Monday, 11 August 2014

Not all saturated fats are the same!

Major new research from Cambridge University and the Medical Research Council suggests that some saturated fats are associated with type 2 diabetes, while others are not.

The research shows that odd-chained fatty acids contained in dairy in particular are associated with (but do not necessarily promote) better health, whereas foods with even-chained fatty acids such as red meat, alcohol, soft drinks, margarine and potatoes, are associated with a greater likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes.  

More research is needed to determine if this association is a by-product of some other process or a direct link to development of diabetes, but the this represents a big step forward in our understanding of diet and diabetes.

Clearly the policy of regarding all saturated fats as bad, and replacing them with something that is worse (carbohydrates) is starting to unravel, and it is no surprise to learn that some of these natural foods are actually likely to be good for us. 

I think that this research shows that we have to be prepared to learn more about the food that we eat rather than adopt the sweeping generalisations promoted by the food and drugs industries.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Statins - I do love it when the right side wins

Congratulations to the British Medical Journal for coming to the only sensible conclusion in the statins war with Professor Rory Collins.

As you may recall from my previous posts i-do-like-good-fight & i-do-love-good-battle, the drugs companies, headed by the venerable Professor Collins tried to get the BMJ to retract a couple of marvelous papers (by Dr John Abramson and Dr AseemMalhotra) describing how little net benefit there is from taking statins, and that the central basis for their use (lowering cholesterol) has no effect on cardiovascular disease for most people.  

Dr Collins' pride (and possibly his pension) was wounded by the presence of a minor error that both papers made relating to the risk of side effects. The drugs companies claim that these risks are very low - they generally pre-qualified the more likely victims out of truly random trials (it would be inhumane not to!) and so their research gives a lower value than that quoted in the 2 articles. In the real world doctors don't have the luxury of ignoring the more vulnerable members of society and they report that their patients are living with higher rates of side-effects. *

In the business of criticising drug companies you are only allowed to publish data that results from clinical trials - real world experience does’t seem to count for much, and the drug companies go to great lengths to ignore it.

Anyway, the demand that a well-written article ought to be withdrawn because of a minor error is patronising in the extreme. Dr Collins' central argument appeared to be that he was more important than anyone else so we should all just do what he says. However the editor of the BMJ and the investigating panel are not to be bullied in this way; concluding that "The error did not compromise the principal arguments being made in either of the papers".

It is probably true to say that The Origin Of Species contains some minor errors of this nature, but where would we be without it? 

And indeed where would we be without authors like Dr Malhotra who are brave enough to stand toe to toe with the drugs companies and put their fists up?

* Please note that this suggestion is my own and not claimed in either of the BMJ articles. MR.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Change4life or Change4fat?

The Change4life campaign has always got my goat. At first it was the way that they embraced partnerships from companies like Nestle who gaily abused the crusade for their own sugary profits ( Now it’s  their unquestioning support of the war on fat that winds me up.

I don’t mind so much that their whole message is pro-“healthy-balanced-diet”, after all there is not that much wrong with the diet that they recommend if that is indeed what you end up eating – the trouble is for a growing  percentage of people it is clearly not; and the patronising & blinkered NHS advice is not helping to change anything as far as I can see.

This is the mouthpiece of the NHS, the voice we rely on to TELL US THE TRUTH about our health.

People make such a song and dance about whole milk. But milk is not a high fat product, and whole milk is more nutritious than semi, the Daily Mail are good on health issues:

The low-fat message has become so pervasive. It is hard to get a coffee these days with full-fat milk in, despite the fact many of us think that it tastes so much better - Starbucks don't sell whole milk..  In a world where personal choice is everything we must clearly all have received the wisdom that fat is bad!

Anyway, what really gets my goat is the simplistic nonsense that change4life are peddling about fat being the root of all evil.  Here is some typical content from with some red appendages from me.

Where does the fat we eat go?
Ever wondered where the fat in foods goes? Here's more about what it does in our bodies....

Get ready to learn something…..

1. Brain
When arteries get clogged up this can stop blood getting to the right parts of our brain and can cause strokes.

This statement is true but it does not mention the word fat, so what is it doing here on a web page about fat?  Dietary fat does not ‘clog up’ arteries. This is misleading. No marks. Please try harder!

2. Heart
Arteries carry blood around our bodies. Over time, too much saturated fat can clog up our arteries and restrict the blood supply to our heart which can cause chest pain (angina) and if completely blocked heart attacks.

No it can’t.  Firstly, you would probably die long before your arteries were completely blocked. Heart attacks and stroke happen when arterial plaques break off and block up somewhere important like the heart or brain.  Secondly saturated fat is no worse than any other fat in this context (
Atherosclerosis (the blocking of arteries) is caused by inflammation, and the role of fats (or rather cholesterol) in the inflammation process has recently been discovered to be improved by a high fat diet (  Sorry NHS, this 'clogging-up' message is out of date and wrong. No marks! 

3. Pancreas
Eating too much fat can make us put on weight. Being overweight or obese can stop our pancreas from producing enough insulin and cause type 2 diabetes.

Poor quality again. Eating too much of anything can make us put on weight. Eating fat does not make us put on more weight when compared to eating a similar amount of carbohydrate. Yes there are slightly more calories in a gram of fat but in practice eating fat normally helps us lose weight as we feel full sooner and end up eating less than we tend to on a carbohydrate-based diet.  The second sentence is correct but not correctly implied by the first, so 3 out of 10 for trying!

4. Bowel
Being overweight increases our risk of getting bowel cancer - but a diet high in fibre and low in saturated fat keeps our bowel healthy and reduces the risk.

This may be true, but the jury is currently out on this one. It is quite possible that the problem here lies with processed meat, rather than saturated fat per se. A 2011 meta analysis showed no link between dietary fat intake and bowel cancer ( Besides, who said that you should stop eating all fibre?  There is plenty in the veg that you should be eating anyway; just don’t feel that you have to go as far as All Bran (or even cardboard) to get your daily fix. No more that 5 marks out of 10; please try harder.

5. Body
If we eat too much fat we store the fat in our bodies which can lead us to put on weight.

Don't be silly; exactly the same is true of carbohydrates! I might as well say that if we ate too many donuts we would store the excess glucose as fat in our bodies which can lead us to put on weight! We all know this but the statement is simply not relevant unless you put it in some context which change4life have not done.
0 out of 10.

Total marks 8 out of 50. 10%, D-.  Not good enough!

So, a whole lot of spurious advice and misinformation. And this is what the NHS believes we should all know about fat.

Now when you consider that change4life is a top programme in implementing Government policy. then I would say we have a big fat problem on our hands.

Now let me show you where the fat that I eat goes. And let’s be clear about this, I eat a lot of fat, but then I burn more energy than most with my running and cycling.

Now this diagram is slightly complicated but if you see my smiley red face it is there because the fat that I eat is being oxidized for energy. If I was also eating more than a small amount of carbs it might be stored as triglycerides in fat cells, but I am not, so it is not (or not much of it).

Like many LCHF dieters my triglicerides (the amount of actual fat being transported about my body looking for a nice home) are very low. So I can control my weight by eating more or less fat, depending on how much energy I am using.

On the left-hand side of the diagram (crossed out as I don't eat very much of them) is what we should be learning about carbohydrates. If we don’t burn them now we will store them as fat - we really can’t store very much as glycogen. This is the obesity epidemic at work.  And protein? Eat more than you can quickly turn into new things (like muscles) and the excess will be stored as fat. 

Unsurprisingly we see than anything we don't use we store as fat. But there is nothing special here about dkietary fat, is there? So why do we make out that fat is the devil's food? 

Read the article and you will also see how saturated fat is not making my cholesterol levels dangerous; in fact it is making them safer. My post at explains this key point in detail.

So given the choice of carbs that can do nothing but help you move or make you fat, or fats that are highly nutritious and can make you more healthy, I have chosen fats.

Come on NHS, it's time to change4fat!