Denmark Fat Tax
In March 2003, Denmark became the first country in the world to introduce laws to severely restrict consumption of trans fats. This has been reported as a ban on trans fats, but the law is on ingredients rather than final products and the limit was placed at 2% of fats and oils to be used for human consumption. i.e. no food that humans may eat can contain more than 2% trans fats. Given that there is no limit deemed safe for human consumption, this would still allow traces of these ‘Franken-Fats’ to get into the human body where they cannot be metabolised. It was however, a bold move and one followed by Switzerland (April 2008) and New York City (for restaurants – enforced in December 2006 to take effect from July 2008) but sadly not adopted worldwide.
Such a progressive move by Denmark has been followed by the astonishingly regressive move – adopted in October 2011 – to tax foods containing a certain level of saturated fat. The magic number has randomly been set at 2.3% – foods above this level of saturated fat (by weight) will be taxed at the rate of 16 Danish Kroner per kilogram of saturated fat.
Time Magazine helpfully gave us some examples of what this will mean for standard food items: On October 1st “The average price of a half-pound package of butter increased by 2.5 krone (or 45 U.S. cents). A pound of cheese rose from 34.5 krone ($6) to 36 krone ($6.50). And don’t even think about lard. In a single day, the cost of a half-pound block of pork fat skyrocketed from 12 krone ($2.15) to 16 krone ($2.85) — a 35% increase.”
What are fats?
Fats, commonly known as lipids, consist of a wide group of organic substances that are not soluble in water. In simple terms, fats are chains of carbon atoms (chemical symbol C) with hydrogen atoms attached (chemical symbol H) and they have a COOH group at one end (carbon, oxygen, oxygen and hydrogen). There are two groups of fats in which we have a nutritional interest – saturated and unsaturated. Within the unsaturated category, there are two further types – monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Saturated fats are the most stable fats (this is merely a statement about chemical structure). They have all available carbon bonds filled with (i.e. saturated with) hydrogen. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Interestingly, when our glycogen (storage form of glucose) capacity is full, the liver turns the excess glucose (from carbohydrates) into fat in the liver and it turns it into saturated fat. If saturated fat is bad for us, this could be the first example of the human body, in normal circumstances, trying to kill itself. Breast milk is also high in saturated fat, so did evolution also design us to kill our offspring? I have my own views on this; I’ll let you develop yours.
Unsaturated fats, quite simply, have pairs of hydrogen atoms missing. Monounsaturated fats have one double bond in the form of two carbon atoms ‘double-bonded’ to each other and, therefore, lack two hydrogen atoms. Mono means one and hence, with monounsaturated fat, there is one double bond. Monounsaturated fats tend to be liquid at room temperature (but solid at fridge temperature) and are the next most stable fat. The best known monounsaturated fat is oleic acid, the main component of olive oil. Oleic acid is also found in the oils from almonds, pecans, cashews, peanuts and avocados.
On the web site “margarine.org.uk” (described on the site as “the mouthpiece of the margarine and spreads industry”), unsaturated fats are described as follows: “In unsaturated fats, some of the carbon atoms are joined to others by a double bond and, therefore, could accept more hydrogen atoms.”[i] They could accept more hydrogen atoms. Isn’t that just a wonderful way of saying they are missing some hydrogen atoms (and are therefore less stable)?
Normally poly means many, but, in the case of polyunsaturated fat, it can mean only two. Polyunsaturated fats have two or more pairs of double bonds and, therefore, lack four or more hydrogen atoms. Polyunsaturated fats are liquid at room and fridge temperature. The two polyunsaturated fats found most frequently in our food are double unsaturated linoleic acid, with two double bonds, also called omega-6; and triple unsaturated alpha-linolenic acid, with three double bonds, also called omega-3. (The omega number indicates the position of the first double bond. If the double bond is three carbon atoms along from the right hand end, this is an omega-3 fat. If it is six carbon atoms from the right hand end, this is an omega-6 fat. The logic comes from the Greek alphabet, which goes from Alpha to Omega – like we go from A to Z). Omega-3 and omega-6 fats are called “Essential Fatty Acids” because the body cannot make them, so it is essential that they are consumed.
It is not widely known that all fats and oils, whether of vegetable or animal origin, are a combination of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. Coconut oil has the highest saturated fat content of all foods at 92% saturated, 6% monounsaturated and 2% polyunsaturated. Lard is 41% saturated, 47% monounsaturated and 12% polyunsaturated. Olive oil is 14% saturated fat, 75% monounsaturated and 11% polyunsaturated. The above are 100% fats, so we can usefully compare their composition as percentages. Butter has a significant water content and a trace of protein, so 100 grams of butter has 51 grams of saturated fat, 21 grams of monounsaturated fat and 3 grams of polyunsaturated fat.[ii]
We simply cannot eat “saturated fat” – no such food exists in isolation in nature. A healthy human, who only eats real food as provided by nature can only reduce intake of saturated fat by reducing intake of all fats. An unhealthy human, who eats things that man makes, can reduce saturated fat intake and have this artificially ‘replaced’ by man-mad Franken-fats and/or carbohydrates – both substantially worse for us than nature’s real fats.
The role of Fat
Fat is utterly vital for human health – dietary fats serve four key purposes:
1) They provide the essential fatty acids (EFA’s);
2) They are the carriers of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K;
3) They supply the most concentrated form of energy in our diets;
4) They help make our diets palatable. Food with little or no fat can be quite tasteless and sometimes difficult to digest.
Fats are crucial for every aspect of our wellbeing as they form the membrane (protective wall) that surrounds every cell in our bodies. Excluding water, our brains are approximately 60% fat (lipids in fact, including cholesterol).[iii] Fats also play a crucial role in cushioning vital organs, as some people have tragically found out when fat (and lean tissue) has been lost suddenly on a very low calorie diet. Put simply, with the right fats and enough of them our cells are strong, without them they are weak and prone to attack.
Let us look at these four key roles in more detail.
1) Starting with the EFA’s, good sources of the essential fats are as follows: omega-6 is provided by meat, eggs, avocado, nuts, whole grains and seeds and their oils (sunflower seeds, rapeseeds and pumpkin seeds as common examples). Omega-3 is found in meat, fish and fish oils – salmon, halibut, shark and swordfish being particularly valuable sources.
Omega-6 deficiency may cause: growth retardation; eczema-like skin conditions; behavioural disturbances; arthritis-like conditions; liver and kidney degeneration; excessive water loss through the skin accompanied by thirst; drying up of glands; susceptibility to infections; wounds fail to heal; sterility in males; miscarriage in females; heart and circulatory problems; dry skin and hair; dry eyes and hair loss.
Omega-3 deficiency may cause: growth retardation; dry skin; behavioural disturbances, tingling sensations in arms and legs; weakness; impairment of vision and learning ability; high blood pressure; sticky platelets; tissue inflammation; mental deterioration and low metabolic rate.
Both lists present a compelling case for ensuring adequate consumption of essential fats.
2) Moving on to the four fat soluble vitamins – A, D, E and K. (We can become blasé about the role of vitamins and minerals in the body. It may be interesting to read the following lists with the mindset – would you personally like to have any, or all, of the following functions impaired and can you be sure that you eat the foods necessary to deliver these vital nutrients?)
– Vitamin A has many functions within the body. It is needed for our sight, cell function, skin, bones, growth, reproduction, blood formation and to fight infection. Vitamin A is particularly important for pregnant women and growing children. Deficiency in vitamin A can lead to: sight conditions generally and night blindness particularly; growth and reproductive impairment; increased susceptibility to infections; and rough, dry, scaly skin. Retinol is the pure form of vitamin A – the form used most easily and readily by the body. This makes for a memorable connection between retinol, the retina of the eye and the role vitamin A plays in sight.
There is much debate as to whether plants can provide adequate vitamin A, or whether it needs to be consumed in an animal product. We can say the following with certainty: a) only animal products contain retinol; b) plant sources of vitamin A come in the form of carotene, which requires conversion within the body into retinol; c) even with Beta-carotene, the carotene most easily converted into retinol, there is substantial loss such that the conversion ratio is at best 6:1 (“The accepted 6:1 equivalency of beta-carotene to preformed vitamin A must be challenged and re-examined in the context of dietary plants”);[iv] d) not every person is capable of converting carotene to retinol “Diabetics and those with poor thyroid function cannot make the conversion. Children make the conversion very poorly and infants not at all”[v] and e) carotenes are converted by the action of bile salts and very little bile reaches the intestine when a meal is low in fat. Our grandparents put butter on their vegetables for good reason. We can confidently assert, therefore, that animal food generally, and liver particularly, are the best sources of vitamin A.
– Vitamin D is critical for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D is increasingly being studied in nutritional journals and its possible role in cancer prevention is being explored. Deficiency in vitamin D can lead to tooth decay, muscular weakness and a softening of the bones (rickets), which can cause bone fractures or poor healing of fractures.
Vitamin D is found naturally in oily fish (for example herring, halibut, catfish, salmon, mackerel and sardines) and unnaturally in fortified breakfast cereals. Vegetarians would need to eat 26 medium eggs each day (1,634 calories) to get 10 micrograms of vitamin D – considered an “adequate intake”. Mushrooms, which have been exposed to sunlight, are the only conceivable option for vegans. Over two kilograms of such mushrooms would need to be sourced and eaten daily to deliver 10 micrograms of vitamin D. Ideally, but not an option for vegans, these would need to be consumed with butter to make them ‘bio-available’ to the body.
– Vitamin E is a generic term for a family of fat soluble vitamins active throughout the body. We are learning more about the different forms of vitamin E and more of them are being found to have unique functions. The key role of vitamin E is as an antioxidant. The oxygen that we need to breathe can make molecules overly reactive and this can damage cell structure. This imbalanced situation involving oxygen is called oxidative stress. Vitamin E helps prevent oxidative stress by working together with a group of nutrients (including vitamins B3, C and selenium) to prevent oxygen molecules from becoming too reactive. Vitamin E protects the skin (cells) in much the same way as it protects other cells. We hear little about the possible heart protection role of vitamin E, yet it acts as an anti-blood clotting agent and it maintains healthy blood vessels.
Deficiency in vitamin E can lead to dry skin, poor muscular and circulatory function, damage to red blood cells and blood vessels and an inability of the white blood cells to resist infection.
Vitamin E is found naturally in seeds, nuts and oils that derive from these. Hence, we don’t need to eat animal foods to obtain vitamin E, but we do need to consume fats. Sunflower seeds are one of the best sources of vitamin E and they have 51 grams of fat per 100 grams of product.
– Vitamin K has a number of important functions, such as its role in blood clotting and wound healing. Vitamin K is very important for the health of our gut and it is being destroyed with the high modern consumption of anti-biotics, leaving humans prone to imbalance in the gut flora and concomitant illness. Deficiency in vitamin K complicates blood clotting and can manifest itself in nose bleeds, bleeding gums, heavy menstruation or even blood in the urine or stools. A propensity to bruise can also be a sign of vitamin K deficiency.
Vitamin K comes in two forms: K1 and K2. K1 is found in plants, green leafy vegetables particularly, and is also called phylloquinone. Vitamin K2 is found in animal foods. K2 is also known as menaquinone and comes in different forms – MK-4 through to MK-10 (the ‘MK’ comes from a phonetic abbreviation of MenaKwinone). Meat is a primary source of MK-4. Eggs and calcium rich hard cheese are particularly good sources of MK-7, 8 and 9. The Rotterdam Study[vi] concluded: “Intake of menaquinone was inversely related to all-cause mortality and severe aortic calcification. Phylloquinone intake was not related to any of the outcomes. These findings suggest that an adequate intake of menaquinone could be important for CHD prevention.” I share this as another example of the animal form of fat soluble vitamins being the most useful – in the context of current public health advice steering us away from these nutritious foods.
3) The fact that fat supplies the most concentrated form of energy in our diets is used against this macronutrient in today’s modern, obese environment. It is argued in our calorie obsessed world that we should avoid fat because of its calorie content. There are two ironies here:
a) Man would not be here today without the energy supplied by fat (predominantly from animals, but also from nuts) during evolution and particularly during the ice age and in regions of the earth where vegetation was not available. At 80-90% water and containing only approximately four calories per gram, humans would simply not have been able to get enough vegetation to survive. (If any ancient berry approximated to, say, a wild strawberry in nutritional content, Neanderthals would have needed over three kilograms of berries to provide 1,000 calories).
b) The second irony is that fat cannot make us fat – only carbohydrate can do this. The glycerol backbone, which turns fat particles into a triglyceride (the form in which adipose tissue is stored), is produced in the presence of glucose and insulin – the environment created following the consumption of carbohydrate.
4) In this carbohydrate consuming/calorie avoiding world, we have lost the awareness of the palatability and unique satiety of fat. 100 grams of a well known brand of cereal, marketed to slimmers, contains rice, wheat (whole wheat, wheat flour), sugar, wheat gluten, defatted wheat germ, dried skimmed milk, salt, barley malt flavouring, and a number of added vitamins to give the product nutritional value. This brand has 76 grams of carbohydrate and 379 calories per 100 grams of product. Most people could eat 100 grams of this with relative ease. (I work with people who commonly binge on cereal). Try to eat 300 grams of “pork chop, boneless, raw lean and fat” – calculated by the USDA database as having slightly fewer calories than the cereal and no carbohydrate content. It will be substantially more filling, and therefore more difficult, to eat the meat than the cereal.
What Denmark now needs to tax
So, Denmark has started down the road of destroying human health. People who eat real food will be penalised for all fat consumption, as they cannot reduce saturated fat consumption in isolation. People who eat fake food will be able to increase their consumption of man-made, bleached, deodorised and emulsified alternatives to real fats and/or their consumption of fattening carbohydrates.
However, I wonder if Denmark knows which foods contain more than 2.3% saturated fat?
From the extremely useful United States Department of Agriculture -all-foods database, we can find the following:
– Beef, Porterhouse steak, raw, trimmed to 1/8″ fat (USDA reference = URMIS 2145) will be taxed; Beef, Sirloin, lean only (URMIS 2244) won’t be. Hence humans will be encouraged to eat an unnaturally high ratio of protein to fat – taxing (excuse the pun) the liver and our vitamin A requirement further.
– Pork chop, boneless, raw, lean and fat escapes tax with 1.5% saturated fat. However, Pork, fresh, loin, top loin (chops), boneless, separable lean and fat, raw [America’s cut chops, Pork top loin chops, Strip loin chops, URMIS #3369] will be taxed at 2.5% saturated fat. Again – the fact that pork has far more unsaturated than saturated fat seems to have escaped the wisdom of Danish-powers-that-be. Somewhat amusingly, the notoriously ‘low fat’ meat, favoured by fat phobics, venison, will be taxed: Venison, game meat, deer, ground, raw has 3.4 grams of saturated fat per 100 grams of product. Interestingly, venison is the only meat thus far that I have been able to find with more saturated than unsaturated fat. Not that one fat is better or worse than the other – all real fats are vital – but just to dispel nonsense that we have been told.
– Fish – that ‘heart healthy’ oily fish, which we are encouraged to eat – will likely be taxed. The less nutritious white fish likely won’t be. Mackerel has almost twice the saturated fat of our boneless pork chop above. Again – the polyunsaturated fat ‘darling’ of dietitians will suffer for being in the same food as something with more than 2.3% saturated fat content. Damn nature for putting all the fats in all the foods!
– Eggs, although only one third saturated fat and with the main fat being that so-called super fat “mono-unsaturated” – will be taxed. That’s a tax on a product containing omega-3 and omega-6, complete protein and a phenomenal range of vitamins and minerals – the closest a vegetarian will get to a super-food.
– Cheese, with the vital vitamins A and D (the UK currently gets approximately 50% of the minimum vitamin A requirement and barely 25% of the paltry vitamin D requirement) and an abundance of the crucial minerals calcium and phosphorus, as well as zinc, will be taxed heavily. That’s osteoporosis set to continue its relentless rise and rickets in children set to continue.
– Milk – if you want the fat-free nonsense, with the delivery mechanism for the fat soluble vitamins removed – no tax. If you want the ‘full fat’ version (still only c. 3-4% total fat) the saturated fat content could get close. Those dairy farmers had better to be able to measure this one to the gram or ml – it’s going to be touch and go!
Nuts, Seeds & Fruit
– Sunflower seeds will be taxed, at 4.5 grams of saturated fat per 100 grams of seeds. The 18.5 grams of monounsaturated fat and the 23.1 grams of polyunsaturated fat in sunflower seeds get ‘taxed’ indirectly by association. At a whopping 33mg of vitamin E per 100 grams of product, sunflower seeds are unbeatable for vitamin E. This is the body’s natural anti-oxidant, so we are taxing a unique natural anti-oxidant that would help with heart and blood health.
– Any nuts – prepare to pay highly for the natural fats and terrific amounts of nutrients in nature’s gold nuggets in a shell.
– Avocado just escapes at 2.1% saturated fat. Olives are also dangerously close at 2% saturated fat.
Butter is not the only real fat that will be taxed. That ‘superfood’ of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil, is 14% saturated fat – 9 times that of our boneless pork chop. That will get a hefty fine on its claimed healthful benefits. Sunflower oil ditto. Lard, mostly unsaturated fat (60% infact – not many people know that) will also get clouted, despite this being (like butter) one of the most stable, and therefore safe, fats to cook with.
I think that’s covered real foods – meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, seeds & fruit and real fats. Vegetables and sugary fruits are the only real foods to escape this Danish madness. I have deliberately not mentioned any manufactured foods because I couldn’t care less about any of them. Tax them out of reach. Heck – ban the horrors – but don’t attack nature’s real foods when the real culprits are those made by man.
A final thought
My passion is obesity. All I care about is how we can reverse this horrific epidemic that we inflicted on our fellow humans. I am convinced that our change in dietary advice (USA 1977 and UK 1983) was responsible for the concomitant obesity epidemic.
I open my book The Obesity Epidemic: What caused it? How can we stop it? with the following quote from the UK document (Proposals for nutritional guidelines for Health Education in Britain (1983))
“The previous nutritional advice in the UK to limit the intake of all carbohydrates as a means of weight control now runs counter to current thinking and contrary to the present proposals for a nutrition education policy for the population as a whole… The problem then becomes one of achieving both a reduction in fat intake to 30% of total energy and a fall in saturated fatty acid intake to 10%.”
And so started the obesity epidemic…
The data in the UK National Food Survey is extremely comprehensive, to the point of including detail on both macro and micronutrients. The information on macronutrients says that we consumed 51.7 grams per person per day of saturated fat in 1975 and 28.1 grams in 1999. The food examples in the data tables support this – all fat, butter, meat, whole milk and eggs – real foods and sources of saturated fat – are down. Dramatically in some cases – we eat half the number of eggs that we used to and one fifth of the butter and whole milk.
During the time, in which we all but halved saturated fat intake in the UK, obesity increased from 2.7% for men and women in 1972 to 22.6% for men and 25.8% for women in 1999.
Fat doesn’t make us fat – only carbs can do that. Theoretically, biochemically and empirically, the evidence is irrefutable. Although not to the Danes apparently. They have shown themselves to be a few rashers short of a packet.
[ii] United States Department of Agriculture nutritional database. www.nutritiondata.com
[iii] McIlwain, H. and Bachelard, H.S., Biochemistry and the Central Nervous System, Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, (1985). Estimates the composition of the brain to be (approximately) 78% water, 10-12% lipids, 8% protein, 2% soluble organic substances, 1% carbohydrate and 1% inorganic salts.
[iv] Solomons, N. W. and J. Bulux. “Plant sources of provitamin A and human nutriture.” Nutrition Review, July 1993.
[v] Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, “Vitamin A”, (March 2002).
[vi] Geleijnse JM, Vermeer C, Grobbee DE, Schurgers LJ, Knapen MH, van der Meer IM, Hofman A, Witteman JC, “Dietary intake of menaquinone is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease: the Rotterdam Study”, The Journal of Nutrition, (November 2004).
22 thoughts on “Denmark Fat Tax”
Oh and as for the lactose in mother’s milk. Lactose is converted to glucose which stimulates insulin, which is a growth hormone. In someone who is growing, and growing a LOT, they could use biochemical encouragement for that. If you are no longer GROWING, your carbohydrate requirements are not as great.
The sugar being in lactose form in the milk also helps to colonize the baby’s gut with helpful gut flora that that baby will need over his or her lifetime, something glucose does not do–you don’t want the kind of germs that glucose encourages to be taking over your intestines. Glucose overdose is why adults so often have unhealthy gut flora that spill over into the stomach (which is supposed to be sterile, except for a small population of H. pylori). See, Nature knows what she’s doing.
IF YOU WILL USE IT, some higher amount of glucose in the diet is fine. If you are ALL GROWN UP and not a super-athlete, there’s no reason to consume huge amounts of it.
As for traditional groups eating high-carb, that’s great, but I’d like to point out that the Kitavans live on an island and can hardly move somewhere else to find more animal food. They must make do with where they live. The uncontacted tribes in the Amazon who were photographed from the air as they processed tubers can’t move around either; they are aware that we’re out here and want nothing to do with us. Both the historical *and* prehistoric records show us that agricultural starch foods are POVERTY foods, meant as caloric filler when the preferred high-fat, high-animal diet cannot be maintained.
And these groups are *still* eating a high-fat diet, and particularly a diet high in saturated fat, because they still consume animal and other fats whenever they can get them. Kitavans eat lots of fish and coconut. Indians hunt. None of these groups are vegan.
Also, people living at the equator can afford to eat more starch because they also get a lot of sunlight and they tend to live near volcanoes, meaning there is more sulfur in the soil. You need sulfur to make insulin to deal with the starch, and interesting research is arising now indicating that sulfated cholesterol and sulfated vitamin D in the body help mitigate the worst bodily insults caused by high carb consumption. (Google Stephanie Seneff and you’ll see what I mean.)
ALSO, these people tend to do a lot of physical labor, which *also* offsets some of the insults. If you’re not living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, not getting a lot of sun exposure and not living in a high-sulfur area then you should compensate for those facts.
Andrew, you need to do some homework on what “essential” means in nutrition-speak. An “essential” nutrient is one you need to live but you CANNOT MAKE. The fact that we’re capable of gluconeogenesis means that glucose IS NOT essential.
I couldn’t say why you gained on such a diet. I would have to know what your ratios were of protein to fat–if you tried to do this low-fat and ate huge amounts of protein, believe it or not, your body can turn up to half of that into glucose and you are right back at square one. Might as well be eating a high-carb diet.
Archduke: India has one of the highest rates of heart disease in the world. I wouldn’t want to emulate that. Most of them are vegetarian. Guess where the fewest heart attacks are occurring? In the north, where they eat more meat and dairy.
Mushrooms are not such a great source of vitamin D, either. It’s D2, or ergocalciferol, which must be converted once you eat it. D3 (cholecalciferol) is the best dietary form.
Count me as a poor converter of beta carotene. I almost bled out through my uterus before I discovered this. Not through a lab test–through self-experimentation. Yay!
Actually I’m finding that humans are poor converters of at least three out of the four fat-soluble vitamins insofar as the plant precursors being made into the real thing that we actually use. Vitamin K as well; the Rotterdam study found that K2 from eggs and cheese reduced heart-attack risk, but not K1 from plants. Next thing you know, they’ll find that only the tocopherols from animals are any good as vitamin E for us, and not the tocopherols from grain oils. Wonder if anyone’s looked at that yet?
I’ve been a lacto-vegetarian for some 40 years. I’m somewhat overweight from a modest diet of cheesy pasta, wine, beer…So time to lose weight. I came to Zoe’s site and wondered how her theories differed from Gi & Atkins.
The discussion above re populations that eat lots of carbs is very pertinent. I was told that a vegan diet would cause massive health problems and went to parts of India where a Jain population has eaten a vegan diet for over 2000 years! They seemed healthy.
So before I embark on a new diet it would be helpful to hear about the differences to Gi & Atkins plus thoughts on how other populations manage to eat carbs.
Now where’s that bottle of beer?
Hi Everybody! i have to agree Tokyo mum and Chris! i personally tried the low carb eating style, i belived in it, i did it and i did loose some weight at the start for 4 months! i then went on hoidays for 10 days and gained some back very quickly!! so when i got back from holiday i went again low carb.. this time i did not loose at all! i went even lower so just eggs and becon for breakfast, meat/fish with cheese or butter for lunch, more cheese,eggs,meat for dinner with very little salad/vegetable.. I started gaining!! how do u explain that? low carb and gaining? i did stick to that and gained even more!! so from size 32 i went up to size 36!! with the low carb!!! then i started looking for different answers.. and i discovered the work of dr.Ray Peat.. and stopped this low carb madness!! we need glucose from fruits, squashes, and sugar itself.. saying carbs are not essential is incorrect!! if glucose was not really needed then why is that that something called gluconeogenesis starts as soon as the blood glucose gets too low?? and isnt it process catabolic?? and isnt it was the low carb eating forces your body to do? Yea it is!! When we dont provide enogh glucose from food and we dont store enough in form of glycogen the liver/thyroid do not convert hormone t4 in to Active T3 in enogh quantietes to support high metabolism!! plus when we free the stored fatty acids for energy NOT all of em are converted to ketones(safe form of energy) and most fats we store are polyunsaturated and this fats are highly antithyroid;they slow down metabolism,they create inflammation and extra endotoxin in the gut plus those fats are not ideal for humans.. we are warm blooded and we need mainly fats that are stable,do not go rancid and do not creat metabolic problems and those are butter,cream,dairy fats,coconut oil,chololate fat,beef or lamb fat and mct oil that is pure saturated fat!! olive oil is ok in very small ammount as it still contains big ammount of polyunsaturated fats.. but other fats like flax or hemp oil, or any nut,seed oils or even avocados are not really made for us humans to eat! same goes for grains and green overground vegetables or salads.. we can not digest them so let the cows or lambs eat them.. Dr.Ray Peat has been on many radio interviews so just google them and you will be able to listen his points, also read articles on his website and Forget about “essential” fattty acids! no such thing! when those oils got called essential vitamin b6 was not know jet!! thats why!! also check the great work by Dr.Broda Barnes about the thyroid.. we need to eat digestable carbs! everyone is different.. some need more some need less but gotta support metabolism and not shut it down with the low carb system!! I wish everone all the best and Yes the fat tax is simply silly!! Tax Processed foods not butter!! have a great day guys!!
Tokyo Mum- I’m not an expert in breast milk composition but the carbs you are talking about are lactose? Breast milk varies from person to person, so I think it’s possible that any values you may have seen, may not be true for some people. Also, we consume lactose in milk as adults, but we were never meant to do this-we decided to do this. I don’t think I’ve seen any other adult species consume the milk of a foreign species, so really, it’s not ‘natural’ to drink cow’s milk etc. So, the ‘carb’ content in our mother’s milk was supposed to be limited to when we were infants…
Anyway…I really wanted to thank Zoe for her fabulous book and website and particularly for educating me on the calorie theory. I have a PhD in Chemistry (unrelated to food) and as a scientist, I think it’s important to always question what is put in front of us, especially information from food manufacturers and the government.I read your book after reading ‘Eat your heart out’ by Felicity Lawrence, which opened my eyes to how ‘unhealthy’ cereal is and how cereal production, advertising the necessity of carbs and promotion of their ‘health benefits’ is actually one of the biggest ‘scams’ of our age, devised to line the pockets of the USA after the Marshall Plan agreement with the help of Kelloggs.
I have passed on your advice to anyone who will listen and it is particularly interesting that my partner, who is a personal trainer and body builder, has exceptional control over his weight and his diet is constructed in a similar way to the Harcombe diet. I have a harder time convincing my parents who are following the slimming world diet where they can eat an unlimited amount of spaghetti, bananas etc…I just don’t understand how you can do that and lose weight?
I’m particularly interested in two other issues, aside from weight loss/obesity. 1)cellulite and 2)eczema/skin dryness. My mother and I have both have cellulite and dry skin and she has bad eczema and we have followed low fat diets over the years. A friend of mine ‘cured’ his eczema by taking cod liver oil. I truly believe that both eczema and cellulite are fat deficiency conditions. I would love to see a study on diets low in saturated fats and how they affect skin conditions and the proportion of cellulite in the body. It’s reported in the media to be related to age/contraception etc, but I had cellulite from the age of 12 (when I also starved myself, ate a low fat diet and ate an enormous amount of sugar). I suspect that this is another one of those subjects where our conditions worsen as a result of current government advice.
Dear Mat, sorry if my response sounds like I am attacking you, but I am not :-) The people of Vanuatu and Kitava are a third world nation, and their plates are filled with bland carby starches that are filled with goodness. But my point is not about rice or potatoes. If you are honest, you can’t help but to add salt or pepper to a piece of steak?
Just my 2 cents:
I think it is important for main stream low carbers proponents (whether you are a scientist, doctor or researcher) to recognise and acknowledge that there are societies who thrive healthily on a high carb diet. Gary Taubes and some other low carb experts seem to ignore this. While their good message is to help humanity live a healthy life, their conclusion that carbs make you fat is not entirely honest and incomplete scientific evidence. I’m sure they know who Staffan Lindeberg is. That is why I have a much higher respect for Stephen Guyenet, The Jaminets and Kurt Harris for their balanced and more thorough research on obesity and metabolic syndrome.
When I discovered Gary Taubes 2 years ago, I was sold on his carb causing insulin spike hypothesis and adhered to a low carb diet for over a year. I wasn’t overweight by any means, just shifting from a vegetarian diet and trying to gain more energy and to feel better overall. I shunned rice, potatoes and all other starchy carbs (not to mention bread and wheat based products). At the time, I was a new mum for baby number 2. Because of the perceived expectation that you are supposed to never go hungry, you are supposed to have tons of energy, feel better, I thought I was doing LC wrong, as those things didn’t happen to me. I was still hungry after a meal of protein and fats, plus green veggies. I felt something was missing, still not energetic, although I didn’t have problems losing the post pregnancy weight.
And then I discovered The Perfect Health Diet and started to experiment eating safe starches again. I felt and still feel better, I have much more energy and feel lighter when running or jumping around playing with my 2 active boys. I am also stronger. And all this within a week of the PHD diet and I intend to stick with it. Paul Jaminet even said that it’s important for pregnant women and new mothers to eat more carbs (safe starches of course).
Also, if carbs are so bad, why does evolution put carbs in mother’s milk? If human doesn’t need carbs, at what point (or at what age) does a human baby stop needing carbs? Paul Jaminet even said that there is a risk of a child become obese as an adult if eating too much protein.
As a lay person, I depend on the “experts” to sieve through the information and pick carefully who has the most balanced, honest and unbiased knowledge. Knowledge is a journey, not a destination. So if an honest scientist acknowledges the validity of low carb diet, that scientist will do even better if he/she could also acknowledge the validity of a high carb diet.
@ Tokyo Mum – I’m not ignoring them – I acknowledge the existence of starchy carbs!
I just don’t eat them because no matter how you dress it up- they are bland and only have any taste at all when you add something ‘non-carby’ to them. Therefore, I’d much rather eat the ‘non-carby’ stuff that contains all the taste rather than the bland ‘plate-fillers’ that only exist historically because people were too poor to afford the ‘non-carb’ goodness.
I’m not demonising carbs – I eat them in the form of vegetables with my meat! Celeriac happens to be one of my favourite vegetables and I agree – you cannot put parsnips and carrots in the same bracket as grains and sugar – both of these are just plain wrong and we really shouldn’t be eating them!
I have read Stephen’s blog and I’m not sure I agree with everything he says. Food reward will indeed be a part of weight-loss but it is certainly not the be all and end all about it. I am a firm believer that getting fat means creating triglyceride which cannot be created unless there is excess glucose in the body. Losing fat is the opposite – breaking down triglyceride which cannot happen if there is excess glucose in the body.
The main source of glucose in the body is starchy carbs. When the body is glucose-depleted, the pancreas then produces glucagon which tells the body to extract glucose and the best source for this is the breaking down of triglyceride.
Yes, this sounds simplistic and it is! – It as worked and I have lost 43lbs in 9 months and kept that weight off for over a year. I also find the real food I’m eating very rewarding and I no longer crave any foods – Pastries (wheat) were my bug-bear back when I was fat!
We do agree on a lot and, like you, I’d like to focus on that! – JERF forever!
@Mat and folks who support low carb: Yes, the Masai and Inuit eat a zero carb diet, and we do understand that they are healthy not because they do not eat carb per se, but because they do not succumb to modern western diet. Why choose to ignore other societies who eat high carb diet and still thrive, like the Kitavans and the ni-Van. I think we shouldn’t just stop and plainly agree at the carbs cause insulin hypothesis ala Gary Taubes. Stephen has nicely put a post on this issue:
And also, there are folks who have been following a low carb diet for years and find it difficult to shed more weight, after losing it successfully in the beginning. There are also folks who suffer from thyroid problem, and other problems following a low carb diet. What do you have to say about these issues? Maybe low carb diet is good in the short run, but what can one expect in the long run?
And there are folks who introduced back safe starchy carbs as recommended by Paul Jaminet’s The Perfect Health Diet and managed to lose that extra weight, and feeling much better after following low carb diet for many years. This is just one example that is contradictory to the suppose benefits of low carbing in the long run.
By all means eat what you want, but please stop demonising all carbohydrates are bad-it’s irresponsible.
I am happy though that we agree that healthy saturated fats are good for everyone. But please do not put sugar and root veggies under the same carbohydrates category. It’s get complicated and murky when we lump everything into carbohydrates (just like when we lump fats together).
IIRC it is only the brain that actually needs glucose – every cell in the body will happily run on fatty acids.
I think the Masai have ‘evolved’ to eat the diet that we *should* be eating – I know who I’d rather emulate
If you wanna eat carbs – go for it! Each to their own.
I’ll stick to the ‘Eating real food principles’. Meat, eggs, dairy and veg. Incidentally, the dairy and veg components will also contain carbohydrates but not enough to necessitate my pancreas to produce insulin to prevent my blood becoming toxic.
PS – I’d much rather have a curry with a side-order of curry than the bland rice that is on offer! ;)
Tokyo Mum – Totally agree with what you are saying. I think it is slightly ironic that people get so upset with peoples lack of knowledge about fats and are the first to say ‘fat doesn’t make you fat’. But then turn around and make the exact same mistake and blame everything on carbohydrates. Stephen Gueynet really knows his stuff.
Mat – Yes the body can run on fat, but that doesn’t mean that we should want it to. Brain and nervous system need glucose to function. By restricting carbohydrates. You are forcing the body to make this from protein. This puts the body in a catabolic state, raises cortisol, raises inflammation and is generally not healthy for the body. Why would you do this when you can easily eat carbohydrates. Yes the Masai were able to do it. But they had been eating the same diet for many years and so they would have been better adapted to do so. They also ate that diet because they had to, not because of choice. If carbohydrates had been around they would have eaten them and been in a similar state of great health. The Masai also live a very different life than I would imagine you do today.
Glyn – I disagree. I think a well run metabolism needs carbohydrates to do all its functions. If carbohydrates makes people so overweight please explain to me why the many populations who live on a diet high in rice and other carbohydrates are so lean. Crap processed carbohydrates cause problems. The same way as highly refined vegetable oils create problems. Making a blame statement that ‘carbs are bad’ is just wrong.
Great article, as always. I think we should all be lobbying our MPs and maybe the Prime Minister and Andrew Lansley as, during the Conservative party conference David Cameron was asked about a fat tax in this country and did not rule it out.
Chris, it is not helpful to see insulin use as normal. A well run metabolism would not require insulin to force sugar into cells except to remove excess sugar before it can damage (glycate) proteins after a binge. Your blood would normally contain around 7g of sugar total so what happens when you eat say 100g in a bar of milk chocolate? Your proteins get damaged and this damage accumulates. Fats are higher in calories than sugar when completely burnt in a laboratory calorimeter – BUT that is not what happens in the body. Sugar makes the waistline expand and fat does not. Getting more of your daily calories from fat reduces your risk of obesity. Sugar will make you fat and damage the protein receptor that allow normal levels of the bodies own insulin to do their job – this causes type II diabetes.
Seneff S,. Wainwright G., and Mascitelli L.
Is the metabolic syndrome caused by a high fructose, and relatively low fat, low cholesterol diet?
Arch Med Sci 2011; 7, 1: 8-20 doi:10.5114/aoms.2011.20598
One of the fallacies propagated is that we need carbohydrate for energy.
The human body is perfectly adept at ‘running on fat’. Pre-agriculture; we wouldn’t have had ready access to carbohydrates especially in wintertime and archaeological studies have found that we were taller, stronger and healthier.
Looking at a modern ‘primitive’ people, the Masai, we can deduce that a pretty much carbohydrate-free diet is good for us – They are tall, strong and healthy. We, with our sophisticated diets, are generally short, fat and unfit!
Granted, if you want to participate in unnatural activities like marathon running, you will need a good supply of ready energy – glucose from carbohydrate. But for all the natural exercise you do; walking, talking, dancing, tending the land (gardening) all you need is fat and protein.
I find it interesting that there are essential proteins and essential fats but no essential carbohydrates.
I am certainly not saying that all carbohydrates are created equal but we really do not need them for health or energy.
Hope this is useful,
I enjoy reading your blog, but like Chris, I disagree on your conclusion about carbs. They are societies such as the Kitavans and the ni-Van (people of Vanuatu) who eat a high carb diet from starchy root vegetables like sweet potatoes and yams and yet they are healthy without suffering obesity and diseases of civilisation. The problem hits them once they adopt modern westernised diet including seed oil, sugar and flour. An example of the ni-Van can be read here: http://thatpaleoguy.com/2011/06/20/the-diet-and-lifestyle-of-the-people-of-vanuatu-paleo-in-paradise/
Potatoes CAN be healthy too:
Interview with a Kitavan:
I’m not a scientist, but I observe this: I live in Tokyo, Japan and the staple food is largely rice and they are one of the slimmest people I’ve met. Granted, rice is a poor source of vitamins an minerals, but the point here is they eat carbish rice as a staple and they are not obese. Yes, they do suffer other diseases, smoke a lot, drink a lot, but they are still not obese. It is telling that carb PER SE is not responsible for making people fat.
I think we need to keep an open mind and not demonise carbohydrates causing fear in people (who have no metabolic syndrome) not to eat them such as a humble potato. Like not all fats are created equal, not all carbs are created equal, so we need to be mindful about telling people the correct information. I hope there’s not another carbohydrates version of Ancel Keys.
Thank you for your blog.
I tend to disagree with your take on carbs/insulin. From my perspective insulin is released to help carbohydrates get into cells to be used for energy. Hence insulin is a useful hormone, not something to be feared.
Insulin only becomes a problem when people become insulin insensitive and the body is in effect not registering the insulin (or doing so poorly). In this case the body take the sugars out of the blood to be stored as fat. But this is not caused by the insulin itself, but by the body’s inability to recognise it.
So what causes this? While the common response now seems to be ‘too much carbs’ I disagree as it is never that simple. I would look at things like thyroid function, cortisol levels, missing micro and macronutrients, poor liver function, hormone disregulation…the list goes on.
So how do you fix the problem? The common answer is ‘avoid carbs’ or ‘eat low GI/GL? The problem with this is that it makes out like carbs are the cause and they are not, and that insulin is the problem, and it is not. The problem is with the sensitivity.
I have generally found the best way to repair this system is with good amounts of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. And included in carbohydrates I would have starchy forms like potatoes, sweet potatoes, the whole range of squashes, basically all the below ground vegetables as well as fruit (espesically tropical. The proportions of carbs, protein and fats are person specific but the idea of cutting out totally or restriciting carbs should be avoided. Get adequate rest, look at the stressors in your life, and keep omega 6 oils to a minimum.
There are many groups of people from all around the world who have eaten a diet high in carbohydrates and lived in fantastic health. The Pima Indians and lots of Asia are the first groups to spring to mind. There health problems started to appear when it became desirable to live like a middle class westerner and eat junk food. The problem is the processed foods and the western way of life, not the carbohydrates.
Really good article Zoe on the benefits of fat. I agree with it all expect your closing statements that carbohydrates make us fat. I found the same thing when I watched your recent talk from WAPF conference. Real food, whether it be fats, carbohydrates or protein does not make us fat.
When you say carbohydrates what do you mean? It is such a broad term and I think lumping all carbohydrates into the same category is wrong.
Hi Chris – anything with a carb content can cause blood glucose level to rise and make glucose available to make glycerol to make triglyceride – human fat tissue. The accompanying insulin simultaneously enables the fat to be stored in fat cells. Hence zero carb foods (meat, fish, eggs) on their own cannot make human fat tissue. Anything with a carb content (i.e. anything other than meat, fish, eggs) can do this. Some people will then argue that carb content (grams of carb per 100g of product) is most important and some will argue on glycaemic index, but, either way the more that blood glucose levels are raised and the more insulin that is released, the more we are facilitating fat storage. On carb content nothing is worse than sucrose (100%) carb, on glycaemic index, there’s not much worse than wheat.
Most people can enjoy non starchy vegetables and salads freely (some people are so carb sensitive that they can’t), but any carb level above this is not helpful for those trying to lose weight.
Hope this helps!
Best wishes – Zoe
A very informative article to address this total madness. I can only speak from my own experience and that of my clients since I started to read more and research into the carbohydrate effect on our diet and the obesity it causes. I too, in the past came from the school of thought, such as low fat, higher carbs and calorie restriction was the way to go. Alas no, as I read more into this subject from sources such as Gary Taubes, Rob Wolf, Jeff Volek, Drs Eades and of course your own books, I made the real and startling discovery that carbs are the problem and not fats.
Hence, I have lost almost four stone, have normalised my blood pressure from 176/112, have a body fat reading of 13.5% and I am in my mid fifties and I have donne this in less than a year. I eat full fat butter, lots of eggs and fatty meat. I don’t count calories and am never hungry. I know that eating proper food works.
However, I think that the general public have been primed over many years to believe that fat is bad and that will be a tough nut to crack. Having said that, I have started to teach my clients this way and they are ALL losing fat…what more evidence do we need.
I think that this tax is a disasterous route to take and we should resist it completely.
Keep up the fight Zoe, we need people with your technical knowledge and experience.
Many thanks Pete and for your support on our facebook page! We should just be able to ignore idiotic advice and merrily eat real food, but when the idiots threaten to tax every real food there is (veg excepted) we have to act.
And next door, over in Sweden, LCHF is taking off and the obesity rate is dropping. We now have the Denmark-Sweden demonstration of the LC vs LF diets of humans happening. In about a year or two we will be able to confirm LCHF works better.