Thursday, April 14, 2016

Why Playing Nice in Nutrition Wars Won't Work

I read a blog post recently by a professor of exercise physiology named Ross Tucker who was peeved about the polarization of people around nutrition. Tucker once put Prof. Tim Noakes on a pedestal, but now he's turned off by his former mentor's seeming certainty that a low-carb high-fat diet is healthier than the low-fat high-carb diet touted by beige government bureaucrats and most registered dietitians.

Prof. Tim Noakes
(This is an oversimplification since Noakes' views are more nuanced; but the A1-rated scientist does posit carbohydrate  resistant people -- likely half the population -- should eat fewer carbs and more fat.)

The main thesis of Tucker's argument, however, is not that Noakes is necessarily wrong, but that his messianic promotion of high-fat low-carb diets creates a rigid mindset that resists shifts in thinking should future scientific data puncture holes in his pet theories.

I'd like to think Noakes would again be wiling to eat his hat if he discovers his views on fat and carbs are wrong. How many authors tell their readers to rip out an entire section from a previously published book as Noakes did when he disowned the nutrition chapter in his landmark book,  Lore of Running?

Given the dramatic health improvements that happen to insulin resistant people who switch from low-fat to low-carb diets, that likelihood is slim. Noakes himself was diagnosed with adult onset diabetes (caused by insulin resistance) after years of doing everything "right" -- including eating whole grains, eschewing saturated fat and running multiple marathons. But it wasn't until he read books like Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories that Noakes had his aha moment that turned his world upside down.

The science behind the diet heart hypothesis that led millions of people around the world to trade butter for margarine and Cheerios for eggs was shaky at best.

More likely, it was dead wrong.

Who knows how many deaths, amputated limbs, failed kidneys and other medical tragedies could have been avoided had the dietary establishment not foisted a high-carb low-fat diet on a trusting public?

The good news is medical professionals and journalists are now challenging conventional dietary wisdom, but they are incurring the wrath of the establishment for doing so. In many cases, ad hominem attacks are being made to discredit the person since they can't discredit the science.

Nina Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise, was recently called an "animal" by Dr. David Katz of Yale (the same guy who positively reviewed his own science fiction novel using a pseudonym) and disinvited from a nutrition policy panel because other panelists were afraid to debate her.

Noakes himself has been threatened with losing his medical license by the Health Professions Council of South Africa for posting a tweet that was twisted by a devious dietitian into unconventional medical advice that could harm an infant.

If the conventional thinkers had their way, proponents of  low-carb high-fat diets would sit quietly in the back of the bus while registered dietitians and doctors who do the bidding of Big Food and Big Pharma continue to dispense their deadly advice and then act all surprised when obesity and chronic disease rates soar.

Ample evidence suggests that not only are people harmed by consuming too many carbohydrates and not enough saturated fat, but also that chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, can be reversed by doing just the opposite.

We meed more modern day Paul Reveres
warning people about
dangerous dietary advice
How could one not feel compelled to shout that news from the rooftops like a modern day Paul Revere when they have that knowledge?

Acting deferential to dietitians and doctors who are harming patients may get you invited to tea, but it won't help the people who desperately need evidence based advice on healthy eating.

People with a stake in preserving their legacy are threatened by change, which is why CSPI has never admitted they were wrong about trans fats and dietitians do not admit they were wrong about demonizing egg yolks.

When people question the status quo, polarization is a logical consequence. But instead of railing against the rebels, my hope is more people like Tim Noakes, Nina Teicholz, Sarah Hallberg, Zoƫ Harcombe and many others continue to make noise and keep the conversation going.