Some weeks it is hard to know where to start. So maybe a cartoon is a good start point. The Spectator Magazine is one of the last bastions of genuine humour. Through its pages of articles are small cartoons. On page nine of the October 28 edition is a comic of a man standing on scales. The caption underneath says “Why doesn’t the government do something about my weight?”
This encapsulates so much that is wrong with our approach the growing increase in obesity since the introduction of low fat dietary guidelines in the early 1980’s. We have the twin issues that the individual is somehow not responsible for what they place in their mouth coupled with false beliefs that the government a) can solve our own weight dilemmas and b) provides useful advice.
A cursory glance at the star system which replaced the tick shows us that any low-fat food regardless of sugar content will get a high star rating. We also know that it has been government advice provided by (often) conflicted public health operatives that has led us to the current situation.
As we know public health criticises the public for not following its guidelines. Yet food sales figures, show us the opposite with declining sales of full fat products and red, meat together with increased sales of low fat foods and grain-based products.
The notion that people by their own choices and actions are capable of improving their health is also undermined by “experts”. The Australian and New Zealand Obesity Society, declared in October that obesity was a “chronic relapsing disease process”.
In other words, there is nothing you can do about it. It is a “condition” you are stuck with. In turn, this drives the belief that people need medical treatment which in turn should be paid for and provided by government. Members of the Obesity Society could be paid to provide programs or treatment under this model.
Obesity is not a disease process. It is the bodies response to eating too many refined carbohydrates. The body releases insulin which converts the sugars into fat for storage. Eventually the body becomes resistant to insulin which is insulin resistance and this is the first step to type two diabetes (Type 1 diabetes is where insulin is not produced.) It is solved by changed eating patterns. It is only relapsing if people choose to revert to eating patterns, which led to the problem in the first place.
So what about the role of government. Just last week the assistant minister for health put out a press release encouraging Australians to eat more fibre and grain in particular.
According to the press release “Modelling conducted by Deloitte Access Economics estimates even a small national increase of just one serve of high fibre grain food per day, could potentially prevent an estimated 64,000 cases of cardiovascular disease and 126,000 cases of type 2 diabetes annually, saving $1.5 billion in associated healthcare costs and lost productivity every year.
The research indicates that fibre from grains has the greatest potential to reduce this risk, and that if all Australians added a small amount of extra grain fibre each day to their diet, we could see a major saving in the health care costs each year”
Sounds lovely. Guess who funded the “research”? It was a major breakfast cereal manufacturer. The “research” was conducted by an organisation, which has financial ties to a number of processed grains manufacturers.
There is another problem. The independent Cochrane Collaboration has found that “There is insufficient evidence from randomised controlled trials to date to recommend consumption of whole grain diets to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, or lower blood cholesterol, or blood pressure”.
It found that trials were of poor quality, small size and at high risk of bias.
A review funded by a processed grain manufacturer reaches a different conclusion to an independent review of multiple studies. Yet despite the evidence to support eating more grain being non-existent, the government puts out a release urging us to eat more fibre from grains.
How about fibre from vegetables? It got a brief mention in passing.
Meanwhile in General Practice software, there are 40 patient handouts on nutrition sponsored by another cereal manufacturer, which is owned by a church. Is this a good idea?
So, to get back to the question about why doesn’t the government do something about my weight? The answer appears to be that it will continue to make recommendations that if followed, will help keep you overweight.
As I have said many times, when it comes to your health, the power is in your hands. Make decisions based on what works for you not on what “experts” or public health or governments advise.
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.