks like one of my Xmas favourites, roasted potatoes is going to be a no-no (0.35 : 1).  No amount of cheese is going to correct that imbalance!

See also:

Ketogenic What is a Ketogenic Diet, in a nutshell?
Ketogenic A Guide to Ketosis
Ketogenic What is the Ketogenic Diet Good For?
Ketogenic Tips for Starting and Restarting Ketosis
Ketogenic On Ketogenic Diets
Ketogenic How to Use the Keto Calculator
Ketogenic Ketone Testing
Ketogenic A one-page intro to Ketogenic Diets, to hand to medical sceptics
Ketogenic 203 Comments on Mark Maunder’s “Basic Ketogenic Diet”

It’s Susan’s and my eighth wedding anniversary tomorrow, and at the beginning of August it’s nine years since we met.  Happy and interesting years.  Within a very short time of meeting Susan I became aware of her fascination for nutrition and her insatiable appetite for every different nutritional theory, and I have long since got used to living in a house where both cupboard space and nutritional budget is taken up more by nutritional supplements than by nutrition.

I tried to take an interest for a while, but couldn’t get my head around the multiple apparently contradictory theories that were out there.  And it wasn’t that I didn’t need this information.  As the title of this blog will attest, obesity is my problem, and Susan’s is Chronic Fatigue, or M.E.  But I would read first this book, then that, and each would contradict the other, and I’d just throw them both in the bin and give up.

But then our very good friend, the lovely Kali Harmen introduced me to Gary Taubes and I was awakened to the world of nutritional bad science.  It totally opened my eyes, and since then I have been coming across examples everywhere, as well as a rapidly growing awareness happening across society.  And it falls out very simply at the moment, with the “low fat, high carb” people on one side, and the “low carb, high fat” people on the other.  It’s the low carb, high fat people who have the science behind them, and the low fat, high carb that has the politicians, big business, and even most of the public health and medical profession behind them, as Jaques Peretti‘s new BBC program “The men who made us fat” is explaining.

But things are changing.

I’m old enough to remember when people weren’t convinced that smoking was bad for you.  My GP, when I was first married in the very early 1970′s, used to carry around a tin (yes, a round tin) of 50 Player’s cigarettes in his pocket.  But gradually the science changed, and then the politics, and now we all know that smoking kills.  Not everyone (my Dad smoked all his adult life, and lived until he was 91), but the science is solid enough that we all know that anyone who smokes is endangering his or her health, badly.

And it’s the same with drink and driving.  When I was a teenager we thought it smart and fun to drive when very drunk.  We knew it wasn’t a good idea, but we did it anyway.  Now, my own (grown up) children won’t even have a glass of wine if they come round to dinner, and I’m amazed at how “grown up” they are.

Dr Ben Goldacre

Anyway; I digress.  I’m now delighted that, bit by bit, the nutritional quackery is being exposed, and the latest bit I came across concerns Dr Gillian McKeith, who I had always supposed was on the side of the angels.  Apparently, I’m wrong.  Apparently, for instance, she’s not a doctor.  I hadn’t given much thought to whether that “Dr” meant that she was a fully-qualified medical doctor, or whether it meant that she had a PhD in some relevant subject from an accredited university or college.  Apparently, neither.  Just a piece of paper from a correspondence course from a non-accredited American source.

If you have been a follower of “Dr” McKeith (she was recently taken to the Advertising Standards Authority for using the “Dr” title, and agreed to stop using it), you might like to read Dr Ben Goldacre‘s article in the Guardian about her.  It’s called “A Menace to Science” and is pretty hard-hitting.

I wanted to brighten up this post with a picture, and had thought of putting in a picture of “Dr” McK, but after reading a few articles about her, I discovered that she, or her staff, have been threatening people with law suits, so I chickened out, and decided that I’d put in a picture of Dr Ben (he really is a doctor: a medical doctor: studied at Oxford and UCL Medical School, and is currently an academic epidemiologist.  He’s also the son of Michael Goldacre, professor of public health at the University of Oxford.

So I guess he knows what he’s talking about.  Not that all epidemiologists do: there are a lot of them guilty of confusing correlation with causality, but I’m not aware of anyone catching Dr G at that yet.

I blog about this stuff because it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that we have to educate ourselves as best we can on this stuff, because we are being fed bad food and bad information by just about everyone around us, and it’s not clear who you can trust.  I’m not a scientist, by any stretch of the imagination, but I did have enough of a scientific education that I can recognise good science and bad science when it’s pointed out to me.

And I’m not an apologist for all scientists.  There’s a lot of science that doesn’t take into account other factors, and a lot of science that has led us down unhelpful paths over the years.  But suddenly, here in 2012, there is an upswell in good nutritional science, that may just change awareness in the same way that most of now will stop smoking if we can, and won’t drink and drive if we can help it.  Soon we will be cutting down on sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and other dietary carbohydrates, and eating more protein and dietary fat.  And we’ll be better able to judge for ourselves which advice to follow, and which not.

Denise Minger

[simpleazon-image align="left" asin="0307474259" locale="us" height="110" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Ni96jsZzL._SL110_.jpg" width="72"] [simpleazon-image align="left" asin="0865479186" locale="us" height="110" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51%2BnNG7qPoL._SL110_.jpg" width="74"] [simpleazon-image align="left" asin="0865478007" locale="us" height="110" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51JxCbEPXPL._SL110_.jpg" width="75"][simpleazon-image align="left" asin="0307450724" locale="us" height="110" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51YTfTtR%2B%2BL._SL110_.jpg" width="71"] So, get yourself educated.  Read Taubes, Goldacre, the Drs Eades, and especially Denise Minger (yes, I know it’s an unfortunate name, but Americans don’t use the same jargon as us Brits) then decide whether you want to get obese, type II diabetic, increase your risk of cardio-vascular disease and Alzheimer’s, or whether you’d rather have bacon and eggs for breakfast and a good rare steak for dinner!

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