The Real Food Tick of Approval

By | Sugar, Vegetable Oils | 14 Comments

Most modern deaths are caused by diseases which barely affected anybody 200 years ago.  And the science says that between them, sugar and seed oils are responsible for almost all of those deaths.

The twin innovations of commercial sugar production (which made food addictive) and seed oil manufacture (which made food cheap to construct) has completely transformed our food supply in that timeframe.

Almost every packaged food now contains significant quantities of sugar or seed oil or (more usually) both.  But far worse than that, it almost impossible to tell from that packaging (other than the fact that there is packaging, that is) whether a given food is safe or not.

I propose a simple way to tell the difference.  Introducing, the Real Food Tick of Approval.  The rules are very simple:

  1. All whole food qualifies for the Tick
  2. Any packaged food which contains more than 1.5 grams of fructose per 100 g does not qualify
  3. Any drink which contains fructose (at all) does not qualify
  4. Any packaged food or drink which contains more than 1.5 grams of Omega-6 fat per 100 g does not qualify
  5. All other food qualifies for the Tick

To see how this works in practice, check out my free, foods database.  In it I have applied these rules.

The database is not perfect, it is using an automated formula (which tries to use fibre content to guess which are whole foods) to do the coding.  This means it doesn’t properly take account of Rule #1 (at this stage), so there will be obvious errors – but you get the gist.

Most things coloured green would get the Real Food Tick.  And the application of a little nouse would eliminate the obvious exceptions (for example Apricots in Intense Sweetened Liquid)

Most of those coloured yellow or red would not qualify. But there are whole foods which are particularly high in fructose (for example a Pink Lady apple) or Omega-6 (for example Peanuts).

Neither of these whole foods are coloured green but Rule #1 says they should qualify.  With those I would suggest, they still deserve the Tick (because they are whole foods), but it should be a yellow tick rather than a green one, merely to indicate that more than one serving of these foods should not be consumed.

I’d love to hear your thoughts (in the comments below) on the proposed Real Food Tick.

Graphic based on an Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Fat school fees no guarantee for top results

By | Books, Education, Media, Print | No Comments

Monday, 29 September, 2014, 5:44pm
Karen Pittar

Australian lawyer and businessman David Gillespie grew up in Brisbane and was educated at one of the city’s top private schools. But as he and his wife were mulling over where to send their six children, the “eye-watering sums” involved at elite institutions prompted them to consider alternatives.

It also led Gillespie to examine what it was that made a school, and an education system, effective. The result is Free Schools (Pan Macmillan), a book that challenges many widely held beliefs about quality education, especially in Australia.

“I wanted to find the answer to the question: if I spent millions of dollars on education, was that money well spent?” he asks. “Would it guarantee a better result for my children?”

His conclusion was an unequivocal “no”.

“Going in, I had no agenda and no preconceived ideas about what makes an effective school. What I did know was a lot of educational research is hard to understand and seems to be based on hunches – very little of it on hard facts and trials,” Gillespie says.

What surprised him most was that many factors parents assume to be important in schooling mattered very little.

Chief among these assumptions is that high fees equalled a superior education.

Wealthy families dominate in independent or private schools, he says, but “studies have consistently shown when you adjust for the socioeconomic status of children in independent-versus-government systems, both are equally effective. Paying more for education will get you nicer buildings and your child can hang around with kids of ‘his class’, but then we have to assume that’s a good thing?”

Similarly, Gillespie argues smaller classes do not necessarily lead to better learning and higher grades.

He refers to the Australian system as an example, where class sizes 50 years ago were double what they are today. Smaller classes meant increased spending to employ more teachers; yet Australia is slipping in the global education rankings.

“Classes need effective teachers who can manage students and maintain order,” he says. If behaviour is a problem and not well managed, there will still be a problem, whether it’s a class of 12 or 20.

Homework is another contentious area. A 2006 study at Duke University, in North Carolina, showed there was no benefit to assigning homework to primary schoolchildren. Gillespie says recent research suggests there may be significant downsides because it takes up teachers’ time with marking and setting homework.

However, he concedes some studies show that homework is helpful during high school.

Ultimately, Gillespie says an effective school depends on one thing – leadership: of the school and in the classroom.

Every four years the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, releases the results of its Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), which evaluates the skills of more than 500,000 15-year-olds in maths, science and reading.

Hong Kong came in the top three for each discipline in the 2012 Pisa report – an impressive ranking out of 65 countries including the US, Britain and Australia.

Gillespie says schools that do well tend to adopt a collegiate approach, where principals and senior teachers still teach some of the time, but spend most time supervising junior teachers in the classroom, making sure they are learning to be better teachers. Senior teachers are not turned into administrators: they are turned into teacher-mentors. “This is what gets results.”

To retain good teachers, you need strong, accountable and involved leadership, he says.

Gillespie suggests parents visit potential schools and also interview the principal.

“What you want is someone who describes their team as professionals who work together to get the best results – that their role as a leader is to help teachers, to mentor them.”

His book also outlines other areas that parents should consider when selecting schools, such as its language and music programmes, communication and behaviour management.

“Look for a school that provides study skills – it’s all about learning to learn,” he says. “It is often assumed children learn by osmosis, but they don’t – they need to be taught the skills to do it effectively. Does the school offer language and music programmes? Consistently, study after study shows, that by just learning a language or a musical instrument – it doesn’t matter how good you are at it – this improves results.”

He says the general behaviour of students is another critical indicator because no one can learn or teach effectively if children are behaving badly.

“A great way to assess this is to look at the uniform. It’s [author] Malcolm Gladwell’s broken windows theory: if kids in a suburb break a window and it isn’t repaired, then they break another and so on – a small misdemeanour turns into a bigger one.

“Uniform policy is the same. You want a school where no deviations are accepted. Even if the school doesn’t have a specific uniform they will still have a dress code; find out before you visit what that is and make sure the children are complying.”

Finally, Gillespie says a successful and productive school is one that communicates with parents.

“An effective school will offer programmes that run parents through what is being taught and how it is taught – ‘these are the concepts and this is how to teach/reinforce it at home’.”

Parents should be active participants in education, he says. Rather than simply applying to elite private schools, parents should be focusing on those that can offer effective leadership.

Like any other organisation, the ethos and work ethic of school filters down from the top.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post.

If the Heart Foundation and Dietitians Association didn’t exist, would the food industry need to invent them?

By | Big Fat Lies, Conflicts of Interest, Sugar, Vegetable Oils | 7 Comments

The Dietitians Association of Australia and the Australian Heart Foundation spend quite a bit of their time attacking what they call “Fad Diets”.  Unfortunately, their flat out disregard for the evidence is making their statements sound more and more like press releases issued by the processed food industry.

I don’t pretend to know what is motivating either of them, but I do know that both have financial backing from the industries which stand to lose the most if there is widespread adoption of many of the diets they declare to be fads (for example reducing sugar, seed oils, or more recently paleo).

The Dietitians Association’s sponsors include Nestle (the second largest manufacturer of breakfast cereals in Australia and no slouch when it comes to moving other forms of sugar either), Unilever (largest margarine manufacturer in Australia) and the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council (a lobby group funded by all the major breakfast cereal manufacturers)

The Australian Heart Foundation is not overtly sponsored by anyone.  But the processed food industry has found a way to rent the Heart Foundation’s healthy halo.

It’s called the Tick Program. Processed foods can gain endorsement from the Heart Foundation by doing what they were going to do anyway. They wanted to use seed oils instead of animal fats because they are loads cheaper. Tick – foods that use seed oils are given preference. They wanted to use tons of sugar because food with sugar sells better than food without. Tick – sugar is not a criteria. They want to sell breakfast cereals because they are vehicles for sugar (and the margins are stupendous). Tick – whole grains are encouraged for their fibre.

The program is a nice little earner for the Heart Foundation, pulling in $2.8m in 2013 alone. The only problem is that, through the Tick Program, the Heart Foundation now finds itself in the position of having endorsed hundreds of products that the science says are very dangerous to our health.

The World Health Organisation, the Canadian Heart Foundation and the American Heart Association all regard sugar as a dangerous additive to food because there is convincing evidence that it is “associated with heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, cancer and tooth decay.”  But the Australian Heart Foundation is earning millions from its endorsement of products like ‘Mayonnaise’ that has more sugar than Coke, a children’s snack which is 73% sugar and spreads made of the very oils which science says almost doubles the risk of heart disease death.

That is what we lawyers call a conflict of interest. When doctors experience a conflict of interest (say by accepting gifts from pharmaceutical companies), the regulators tighten the rules and (no matter how much it hurts the doctors) attempt to put the brakes on the gravy train.

The same thing happens in just about any profession we depend upon for expert knowledge. We have to be able to trust paid specialists. And no matter how morally astute they believe they are, we cannot allow them be led into temptation by conflicts of interest. If we do, we can never be sure if they are giving us advice based on the best evidence or on their own financial interest.

And if by chance you think that the existence of, say, a tick program makes no difference to the advice being dispensed, you need look no further than the Canadian Heart Foundation.  In June, they killed off their tick program.  Before June, they were happily handing out ticks to Slush Puppies and children’s snacks where sugar was the primary ingredient.  After June they were attacking the sugar sellers like they were on commission for the sale of Sweet Poison.

So when the Dietitians Association and the Heart Foundation fly into a frenzy to decry a diet which asks people to avoid processed food, any thinking person would ask, why?  Is there science behind this or have these two venerable organisations simply become mouthpieces for the processed food industry that provides them with such significant financial support?  Such is the corrosive power of conflicts of interest.

There are now very persuasive reasons to worry about their advice that we should consume seed oils (vegetable oils). And there is just as compelling evidence that ignoring sugar is taking a daily toll on the health of all Australians.

We need the Heart Foundation to follow the lead of the Canadian Heart Foundation and immediately trash its Tick program. And we need our dietitians to throw off the yoke of corporate sponsorship and provide evidence based dietary advice untainted by the smell of food industry money.

We don’t need the guardians of our health attacking a scientifically (and logically) defensible aversion to processed food. We need them guarding our health without fear or favour (especially without favour).

How to ensure you’re not firing blanks (a cautionary tale for men and anyone who cares about the quality of their sperm)

By | Big Fat Lies, Vegetable Oils | No Comments

Sperm counts are dropping rapidly in all Western countries.  In one, the situation is so dire that finding a man who is capable of reproducing is likely to be impossible by 2030.  For the rest of us, that reality is not that much further into the future. New science suggests the cause is clear and the solution is even clearer.  Don’t let men (or boys) eat vegetable oil.

A sperm count is an old fashioned, but still highly reliable way of measuring a man’s, well, potency.  Anything over 100 million sperm cells per ml is considered a premium vintage and anything under 15 million means the man is very unlikely to reproduce.  The only trouble is that men with high octane semen are getting harder and harder to find.

In 1992 researchers from the University of Copenhagen published a study of sperm quality trends over the preceding half century.  After reviewing 61 trials, the scientists came to the shocking conclusion that the average sperm count had halved in just 50 years (from 113 million in 1940 to 66 million in 1990).   Yep, men really were more manly in the olden days.

An even more comprehensive analysis of almost 27,000 French men published in 2005 confirmed the trend is continuing.  In that study average sperm counts dropped from 74 million in 1989 to 50 million in 2005.  If the decline continues at the same rate, there will be no French men capable of making babies by 2072.  And no matter how you feel  about the French, that is a catastrophe of unprecedented scale.

Similar numbers and rates of decline are now being reported in all Western countries (although alarmingly at 3% per annum, Australia is at the high end).   But in one country, the sperm count disaster makes the French look pretty damn virile.

Sperm banks in Israel are reporting that the alarming drop in sperm quality amongst Jewish inhabitants. Sperm banks that would have rejected about a third of applicants in the 1990s (because of low sperm count) are now turning away 80 to 90%.  With a measured rate of sperm count decline approximately twice that of any other Western country, experts are predicting that by 2030, average Jewish Israeli sperm counts will drop to a level where reproduction is likely to be impossible.

There are many theories about why this is happening as there are scientists researching the problem.  Perhaps it is the increased levels of oestrogen in the diet, perhaps it is exposure to pesticides or perhaps it is the use of BPA plastics.  But only one has produced convincing evidence of causation – dietary omega-6 fat consumption.

Omega-6 fat is the dominant fat in the ‘vegetable oils’ used in every processed food.  These oils are not made from vegetables at all.  Rather they come from seeds (like Canola, Soybean, Sunflower, Safflower, Rice Bran and Grape).  Western consumption of Omega-6 fats has at least tripled in the last century and perhaps more importantly, the ratio of Omega-6 fats to Omega-3 fats has soared from about 3:1 to 25:1.

We’ve known for some time that in experimental animals, high omega-6 fat consumption lowers sperm count and significantly impairs the quality of those that remain.  But a 2009 study in humans has taken that research one step further.

In that study, 82 infertile men were compared with 78 (proven) fertile men.  Detailed profiles of the fatty acid makeup of each man’s blood plasma were prepared.  The results were unequivocal.  Infertile men had a significantly higher ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3  (15 to 1 versus 6 to 1 in fertile men).  And critically, the higher the omega-6, the lower the sperm count.

It is likely that the reason for the sperm cell destruction relates to rampant oxidation caused by the overconsumption of omega-6 fats.  Unfortunately that kind of oxidation damage leads to the wholesale DNA destruction that can result in cancer.  Perhaps then it won’t shock you to discover that the incidence of testicular cancer (the most common cancer in men under 50) has more than doubled in the last 40 years.

Because of a decided preference for non-animal fat sources, Israeli Jews have the highest consumption of Omega-6 fat in the world (about 12% of calories).  The science says this is why they are at the bleeding edge of the decline in male fertility.  It is also likely to be why the incidence of testicular cancer has almost doubled in just 10 years (compared to the 4 decades it took the rest of us).

Before you tell me you’re ok because you always cook in olive oil, you should know that the oil we add is a very small part of the fat we actually consume.  Vegetable oils made from seeds are much cheaper than animal or fruit fats (such as Olive, Avocado or Coconut Oils).  Because of this, they are now an integral part of margarine and baked goods and bread and salad dressings and pestos and meal bases and frozen food and, well, every other product (with a label) in our supermarkets.

It is also increasingly a significant component of grain fed meat (most of the meat in a supermarket) and even farmed fish (most of the fish in a supermarket). And it is just about the only fat used to fry take-away food in 21st century Australia.  In other words, it is almost impossible to avoid unless you grow and assemble your own food.

There are as many good reasons not to consume seed oils, but I reckon the future of the human race probably tops the list.  Food companies are doing nothing less than committing biochemical genocide by filling every food we eat with omega-6 fats. We are having our reproductive capacity disabled en masse and far from protesting against it, our health authorities are actively encouraging us to consume more.  Ask the Australian Heart Foundation whether it thinks you should consume more of these poisons and you will be told most definitely ‘yes’.

Fortunately there is one thing you can do if you care about your ability to reproduce (or avoid testicular cancer). Stop eating Vegetable Oils made from seeds or any food made from, or fried in, them.

Image courtesy of Carlos Porto at

The Canadian Heart Foundation comes down hard on Sugar

By | Conflicts of Interest, Sugar, Sweet Poison | 7 Comments

In June this year that Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation (the Canadian HSF) killed off its ‘Health Check Program.’  Just like the Australian Heart Foundation’s ‘Tick Program’, the HSF Check had been plumbing new lows in prostituting health advice to the interests of the food industry.

Perhaps it was when it took money to put a ‘Check’ on Slush Puppies or maybe it was when they endorsed a children’s snack that was 80% sugar.  Maybe it was just the combined weight of the evidence against sugar, so neatly summarised by the World Health Organisation in January.  But whatever the cause, eventually they did the right thing and said no to Food Industry money.

Now that the interests of their sponsors count for naught, they have released a powerful position statement on sugar.  In a single document they have catapulted themselves from handmaiden of the processed food industry to the world leader in health policy.  They have looked at the evidence and made a persuasive case for immediate action on sugar.

Pay attention Australian Heart Foundation they are making you look like the fools that you are.

In Canada In Australia
No less than 17 major studies are cited in support of a statement that sugar is associated with:

  • heart disease,
  • stroke,
  • obesity,
  • diabetes,
  • high blood cholesterol,
  • cancer and
  • tooth decay.
“sugar … [is] only important in relation to [tooth decay]. … There is no scientific consensus that sugar … causes heart disease.”
Sugar consumption (from all sources) should be no more than 10% (12 teaspoons per day – less than half current Canadian consumption) and preferably less than 5% (6 teaspoons).  “Rather than making choices based on sugar content alone see what else a food offers nutritionally.”
Food labelling needs to be significantly improved to show sugar content properly [sound of crickets]
The Government should:

  • act to reduce the amount of sugar in the food supply
  • tax soft drinks
  • support education programs aimed at reducing sugar
  • restrict marketing to children
  • avoid partnerships with producers of high sugar foods
  • Ban the sale of sugary drinks in hospitals and schools
  • Educate parents on how to avoid sugar in the lunch-box
[more crickets]
The Heart Foundation recommends people avoid packaged and prepared food. The Heart Foundation earns money from the sale of packaged food where sugar is a primary ingredient in the product.


Why is the ABC censoring debate on anti-cholesterol drugs?

By | Big Fat Lies, Conflicts of Interest | 5 Comments

Last week the British Medical Journal did something that the ABC, our so called independent broadcaster, was terrified to do just a few months earlier. It stared down an attack from the pharmaceutical industry over articles it had published on the dangers of statins (cholesterol lowering drugs). But it’s not too late for the ABC to stop behaving like a drug company marketing department and start behaving like an independent national broadcaster.

In October 2013, Dr Maryanne Demasi, produced a two part series for the ABC’s Catalyst program. The first part suggested saturated fat and cholesterol do not cause heart disease. The show was enormously popular, pulling an audience of 944,000, something which is unheard of for the staid science doco. But it was the promo for Part 2 that really lit up the switchboard.

The Second Part promised to delve into statins, the ubiquitous anti-cholesterol drugs prescribed to a third of Australian adults over the age of 50. Even before it was aired there were strident calls for the show to be killed. One particularly hysterical radio presenter even warned that watching the show may cause people to stop taking statins – something that “could kill them.”

Nevertheless, in a rare display of courage, the ABC risked our lives and ran the show anyway. As promised, it dared to suggest that statins are not everything the marketing spin would have us believe. They are frequently prescribed for people where there is no demonstrated benefit, and they present significant and potentially life threatening side effects. Almost a million Australians tuned in and, as you might expect when a multi-billion dollar revenue stream is on the line, the backlash was intense.

The ABC did what it should do in such circumstances, it launched an independent investigation. Six months later, the ABC’s independent Audience and Consumer Affairs unit presented the results. They found the first show was accurate and impartial and neither the ‘for’ or ‘against’ arguments were misrepresented. But when it came to the second part they found the show failed to mention that statins have benefits when it comes to non-fatal outcomes (for people who have already had a heart attack).

As the problem was a failure to disclose relevant information, the recommended remedy was to provide that information on the ABC’s website. Unfortunately at this point the ABC went to water. Instead of uploading a statement to that effect and moving on, the ABC Managing Director, Mark Scott, decided censorship was the way to go.

He ordered the immediate removal of both programs from the ABC website and also hunted down the copies which were by then appearing on YouTube. They were to cease to exist. Everybody should immediately forget there was ever any such thing.

I get it. The ABC copped a lot of flak from the drug companies and they are very big and very scary. But that is no reason start behaving like a third world despot. The whimpering failure of the ABC to stand up for its story (and the journalist who produced it) is all the more pathetic when compared to the steely resolve displayed by the British Medical Journal over the same issue just last week.

At the same time as the Catalyst show was airing, the BMJ had published an article which questioned the evidence behind statin use in Britain. Like the Catalyst story, the paper claimed that the risks (from side-effects) outweighed any potential benefit. A related article published the same week suggested side effects occur in 18% of people taking statins.

The expected complaints flooded in. Leading the charge was Sir Rory Collins head of an organisation which had received well over a quarter of a billion pounds in drug company funding in the previous two decades. He wanted the ABC solution – immediate disappearing of the articles.

As you might expect, the BMJ launched an independent investigation. Their report, delivered last week, found a minor correction was needed and that nothing else was required. There was certainly no cause to remove the papers. They also pointed out that it was very difficult to determine whether statins were safe or not because the drug companies refuse to make the trial data publicly available.

Statins now consume 1 in every 7 taxpayer dollars spent on drugs in this country. When we choose to spend that much on statins, we are choosing to deny patients access to many other potentially lifesaving treatments.  But statins are not cures for anything, they are a barely effective preventative measure. For most of the people taking them there will be no benefit whatsoever. Worse, there are increasingly obvious signs that statins could inflict serious harm.

But this is not a story about statins. It is a story about censorship.

Rather than promoting an honest discussion of the evidence (well, at least the evidence the drug companies will let us see), our National Broadcaster purged the internet of even the remotest suggestion there is anything wrong.

ABC, we depend on you to display the backbone shown by the BMJ. We need you not to cave into crass commercial interest at the first whiff of controversy. You made the wrong call. The BMJ has made that abundantly clear. But it’s not too late to salvage your reputation. Reinstate the programs and do it now.

Oh, and just to show you haven’t been bought off, you could commission a Third Part to the story. It could investigate why taxpayers are paying for drugs whose side effects data are being actively suppressed. How’s that for an idea? You know where to send the royalty cheque.

Addicted to the sweet stuff? Here’s how to cut sugar from your diet

By | Books, Media, Print, Sugar, Sweet Poison | One Comment

Need to get the sugar out of your diet? Read this extract from The Sweet Poison Quit Plan by David Gillespie for tips.

Sugar addiction is such an integral part of our society that we don’t even have a word (like “alcoholic”, “chocaholic” or “workaholic”) to describe people addicted to sugar. “Eaters” are addicted to sugar, but you can eat without sugar. So I’m inventing a new word for sugar addicts: “sugarholics”. Sugarholics today are in the same position that smokers were in the 1950s.

You used to be able to smoke any time at work. You didn’t have to stop work and stand alone in the middle of a field. You weren’t vilified for lighting up a cigarette in a restaurant. Quite the opposite; if you didn’t smoke, you were the weirdo. Today, sugarholics rule the roost. Everybody is addicted from birth. Not eating the birthday cake in the tea room marks you out as the weirdo. Make no mistake: the task you are about to undertake will not be easy, but it is not an exercise in willpower.

Despite what everybody tells you, if you are a sugarholic, you do not have a personality defect. You are not a glutton. You are not weak-willed. You are chemically addicted to a substance in the food supply called fructose. And until you treat that addiction as the powerful biochemical force that it is, you will never loosen its grip. There are five steps to breaking your addiction.

There are lots of downsides to sugar addiction and the only upside is that you feel normal when you have a hit. Do you really have cause to feel deprived? No, but willpower diets demand that you feel deprived. They ask you to “go without” and to “give up” a treat. Feeling deprived will simply drive you back into the arms of addiction.

If you want to succeed, you mustn’t feel you are being deprived of anything. You need to take pity on the poor hopeless addicts who are all around you ingesting poison. You need to view any offering of sugar not as a temptation to be overcome, but as an attempt to poison you (perhaps a little extreme, but you get the idea).

So, don’t feel deprived. You are not giving up anything. You are simply stopping a dangerous and harmful addiction. It really is that simple to break an addiction. If you have the right attitude, staying sugar-free becomes a lot easier than you could possibly imagine.

A critical step in breaking your sugar addiction is identifying the habits associated with the addiction. For me, watching TV was a means of relaxation, and it still is. But my sugar addiction had infiltrated that pleasurable experience and made it its own. Sugar had become an integral part of the relaxation process.

The pleasure I gained from watching TV was directly associated, in my mind, with the dopamine hit I got from the sugar. It’s possible to disassociate the two activities, but you won’t do it by abstaining from both using willpower. The trouble with addictions is that they frequently attach themselves to otherwise-pleasurable experiences and it becomes impossible to distinguish the two.

Those habits will really test your resolve because of the strong association, and in some cases the strong peer group pressure (such as at birthday parties, Easter and Christmas) to conform. In many instances, the only rational way to deal with the problem is to avoid the habitual events associated with consuming sugar until you break the addiction.

So, if you are in the habit of relaxing in front of the TV with a chocolate at the end of the day, stop watching TV and find some other way to relax in the evening for the next month. Or you could continue your TV habit but replace the chocolate with nuts, for example.

This step is all about giving you the shopping strategies you need to prevent too much fructose from contaminating your food supply. You are going to need some shelf space for all your fructose-free food, so the first thing you need to do is throw out all the food in your pantry and fridge that is too high in fructose.

Chocolate of any description must be sent to a happier hunting ground. The same goes for anything you picked up in the confectionery aisle at the supermarket. Sweet biscuits are slightly less bad than confectionery. To make your cupboards truly fructosefree, all the sweet biscuits should go in the bin.

The only drinks you should have in your cupboard or fridge are unflavoured water and unflavoured milk. If you prefer your water with bubbles, then by all means have unflavoured mineral water or soda water. Alcoholic drinks are okay for the recovering sugarholic as long as they don’t taste sweet and they are not mixed with other drinks that contain sugar.

You can keep the dry wines, beers and spirits, but you need to toss out the dessert wines, ports, sweet sherries, liqueurs and mixers (unless they are diet mixers). If you see honey or sultanas in the name of a cereal, it’s usually a good idea to check the sugar content carefully. Don’t be fooled by the branding of new ranges of flavoured oat cereals, either. Unlike their unflavoured cousins, they are usually extremely high in sugar.

Walt Disney once said, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” And that is the point at which we have arrived on our mission to break your sugar addiction. There’s nothing fun about the withdrawal period, but it does end. And once it does, you’ll be completely free from the desire to eat sugar ever again. A plate of bikkies will hold all the attraction of a plate of raw broccoli.

If you are going cold turkey, have one last supper of your favourite sugary treat. Get that Mars Bar or that can of Coke. Sit down and consciously enjoy the very last time in your life that you will eat (or drink) sugar. If you can just get past the next few weeks of danger, you will enjoy the health that sugar has sucked from your life to date. Then, all of a sudden, your desire for sugar will vanish. I know it sounds strange, but it just plain goes. Bang! And you will never want the stuff again.

Re-stock and live your life

Once you start the withdrawal, you’ll need to re-stock your now-bare cupboard.

Fruit: Whole fruits do contain fructose (the addictive and harmful half of sugar) – in some cases, very large amounts. But they also contain a fairly large amount of fibre and water.

Vegetables: There is no such thing as a bad vegetable. All vegetables contain some level of fructose, but it is an insignificant amount and is vastly overwhelmed by the fibre content.

Nuts: Like vegetables, there’s no such thing as a bad nut. Some have more fructose than others, but even the worst of them, from a fructose perspective, have huge amounts of fibre.

Meat: Meat does not contain any sugar, so knock yourself out. The only possible word of caution is around some of the fancy marinated meats. The marinade is usually very high in sugar and this type of product should generally be avoided.

Eggs, yoghurt, milk and cream: Only choose the tartest of European and natural yoghurts and avoid flavoured milk or whipped cream that you buy in a can.

Cheese: Cheese will have sugar on the ingredients list, but it is all lactose, so there’s no need for concern.

Bread: All breads contain some sugar. All of the standard unflavoured white breads lie somewhere between 0.5 and four per cent sugar (two per cent fructose). Multigrain and brown (wholemeal and rye) breads are low-sugar and have approximately twice as much fibre.


This is an edited extract from The Sweet Poison Quit Plan by David Gillespie (Viking).
Originally published in Body+Soul

The 2014 North American Sugar Free Shopper’s Guide

By | Books, Sugar | No Comments

The 2014 North American Sugar Free Shopper’s Guide is the must-have navigator for your local supermarket if you plan to buy anything in a package.

The guide contains comprehensive listings of the most commonly purchased categories of packaged food available in US stores. Each category has been scoured for brands that have less than 3 grams of sugar per 100 grams.

It’s a guide that removes all the bad products from the supermarket shelf and makes it easy for you to select simply and quickly from the good ones that are left.

But wait. There’s more. It also includes a similar analysis of the popular fast food options on offer in most US cities.

Buy Now(Paypal also accepted just click the button)
Also available for Kindle – click here

Use the buttons above to get the guide for the introductory price of US$6.45 (normally US$9.95).  You’ll be emailed the PDF immediately so can have it on your smartphone, iPad or tablet or print it out if you prefer and have it with you all the time.

Alternatively you can subscribe to and not only get the shopper’s guide (and updates as part of your membership) but also detailed sugar guides to the sugar content of all foods in a given category, great recipes that you can make at home, the members forum to share your experiences and extras such as the Vegetable Oil Ready Reckoners and other handy shortcut tools that I regularly create and share with members.

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How to avoid Rheumatoid Arthritis (and stop your kids getting it too)

By | Vegetable Oils | 5 Comments

Every day 17 Australians have a joint replaced because of Rheumatoid Arthritis. And the number of us with the disease is accelerating quickly, particularly amongst children. The science on its cause (and the cure) couldn’t be clearer. There is just one thing you need to do, don’t eat vegetable oil.

There are over 100 types of arthritis but Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is the most severe and the second most common (after osteoarthritis). Unlike Osteoarthritis, RA is not caused by wear and tear on the joints (largely from being overweight, exercising too much or both). Rather it is an autoimmune disease, like Type I Diabetes and Asthma.

Australia doesn’t keep good data on any chronic disease but as at 2007, there were approximately 428,000 sufferers of RA but that rate is increasing rapidly. Hospitilisation for RA (largely for joint replacement) has been steadily increasing. The rate has doubled in the first decade of the 21st century. Alarmingly it appears that the rate in children is increasing even more rapidly, with the rate of hospilization more than tripling over the same timeframe.

One of the more important jobs our immune system performs is distinguishing stuff which is not dangerous (such as our own tissue) from stuff that is dangerous (like some types of virus and bacteria).

When something is deemed dangerous, our cells ramp up production of hormone-like substances that instruct our immune system to produce an inflammation response. Every time you see a cut to the skin become red and swollen, you’re seeing that inflammation response in action. The swelling and the heat are our body’s attempts to eject the invader from our body (or kill it).

An RA sufferer’s immune system is malfunctioning, causing it to attack the synovial membrane, the tissues lining our joints. The synovial membrane is normally very thin. Its job is to produce fluid which lubricates and nourishes the joint.

The immune system attack causes the synovial membrane to become swollen and inflamed. Over time this leads to bone damage in the joint and eventually irreversible joint damage.

That response is turned on by hormone like substances derived from Omega-6 fats and turned off by (anti-inflammatory) hormones derived from Omega-3 fats. It’s a finely tuned and finely balanced feedback loop that requires both types of fat in exactly the right amounts (about 1.5 gramsof each a day).

We’ve known for some time that the omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fats are critical to the way our inflammation response works, particularly when it comes to RA. Omega-6 fats dial it up and omega-3 fats dial it back down again.

Now that’s all a bit of a problem for the Western Diet because we have been steadily increasing the amount of Omega-6 we consume, while at the same time, (at best) consuming around the same amount of Omega-3. During the course of the last two centuries the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in our diet has changed from around 2:1 to 25:1.

This has happened because food manufacturers have been persistently replacing sources of animal fat (which have no significant amounts of either omega-6 or omega-3) with much cheaper vegetable oils (which are very high in omega-6).

Analysis of the inflamed synovial membrane in RA patients reveals that it is very high in molecules derived from omega-6 fats. Knowing that omega-3 and omega-6 fats act in opposite directions on inflammation, researchers have conducted animal trials which show that artificially induced RA can be significantly delayed or eliminated if the rats are fed fish oil (high in Omega-3 fats) rather than vegetable oil (high in omega-6 fats).

That research has led to large numbers of controlled human trials which have successfully reduced RA inflammation (and associated pain) by supplementing with omega-3 fats (usually from fish oil).

Given those results it would be almost impossible to get ethical approval for a trial which tried to make RA worse by feeding people omega-6, but one trial figured out a different way to skin the cat. In that trial researchers tried something else. As well increase the amount of omega-3 they fed the patients, they divided them into groups on a standard Western diet and one which was which was very low in Omega-6 fats.  The result of the trial were impressively in favour of the RA patients on the low Omega-6 diet (and even better if they also took fish oil).

The science is old and uncontroversial. In a Western diet, the massive increase in Omega-6 fats make us much more likely to suffer from RA and will make the RA worse once we have it. The problem is that in Australia today it is almost impossible to buy packaged food that isn’t infused with these RA inducing fats.

If you suffer from RA then the very best strategy is to eat whole food only, use butter instead of margarine and cook with olive oil rather than vegetable oil. If you must buy packaged food avoid anything which includes ‘Vegetable Oils’ in its ingredient list. If you are eating deep fried food make sure it has not been fried in vegetable oil. Simple.

Photo by James Heilman, MD (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Why Fish is no longer a good source of Omega-3

By | Vegetable Oils | 7 Comments

Over the last three decades we’ve been continuously told that to avoid heart disease, obesity, Type II Diabetes and even cancer, we need to shun animal meat and eat fish.  Fish is supposed to be terrific because, not only does it not contain all those nasty saturated fats (which, by the way, is not true), it has loads of Omega-3 fats, the so called ‘good fats’.  Unfortunately this is now dangerously bad advice.

Over 80% of the meat sold in Australian supermarkets is from feed lots.  These beasts spend their lives eating bird seed rather than the grasses on which they evolved.  The result is animal fat which is very high in Omega-6 fats and which contains almost no Omega-3.   These two fats are called essential fats.  They are ‘essential’ because we can’t make them ourselves.  We need 1.5g of each a day from our food.  And we could get that just by eating a couple of cheese sandwiches.

The perverted heart health advice of the last half century has driven a mass replacement of animal fats with man-made ‘vegetable oils’ (like Sunflower, Canola and Soybean).  Omega-6’s are the primary fat in vegetable oils and because those oils are now part of every single processed food on the supermarket shelves, we are well and truly (over) supplied with them.  Omega-3’s are however considerably harder to come by.

When our Omega-6 and Omega-3 supplies get out of balance, very bad things start happening. Things like macular degeneration, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and cancer.  The ratio is best if it’s 1 to 1 and will work ok even at 2 (Omega-6) to 1 (Omega-3) but are currently as high as 25 to 1. We’re told the cure to this imbalance of essential fats is to eat fish.

We have heeded the call.  Since 1975, we have doubled our per capita consumption of fish.  The only way fish suppliers have been able to keep up with that kind of explosive demand is to invent a whole new industry, fish farming.  And just like the cattle in feed lots, our farmed fish are increasingly being fed seeds, with devastating effects on their Omega-3 levels.

Fish, being vertebrates just like us, are no more capable of making Omega-3’s than we are.  Just like us, they need to get them from their diet.  If they are carnivores (like Salmon and Barramundi) that means eating herbivorous fish that’ve been chowing down on seaweeds and algae high in Omega-3.

If the fish was wild caught, it will have the expected supply of Omega-3 on board.  Nature’s like that, it just works (as long as we leave it alone).  If however the fish is farmed, then all bets are off.

The only economical way to ensure that farmed carnivorous fish get their Omega-3’s is to feed them wild caught fish oil (think of it as Omega-3 capsules for fish). It takes about 5kg of wild caught (but otherwise unsaleable) fish to produce 1kg of farmed eating fish.

In 1950 this wasn’t a problem.  There were barely any fish farms and there was an abundance of wild caught fish.  But in the last 60 years the aquaculture industry has been experiencing explosive growth, driven in no small part by us all being told we need to eat more fish.  Now, about half of all fish consumed (by humans) globally (and Australia is no exception) is farmed rather than wild caught.

In 2006, 87% of all wild caught, fish oil was fed to farmed fish and it is likely that we maxed out the available supply in around 2010 (public figures on this stuff are very murky).

But don’t worry, the fish feeders have a solution, just mix in vegetable oil instead.  Increasingly, fish feed is being constructed with the very same seed oils (vegetable oils) that now infest the remainder of our food supply.  The very same Omega-6 rich oils that (at least) double the rate of cancer and cause rheumatoid arthritis and macular degeneration (to name just a few delights) is becoming an integral part of what we mistakenly assume to be our primary source of Omega-3.

The industry has seen the problem coming for some time and since 1990, the number of studies on the effects of using seed oils in fish feed has grown exponentially.  Many of the studies have shown that substitution of seed oils makes the fish more prone to infectious disease and stress as well as stunting their growth and increasing the production of the types of cholesterol responsible for heart disease (oxidised VLDL). In other words the same stuff happens to them as does to us, but aquaculture researchers are far less coy about calling a spade a spade.

But worse even that that, when fish fillets from seed oil-fed and fish oil-fed fish are compared, in general the amount of Omega-3 has halved (and is sometimes considerably less) and the Omega-6 fats have increased 5-fold.  The seed oils destroy the very reason we are told to eat fish in the first place.

While you might think you’re upping your Omega-3 ratio by chomping on fish and chips every Friday night, the chances are you’re really just eating even more Omega-6.  So if you think you’re eating fish because it contains healthy fats, think again, Big Food has gotten to that too.  Most farmed fish is now no better for you than seed oil it’s usually fried in.  Unless you caught it yourself, you’d be better off avoiding it.

Grass fed animals have exactly the right fats in exactly the right ratios.  It is only because health authorities decided to demonise that food source that we obsessively seek out supposedly more healthy fish.  Putting aside the ethics of using finite and declining wild caught fish stocks (with food-grade potential) for animal feed, the criminally negligent advice which drives us to seek out fish as health food must change and it must change now.   Because, while it will eventually wipe out the fish, it will wipe us out first.

Image courtesy of scottchan /

A little extra bit: A Consumer New Zealand investigation shows farmed salmon, which is sold as fresh and smoked products in supermarkets, has significantly less Omega-3 than that claimed on the label.