Here is an interesting parallel. Over the last fifty years as the amount of “research “ into obesity and diabetes has rocketed, so too have rates of obesity and diabetes. According to figures published in the New York Times in 1960 fewer than 1100 articles were published on these topics. In 2013 it was over 44,000. Yet obesity rates have trebled and diabetes rates increased seven fold in the same time.
In fact if I were a researcher I could do a study showing that research into these problems is linked to their increase.
The aim of all this research is to get a better understanding on the sorts of foods that we should be eating for better health. Yet the more studies get done, the less we seem to understand about what we should be eating.
How can this be?
Gary Taubes put this mass of research into perspective thus; ”The 600,000 articles-along with several tens of thousands of diet books – are the noise generated by a dysfunctional research establishment”.
In my opinion it may be worse than this. The fat is bad mantra promoted by an assortment of health authorities for the last 40 years has made the problems of obesity and diabetes worse not better. Taubes notes that there was never any real “hard evidence” to base this recommendation on.
Yet it took off.
And spawned a “low fat” is good mentality. This led to increased production and consumption of low fat (read high sugar foods). Turns out foods high in refined and processed carbohydrates (sugars) are a FAR bigger problem than fats.
We were warned of this is the 1970’s by John Yudkin but he was pilloried by the health establishment for daring to be right.
The reality is that previous generations ate better before the intervention of science and health authorities. By this I mean they ate foods, which were better for their bodies. They ate real as against manufactured foods. And they didn’t obsess about milligrams of nutrients or food pyramids.
Last week I thought we had hit a new low. Australia was all set to get a “star rating system” for foods. This would be a pointless exercise for numerous reasons. The two key ones being, nobody actually knows what criteria to use to have a rating system and that it implies that manufactured foods are healthy. It would be as useless as the tick, which promotes foods, which are low fat regardless of their sugar content.
Fortunately this will (at least for now) not go ahead.
And then, three signs that maybe, just maybe we are at a turning point.
First was the unusual spectacle of a politician both telling the truth and at the same time encouraging individual responsibility. Queensland MP Ewen Jones said,” It is not the government that makes me fat, I make me fat”.
The logical corollary is that it is up to me to make changes not for the government to “do something”.
Second were food guidelines from Brazil, which are actually useful. They focus on what foods to eat rather than focusing on nutrients. At the end of the day people eat food not nutrients so advice to “prepare meals from staple and fresh foods” and “eat in company” is actually useful guidance. Guidance like “consume more fruits and vegetables and less soft drinks” is far more helpful than “consume less added sugars”.
And third was new labeling on foods from the US FDA. This will put total calorie count in bolder print. It will include a panel on added sugars whilst calories from fat will go (trans and total fats remain). Most critically portion size will reflect what people actually eat. A muffin will no longer be two servings and a pack of potato chips five servings.
Compared to the nonsense star system this new labeling is actually going to be useful.
Remember though that the foods, which you should eat mainly, are those without labels! But yes it is OK to eat some processed foods whether they are “healthy” or not because you enjoy them.
The signs are positive for the first time in a long time.
I have renewed hope that common sense is re-emerging and will ultimately triumph over meaningless “research” and the nanny statist’s with their wrong advice.
Hope springs eternal.