Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Emperor has no Clothes

''What right has the federal government to propose that the American people conduct a vast nutritional experiment, with themselves as subjects, on the strength of so very little evidence that it will do them any good?''

That was the question posed to Congress by Dr. Phil Handler, back in 1980 when he was the president of the National Academy of Sciences.

Just what "experiment" was he talking about?

The low-fat diet.

At the time, the United States had a fairly constant 13-14% of the population classified obese. Today, some 25-years later, we are living with the reality that two out of every three Americans are overweight and one of the two is obese. We've experienced a rise in obesity from a steady, predictable 13-14% to what now stands at one-third, 33%, of our population obese.

That alarming statistic isn't declining either. In fact, our children are now experiencing obesity rates that rival the adults along with the detrimental health effects too - heart disease, type II diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc.

Yet, the consensus opinion holds that the low-fat dietary recommendation is the ideal and we must remain steadfast with our recommendations. To question the low-fat diet is outright heresy. The belief that the low-fat diet is optimal is so strong that anyone who even voices concern runs the risk of public ridicule or worse, has their personal integrity and intellectual honesty questioned.

Take as an example, today's article in The Age, Peers turn up heat on CSIRO diet. The article reports an editorial published in Nature that questions the integrity and intellectual honesty of two researchers - Dr. Manny Noakes and Dr. Peter Clifton - from CSIRO Human Nutrition (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia).

What exactly have they done to earn the scorn of their colleagues?

They wrote the book CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet - a high protein dietary approach based on their research findings. The book arose out of eight years of CSIRO research into lowering the risk of heart disease, during which it encountered the absence of scientific facts on the truth behind weight loss.

This wasn't a book borne out of a six month study, or even a one or two or three year study - it was eight years of scientific research! Eight years of data that supports the authors' recommendation that a higher protein diet is effective and safe.

Yet, the critics contend that "The hype goes beyond what the research proves," said Jim Mann, from the University of Otago.

Where exactly is the proof that a low-fat diet is healthy?

I've said it before and I'll say it again - to date there is NOT ONE long-term, randomly controlled study ever done to investigate the effects of a low-fat diet on human health over a long period of time. Even after repeated attempts to prove a low-fat diet is supported by scientific evidence, the government abandon trying to document such since there is not enough evidence to even cobble together a half decent paper to make that claim!

In fact, there exists MORE data telling us about the effects of various carbohydrate restricted diets - low-carb, controlled-carb, low glycemic index, high protein, etc. - than a low-fat diet at this point in time. Even the beloved DASH Diet, promoted by the NIDDK (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health) was found more effective when carbohydrate was reduced and protein was increased!

The low-fat doctrine was questioned 25-years ago by one of the nation's leading health experts at the time. He warned reducing fat in the diet was a grand population-wide experiment without solid scientific evidence to embark on with - he was ignored. Today we're living the results of that experiment - as a nation we're fatter than ever before and our health is worse.

If this does not anger you, I don't know what will. You've been had - the emperor has no clothes!

You should be outraged!

The dietary recommendations we've listened to for the last 25-years, I contend, are directly contributing to our growing obesity and declines in health. It's time to stand up and say ENOUGH - show me the long-term data that proves a low-fat diet is healthier than a diet that has fewer carbohydrates, show me the data that shows a controlled-carb diet is unhealthy!

They can't. They won't. But they will continue to dazzle you with dogma and claim the evidence supports their recommendations. They'll continue to repeat the low-fat mantra to try to convince you without any evidence! Don't be fooled by it.

Take the time in 2006 to educate yourself about how your metabolism works, what foods are nutrient-dense and how controlled-carb diets work. Don't just take my word for it - it is your future - use 2006 to take back your life and your health!

Then watch throughout 2006 as the diet debates heat up, as more and more researchers are targeted as heretics with their integrity and honesty questioned. It is going to happen and it will be nasty as the evidence continues to mount that a low-fat diet is not optimal for population-wide recommendations. Those who are bringing forth such evidence are exposing the naked emperor for his lack of clothes and risking embarassment to those who insist he is clothed.

This isn't the first time that science has undergone such radical shifts - in fact, it's part of the scientific process of inquiry and learning. You just don't have to wait for it to happen - the evidence is there that controlled-carb dietary approaches work and offer an alternative. If you're not convinced, wait and see!

1 comment:

  1. I think you're confusing two different issues and two different diets here: the low fat diet and the low carb diet. They are totally separate and need to be analysed with independent studies.

    I also think you'll find, if you look into the criticism of the CSIRO book, that the issue is not the higher protein diet the book is advocating, but the conflict of interest behind the book - the book is advocating extremely high intakes of red meat and dairy foods, and the small study behind the book was sponsored by the Australian Meat & Livestock & Dairy industries.

    The nutritionist in question (Rosemary Stanton) is quoted as saying, "If they (CSIRO) are pushing a high protein diet, why don't they push chickpeas? They didn't try chickpeas because there wasn't a chickpea sponsor." (source: The Herald Sun, 08 Jan 06).

    Such a conflict of interest would call into doubt the results of any study. Furthermore, although the authors of the book have been studying high protein diets for years, the study on which the book is based followed only 100 women for 12 weeks (source:
    The nutritionist and medico you mention are concerned because this book has outsold every diet and nutrition title ever published in Australia, although I do not agree with their request to the Prime Minister.

    On a personal note regarding low carb and low fat diets, I am finding that a combination of the two is working brilliantly. I have changed my diet (over the last four months), reducing the total amount of both fat *and* processed carbohydrates, with the result that I am currently losing just under a kilogram per week, and have been doing so steadily since September. My BMI has dropped from 30.2 to 25.7, and is showing no signs of slowing, and I look and feel much better for the change thus far.

    Ultimately, the human body is a system, and what we eat in one part of our diet affects what we eat in another part of our diet. I've found that what is working for me is the standard advice that everyone knows we ought to follow: lower fat intake, lower processed carbs, eat more fruits and veggies, drink more water, and do moderate exercise.

    I look forward to reaching my desired BMI of 20, and have no doubts that I will easily maintain my new weight when I get there. As my diet has changed, I have found that my taste for fatty, greasy, processed foods has well and truly disappeared - I now have no desire for them. I also now drink nothing except water, sometimes with a squirt of lemon juice.

    So it seems that common sense makes sense after all!