How Big Food is using our health system as a marketing tool.

By | Big Fat Lies, Conflicts of Interest, Sugar, Vegetable Oils | 2 Comments

Nestle, Danone and others like them, use our health system as a tool for flogging cheap and addictive powdered milk products.  Regulators have clamped down on them doing it with baby formula, now it is time to stop them doing it to our elderly.

In the early 1970s Nestle decided to exploit mothers in developing countries.  The plan was to convince breastfeeding mothers that using Nestle formulas was healthier for their children than breastfeeding them.

Nestle had realized that many mothers in Africa, Asia and South America had a strong desire to imitate Western culture.  So they leveraged this by implying that formula was the modern way to feed babies.  Anything else was old fashioned and primitive.

The aggressive marketing was extraordinarily effective. Formula sales took off like a rocket (the market is now worth $25 billion a year) but so did the incidence of childhood diseases in the developing world.  Drinking water was often unsafe and mixing it with milk powder and sugar didn’t do anything to fix that.

Breastfeeding protected children from the vagaries of the local water supply.  It is also free and doesn’t drain critically important money away from families who can least afford to buy formula.  The cost often results in mothers using less powder than required to make the tin stretch further.  So even if the water is clean the child is undernourished.

Nestle’s aggressive marketing led, in 1977, to a worldwide boycott of Nestle’s products.  And as a result, in 1981, the World Health Organization (WHO) created guidelines on the marketing of formula, but to this day there are continual breaches in the developing world and many of the groups who started the boycott continue to fight against Nestle and others.

The message was equally effective with Australian mothers.  Manufacturers provided formula ‘donations’ to Hospital nurseries and in hospital promotions often delivered by healthcare workers. And it worked.  Breastfeeding in Australia fell to record low levels in the 1970s.  In 1972 just one in 20 children was breastfed for 12 months.

In 1992 the Australian government finally implemented a voluntary code (based on the WHO rules developed more than a decade earlier) which severely restricted the way infant formula could be marketed and include a requirement that mother’s be told breast is best in all marketing material.  Promotion cannot occur at all on healthcare facilities and healthcare workers cannot receive any form of inducement to promote the products.  If formula is donated to an institution, it can only be used for children who a doctor has determined requires formula.

The code is voluntary but all the major manufacturers has signed on and breastfeeding rates are now 6-fold what they were in 1972 (although they are still just a third of the WHO recommended level).  Even so, Nestle and others continue to circumvent the ban on marketing by advertising unregulated toddler milks with exactly the same packaging and branding as the infant formulas.

But that is just fiddling at the edges compared to the latest gold mine for medical formula reps – the elderly.

Doctors are rightly concerned that older people not suffer from under-nutrition. They take weight loss among the elderly very seriously and therein lies the opportunity for Nestle and others (such as Danone, the maker of the Fortisip range).  These companies actively markets the use of food supplements for elderly patients, whether they are losing weight or not.  Hospitals and dietitians are encouraged to use things like the Nestle Nutritional Assessment tool to assess the need for supplements. Using that tool it would be almost impossible not to be assessed as requiring supplementation.

These powdered milk concoctions are offered as drinks with (or even instead of) hospital meals and patients are provided with order forms (often by dietitians employed by the hospital) for discounted purchase after they are discharged.  The products themselves are usually just hideously overprice powdered milk, sugar and a multi-vitamin and sometimes a dab of seed oil just for good measure.

The ingredients are very similar to Up&Go except they can have loads more sugar and sometimes a pile of seed oil as well.

Fortisip Vanilla Ready to Drink Sustagen Hospital Powder UP&GO Vanilla Ice Ready to Drink
water, maltodextrin, milk protein, sucrose, vegetable oil (canola oil, sunflower oil), tri potassium citrate, emulsifier (soy lecithin), flavour, magnesium chloride, acidity regulator, tri calcium phosphate, carotenoids, choline chloride, calcium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, sodium L-ascorbate, ferrous lactate, zinc sulphate, colour, magnesium hydroxide, nicotinamide, retinyl acetate, copper gluconate, DL-α tocopheryl acetate, sodium selenite, manganese sulphate, calcium D-pantothenate, chromium chloride, D-biotin, cholecalciferol, thiamin hydrochloride, pterolylmonoglutamic acid, pyridoxine hydrochloride, cyanoccobalamin, sodium molybdate, riboflavin, sodium flouride, potassium iodide, phytomenadione Non Fat Milk Solids (63%), Corn Syrup Solids, Whole Milk Powder, Sugar, Minerals (Magnesium Hydrogen Phosphate, Ferric Pyrophosphate, Zinc Gluconate, Copper Gluconate, Manganese Sulphate, Sodium Molybdate, Chromium Trichloride, Sodium Selenite), Vitamins (C, E, Niacinamide, A, D3, B6, B1, B2, Folic Acid, K1, B12), Stabiliser (414), Flavour. water, skim milk powder, cane sugar, wheat maltodextrin, soy protein, vegetable oils (sunflower, canola), vegetable fibre, hi-maize™ starch, corn syrup solids, flavours, fructose, oat flour, mineral (calcium), acidity regulator (332), vegetable gums (460, 466, 407), stabiliser (452), salt, vitamins (C, niacin, A, B12, B6, B2, B1, folate).
Sugar: 13.3% Sugar: 45% Sugar: 7.6%
Polyunsaturated Fat: 2.8% Polyunsaturated fat: 0.8% Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.7%

The sugar in Sustagen had until May 2016, been glucose.  But then Nestle decided to ‘improve the nutritional profile’ by replacing the much of the glucose with cane sugar.  Effectively this means they replaced half the nutritionally harmless glucose with toxic fructose.  Yep, the same fructose that has been nailed as causing Type II diabetes, Obesity, Fatty Liver Disease and probably Alzheimer’s disease (just to name a few of its greatest hits).

I can’t see how introducing a confirmed source of chronic disease improves the nutritional profile (and they have refused to respond to my written requests for an explanation), but I can see how it improves the financial profile of Nestle.  Sustagen’s competition all use it.  Fructose is highly addictive, so products that contain it always sell better than products without it.  And since the aim of this game seems to be follow on sales after the patient leaves hospital, an addictive product would be a better choice. Commercially its a no-brainer.

The seed oils in many of these products cause cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s Disease osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (just to name a few of the greatest hits). Seed oils are cheap as chips, so using them instead of milk fat increases the profit margin.  Another commercial no-brainer.

These products are being directly promoted and marketed to patients within our healthcare system, something which would be prohibited if they were infant formula.   Nobody, but especially not a sick elderly person, needs sugar and (often) seed oil, loaded milk powder.  Nestle and their mates were barred from using hospitals as a sales tool for infant formula and its time the same thing happened for this garbage as well.

Chocolate Nesquik Earns 4 Health Star rating

By | Big Fat Lies, Sugar | 2 Comments

Sydney, Australia (24 January 2016): Nestlé Australia announced today that its popular Nesquik Chocolate drink has earned a four star health rating.

This will be one of the first times that a product which consists almost entirely of sugar has earned such a high rating. “We don’t know why we didn’t think of this before,” said Mr Bill Wonka, Regional Director, Nestle Australia. “But once we took a close look at the Health Star criteria, we knew that Nesquik could become a key part of our promise to deliver superior nutrition to Australian families.”

“All we had to do was calculate the rating after adding Nesquik to skim milk, just like we did with Milo. Nesquik has almost twice as much sugar as Milo so we were a bit worried, but the rating doesn’t seem to be affected too much by the product being nothing but cane sugar and cocoa. From today, consumers have a healthier chocolate milk option that means they don’t sacrifice on taste. It’s a win for everyone.” he said.

“We are now looking closely at the rest of our confectionery lines and a number of beloved brands are currently undergoing renovations to meet the Health Star’s strict nutrient criteria. Keep an eye out for a five star chocolate with added fibre and vegetable oil later in the year.”

“We are proud that Nestle now has another a four star health rating in a confectionery line. Nestle Australia should be congratulated on their commitment to an extensive reformulation programme that provides Australian families with more healthier choices at snack time,” said a spokesperson for the Australian Federal Department of Health.

“The new Health Star system has been successfully challenging food companies to produce healthier foods. Now, we are challenging more confectionery makers to match the commitment of Nestle Australia.”

Reaction from the public has been mixed. Joyce Barnaby from Canberra was pleased that Nesquik was now healthy “I was sick of feeling guilty every time I knocked back a choccy milk,” she said, “Now it has exactly the same number of stars as a glass of milk without any sugar, I know it must be doing me good.”

Health professionals also welcomed the news. “A 10 year old can now run off a 4 Star glass of Nesquik in around 60 minutes,” said dietitian Ms Pixie Golightly, “With the old junk food Nequik, it would have taken almost an hour,”

But on social media the mood has been less positive. “Not fun for the kids at all any more,” wailed Dimity Smythe-Jones on Nestle’s Facebook page. “my kids won’t touch health food – as soon as they see that healthy food rating they’ll avoid it – what chance do I have of getting them to drink the new healthy Nesquik?” she wrote.

Note: This is satire – nothing about this piece is true except that if Nestle were to apply for a health star rating for Nesquik it would get 4 stars when served with reduced fat milk (as suggested on the label)

Are dietitians selling us out?

By | Big Fat Lies, Conflicts of Interest, Sugar | 9 Comments

Dietitians are rolling out their ritualistic warnings about ‘fad diets’ so it must be January. Prepare to be warned about the dangers of avoiding gluten, quitting sugar or going Paleo. Instead you will be told to give the new (heavy on whole grains) microbiome diet a go or perhaps become a Vegan.

According to dietitians, crazy ‘fads’ like quitting sugar are dangerous because they ask us to ‘cut out whole food groups.’ Only a dietitian high on sugar would describe sugar as a ‘food group’, but I guess the argument could apply to the stricter forms of paleo which ask devotees to ditch dairy, legumes and grains.

If food group deletion is the reason for official opposition to paleo, gluten free and quitting sugar why are they quite happy to give a free pass to vegetarianism and its more extreme cousin, veganism? Both of these diets do actually cut out food groups and both require careful management in order to avoid significant nutrient deficiencies. But they are never attacked by Dietitians.

Vegetarian diets do not contain meat, poultry or fish. Vegan diets go a little further and also exclude dairy products and eggs. Both diets have been part of British and US culture since the mid-19th century so we’ve had a bit of time to study them in the wild.

Those studies tell us that (compared to omnivores) vegetarian diets provide higher amounts of carbohydrates, omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, fibre, vitamin C, vitamin E and magnesium but lower amounts of protein, saturated fat, omega-3 fats, vitamins A, D and B12 and Zinc. Vegans are usually particularly low in B12 and also Calcium, a deficiency they are likely to share with hard-core paleo enthusiasts because both avoid dairy.

We use vitamin B12 to create our DNA, red blood cells and the myelin insulation around our nerves. Not having enough of it can result in fatigue, weakness, psychiatric problems and anaemia. B12 deficiency in children and the elderly is even more worrying. Studies have consistently shown that children and older people lacking B12 suffer significant cognitive defects such as memory and reasoning.

The lack of long chain omega-3 fats, the abundance of omega-6 fats and deficiencies in the fat soluble vitamins A and D are also serious cause for concern particularly in pregnancy.

This does not mean that vegetarian or vegan diets should not be followed, just that they need to be carefully managed, particularly in pregnant women, children or the elderly. But that is what you might expect from a diet that actually does delete ‘whole food groups.’

So where then are the January warnings to avoid those ‘fad diets’? Why are the dietitians’ scare tactics focused only on diets which might stop people eating grains and legumes? It’s a real conundrum.

Coincidentally, the body that regulates dietitians in Australia is sponsored by Arnott’s, Nestle and the Australian Breakfast Cereal Manufacturers Forum. And while that last one sounds like an almost official body, it’s really just a long-winded way of saying the Breakfast Club. No not that one, this one is responsible for supplying all those sugary boxes of grain we are supposed to consume as part of a ‘balanced breakfast.’ The gang’s all there. Kellogg’s (coincidentally founded because of a vegetarian religion), Freedom, Nestle (again) and Sanitarium (coincidentally founded, and run by, the same vegetarian religion).

But surely that can’t be the answer? Surely dietitians wouldn’t sacrifice their professional integrity just to grasp a few stray dollars from the Breakfast Cereal manufacturers? No, there must be some other reason which is not fathomable to us uninformed masses. Because if that were the case, it would mean dietitians are really just the undercover arm of Nestle (etc)’s marketing departments. And that would spell big legal (not to mention moral) trouble.

If dietitians have really been selling us out to flog processed food, then collectively they would owe this country the hundreds of billions a year spent treating the chronic disease disaster those foods have inflicted. But even more importantly they owe us something that can’t be repaid, our health.

This is not a game. Australians are no longer prepared to accept dietetic advice which is curiously aligned with the interests of the processed food industry rather than what the science tells us. Now would be a good time for the dietitians of Australia to lead, follow or get out of the way. A good start would be to stop telling us that quitting sugar is a ‘fad’ that should be abandoned. And they can hope like crazy that when the lawsuits start, everyone has forgotten their role in the catastrophe which is Australia’s health in the 21st century. I, for one, won’t.

 

Also published in the Huffington Post

How a Soft Drink Tax (and not science) will change nutritionists’ views on sugar.

By | Conflicts of Interest, Sugar | 2 Comments

For a decade, the guardians of public health have fought tooth and nail against the science on sugar and the harm it causes.  But now that the government might pay more for their allegiance than the food industry, they are all ears.

This week, the Grattan Institute produced yet another proposal for a soft drink tax.  It’s an idea that just won’t go away, no matter how much the politicians want it to.

Convincing people not to smoke results in a measurable health outcome. Smoking is a primary cause of lung cancer and heart disease.  And rates of both diseases have plummeted since the introduction of tobacco taxes.  But this is in the context of tax being part of a package of measures aimed at making smoking slightly less socially desirable than persistent public flatulence.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for sugar.  Taxing one source of sugar will certainly reduce consumption from that source but detailed studies have been so far unable to detect a significant health benefit from reducing the consumption of those drinks alone.  This is likely to be because people simply find a cheaper, or just different, source.  The bloke avoiding the slightly more expensive Coke is probably still chowing down on sugar loaded cereal for breakfast, chugging an iced coffee for lunch and having sugar loaded BBQ sauce all over his sausage in bread.

Until you need to sneak into a dank corner of the car-park to snarf your cream-bun for fear of being hounded by the Heart Foundation, we are not comparing apples with apples.  But tax dollars might just achieve what science has failed to do for at least a decade.

This week’s Grattan report suggested $520 million a year could be raised from an Australian soft drink tax.  The authors didn’t put much thought into what that might be spent on, other than to vaguely waft in the direction of ‘health initiatives’ or some such.  But that was enough to get the attention of some of those who have been the most resistant to the idea that sugar is bad.

The food industry sponsored, Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) for example has steadfastly opposed the notion that sugar is a problem.  After Sweet Poison was released it published a press release entitled “Sweet truths: Eating sugar may not make you fat.”  And it has not wavered from that position over the 8 years since.  Similarly Nutrition Australia, to this day maintains “there is no consensus that [sugar] is the sole, or even major cause” of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The Heart Foundation has so comprehensively opposed the notion that sugar is harmful, that it sent out a cardiologist to consume significant radio time arguing against me on that point.  And it has been willing to raise the better part of $3 million a year from certifying that sugar loaded food is a heart healthy choice. It says this is because “there is no scientific consensus that sugar … causes heart disease.”

Diabetes organisations have also been happy to tell sufferers of Type II diabetes that sugar does not cause their disease.  Meanwhile the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has done its best to not have a position on sugar at all.  And it has certainly never openly condemned it.

But, my goodness what a difference a bit of green makes to one’s outlook.   The first to fall was the Heart Foundation, calling for a sugar tax like the one announced in the UK in May.  Then last week (after it became clear exactly how much money was in the pot), they all rushed in.  Within days of Grattan’s report being released the AMA, the DAA and Nutrition Australia all put out press releases demanding a sugar tax.  Some of them even while continuing to host pro-sugar content on their websites.  Their greed reflex outpaced even the fastest website editor.

Suddenly each of these peak health bodies are singing from a different song sheet. The prospect of loads of tax dosh trying to find a home for ‘health initiatives’ has converted them to sugar haters in a heartbeat.

A soft drink tax won’t directly reduce the amount of sugar we consume.  But the siren call of cold hard cash will apparently do what I and many like me have failed to do for a decade.  It will remove the single greatest obstacle to real progress, the nutrition rent-seekers.

No doubt much to the despair of the processed food industry, the loyalty which had been so painstakingly built over decades with speaking fees, sponsorships, endorsements and carefully crafted non-science will all likely be blown away by government tax money looking for a home.

These tax-payer funded organisations have been perfectly happy to ignore the science for a decade.  They have been happy to dictate health policy that lets ever increasing numbers of us suffer.  And they have been happy to do it because of ego or profit or consensus or stubbornness or all of the above.

I suspect nothing has changed about nutrition industry views on sugar but their collective campaigning (no matter how much it is motivated by greed), will undoubtedly have the effect of telling us all something we desperately need to hear – there is a very real problem with sugar.  And if that’s the way we get there, then so be it.

Vita Gummies – the ‘healthy’ sweet con

By | Sugar | No Comments

Nature’s Way Vita Gummies embed vitamins in delicious sugar filled gummies. Shouting about the vitamin benefits of a food while blithely ignoring the other 99.99% of the product is not a new tactic in the processed food industry. Take Heart Foundation approved, 4 Health Star, Milo (27% sugar) for example. But sweets laced with vitamins are not an improvement on either sweets or vitamins.

I guess you could (almost – at a very big stretch) justify that kind of marketing if there was any evidence (whatsoever) that the average Australian needed any more of those Vitamins or minerals. Vitamin supplements have only been part of our food supply since just before the second world war. Prior to that our Grandparents and their grandparents managed to struggle through life without any supplementation at all.

The need for vitamins only arose because two hideous diseases reached epidemic proportions in the early part of the 20th century. In south-east Asia beriberi was rampant because (it turned out) Europeans had started using steam driven mills to turn brown rice into white rice (and in the process stripping out Vitamin B1). And at almost the same time in the southern United States pellagra was inflicting mass agony because Europeans had decided that treating raw corn with lime (a process the Indians had used for millennia to activate the Vitamin B3) was a waste of time and money.

South East Asians derived almost all their nutrition from rice at the time and poor farmers in the southern United States derived almost all of their food from corn. Messing with those two fundamental food sources resulted in mass deficiencies which led to disease. The only other two significant deficiencies which have (in modern times) resulted in widespread disease are scurvy (if you happen to be locked in a boat without access to anything but dry biscuits and rum for six months) and rickets (if you use too much sunblock).

The reality is that the overwhelming majority of people living in Australia today have no more risk of being functionally deficient in any vitamin than I do of becoming the Queen (of England that is). Our bodies are extraordinarily efficient at extracting exactly what we need (and no more) from our food (mostly from meat) and excreting the excess. If you are inclined to the I’ll-top-em-up-just-in-case persuasion, the research suggests you are just flushing your money away.

One of the most thorough (but by no means, not the only) recent studies was the Physicians Health Trial. In that study, 14,641 US doctors were followed for 10 years while they took either Vitamin E or Vitamin C supplements, the two vitamins which are heavily promoted as having anti-oxidant (and therefore heart disease related) benefits.

Half of the doctors were actually taking placebos instead, but neither they nor the folks assessing the results knew which was which. The double blind (no-one knew who was taking what), randomized nature of the trial (together with its large size and long duration) means that it is very high quality evidence.

The point of the trial was to figure out whether the supplements had any effect at all on heart disease and stroke outcomes among the participants. And what they found would have been very disappointing for the supplement industry indeed. There was exactly no difference between the heart disease outcomes for any of the groups.

The Vitamin E folks had just as many heart attacks as the Vitamin C folks. And they had just as many as the folks taking nothing. The resounding conclusion from the study is that if any of the participants had been paying for their vitamins, they would have been well and truly wasting their money (for ten long years). While we certainly need Vitamin E and Vitamin C, it seems shoving more of it in our mouths changes absolutely nothing (except the bank balance of the folks selling the supplement).

Similar high quality trials on Vitamin D, Calcium and Vitamin B supplements have arrived at exactly the same conclusion – don’t waste your money. And this is why (in the US at least) supplements must carry this warning:

“these statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”

Vita-Gummies (at 23c a throw) are about 8 times the price of garden variety gummi bears (which are aren’t laced with precursors to expensive urine) but they do contain just as much life sapping sugar (something which unfortunately ends up around our waist and not down the drain).

Selling sweets as health food (to children and their parents) when they are in reality a package of pure sugar is unbelievably perverse.

Unfortunately nobody is breaking any laws telling us that a sugar loaded sweet (with a vitamin chaser) is good for us. And so the marketers go to town. But where do we draw the line? Chocolate coated carrot shavings, sold as Vegies the Kids Will Love (no, Nestle that is not a suggestion)? This pathetic game must stop. It’s time for truth in labelling. Surely our children are worth that much.

What seed oils are really doing to your body

By | Books, Cookbook, Recipes, Vegetable Oils | 2 Comments

VEGETABLE oils are highly unstable.

When they interact with oxygen, they release neurotoxic, DNA mutating chemicals which are known to cause cancer (at least).

Recent improvements in measurement technology have now thrown a spotlight on the quantity of these chemicals released by normal use. And the results are truly terrifying.

Cheap vegetable oil made from seeds (canola, sunflower, corn, safflower, grapeseed, rice bran and soybean oils) is a new addition to the human diet. Unlike animal fats and oils made from fruit (olive, avocado and coconut oils), they’re very high in polyunsaturated fats and in particular something called an omega-6 fat.

A recent study found that when seed oils containing these fats are heated at a normal cooking temperature (of 180 degrees celsius), they create highly toxic chemicals known to be involved in cancer causation.,

And each time the oil was re-used the concentration increased massively. The study showed that by the fifth day of oil re-use, it had five times the concentration of these chemicals that it had on the first (which was already alarmingly high).

But worse than that, the researchers also made the point that all they could measure was the amount of these chemicals left in the oil. Since they are highly volatile, they are constantly escaping into the air around us when the food is being cooked.

According to another recent study, it is likely that this volatility explains the stubbornly high rates of lung cancer among women in Asian countries (where smoking is rare among women, but wok frying with Canola oil is a daily task).

Those toxic molecules are dangerous because they are interact destructively with our DNA. This significantly increases the chances that cancer will develop.

These seed oils are now a core component of our food supply and Australians are sicker now than at any time in our history.

We are almost four times as likely to have thyroid cancer than just three short decades ago. We are more than three times as likely to have liver cancer. We are twice as likely to have melanoma, Motor Neuron Disease, kidney or anal cancer.

Men are more than twice as likely to have prostate cancer and 60 per cent more likely to have testicular cancer. Women are 43 per cent more likely to have breast cancer. And children are paying even more dearly.

A child is 6 times as likely to suffer from leukaemia than at the start of the 20th century. And they are more than four times as likely to suffer from a life threatening allergic reaction than they were just 20 years ago.

The chronic disease tsunami is upon us.

Every day there are thousands of teenagers standing over vats of frying canola oil for eight hour shifts at every fast food restaurant in this country. Every day, there are people cooking with high temperature seed oils in woks and frying pans. And every day there are industrial quantities of heated seed oil being poured into commercial baked and frozen foods.

A century ago, exactly none of these fats were added to our food supply.

Every day 312 new cancer sufferers are diagnosed in Australia. That this is allowed to continue when the science is so clear on the likely cause, is not merely a shame or an embarrassment. It is an outrage and a tragedy.

It is reasonably safe to assume all the fat in processed food comes from seed oils. The good news is that this only applies to food made by others (and usually shoved into a packet with a picture of real food on the front).

Nobody can stop you making and eating real food. All you need is a little know-how.

Also published on news.com.au


Eat Real Food Cookbook Launch Offer

Cookbook bundle540Get the new Eat Real Food Cookbook OR the Sweet Poison Quit Plan Cookbook OR BOTH for 25% OFF.

Just Enter the discount code ERFCB25 at checkout

Both books are of course signed by David

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Offer ends 31 December 2016

Why we need to eat real food

By | Books, Cookbook, Sugar, Vegetable Oils | 6 Comments

It turns out that avoiding Type II Diabetes, Obesity and Fatty Liver is the easy bit.

Sugar is very bad news. It destroys (in this order), our teeth, our gut, our liver, our ligaments, our pancreas, our kidneys our blood vessels, our heart and eventually our brain. The science on all of this is now so uncontroversial, that many countries (including the UK) are implementing sugar taxes to help pay for the accelerating damage. But sugar is the lesser of the two dietary evils that have infiltrated our food supply. The other is vegetable oil. And it makes the consequences of sugar consumption look like a mild case of the sniffles. This stuff doesn’t just destroy our lives, it takes out the next generation as well.

Twelve years ago I removed sugar from my diet. I didn’t change anything else. Yep, I still ate meat pies (just without sauce). I still drank beer. And I still didn’t exercise anywhere near enough. I did it because I was obese and the evidence told me that the reason was my sugar consumption. So I stopped eating sugar. It changed my life permanently. I lost 40 kilograms and regained a passion for participating in the lives of my six kids, something that up until then was fading as fast as my weight grew.

Then, a few years into my sugar free life, I discovered something that made it immeasurably harder. Sugar isn’t the only thing that’s been added to our diet in large quantities by the food industry. The other is oils extracted from seeds (usually described as ‘healthy’ vegetable oil).  It isn’t the occasional splash of oil you add to your salad or fry your steak in.  It’s the industrial quantities of the stuff added to your bread, your biscuits, your frozen meals, your sauces and dressings and everything you buy in a restaurant or your favourite take-away.

Cheap vegetable oil made from seeds (canola, sunflower, corn, safflower, grapeseed, rice bran and soybean oils) is a new addition to the human diet. Unlike animal fats and oils made from fruit (olive, avocado and coconut oils), they’re very high in polyunsaturated fats and in particular something called an omega-6 fat.

When omega-6 fats are heated (in a deep fryer or in the human body) they produce highly toxic molecules. Those end-products are dangerous because they are incorporated into every cell in our body and interact destructively with our DNA. This significantly increases the chances that cancer will develop.  But that’s by no means the least of it. Because of their neurotoxic capabilities, these molecules are likely to be heavily involved in motor neuron disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. They’re also implicated in chronic inflammation, the massive recent increase in allergies, stroke and heart disease. And, less predictably, they probably lie behind the sudden mass decline in male fertility and the massive increases in childhood cancers, Down syndrome and Autism.

Australians are sicker now than at any time in our history and it is getting worse unbelievably quickly.  We are almost four times as likely to have thyroid cancer than just three short decades ago.  We are more than three times as likely to have Liver Cancer.  We are twice as likely to have Melanoma, Motor Neuron Disease, Kidney or Anal cancer.

Men are more than twice as likely to have prostate cancer and 60% more likely to have testicular cancer.  Women are 43% more likely to have breast cancer.  And children are paying even more dearly.  A child is 6 times as likely to suffer from leukemia than at the start of the 20th century. And they more than four times as likely to suffer from a life threatening allergic reaction than they were just 20 years ago.  Sperm counts halved in the 50 years (to 1990). Pregnancies are three times as likely to be affected by Down syndrome over the same period and a child is twice as likely to be autistic.  The chronic disease tsunami is upon us.

These unbelievably cheap sources of fat are even more deadly than sugar and have now infiltrated everything on the supermarket shelves. If I avoided the 99% fat free but high sugar mayo, I was jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. The full fat version had no sugar but was made using sunflower oil.

A century ago, exactly none of these fats were added to our food supply. Now unless you made it yourself, it is reasonably safe to assume all the fat in your food comes from a seed. Avoiding these fats is several orders of magnitude harder than avoiding sugar. Our food supply is stuffed with two ingredients that are more likely than not to cause a slow, lingering and painful death. The good news is that this only applies to food made by others (and usually shoved into a packet with a picture of real food on the front). Nobody can stop you making and eating real food. All you need is a little know-how. And that’s what the Eat Real Food Cookbook is all about.

It’s an odd sort of a cookbook. It explains the science and gives you an easy guide to navigating the supermarket and your local eatery. It’s not the kind of cookbook you’d give to your best friend for her to put on her coffee table (and that neither of you having any intention of reading). It doesn’t show you how to cook flash cakes that look like Darth Vader. And it most certainly doesn’t show you how to make a salad in a jar.

My wife, Lizzie, and our six kids have been living off the recipes and tips in the book for the better part of the last decade. Don’t let the beautiful photography fool you. This is an intensely practical book designed to solve an intensely practical problem. How to create high quality food – simply, inexpensively quickly and every day – that’s completely free of the twin evils of fructose (the dangerous part of sugar) and seed oils (the man-made fats recently added to our food supply).


Eat Real Food Cookbook Launch Offer

Cookbook bundle540Get the new Eat Real Food Cookbook OR the Sweet Poison Quit Plan Cookbook OR BOTH for 25% OFF.

Just Enter the discount code ERFCB25 at checkout

Both books are of course signed by David

Buy Now

Offer ends 31 August 2016

Free Recipes

By | Recipes, Sugar | One Comment

FREE Recipes from the Sweet Poison Cookbook

When you first quit sugar, its handy to have some stand-by recipes.  Grab this starter set of recipes from the book absolutely free.

These recipes were developed by Peta Dent. Peta is a proper chef, so the recipes are full-on, professionally developed desserts and sweet treats fit for inclusion in any TV chef’s collection. This doesn’t mean they’re hard to make or use bizarre ingredients (Guatamalan chia seeds anyone?).

Peta has cooked each of the recipes dozens of times, trying different combinations and adjusting the quantities until we (and a random selection of sugar-addicted and sugar-free guinea pigs) were happy with the end product. I’ve tasted all of them. The quality control was hard work, but someone had to battle through all that ice cream and cake (okay, I had a little help from the kids!). Lizzie has also made a lot the recipes to make sure an average person in an average kitchen with an average supermarket down the road can pull them off . They’re spectacularly good and we are very excit-ed by the sheer abundance of high-quality fructose-free options this book represents.

No, it’s not your imagination. A lot more kids are being severely injured playing sport.

By | Sugar | 7 Comments

Many more kids than ever before are suffering permanently debilitating sporting injuries – the kinds of injuries that only hard-core sporting adults worried about in the past.  And the science says that bottle of blue goop the kids swill at half time is likely to be the cause.

The dreaded ACL injury is a tear in the anterior cruciate ligament, one of the four ligaments that hold our knee together.  The ACL is inside the knee joint connecting the bottom of the thigh bone (the femur) to the top of the lower leg bone (the tibia).  It is attached to the tibia by a little spit of bone called the tibial spine.

Twenty years ago kids didn’t tear their ACL, they broke the tibial spine.  This was because in growing children the bones are not at full strength, but the ligaments are.  In a stressed situation, where the ACL is yanking on the tibial spine, the bone gave way before the ligament, hence the fracture.

Orthopaedics textbooks from the nineties warned doctors to look for tibial spine fractures because children don’t tear their ACLs.  In essence, they thought they were immune to ACLs by virtue of being children.

But that has all changed swiftly, and not just in children.  The numbers of people suffering ACLs has been rapidly increasing in the last two decades.  The rate increased by a third between 1996 and 2004 (and almost doubled in women in that period).  The increase was even more dramatic in children under 17 years of age.

One recent detailed review at just one US hospital found ACL tears in children increased by 11% every year between 1999 and 2011.  In the same period the numbers of tibial spine fractures barely changed.

All of a sudden our kids are not making ligaments strong enough to break their developing tibial spine’s – the ligament tears instead.

Even after adjusting for increases in sports participation there is a very nasty (for the victims and the health system) trend developing at very high speed.

ACL’s can be repaired (by transplanting other ligaments) but even a well repaired ACL is likely to have severely debilitating long term consequences.  One recent study found that half of all adult Swedish soccer players who tore their ACL had developed severe arthritis of the injured knee within 14 years.

Apply that timeline to an 8 year old and it means they will spend most of their lives battling severe debilitation.  And that’s from an injury that 8 year olds are supposed to be ‘immune’ to.

Fortunately there is good science that tells us why our ACLs are suddenly failing.  Sugar.

The massive increase in our consumption of sugar is responsible for us producing substandard ligaments and cartilage.  If we make knees out of rubbish material its little wonder that they are suddenly not up to the job.

Sometimes sugars we eat are accidentally attached to proteins by our body. When that happens, the process is called glycation. Glycation can result in the formation of all sorts of unpredictable (and haphazard) molecules called AGE’s (Advanced Glycation End-products).

All sugars can form AGE’s but the fructose half of table sugar (sucrose) is ten times as likely to do so as glucose (the other half).

Our bodies are used to garden variety (glucose-produced) AGE’s. And we are pretty good at breaking them down and disposing of them. But even so, over time they accumulate in our organs and tissues and we, well, age (the acronym AGE is very much on purpose).

Unfortunately the AGE’s made with fructose molecules are resistant to our disposal system. So not only they made at 10 times the rate, they hang around.

AGE’s are dangerous because they bond easily (and randomly) to each other and to other proteins in a process called cross-linking. Cross-linking significantly degrades the quality of the protein.

Long-lived proteins such as collagen, elastin (both used in ligaments), lens crystallins (used in the eyes) and cartilage are much more susceptible to the effects of AGEs because once we make a bad batch, they’re part of us for an awfully long time.

Collagen degraded by AGEs makes less elastic ligaments.  And substandard ligaments, rather like rubber bands left in the sun, tear much more easily.

ACLs and other ligament and cartilage damage are now a standard part of sporting (and increasingly non-sporting – 30-40% occur while not playing sport) life because fructose is being consumed at unprecedented rates (ironically, particularly by those playing sport).

But here’s a tip, if you prefer to watch your kids on the sports field rather than in an ambulance, do what the NSW cricket team has just done and swap Gatorade for water.

 

Photo by Carolyn Tiry. Distributed under the Creative Commons License.

No, we don’t need a sugar tax

By | Sugar | 6 Comments

Sugar taxes are all the rage, but the evidence that they deliver better health is non-existent.  Fortunately there is a much easier way to get all the benefits (and more) without introducing a great big new tax.

Jamie Oliver and the Australian Heart Foundation are two prominent current advocates for a tax on sugary drinks.  Their reasoning is clear, sin taxes (like those on tobacco and alcohol) clearly change behaviour.  And sugar consumption is definitely a behaviour that needs to change.  The research is unequivocal – sugar is a primary player in the vast majority of chronic disease epidemics sweeping the world.

For every 10% increase in the price of a pack of ciggies, we can expect a 4% decrease in consumption (in high income countries and as part of a general package of actions against smoking). And we know that similar maths is at work when it comes to sugar water.  Mexico implemented a 10% ‘soda Tax in January 2014 and by the end of that year, consumption had decreased by 6%.

Smoking tobacco is the primary cause of lung cancer.  So convincing people not to smoke is likely to (and does) result in a measurable health outcome.  The substitute for cigarettes is nicotine patches and sprays.  They still deliver the addictive substance but without the health impacts of cigarettes.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for sugar.  Sugar is the addictive substance and is also the substance causing the damage.  Taxing one source of sugar will certainly reduce consumption from that source but detailed studies have been so far unable to detect a significant health benefit.

This is likely to be because people simply find another source of sugar.  Or, as the author of one recent study put it people simply “find alternate ways to offset the added cost of the tax, by buying in bulk or choosing generic brands.”   I would add, or, get their sugar from the other 90% of the food supply containing sugar.

In recognition of that loophole, Sarah Wilson wants to tax more than just sugar water.  She is campaigning for a tax on “soft drinks, their artificially sweetened alternatives and all foods and beverages that contained hidden sugars.”

The good news for Sarah is that John Howard anticipated her call and implemented just such a tax in Australia on 1 July 2000.  The bad news is that it has failed to positively change behaviour or health outcomes in the 15 years since.

The GST applies a 10% tax to all food and beverages except:

  • all meats for human consumption (except prepared meals or savoury snacks)
  • fruit, vegetables, fish and soup (fresh, frozen, dried, canned or packaged)
  • bread and bread rolls without a sweet coating (such as icing) or filling
  • unflavoured milk, cream, cheese and eggs
  • tea and coffee (unless ready-to-drink)
  • bottled drinking water
  • baby food and infant formula
  • cooking ingredients, such as flour, sugar, pre-mixes and cake mixes
  • fats and oils for cooking
  • spreads for bread (such as honey, jam and peanut butter)
  • spices, sauces and condiments
  • fruit or vegetable juice (of at least 90% by volume of juice of fruit or vegetables)
  • breakfast cereals.

To make the GST a perfect sugar tax, we’d need to remove breakfast cereals (why are they even there? – I smell a lobbyist), sugar as an ingredient, cake mixes, juices, sauces, condiments and some spreads from the list of exemptions (and add unsweetened yoghurt). But it is otherwise pretty close and I suspect that tinkering would be (politically) significantly easier than convincing the public to swallow a whole new tax on everything.

The big question is, would it change behaviour?  Unfortunately based on evidence to date, the answer would have to be resounding no.  When everything in a food category contains sugar, taxing sugar gives the consumer no choice but to pay more tax (and buy sugar anyway).

Luckily there is a simple way for a government (that really cared about our health) to do something about sugar consumption.  Simply require our supermarkets to tell us the lowest sugar choice in any food category.  The label above is my amateur vision of what that might look like.

Shelf labels allow customers to vote with their wallet by buying the product that has the least sugar.  Companies who want part of that action will ‘reformulate’ quickly and the market driven race to the bottom should persistently drive down the sugar content of the food supply.

One other teeny tiny change would be necessary.  Foods which are not subject to the sugar tax (aka the GST) must pass that saving on to the consumer.  Shops would not be permitted to sell tax free bottled water at the same price as taxable coke (as they currently do).

We don’t need more tax, we need a way for the consumer to reward companies that make foods with less (or no) added sugar.  Shelf labels are simple, direct, inexpensive and likely to produce material long term change in our food supply and our health.  So let’s put the tax stick away and reach for the information carrot to get this mule moving.

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