Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Michael Mosley misses the whole point on Cholesterol

Michael Mosley’s latest attempt at popular science airs on the BBC this week as part of the Trust Me I'm a Doctor series. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-33601171 This time he is investigating different diets for lowering cholesterol. The program looks serious and appears to employ a reasonable but limited experiment comparing three different diets using a randomly allocated sample group and then observing the effect of each on total cholesterol levels.

One of the diets was a low cholesterol diet, any yet we have known for a long time that dietary cholesterol has very little impact on blood cholesterol, in fact the US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recently removed it from their list of bad things to eat! A second group ate high fibre diet as fiber binds with cholesterol in the gut and stops it getting absorbed; this is even dafter as the premise is still based on the role of dietary cholesterol. The third group added nuts to their normal diet; this approach is known to lower cholesterol.

Mosley then trumps the lot with a "Portfolio" diet where he creams off the best bits of each diet, adds some other changes and lowers his cholesterol by more than the guinea pigs.

But here’s the thing. Total cholesterol is almost meaningless number when it comes to risk of heart disease!Why? Because it includes the "good" HLD cholesterol, and apparently the more of that we have the better. And because the role of LDL is misunderstood.

Mosley then quotes some out of date information on LDL cholesterol from the NHS Choices web site which still maintains that Total LDL is the enemy, despite consistent evidence showing that there is practically no relationship between total  LDL and heart disease. Heart surgeons have been pointing this out for decades but they have been silenced by the makers of statins.

Why, oh why couldn’t Mosley have done a bit more research and looked into the fact that LDL particle size is the real culprit? Smaller LDL particles are more dangerous and larger ones are safe, and hence their total mass is of no consequence. 

He could then have made the quantum leap back to his favorite subject of diets and announced to the world that high-carb diets promote small LDL particles and high-fat low-carb diets promote larger safer LDL particles.  

The funny thing is that diet is the answer, it's just that the question is wrong. Now if he had asked "Can you lower your triglycerides by changing your diet" then he might really have been onto something.

Missed again Michael!

In fact I ought to say "Missed again BBC!", I am amazed by the low quality of the science provided on the BBC when it comes to the subject of diet and obesity. There are dozens of top scientists who understand the subject infinitely better than Michael Mosley does, but the BBC's commissioning editors do not appear to be interested in discovering the inconvenient truth that the NHS's advice on cholesterol and heart disease might be wrong.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Time to get tough on sugar

This week the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), which advises Public Health England and other government agencies on nutrition, have said that the recommended daily intake of sugar should be halved to reduce obesity risk and improve dental health.  This bring top level UK government advice to the same recommendations as provided by the World Health Organisation.

As well as other recommendations the SACN have recommended:
  • A ban on all forms of targeted marketing of ultra-processed, unhealthy foods and drinks to children.
  • We should disassociate physical activity with obesity by banning junk food sports sponsorships.
Why is this such great news? After all most health campaigners have been banging on about this for years!  The reason is that it is this committee that the government relies on for advice on policy making. The reason the government have not acted until now (aside from the fact that they are under pressure from the food industry) is that they have not had clear advice from their advisors on what to do.  Well now they have and it is time to act.

And how have the food and drink industry reacted to this life-threatening news?  The Food and Drink Federation described the goals set out in the report as "stretching".

FDF Director general Ian Wright said: "The most thorough scientific review of carbohydrates and health carried out in recent years should leave people in no doubt that sugars can be enjoyed safely as part of a varied and balanced diet." He added: "Demonising any one ingredient in the obesity debate isn't helpful."

Talk about bending the truth! The report may have said that sugar can be consumed but the clear message is that consumption should be halved. Not just reduced, HALVED!

When the growth in consumption of one ingredient has caused an worldwide epidemic costing billions of dollars and millions of lives then I say let’s demonize it. Although let’s be clear about it, sugar is not at fault; no it is the FDF and its members that have deliberately increased the percentage of sugar in our food over the last 30 years in their attempt to get us hooked on their products.  We have been silently poisoned.

Tobacco companies have been sued for knowingly damaging our health and it is time to take the same approach to our food.