Oops, sorry ‘bout that – 5 Big Things Nutrition science got horribly wrong

By | Big Fat Lies, Sugar, Vegetable Oils | 10 Comments

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. ‘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 DiseaseParkinson’s DiseaseMacular DegenerationMultiple Sclerosis (and other auto-immune diseases) all cancers and lethal allergic reactions.

  1. 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.

4 Good Reasons not to add fibre to your diet.

By | Big Fat Lies, Conflicts of Interest | 43 Comments

Nutritionists have been telling us to pump up the fibre in our diet for 44 years.  But the evidence is now in.  Not only is that pointless.  In at least one case, it is very likely to be harmful.

In 1971, Dr Denis Burkitt, an Irish Surgeon, published a paper based on his observations of life in Uganda, where he lived at the time.  In it he hypothesised that a lack of dietary fibre was the cause of much that then ailed Western Society.  He thought it caused bowel cancer and probably also heart disease, Type II Diabetes, varicose veins, obesity, diverticular disease, appendicitis, gallstones, dental cavities, haemorrhoids, hernias and constipation.

Dr Burkitt had noticed that native Africans produced on average four times as much poop as English boarding school children and did so at three times the speed.  He felt that this was because of all the fibre they ate.  And he theorised that the, ah, high rate of flow meant that there was less time for cancer causing foods and impurities to be in contact with our insides.

It was an idea whose time had come and the good doctor quickly became ‘fibreman’, releasing a best-selling book on the topic (a page-turner called ‘Don’t forget Fibre in your Diet’) and crusading ceaselessly for the addition of fibre to the Western diet.  He is famously quoted as saying “America is a constipated nation…. If you pass small stools, you have to have large hospitals.”

His simplistic guess was swallowed whole by the medical and nutrition communities and heavily promoted by those who stood to gain the most from it (largely the Breakfast Cereal Manufacturers).

The shopping list of things fibre is supposed to prevent has gotten shorter as science has delivered better evidence on their real causes but it is still impressive.

To this day, the DAA (Dietitians Association of Australia) claims that eating ‘at least 25-30 grams of fibre a day’ will ‘reduce the risk of constipation, diverticular disease, haemorrhoids and bowel cancer.’ They also mention it will ‘lower the risk of [heart] disease.’

Unfortunately (as is often the case with claims made by the DAA) there is no credible evidence that any of that is true.

Bowel Cancer

In 2002 the highly respected Cochrane Collaboration reviewed five high quality randomized controlled trials involving 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.

Heart Disease

The theory goes that fibre is supposed reduce heart disease risk by lowering our ‘bad’ cholesterol. Once again though the research community is being singularly unsupportive.

While oats do lower cholesterol, trials on other types of fibre show that it doesn’t, good, bad or otherwise.

And when it comes to the only thing that really matters, there is no evidence that fibre reduces the risk of dying from heart disease (or anything else).

Constipation and Haemorrhoids

Fibre is supposed to cure constipation (and all its travelling companions, including haemorrhoids, bloating, anal bleeding and abdominal pain).

Believe it or not, this is simply based on Fibreman’s observation of high-flow Ugandans.  They didn’t seem constipated so ramping up the fibre is sure to cure the Western blockage.  Once again though, the evidence has not been kind.

Studies have repeatedly failed to detect that patients with constipation eat less fibre than people without it.  Worse (for the Cereal Industry), those studies have observed that there is no benefit for constipation when fibre is added to the diet.

But something really interesting happens when you reverse the treatment.  A recent trial measured the effect of removing fibre from the diet of people with constipation, with spectacular results.

Six months after the added fibre was removed, ALL of the (initially) constipated patients no longer suffered from constipation, bloating, bleeding or pain.  In contrast the folks who stayed on high fibre diet still had all of those problems.

Diverticular Disease

The news is significantly worse when it comes to Diverticular Disease, an extremely common and painful condition affecting more than half of all people over 70.

As early as 1981, clinical trials were finding that fibre was no help at all.  One author even concluded that the suggestion it might was “simply a manifestation of western civilization’s obsession with the need for regular frequent defecation.”

But much more worryingly, one significant recent study concluded not only that fibre didn’t help but that it increased the likelihood of contracting the disease.

The evidence is now in.  Just like so much of the dietary nonsense we’ve been fed over the last half century, fibre for disease prevention turns out to be twaddle that benefits nobody except the people flogging us whole grain cereals.

A combination of ignorance, arrogance and negligence (with a sizable smattering of corporate profiteering) has kept the eat-more-fibre message front and centre for all nutritional advice.   But we didn’t need added fibre before 1971 and we still don’t need it.  Worse, it is likely to be adding to the burden of diverticular disease (at least).

An Irish doctor’s theory about prodigious Ugandan turds has ensured the rest of us have been fed crap for the last four decades.  But that needs to stop now.  The DAA needs to step up and change the message – even if that is likely to really annoy its cereal selling sponsors.

 

Image: DAA Corporate Partners (via the Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council)

4 Sugar Filled Foods the Heart Foundation would like you to eat

By | Big Fat Lies, Sugar | 7 Comments

Yesterday the Heart Foundation publicly demanded the Government take action to address Australia’s obesity crisis.

Heart Foundation chief executive Mary Barry told The Age that with 60 per cent of Australian adults and a quarter of children now classified as overweight or obese, the government needed to immediately implement a tax on sugar water.  You see, the Heart Foundation is (rightly) very concerned about sugary drinks. It has been campaigning against them for two years now.

Oddly though, their concern about sugar does not extend to products that bear the Heart Foundation’s paid endorsement (the Heart Foundation Tick).

Perhaps it’s the water in a sugary drink that renders them dangerous?  Because the Heart Foundation apparently has no problems accepting licensing fees from the manufacturers of these sugar loaded ‘foods’.

  1. Nestle Milo Cereal.

At 27.3% sugar, Nestle’s Milo Cereal will add a tidy 7 teaspoons of sugar to the average teenager’s breakfast bowl (100g).  If you caught your teen ladelling 7 teaspoons of sugar into anything you’d probably have a word or two but with this stuff the work is all done.  Welcome to the first Heart Foundation approved breakfast.

  1. Kellogg’s Just Right.

Ok Milo might have a Tick but it is chocolate after all.  The next cab off the rank is less obviously dessert like but it packs a sugary punch too.  This little Heart Foundation approved beauty weighs in at 28.7% sugar.  Do you want some cereal with your sugar?

  1. Uncle Toby’s Quick Sachets – Creamy Vanilla

You might think you were on safe ground with a nice bowl of porridge (especially from a product bearing the approval of the Australian Heart Foundation) but with almost a quarter (24.9%) of every bowl being sugar this aint no dieter’s paradise.

  1. Kellogg’s K-Time Twists – Strawberry & Yoghurt

Having filled the kids (and you) with Heart Foundation approved sugar for breakfast you will probably be looking for a healthy snack for morning tea.  Have no fear, there are Heart Foundation approved delights at hand.  This little sweetie is a whopping 36.2% sugar, which is a fair chunk more than a nice bar of Lindt Dark Chocolate (29%).  The chocolate bar of course does not bear a Heart Foundation tick but perhaps they should think about applying?

While it is lovely that the Heart Foundation wants us to consume less sugar, their campaign would be significantly more persuasive if they stopped accepting payment for endorsing sugar loaded products like these at the same time as they demanded that sugary drinks be taxed.

We are entitled to more than insults and hand-waving from the medical profession

By | Big Fat Lies, Sugar | 5 Comments

Yesterday the President of the AMA in Queensland, Dr Shaun Rudd warned Queenslanders that their State was at risk of sinking into the sea if they didn’t stop being so fat.  He declared a “state of emergency” in the “war of the wobble”.  The excuse for his bizarre rant (which seemed also to target tuckshop ladies and their arms for some reason) was that the AMAQ wants whoever wins the QLD state election to implement their recommendations aimed at reducing obesity.

It is a good while since I have heard fat-ist drivel so plainly spoken.  The message is loud and clear.  If you are overweight, you have a character defect and you need to harden up (and be saintly and thin). The derision in this Irish GP’s voice was palpable.  That it should be uttered by a doctor representing the health system that has put us in this position is quite frankly disgusting. It should come as no great surprise then that the AMA’s proposed solutions to the crisis are worse than pathetic.

Do they suggest implementing the WHO guidelines on the reduction of sugar?  Have they reviewed the recent evidence (again) confirming that sugar is the source not only of obesity but the vast majority of chronic disease now crippling our health system?  No.  Their suggestions are to ban fast food outlets opening near schools and subsidise fruit and vegetables in ‘at risk’ communities (whatever they are).  Describing those policies as ‘limp’ would be a significant overstatement.

There is nothing wrong with lamenting the danger we all face from obesity.  There is nothing wrong with wanting government to do something about it.  But name-calling and spit-balled non-initiatives spouted by a doctor afflicted with superioritis majoris is not the answer.  We know what causes obesity (sugar) and we know what fixes it (removing sugar).  So please AMAQ, drag your policy (and speech) writers into the 21st century and start lobbying for change that would really make a difference.

How Margarine and its seed oil filled brothers give us Multiple Sclerosis

By | Big Fat Lies, Charts, Vegetable Oils | 25 Comments

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) was once a rare disease that mainly affected Scandinavians or people who otherwise didn’t get much sunlight.  But that has all changed.  Its prevalence is accelerating wildly and sunlight is much less relevant than what you shove in your gob.  If you’d rather not get MS then it is vital you avoid consuming the Omega-6 fats found in most processed foods.

Our central nervous system is our electrical wiring.  If our brain wants to tell our fingers to move, an electrical signal is sent along the nervous system and the fingers move.  Just like electrical cables nerve cells have an insulating cover (called myelin).  Electrical signals travel much faster (and are much more certain to get to the destination) in insulated nerves than in non-insulated nerves.

Seventy percent of the insulation is fat and a fair chunk of that is polyunsaturated fat.  Unfortunately this means that the insulation is prone to damage from oxidation.  But not to worry, we have a perfectly good repair system.  The cells which make myelin (called oligodendrocytes for those who want to get all technical) are very handy at continuously patching up any damage.

MS is disease caused by our immune system attacking and destroying the myelin insulation.  This damage disrupts the ability of parts of the nervous system to communicate and it results in an array of symptoms which range from fatigue, physical incoordination, spasms, partial blindness as well as learning and memory problems (depending on which part of the nervous system is damaged).

Unfortunately people with MS can’t completely repair the damage being inflicted by their immune system and over time the cumulative damage means that the symptoms become progressively worse.

According to the World Health Organisation the biggest risk factors for MS are living in a place with little sunlight or a place exposed to processed food (the Western Diet).  In the 1950s the biggest risk factor by a country mile was latitude, but as processed food has infiltrated the diet of more and more countries, those countries have caught up to the rates in countries with low sunlight exposure.   In Iran for example the incidence rate quadrupled in just the two decades between 1989 and 2008.  But there is (and always has been) plenty of sunlight there.

In countries exposed to the Western Diet for most of the last five decades (such as Australia), the number of new cases of the disease recorded per year (after adjusting for population increases) has also quadrupled.  Make no mistake MS is an epidemic on the march.

Our immune system attacks parts of the body largely because the component (T regulatory cells or just TRegs) which is supposed to stop that happening becomes disabled.  One of the most efficient ways to disable TRegs is to consume too much omega-6 fat.

The Western Diet is stuffed to the brim with Omega-6 fat courtesy of the steady replacement of animal fats with seed oils (such as canola, sunflower soybean etc).  So every time you eat processed food or tuck into fried food you are taking on a massive dollop of omega-6 fat.

For example if you were drop a serving (20g) of Praise Mayonnaise onto your bacon and egg sarnie you would be consuming around 5 grams of Omega-6 fat (just from the mayo).  That’s about three times what your body needs for the day (and that’s before we take into account the margarine, the bread, the grain fed bacon, the factory farmed egg or anything else you eat that day).

Sunshine (or, at least its ability to make us make Vitamin D) is a partial remedy to this problem because Vitamin D boosts the numbers of TRegs.  This gives us a fighting chance at stopping our own immune system in its tracks.  And that is why, before the advent of a seed oil filled diet, the exposure to sunlight, more or less determined your likelihood of having MS.

We aren’t born with a completely myelinated nervous system.  It takes us about 20 years to finish the job.  This means that when people move from a place with low rates of MS to places of high rates of MS (or the other way round), their age when they move is an important factor.  If they are over 15 when they move they will have the same risk of developing MS as the place where they were born.  If they are 10 or younger it will be the same as the place where they move to.

It’s likely that this strange age-related phenomenon is because of another characteristic of our seed oil filled diets.  Overconsumption of omega-6 fats causes the body to enter a state called oxidative stress.  This is where the highly reactive omega-6 fats overcome our anti-oxidant defences.  Oxidative stress is known to be lethal to the cells which produce our nerve insulation.

It is therefore probable that constant exposure to omega-6 fats while a child is growing those very cells, will result in insulation which is not up to spec.  And a weakened insulation makes them much more susceptible to the immune system attacks which will almost inevitably happen if they stay on that diet.

MS is a truly horrendous disease that is striking more people, younger.  It is clear that the cause is the massive increase in the use of seed (vegetable) oils in our food.  MS was once a disease that struck only susceptible people who were not exposed to enough sunlight.  Seed oils are now ensuring it is something that all of us must fear.

If you have MS, I’m sorry.  If you can stop eating seed oils (and get some Sun), it may help with symptoms.  If you don’t have MS, stop eating seed oils (and get some Sun) and you will dramatically reduce your chances of getting it.  If you have children, don’t let them anywhere near seed oils, ever, but especially not before they’re 20.

Graphic from:  WHO – Atlas multiple sclerosis resources in the world 2008.

The Four Drugs that Aussies can’t live without.

By | Big Fat Lies, Charts, Sugar | 18 Comments

Last week the Australian Health Department published its annual hit parade of Australia’s most used drugs.  It revealed that just two ‘diseases’ accounted for eight of the top 10 places, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Because the vast majority of drugs prescribed here are heavily subsidised by the taxpayer, the Federal Government keeps a very accurate tally of what our doctors are putting in our shopping bags.

This year’s top of the (pill) pops tells us that on any given day 32 out of every 100 men, women and children in Australia will be knocking back one of the pills in the top ten.

#1 with a bullet – Anti-hypertensives.

13.4 of those 32 people will be downing a pill for their blood pressure with their morning orange juice.  They’ll probably be studiously avoiding salt as well on doctor’s orders.

The only problem is that research published just this week tells us the OJ is more likely to be causing the blood pressure problems than any amount of salt they might be consuming.

This confirms a long line of studies which have concluded that the fructose half of sugar is the cause of high blood pressure and not the salt.

#2 – Statins, the drug without a disease.

Riding hard on the heels of the blood pressure pills, 12.9 of those 32 people will be taking some sort of Statin, a drug that treats exactly nothing, but which is supposed to lower the risk of future heart attacks.

Statins are powerful drugs that alter the function of important liver enzymes, and the evidence suggests that the only class of people who benefit are younger men who’ve already had a heart attack.

The only people who should be given statins should be this very small group (and then only if their doctor feels the benefit outweighs the risk of diabetes and dementia).

#3 – Paracetemol

If this list is giving you a headache then you’ll likely be joining the 3.4 out of every hundred of us who will pop a Panadol today.

#4 – Reflux medication

Rounding out our list is a medication to treat heartburn and GERD (Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease). Just 2.5 in every 100 of us will be getting into those pills, but recent data tells us it a class of drugs with a big future.

GERD is likely to be caused by a combination of the obesity caused by eating too much sugar and the bacterial overgrowth caused by, yep you guessed it, eating too much sugar.  It won’t come as too much of a surprise then to discover the percentage of the population suffering from GERD has significantly increased in the last two decades.

More than 1 in 10 Australians now suffer from the disease and almost 7 million scripts a year are written for the one drug (for GERD that makes the Top 10) alone.  It is the fourth most expensive medicine funded by the Australian taxpayer (who shells out more than $200 million a year for it).

Taken together, the Top 10 list accounts for a serious chunk of Australia’s pharmaceutical budget.  It’s a budget that is under constant pressure. And there are many unfunded drugs that don’t make the cut, not because they don’t work, but because too few people will benefit.

Instead we’re spending our precious drug dollars on massively overprescribed statins and drugs to treat diseases of sugar consumption (oh and headache pills).  Wouldn’t it be better if we just stopped eating the sugar and listening to drug company marketing around statins?

Margarine makes your kids stupid enough to eat margarine

By | Big Fat Lies, Vegetable Oils | 3 Comments

A significant component of what makes us intelligent is created from our mother’s fat stores.  Unfortunately the fats which dominate margarines and processed food stop that absorption happening and impair intelligence in children to a greater degree than was ever caused by lead. If you want your kids to be as smart as they can be then they (and you) need to immediately stop eating those fats.

About 10% of our brain is made from an Omega-3 fat called DHA (docosahexaenoic acid for the biochemists amongst us).  We can make DHA from a simpler omega-3 fat called ALA (alpha-linolenic acid).  That’s the form of omega-3 which exists in most of our food.

Unfortunately we are not very good at converting dietary omega-3 ALA into DHA.  Less than half a percent of the ALA we consume ends up as DHA.  This means that relying on mum to eat enough omega-3 ALA while she’s pregnant would be a disastrous strategy for baby brain building.

Luckily we have a plan.  As soon as a woman reaches puberty her body starts storing up as much Omega-3 fat as it can.  Uniquely among animals (because we are the only ones who need to build relatively gigantic brains), female humans store all that omega-3 ALA in a baby pantry located at the top of the legs and in the buttocks.

Unfortunately for girls who wish to become Supermodels, the body cannot tell the difference between the various sorts of fat, so it just stores all the fat it can find in the hope that enough of it will be the good stuff.

Since the point of storing the fat is to ensure there is enough (ALA to make) DHA to make a baby’s brain, the body will not easily let go of it.  That is, until the third trimester of pregnancy.  Then the floodgates are opened and the fat is released.  Because brain construction doesn’t finish when a child is born, it’s also important that the supply of DHA continues after the baby is born.  Breast milk (and now formula) contains large amounts of DHA.  In total, 80% of the fat used in construction of a child’s brain comes from the mother’s stores (rather than her current diet).  So perhaps the old saying should be ‘A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips in your child’s brain’

We know from animal studies that if there is not enough DHA, animals end up with brains that don’t have enough neurons, the cells that do all the work in our brains.  That lack of basic circuitry in turn impairs the child’s development and intelligence.   And it looks like the results hold in humans as well.

Just last month, a study in humans was able to show that the amount of DHA in breast milk was the strongest predictor of test performance across samples drawn from 28 OECD countries.

But before you start force-feeding teenage girls, mothers and kids fish oil tablets, you should know that there is a little twist in this tale.  Omega-6 fats stop us using DHA to make us brainy.  So it doesn’t matter how much Omega-3 you have if you also consume too much Omega-6.

Omega-6 fats are the dominant fat in seed oils (canola, soybean, grapeseed, corn, sunflower etc).  These are the fats that margarine is made from.  These are the fats which are now used in every packaged food on the supermarket shelf.  And these are the foods in which every fried food is boiled.  We now eat 10-20 times as much omega-6 fat as omega-3 fat.

Omega-6 fats compete with Omega-3 fats for the same enzymes.  Critically one of those is the enzyme which turns garden variety omega-3 ALA into DHA.  If we have equal amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 in our diet, just the right amount of DHA is created and all is good, but if we have too much omega-6, we fail to make enough DHA.

You might predict from that, that countries that eat a lot of seed oils loaded with omega-6  would tend not to do so well in tests and you’d be right.  The researchers in the most recent study found that there was a very strong correlation between the amount of omega-6 in the diet and how poorly 15 year olds did on standard international benchmark tests.

This confirmed the findings of five previous human studies which showed that higher omega-6 intakes impaired cognition (made us dumb – translation provided in case you’ve been hitting the margarine).  Indeed one 2011 study determined that the impairment was greater than the effect of lead!! (double exclamation points are well and truly warranted on that statement)

Just like omega-3 fats, omega-6 fats are stored in the baby pantry, ready to use when needed.  So the fats used to construct a baby’s brain are not just the fats a woman is eating when she’s pregnant or breastfeeding.  They are every fat she has stored since puberty (or since the last baby used them up).  Babies being constructed today are having brains built from the fats used in processed food for the last 20 years.

We now use unleaded petrol because of the damage lead in petrol did to developing brains. If we want the next generation not to be ‘cognitively impaired’ by seed oils, we need to act now.

We need to ensure that (at the very least) young women are not consuming foods overloaded with omega-6 fats.  This means no margarine, almost no processed food and no commercially fried food.  In other words they need to eat real food and they need to do it now.

If they do this their children will be smart enough to thank them for it.

Image courtesy of Phaitoon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How Margarine breaks your bones

By | Big Fat Lies, Vegetable Oils | 5 Comments

Scientists have known for more than a decade that the omega-6 fats contained in vegetable oils (like those used to manufacture margarine) degrade human bone density.  Now new research has thrown light on how that happens and why anyone concerned about osteoporosis needs to immediately stop consuming them.

One in twenty Australians have osteoporosis (Greek for ‘porous bones’) and 1 in 4 have low bone density (the precursor to osteoporosis). The number of people affected is accelerating wildly. In the last 10 years the number of GP visits related to osteoporosis has doubled in Australia.

Our bones are not static lumps of rock.  They are living tissue which constantly accumulate and dispose of minerals.  Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose minerals, such as calcium, more quickly than the body can replace them.  This causes a loss of bone thickness (bone density or mass).

As bones become thinner and less dense, even a minor bump or fall can cause a serious fracture. Unfortunately most people don’t know they have the disease until after they suffer a break.  Eight out of ten cases are recorded in people over the age of 55 but the age of onset is becoming progressively younger.

Osteoporosis medicines work by making the cells that break down bone (osteoclasts) less active.  This tips the balance towards accumulation of minerals by the cells that form bone (osteoblasts).

A long series of animal studies have clearly established that polyunsaturated fats are important drivers of the bone recycling process.  We know that omega-3 polyunsaturates which dominate some fish oils, flax seeds and kelp help us build up bone density.  While the omega-6 fats which dominate seed oils (like sunflower, soybean, canola, safflower and rice-bran) destroy bone density.

In 2005 researchers at the University of California confirmed that the same rules were at work in a large human population.  In that study 1,532 people were observed for 4 years.  The results were spectacularly consistent.  The more omega-6 a person consumed (or the higher their omega-6 to omega-3 ratio), the lower their bone density was.  It really was that black and white.

The results were independent of medication use, their BMI or the amount of exercise they did or didn’t do.  This means that all the things which we are told affect our chances of getting osteoporosis were rendered irrelevant by just one thing, the amount of omega-6 fat in the diet.

Unfortunately (for our health) nobody in the Health Community wants to hear that they should stop telling people to eat seed oils, so there has been precious little publicity about that line of studies.  That is, until bone density started mattering to people who breed animals for a living.

As we feed more and more of our farmed fish, diets which are high in omega-6 fats, they are becoming more and more fragile.  It seems that just like humans (and rats).  Their bones go to pot if we ramp up the omega-6.

This latest proof of the bone destroying power of omega-6 comes courtesy of an aquaculture study out of the Norwegian National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research. In that study, the scientists observed a rise in the level of activity of the enzyme that breaks down bone, in line with the rise in omega-6 concentrations.

We don’t know exactly how omega-6 works its destructive magic but the scientists suspect that it relates to the production of PGE2, the prostaglandin responsible for bone metabolism.  We make PGE2 from omega-6 fats, but the presence of omega-3 fats stops it being produced.  This is because omega-3 and omega-6 compete for the same enzymes.  If we make just the right amount, everything is tickety-boo but if we make too much, say, because we have too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3, then we start breaking down our bones.

Every processed food on the supermarket shelves is loaded with omega-6 fats (in the form of seed oils).  Every fried food has been boiled in omega-6 fats (seed oils again). Our National Heart Foundation actively encourages us to eat margarines brimming with omega-6 fats (yep, seed oils).  And the charity responsible for advice about Osteoporosis doesn’t even mention the known link between omega-6 fats and the disease.

In this environment it is not strange that the number of people affected has doubled in just a decade, it’s a bloody miracle it hasn’t tripled.  But stay tuned, at the rate we are increasing the consumption of omega-6 fats, there is much more pain to come.

Image courtesy of Boaz Yiftach at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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 FreeDigitalPhotos.net