The diet wars between supporters of the status quo (low fat) and supporters of a lower carb, higher fat diet reached a new height last month. South African Professor Tim Noakes, a world renowned doctor and scientist was on trial for, wait for it, putting out a tweet that suggested giving children less carbohydrate was OK!
The two year trial is estimated by journalist Marika Sboros to have cost R10 million. A patient did not lay the complaint. A dietician made it. This is a similar pattern to the case of Gary Fettke in Tasmania.
On this occasion reason and science triumphed. Evidence from experts around the globe on the benefits of eating less carbs (including sugar) trounced the flimsy counter arguments of “this is dangerous” and “you can’t say that”.
However Prof Noakes will not get two years of his life back nor get any compensation for the punishment that is the process. This is a better outcome that Dr Fettke, who was banned from talking to patients about nutrition for suggesting they eat less carbs and sugar.
It is notable that the South African trial was held in full public view. There already appears to be some attempt at back tracking from those who brought the case.
The question arises- why is so much effort, energy and money devoted to trying to shut down one opinion on what is good to eat?
Maybe, just maybe the increasing amount of evidence that fats in the diet do not play a role in heart disease is a factor. Last month another write up in the BMJ concluded that saturated fats do not clog the arteries and that coronary heart disease is an inflammatory condition. In turn the authors concluded that it could be effectively managed by lifestyle interventions.
This included being on a low carb type diet, doing regular exercise and managing stress and not smoking. None of this guarantees that you can never get a heart attack but at least you can tile the odds in your favour.
It is also worth remembering that with no fanfare, the US government lifted its previous cap on the percentage of calories you can derive from fats in the diet. Contrast this with the massive amount of publicity given to the low fat diet.
Opinions vary on why the heated efforts to silence “dissent” from the ”fat is bad” mantra are made. These range from conspiracy to protecting dollars and reputations. You can form your own view.
The fact remains that the rise in type two diabetes and obesity has paralleled the adoption of a low fat diet. It makes sense when you consider how insulin works in the body. It is released in response to carbohydrate and it promotes fat storage whilst inhibiting fat burning. Thus most people who have gone on to a lower carb diet feel better and often lose weight.
This does not mean that everyone gets an equal response or that it is wrong to eat some grains or even a small amount of sugar. It does mean that, as has been stated by many, the advice to limit fats, including saturated fats, in the diet is wrong. As an aside, there was never any scientific basis for it. To quote another paper; “Dietary recommendations were introduced for 220 million US and 56 million citizens in then UK in 1983, in the absence of supporting evidence from randomised control trials”.
So all that the “true believers” can do now is to seek to silence those who speak the truth.
Using the power of the state to silence those you disagree with, is wrong. This attempt has failed but the diet wars are not over yet.
Dr Joe Kosterich MBBS is an author, speaker, media presenter and health industry consultant, who wants you to be healthy and get the most out of life. Dr Joe also gives practical, motivational health talks for the general public and organisations where he is known as “An independent doctor who talks about health”. His latest book “60 minutes to Better Health” is available on Amazon.