Monday, 26 May 2014

Yes, I eat FAT

When I started this blog I wrote that I am not going to go into the specifics of the LCHF diet as it is so well documented elsewhere. And indeed it is. But I feel the need to highlight the HF as I suspect that many people don’t get past the LC.

I eat lots of fat, particularly diary and nuts, but also that in meat. It is not making me ill, it is apears to be making me healthier and it is fuelling everything I do, including both high intensity excersise and marathons.

I have noticed that many commentators see the first two words ‘low carb’ and imply that this means high protein.  There are so many articles in the press these days about people who have become ill on low-carb diets; read them and you quickly discover that the subjects have simply lowered the carbs in their diet (and they are now starving) or that they have also dramatically increased the protein in their diet which can be bad in several ways and still does not provide sufficient energy for active people. This is not what LCHF is advocating, not by a long shot.

I think that as a society we have a deep-rooted fear of the word FAT. We have been conditioned to imagine it clogging up our arteries and killing us. Only 5 years ago the Food Standards Agency showed us this short film do demonstrate the dangers of fat:  Not only was this film ludicrously incorrect (the fat in the fridge was liquid but in the pipe it was solid!) but it stated that fat builds up in your arteries and kills you. It does not. This is so far from the truth that it beggars belief. 

We have this lovely idea that carbs fuel us and fat makes us fat. When our parents were young their parents knew different, and they were healthier back then.  And it seems the more an ethnic group retains the lifestyle of our ancestors (Masai, Eskimos, remote Mongolians), the less the prevalence of heart disease. Their diets may be lacking in some areas but they are not short of energy and they are not dying of heart disease like we are.

We have come so far off the evolutionary rails in such a short space of time!

Friday, 23 May 2014

Dietary Advice and the Big-Food Wolf

The Big-Food Wolf is lurking in the corridors of Westminster disguised as government advisors but paid by food and drug companies. The wolf owns the lobbyists, paid solely to prevent our government from passing laws or making recommendations that might lower the dividends for the shareholders of their companies but might actually make our nation more healthy. 

The World Wide Wolf is spending 500 times as much on marketing its products as the World Health Organisation has to spend on dietary advice. The wolf is all around us; sponsoring the England Football Team, sponsoring and controlling ‘Our’ Olympics and educating our children to associate rubbish food with sporting success. 
I'd like to put it to the current and shadow chancellors and health secretaries that if they are brave enough to stand up to the big-food wolf and listen to the truth about the effects of sugar and carbohydrates upon diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome, then they could save tens of billions from future NHS spending and spend it on creating more jobs and better schools instead.

There is growing evidence to suggest that this level of saving truly could be made.
Dr Aseem Malhorta who is on the board of the Action On Sugar Group certainly thinks so. He points out that "Added sugar has no nutritional value whatsoever and causes no feeling of satiety”. So we should all ask ourselves why it is there in such great quantities in our food when it has proven links with causing diabetes and other diseases (

Action on Sugar aims to work with the food companies to lower sugar levels. They hope that a gradual lowering of the levels of added sugar would not actually be noticed by consumers and would cause a significant lowering of illness.

The typical response of the food companies is that obesity is not their fault as there are so many other factors involved. Coke is not the enemy if used as part of a “Healthy Balanced Diet”.  They also quote the nasty-ubiquitous line: ‘Anything is OK in moderation”. Would that also be true for cocaine I wonder?

The food companies also say that they are already helping to educate us about food choices. Perhaps someone should devise a test on the subject and see what percentage of the population passes it. 

At the same time, each food company thinks it’s alright to suggest that there is room on our ‘healthy’ plate for their unhealthy food. Just how big is that plate? His critics like to portray Dr Malhorta as a bit a “quack”, which is a shame as he brings evidence to the debate where the food industry just brings childish excuses.

Despite getting fatter and less healthy the British public doesn’t like being told what to eat, do we?

I for one have found that since I have been on a LCHF diet I no longer need much sugar at all to get a taste of sweetness in food should I want that. My favorite dish of Greek yogurt and full cream with crushed nuts and preserved ginger tastes sweet to me, and yet it only has about half a teaspoon of sugar in it. Compare that to the 7 teaspoons in a can of Coca-Cola or the 6 teaspoons in a serving of Jordan’s Granola (this is a normal 100g serving mind you, not the paltry 45g recommended on the box that is clearly not big enough for normal people). 

Sugar is addictive and like most drugs we can reduce our dependency on it if we try hard enough. So perhaps Action On Sugar are taking the most pragmatic approach possible.

A Calorie is NOT a Calorie

According to NHS Choices website ( the key to a “healthy balanced diet” is

  • ·       Eating the right amount of food for how active you are
  • ·       Eating a range of foods – this is what balanced means

The first line of their advice contains a major assumption - "calories in = calories out".

The second line of advice is of no practical use at all. What range of foods? What balance?

After just a simple level of research into 'calories in=calories out'  you will learn that it is not how many calories you eat but WHAT YOU EAT that impacts on the body’s response to storing energy as fat. But still our conditioned response to fat people who say “I really do not eat that much” is to say we do not believe them.

The human body is a complicated machine, and our genetic make-up ensures that we all have many differences, and so the suggestion that if we all ate the same food and moved the same amount then we would all weigh the same is simplistic nonsense. But most of us, myself included I admit, have peddled that nonsense for years.

Tim Noakes ( ) has suggested that we all have different levels of Carbohydrate Intolerance, and that our propensity to put on weight is related to our level of intolerance. Now this sounds simple enough to me, just in the same way that some of us are more or less tolerant of say wheat, lactose or alcohol.

So, repeat after me; “Not All Calories Are The Same!”

So what is a Healthy Balanced Diet? (or rather What Isn’t?)

Here is the NHS healthy eating plate:

As you can see there appears to be room on this plate (at the bottom) for a can of coke or a mars bar (albeit a rather small one).  The precence of this purple segment gives all sugary food manufacturers license to say that their product can be used as part of a “healthy balanced diet”. The flood gates are open!

Our school canteens (and the food outlets in our teaching hospitals!) are half-full of fizzy sugary drinks and fruit drinks. Look! It’s there at the bottom of the healthy eating plate, so surely this means that it is OK to have a sugary drink with every meal? Along with the fruit from the green segment of the place. And yet there as absolutely no need for it. There is more than enough energy being delivered by that huge yellow slice of carbohydrates. "But we're following the government guidelines", say the canteens.

While we are on that topic, there is nothing BUT energy being delivered by those carbohydrates, they have absolutely no nutritional value; that scares me and is the main reason I have chosen to try living on a LCHF diet. Why eat lots of something that does you no good?

So, sugary and fruity drinks are nutritionally redundant. Why not recommend drinking water instead? Why include these drinks on that plate at all? Unless perhaps the food industry lobbyists had some hand in designing the contents of the plate? This would not surprise me at all as most of the members of the government’s health advisory panels are either on the boards of or have received lots of funding from companies in the food and drugs industries. Many of them are professors, but can we rely on them to be impartial? Money talks. And it writes reports.

It took the moral colossus of our times Jeremy Paxman to get the chairman of Coca-Cola Europe to admit that perhaps the 44 teaspoons of sugar in a large sized Cinema cup of Coke might be too much. (See 2 mins 20 seconds into this

Now lots of folks would argue that they never drink fizzy drinks anyway, so what’s the problem? We should all be allowed to make our own choices. Well, we are constantly being advised to eat foods that are low in fat, and you don’t have to look very hard to see that most low-fat foods have a tasty hidden ingredient to compensate for the loss of fat; sugar.

Look on the label of most processed foods and you will see one or more of the following in the list of ingredients.

So one way or another most of us end up consuming too much sugar.

In the WH Smiths in Edinburgh Airport half of the shop was dedicated to sweet snacks. The only item that I could find that did not have some sugar in it was water. Even the healthy-looking sandwiches had a teaspoon of sugar in them. Why?

Here is the specific NHS advice on sugary drinks: 

"Instead of sugary, fizzy drinks and juice drinks, go for water or unsweetened fruit juice (remember to dilute these for children, to further reduce the sugar)"

If we are not fond of water then we should be drinking fruit juice (fructose). At least they suggest watering it down, but does anyone ever do that?

So, we should drink fructose, should we?  If our livers have already had their fill of the carbs on that healthy plate and topped up our glycogen supplies then that fructose can do nothing but turn straight into fat and stay that way.  What is that fruity drink on our ‘healthy’ plate for exactly? Vitamin C perhaps? Nope; there is more than enough of it and all the other nutrients we need in the vegetables and meat that ought to be on that plate. There is simply no need for it to be there. Sorry, that’s not fair; it tastes nice. But so does Coca-Cola.

I think that this conflicts hugely with the picture that most of us have in our minds of a healthy meal, with a nice glass of orange juice to wash it down.

Another quote from my superstar of the month Aseem Malhotra comes from this fascinating article  The compelling sentence in this article is this: “Regulation to protect consumers and children is clearly needed.”

The food industry say they would like to work with ministers and the NHS to provide even better education about food choices, and it seems clear that there is a general reaction against ‘The Nanny State’ telling us what to eat and what not to eat; but I suspect that this ‘education’ will not change a thing. For example, acording to the dietary advice on a tasty looking pot of breakfast yogurt in WH Smiths advertised with no added sugar, it has just 2 teaspoons of sugars (fruit based) in each portion. Read the smaller print and you see that the suggested potion size is riduculously small, just over one third of the pot. Clearly the pot is aimed at a single perrson (there is only one spoon); I could easily eat two of them. When we are making choices about take-away food we look at the item, not some portion of it. So we will be eating 6 teaspoons of sugar for breakfast, not 2. This is not education, it is obfuscation.

History tells us that legal intervention is the only way to get results.

In Helena, Montana a ban on smoking in public places was followed by a significant decrease in coronary heart disease. The ban was overturned after 6 months and the rates of CHD rose back to their previous levels. (

Consider the recent change in the law on smoking. Up until a few years ago the tobacco industry dragged their heels to stop change. As recently as 1994 the CEOs of every major tobacco company in the USA testified to Congress under oath that they were convinced that smoking did not have an effect on heart disease. They lied in order to protect their shareholders. And so will the CEOs of Tate and Lyle and Kellogg’s if they have to.  

Since the ban on smoking in public was intruduced in the UK there has been a significant reduction in Asthma and premature births (

The key here is that interventions can quickly show significant effects. I think that it is likely that only a change in the law on food labeling will have a significant effect on our health. Or preferrably a fundamental review of the advice being given to the British public about healthy eating.

So, who is afraid of the big-food wolf? Are the lambs in the fields of Westminster just waiting to be flattered, paid-off and slaughtered when the time comes?

Many people think that over the last 20 years politicians in this country have emulsified into a center-ground of quivering, fatty, homogeneous sludge. But what they do get excited about is our votes. If we demand a change in dietary advice, and they can see that their chances of re-election depend upon it then perhaps they will be prepared to stand up to the wolf in sweet clothing and demand a change. So we need to raise the profile of the issue; and that, in a small way, is what I have hoped to do today.

If you want to learn more about the bitter truth about sugar, then this is the best place to start.

Credits: Some of the information in this article was presented by Dr Asseem Malhotra in his lecture at the College of Medicine on May 1st 2014.

Monday, 19 May 2014

I do like a good fight!

Dr Aseem Malhotra has opened the third round of the Defence of Statins World Title with a heavy blow to the stomach of his tottering opponent Sir Rory Collins. Sir Rory has compared Dr Malhotra's warnings against the expansion of the use of statins to include healthy people with the scaremongering surrounding MMR. Malhotra may have lost round two on an technicality but from the ringside we can see that he is a tougher cookie than the good knight bargained for. His punches come laden with facts.

The Independent gives their view of the contest so far here:

It's a bit like David fighting Goliath. David is a real-world player; he knows the dangers of the biased statistics used to back up the drugs industry's claims; he sees first-hand the side-effects (and the lack of positive effects) that statins have on healthy people. Goliath looks bewildered; should he publish his results and open them up to the scrutiny of people more clever than himself? He looks lost in the spotlight of his own fame and self-belief. When he falls there is going to be an almighty crash.