Nina Teicholz shared an interesting anecdote with me recently. She had watched a public meeting where a senior figure involved in the US dietary guidelines said she wished people “would stop believing the ‘old wives tale’ of the low-fat diet”. The powers that be clearly want us to believe that they never issued that low-fat advice. Silly us – we must have dreamed it!
This is not just an anecdote; it’s a strategy. To come out and announce that they got things wrong could be very costly for governments and organisations, which have issued low fat/high carb dietary advice for decades. There could (and should) be law suits. People will have suffered obesity and type 2 diabetes, to say nothing of cancer, heart disease and mental illness, as a result of advice that has been so alien to what human beings have evolved to eat.
The strategy of such advising organisations seems to be to change advice, ideally with repeated subtle changes that are barely noticed over time, until the advice becomes half reasonable and advisors can deny ever having issued the bad advice in the first place. This avoids ever having to come out with the statement “we were wrong”, which could invite the legal action.
One of these subtle, yet seismic, shifts occurred in the draft dietary guidelines for Americans 2015. Check out p90 “Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for over consumption.” Crikey O’Riley! All those years of demonising eggs and seafood and telling us to avoid animal foods because of their dietary cholesterol content. All wrong. But we won’t say we were wrong – we’ll just say that this is no longer “a nutrient of concern.” Check out the full 571 pages for total fat if you like. You’ll find the 30% limit on total fat, issued in 1977, conspicuous in its absence. More accurately – it’s gone. Disparu. As if it never existed. You can just hear the US advisor saying how silly we were to believe that low-fat diet “old wives tale.”
The same is happening in the world of diabetes, so sod this subtle/unnoticed change malarkey – here is the shift in diabetes UK diet advice:
Thanks to the wonder that is the web archive site, here is the Diabetes UK advice on March 18th 2015.
Here is the same page on April 8th 2015.
Here are the key differences (vetbatim extracts are in italics). I’ve noted the issue with glucose under the category:
|Daily recommended amounts||Daily recommended amounts|
“One-third of your diet should be made up of these foods, so try to include them in every meal.”
[A slice of bread is given as an example portion – a diabetic was thus advised to eat the starch equivalent of up to 14 slices of bread every single day.]
|“Try to have some starchy food, especially the wholegrain options, everyday. Carbohydrates breakdown to glucose in the blood so keep an eye on how much you eat. Depending on your diabetes treatment, and nutritional goals, you may be advised to:
• estimate the amounts of carbs you are eating
• reduce the amount of carbs you eat
• choose healthier sources
• spread your intake through the day.”
|Fruit & veg
(glucose & fructose)
|“Aim for at least five portions” (5-a-day of course!)||No change|
(glucose & galactose)
|“Aim for three portions …
…choose lower fat alternatives (but look out for added sugar in its place)”
|Pulses beans & nuts (also provide glucose)||“Aim for 2-3 portions”
|“Include some food from this group everyday and aim for two portions of oily fish a week”|
|Foods high in fat & sugar||“Technically, your body doesn’t need any foods in this group, but eating them in moderation can be part a healthy, balanced diet”||No change|
You can see the unannounced, seismic, change in the Diabetes UK advice. “5-14 portions of starchy foods a day/one third of your diet” has become ‘have some every day, but you may well need to reduce your carb intake.’
This is good. Don’t get me wrong. But it’s still not enough. The whole eatbadly plate should be dropped. The key piece of advice should be “eat real food” and choose food for the nutrients that it provides and then you will naturally choose meat, fish, eggs, dairy, non-starchy vegetables and a few seeds. Five-a-day should be ditched 1) for being non-evidence based and 2) because fruit is essentially sugar (with far fewer nutrients than people think) and sugar is not going to help diabetics. The junk segment is not even worthy of comment. However – it’s a start – a move in the right direction.
What annoys me though is that Diabetes UK have not had the decency to come out and say “we were wrong; the low carb people were right and we’re sorry.”
Luckily for me, all I have is annoyance. Those who have followed the 5-14 portions of starch advice will likely have far more serious issues to face.