Australia is in the midst of a chronic disease epidemic. Kidney cancer, Melanoma, Prostate cancer and Anal cancer have all doubled since 1982, as has Chronic Kidney Disease since 1991. Type II Diabetes has tripled since 1989. Multiple Sclerosis has done the same since 1961. Thyroid and Liver cancer has almost quadrupled since 1982. And life threatening childhood allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) have almost quintupled since 1994.
In the same timeframe, we have become more health conscious than ever. The science of Nutrition has moved from a back-room study of malnutrition to daily media coverage of what to eat.
The problem is most of what the nutrition profession has told us about food and its effect on disease has been horribly wrong. So horribly wrong that, in many cases, we’d have been better off if we had done the opposite of what they said.
Here are 5 Big Things they’ve stuffed up.
- Fibre prevents bowel cancer
In 2002 the Cochrane Collaboration reviewed all high quality controlled trials (involving almost 5,000 patients). They concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that increased dietary fibre would reduce Bowel Cancer.
That review was followed up in 2005 by a major evidence review by the Harvard School of Public Health. The paper covered 13 studies which involved 725,628 people. And again fibre drew a blank. The authors concluded that high dietary fibre intake did not reduce the risk of Bowel Cancer.
Other recent research has also demolished many of the other claims around fibre. It doesn’t prevent heart disease. It doesn’t improve constipation (in fact it may be part of the cause). And it likely increases our chances of getting diverticular disease.
- Cutting salt is good for the heart
When we consume salt, we retain more water. More water means higher blood pressure. A large Cochrane review conducted in 2004 showed that reducing salt intake does reduce blood pressure – but only slightly.
And while that’s nice, the real question is, does it prevent heart disease. Unfortunately for the low salt brigade the answer (revealed in a 2011 Cochrane review) is a definite no.
There is no evidence that reducing salt reduces heart disease outcomes. And worryingly one of the reviewed trials showed that reducing salt increase the risk of death in heart failure patients.
- Animal fat and Cholesterol are bad for the heart
Over the last five years a series of major reviews have all arrived at the same conclusion – Saturated Fat (the type which dominates fats from animals) does not cause heart disease. The most recent review, published in August 2015, also adds that those fats are not associated with stroke, type II Diabetes or death from any other cause.
We’ve also been told for decades to avoid cholesterol. It has been a major part of dietary warnings in the US (and eventually Australia) since 1961. But this year the US government’s top nutrition advisory body released a review of the evidence which concludes dietary cholesterol is no longer a ‘nutrient of concern’.
No, we didn’t suddenly become immune to its evilness, the advice had been wrong all along. And that dreadfully wrong advice stopped us consuming one of the most nutritionally perfect foods available – eggs (also vilified for their saturated fat content) – and had us falling victim to every marketer who wanted to plaster ‘low cholesterol’ on the front of a pack.
- ‘Vegetable Oil’ is good for the heart
One of the more recent demolitions of the ‘saturated fat’ is bad for the heart, myth also looked at whether vegetable is good for the heart. We have, after all been told to replace butter with margarine for exactly that reason.
The study, sponsored by the British Heart Foundation, looked at trials involving over half a million people and concluded “Current evidence does not clearly support [heart health] guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated [fats – the ones found in vegetable oils].”
But these vegetable fats are not benign additions to the diet. Increasingly the science is demonstrating that the fats contained in vegetable oils (like Canola, Sunflower, Soybean, Cottonseed, Grapeseed, Rice Bran and Safflower oil) are a significant part of the disease process for Motor Neuron Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Macular Degeneration, Multiple Sclerosis (and other auto-immune diseases) all cancers and lethal allergic reactions.
- Sugar doesn’t cause Type II Diabetes
Most nutrition authorities still maintain that nothing about sugar (other than the calories) is associated with Type II Diabetes. And perhaps that is why the Heart Foundation is happy to endorse high sugar foods like Milo and a low-fat Mayo that lists sugar as its primary ingredient.
In June 2015, the latest in a long line of research once again concluded that sugary drink consumption (yes, even juice) was associated with Type II Diabetes even after adjusting for the weight of the people involved. In other words the calories weren’t the problem. Something else about the sugar was causing the diabetes.
It turns out that ‘something else’ is the fructose half of sugar and it is not merely responsible for Type II Diabetes but for many of the other chronic diseases that now plague us, including Fatty Liver Disease and Chronic Kidney Disease.
When nutrition science was in its infancy (in the 1960s and 1970s) it made some bad guesses about what makes us sick. It guessed that eggs and animal fat gave us heart disease. It guessed that salt caused heart disease and stroke. It guessed that sugar was harmless. And it guessed fibre was good.
These guesses were not illogical. They were just naïve. And, as it turns out, wrong. But science has moved a long way since then and guessing is no longer required.
We now know that Heart Disease is caused by chronic inflammation and cancer risk is significantly elevated by oxidative stress. And we know that loading our diets with man-made fats (labelled vegetable oil) and sugar will ensure we have both.
We no longer need to speculate. Science has provided the answers. The sooner those in charge of our dietary recommendations put their pride behind them and admit that, the healthier we will all be.
But don’t wait for the apology. Take control of your own health and (at the very least) ignore the nonsense they tell you about Fibre, Animal Fat, Salt and Sugar. Good Health.