Why buy Viagra when you can roll your own?

By | Sugar, Vegetable Oils | 4 Comments

Viagra is a drug which helps us get more out of the nitric oxide we naturally produce.  Besides its highly successful commercial use, a recent trial has shown it could make a significant difference to heart disease patients.  But it won’t because – money.

Nitric Oxide is a highly reactive gas created naturally by lightning strikes and less naturally by car exhausts.  It’s also somewhat of a superstar in the biological world.  It was declared molecule of the year in 1992, has its own scientific journal and its own fan club, the Nitric Oxide Society.  And every year about 3,000 new studies about its properties are published.

Biochemists are obsessed by the stuff because it is critical to the way some of our fairly important bits work (brain heart, lungs, immune system, genitalia etc.).  Nitric Oxide is used as a signaling molecule.  It tells one part of our body that another part wants it to do something.  Because it is a gas and it decays within seconds of release it is perfect for the job.  It easily and quickly gets through cell membranes passes on the message and then disappears.  This means we don’t have to go to the bother of having all sorts of mechanisms to clean it up afterwards.

We produce it in loads of places in our body, but critically in the linings of our blood vessels.  The Nitric Oxide produced there seeps into the muscles surrounding them and tells them to relax.  When they relax the blood vessels become wider and blood pressure decreases.

We’ve known since shortly after it was discovered in 1846 that nitroglycerin (yes, the stuff that goes bang) helped a lot with heart disease.  But we didn’t know why until we discovered that when ingested it increases Nitric Oxide levels.  The chaps who made those connections picked up the Nobel prize for medicine in 1998.  Ironically that prize is funded by the estate of Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, the safe form of nitroglycerin.  He had heart disease and was prescribed nitroglycerine for it in the late 1800s.

During the 1990s researchers from Pfizer were beavering away on a new drug which helped Nitric Oxide work better.  They wanted to come up with a better way of lowering blood pressure than asking people to suck on explosives.  But when they got to human trial stage of their drug, Sildenafil, they discovered a very lucrative side effect.

The heart wasn’t the only place that Nitric Oxide increased blood flow.  It turned out that it was extraordinarily effective at temporarily fixing erectile dysfunction.   Needless to say, the market for what became Viagra was significantly more tempting than just another blood pressure med.  Financially it was a very good call.  Viagra quickly became a license to print about $2 billion a year for Pfizer.

Rather unsurprisingly a long term study released last year showed just what a good thing they were on.  The study followed 5,956 men with type II diabetes who were taking Viagra.  After almost 8 years, the study found that when compared to matched men not taking the pills, they were 5% less likely to die from anything, 38% less likely to have a heart attack and 15% less likely to die if they did have one.

The heart attack risk reduction makes every other anti-blood pressure or cholesterol lowering medication look like a placebo.  And the reduction in death after heart attack was roughly 8 times as effective as the next best option (a surgically inserted stent).  The Viagra was unbelievably effective and they weren’t even taking it for their health.

That is just one of the, now thousands of, studies on the power of Nitric Oxide.  We now know that if our ability to produce it is in anyway impaired then besides heart disease, we much more likely to also suffer from hypertension, preeclampsia, Type II Diabetes, kidney disease, obesity, and of course erectile dysfunction.  It also plays a part in our learning and long term memory and supercharges our immune system. Obviously then, being able to increase our ability to produce Nitric Oxide should be something we strive for.  Likewise it’s a really good idea to avoid things which impair it.

Besides explosives and Viagra, eating garlic or green leafy vegetables like spinach (yes, Pop-eye was right)or lettuce for example increases Nitric Oxide production.  Exercise and living at high altitudes also does the trick.  But none of that will matter in the least if you also consume fructose or omega-6 fat.

Cane sugar (sucrose) is one half glucose and one half fructose.  The fructose half is unique among sugars we eat in that our liver processes it to fat without any feedback or control.  It was so rare in our evolved environment (there were so few coke machines in Paleolithic times) that we never bothered to develop the capacity to regulate that process.

A waste product from converting fructose to fat is uric acid, a substance that we are very poorly evolved to deal with in the quantities produced when we eat sugar.  Unfortunately for us uric acid reacts with the nitric oxide we produce and disables it.

The omega-6 fats that dominate seed oils (canola, soybean, sunflower, grapeseed, rice-bran and cottonseed) produce highly reactive compounds.  Those compounds directly impair our ability to produce nitric oxide.

Our food supply is now stuffed with sugar and seed oils.  There is barely a product on the supermarket shelf that does not contain one or, more usually, both.  If your aim was to impair our production of nitric oxide you’d struggle to do better than create a food supply which looked like the average supermarket.

Given that, it is little wonder that we are now drowning in the flood of chronic diseases that flow automatically from impaired nitric oxide – heart disease, hypertension, preeclampsia, Type II Diabetes, kidney disease, obesity, dementia, communicable infections and of course erectile dysfunction.

Sadly Viagra is not an option.  It is not approved for use as a heart medication and never will be.  Pfizer will not spend the $100s of millions required to do the required trials now that it is off-patent.  That leaves us with just one solution and it is the same one as always.  Self-medicate with real food that contains neither sugar nor seed oils.

Drug Companies are throwing billions at a disease that can be cured with 3 words

By | Conflicts of Interest, Sugar | 3 Comments

Liver Disease is the next big gold mine for the pharmaceutical industry.  Billions are being spent on an elusive drug cure.  But not one cent is being spent on the one thing we know will cure it – quitting sugar.

Liver diseases fall into two main groups, those caused by viruses (Hepatitis – currently afflicting about 518,000 Australians), and, accounting for the other 90 odd per cent of cases, those caused by ‘lifestyle’ (5.5 million people).

The lifestyle group is usually further divided into drinkers (who have the same symptoms but have a history of consuming  more than 2 standard drinks per day for women or 3 for men) and everybody else.  Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease now affects 6,203 people but Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) afflicts a massive 5,538,677 Australians.  That’s a pretty big number for a disease was first identified just over 3 decades ago.

As the name suggests, NAFLD starts out as an accumulation of fat in the liver.  It can then progress through various disease stages and ultimately end in cirrhosis requiring a liver transplant (if you’re lucky enough to find a donor).   There is no other cure.

There are very few symptoms until the later disease stages, so most people are unaware that they have it all. There is also no way to diagnose it other than using a liver biopsy, an invasive procedure done under anaesthetic.

NAFLD is frequently described as the liver component of the metabolic syndrome (elevated blood fats, insulin resistance and obesity), because it’s rapid growth has paralleled the same runaway growth in each of the diseases which are a consequence of the syndrome.  More than 90% of obese people and up to 70% of people with Type II Diabetes have NAFLD.

The number of people with NAFLD is accelerating at a tremendous rate.  If you make it to the ripe old age of 50 you have a 2 in 5 chance of having the disease today in Australia.

Even worse, the age of onset is declining rapidly.  A study published in 2013 revealed that the number of US teenagers with the disease more than doubled in the last 20 years and then affected almost 11% of US children aged 12-19.  An ongoing Australian study estimates the rate is even higher in our kids (12.9%).  This means the average high school classroom now contains four children suffering from chronic liver disease.  Every classroom.  Four kids.

It might have no symptoms, but NAFLD is not a harmless disease.  It significantly increases the risk of developing cirrhosis (liver scarring and inflammation) and liver cancer.  Liver cancer has more than tripled in Australia in the last three decades.  It is almost always fatal within months of diagnosis.

Of course, none of this has escaped the notice of the drug companies.  Explosive growth in a chronic disease means there is money to be made.  Analysts are predicting that the global market for liver disease medication could be worth US$35 billion a year.

Drug companies have already spent billions on 25 experimental compounds.  As yet, none have been proven to work, but the potential goldmine is so deep and so wide that they won’t be giving up anytime soon.  Drugs that must be taken by healthy people for their whole lives are a gift the drug industry hasn’t seen since they convinced us to take statins.

Even though one of the liver’s functions is to make fat from any excess carbohydrates we consume, the fat is normally exported for storage in all the places that make our jeans too tight.  NAFLD starts when the liver’s ability to export fat is overwhelmed.  The excess fat remains in the liver and eventually progresses to significant liver scarring.

All but one carbohydrate triggers an insulin response which shuts down appetite and stops us eating too much (and therefore producing fat). The one carbohydrate which subverts this handy appetite control feature is fructose.  Fructose also bypasses an important control step which directly stops too much fat being stored in the liver.

So of course, recent nutrition research has focused on whether fructose (and its primary modern delivery vehicle, sugar or sucrose) might be the source of the sudden explosion in NAFLD. As a result, over the last decade research that proves that sugar is the culprit has been pouring in.

Scientists have shown that you can give ducks and rats NAFLD using fructose.  Those were followed by a series of human studies have also shown that the consumption of soft drinks is strongly associated with the onset of NAFLD).  And in 2012 a pair of randomized human trials from Scandinavia advanced the case even further.

The first trial involved feeding four groups of people four different drinks (Coke, milk, Diet Coke and water).  After 6 months of this, the Coke group had massively (140%) increased liver fat (as well as significantly increased blood pressure, cholesterol and blood triglycerides).  The folks knocking back Diet Coke and water were pretty much the way they were at the start and the milk drinkers had even slightly improved their liver fat status.

A similar story unfolded in the second trial.  Some very unfortunate volunteer humans were put on the path to NAFLD (27% increase in liver fat) in just three weeks by overfeeding them chocolates, pineapple juice, soft drinks and sports drinks. And to top it all off, in a study published this month, researchers found that fructose consumption in teens was independently associated with a 61% increase in the risk of developing serious liver damage.

The trials are done, the evidence is clear.  Fructose consumption causes NAFLD in exactly the same way that alcohol causes Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.  NAFLD’s alcoholic cousin can be usually be reversed by ensuring the patient avoids alcohol.  And the science tells us avoidance of sugar would work just as well to turn around NAFLD and prevent its deadly cascades.

When the harm is significant, the cause is clear and the solution even clearer, we do not need to spend billions a year looking for new drugs. NAFLD currently has at least a quarter of the population, and 1 in 8 kids, on an expressway to a liver transplant (if the rest of the metabolic syndrome doesn’t get us first).  Yet it can be easily and effectively reversed with a pathetically simple piece of advice – don’t eat sugar.

We are overflowing with national health agencies, specialist doctors and charities charged with keeping our liver well.  But not one of them is telling us about the only proven cure.  Those groups need to immediately start giving that advice unequivocally and fighting hard on the side of sugar abstinence.  Given the incontrovertible state of the evidence, the current gormless hand-waving is nothing short of negligence.

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 | 10 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 | 3 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

Buy Now

Offer ends 31 December 2016

Why we need to eat real food

By | Books, Cookbook, Sugar, Vegetable Oils | 8 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

Free Recipes

By | Recipes, Sugar | 3 Comments

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.

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