Chapter 11 – Have we reviewed the U-turn?

Evidence since the Seven Countries Study

When I wrote to the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) in August 2009, and asked why their number one piece of dietary advice is “Base your meals on starchy foods”, their reply was:

“Diets high in fat are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), therefore it was recommended that people reduce their fat intake. It was advised that starchy carbohydrates should replace the reduction in fat as an energy source” (my emphasis). (Please note the use of the word fat and not saturated fat or any specific type of fat).

So, just as when the original advice was set in the COMA report of 1984, we don’t advise people to base their meals on starchy foods because we know this to be beneficial for obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other modern illnesses. We simply went along with the idea that diets high in fat are associated with increased risk of heart disease (thank you for not saying caused by, FSA, but that’s what the developed world has been led to believe). Never mind that there is not even a consistent association, let alone causation. We observed some incidences of people in the bath singing, so we associated bathing with singing and therefore issued a directive to stop bathing in the hope that it would stop singing. Never mind, also, that there is no evidence for any benefit from eating carbohydrate – just – people have got to eat something and if it’s not fat, it has to be carbohydrate.

In 1981, in the heart journal Atherosclerosis, an article was published describing 246 factors that had been identified in different studies as having an influence in heart disease. The UK and USA public would be forgiven for thinking that there are only two – (saturated) fat and cholesterol. Ironically, neither of these has been proven.

Extremely worryingly, the letter I received from the FSA also stated that “SACN, which has now replaced COMA, is currently reviewing the evidence of carbohydrate on cardio-metabolic health.”


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