“Whether by intent or simply fortuitous coincidence, today’s definition of a healthy diet enables corporations to sell us cheap, easily stored foods that will put more money in their pockets and more people in hospital”

Cate Shanahan MD

As some of you may know I am extremely passionate about food, nutrition and the vital role it plays in our overall health and wellbeing. But it wasn’t always this way! Until I qualified as a PT and began to learn about nutrition I was following the same government, advertising and food industry led advice that has brought us to the state we are in today. Perhaps I should swap the word state, for CRISIS! Because humans, as a species truly are facing a crisis, and industry and the government have a lot to do with this. Now I’m not going to get into a whole political argument but when certain companies have more money than some countries, they may, just may have the power to influence information, advertising and policy of governments….I’m just putting it out there!

So let’s wake up and smell the coffee, we are in frigging trouble people. Seb and I are trying to take a leaf out of the Americans books, not when it comes to diet, that’s a big part of the reason we are where we are. But in fitness, knowledge and training terms there are some amazing people out there who know their shit and are not afraid to ruffle a few feathers, be upfront, honest, brutal at times to get the message out. In this country we like to be accommodating, we don’t like to upset people, stiff upper lip and all that. I mean how many times have, you been out to a restaurant, the service is bad, the food’s not great but as soon as the waitress asks how everything is we smile politely and say its lovely thank you! Come on, you’ve all done it. Well balls to that, it’s time to stop mincing our words and face some brutal truths;

Diabetes now costs the NHS 10% of its annual budget….10%, that’s huge

Obesity rates in Britain have more than TREBLED in the last 25 years and are now reaching epidemic proportions

It is being predicted that this generation of children will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents

That to me is pretty worrying, and fucking unacceptable. Question is how the hell did we get here, how did we get ourselves into such an almighty fricking mess. It started with a man named Ancel Keys, who was the man who invented the original K ration for the army. Initially his research focused on cholesterol and the relationship between cholesterol in food and cholesterol in the blood. This is where the whole vilification of both cholesterol and saturated fat began, and we have been on a slippery vegetable oil soaked slope ever since! It should be interesting to note however that Keys failed to find a connection between cholesterol in food and cholesterol in the blood and himself stated

“There’s no connection whatsoever between the cholesterol in food and cholesterol in the blood. And we’ve known that all along. Cholesterol in the diet doesn’t matter at all unless you happen to be a chicken or a rabbit.”

This refers to the original studies done on chickens and rabbits where they force fed the animals high levels of cholesterol. Of course since chickens and rabbits are herbivores their physiology wasn’t adapted to dealing with such high levels of cholesterol so they inevitably developed atherosclerosis (heart disease). Humans however are omnivores and have very different physiology but hey ho, let’s not let that minor detail bother us and the results of the experiments were simply applied to humans.

But since Keys found no link between cholesterol in food and in the blood, there was a piece of the jigsaw missing. Step forward the devil that is Saturated fat. Cholesterol is only found in animal products, animal products are also high in saturated fat so, Hey Presto, foods that are high in saturated fat (which are also high in cholesterol) cause heart disease.

 

Now of course Keys needed some evidence for this so he did what became known as The Seven Countries Study. He looked at the relationship between saturated fat consumption and heart disease and found a weak association in seven countries to back up his theory of a link. However, the study in fact included 22 countries a lot of which totally contradicted Keys findings but he simply omitted this data in effect completely falsifying his results! When Keys presented his findings thankfully the medical community laughed him out of the room and totally ignored him. The burgeoning food industry though saw an opportunity, potential spokesman and figure head in Keys.

The traditional breakfasts at the time where bacon, eggs, people used lard and butter to cook with or spread on their bread. The food industry needed a way to break this hold that real food had on the breakfast table and somehow convince people to switch to cereal and other such products. A media, advertising and industry juggernaut got behind Keys and began to push his and their agenda, suddenly saturated fat was the root of all evil, cholesterol was the Anti-Christ but its ok because in stepped the ‘healthy’ breakfast cereal to the rescue, along with margarine for your bread! Industry claimed they could do it better than nature, and with everyone singing from the same hymn sheet of course we all believed it and we have believed it ever since. In 1977 in the USA, closely followed in Britain in 1982 the government changed its dietary advice to base our meals around starchy carbohydrates and limit the intake of fat. It is almost unchanged today with the governments Change4life campaign still advising to cut your fat intake and switch to low-fat products.

When I hear advice like this it makes me want to beat myself to death with a stale breadstick. The government needs to take a seriously long hard look at itself as giving people advice like this is, for want of a better word, shit. We are all intelligent, capable human beings except when it comes to our diets and is it any wonder when there is so much conflicting advice out there? But just STOP, STOP goddamn it, STOP and think for a second. Which is healthier; foods which are naturally occurring and as close to their natural purest form; or foods processed foods which have had these natural nutrients taken out and replaced with man-made chemicals? When food manufacturers remove the good, naturally occurring fat they have to replace it with something. If they didn’t the food would taste like crap so they load it back with sugar and other chemicals. So something that started out as nutritious and tasty suddenly becomes less nutritious and unhealthy and yet is advertised as the better, ‘fat free’ or ‘low fat’ option. If after what you’ve read you still turn round and say low-fat is better I will send Seb round for a serious chat and it will not be pretty!

Until the late 70s and early 80s, diabetes and obesity rates hadn’t changed a great deal and suddenly with our change in eating habits as directed by the government, rates in both shot up dramatically over the next 25-30 years. Coincidence? Well I for one don’t think so.

However if you’re still not convinced I shall present you with a little more evidence.

So as we know, thanks to Keys saturated fat became vilified, we must reduce our consumption of it as it leads to heart disease, strokes and other cardiovascular diseases. We hear it all the time on TV; 25% lower in saturated fat so its heart healthy etc etc bollocks. Advertisers love this little gem and use it all the time. Eat Quorn, it’s lower in saturated fat! Well perhaps then it will surprise you to know that there is no evidence, I will repeat that and put it in capitals NO EVIDENCE to link saturated fat to heart disease. I don’t know about you, but I like to have my facts backed up by some evidence, some actual scientific data. So, here’s my evidence to show you I’m not just making this up. These are quotes from the UK Government themselves starting way back in 1984.

“There has been no controlled clinical trial of the effect of decreasing dietary intake of saturated fatty acids on the incidence of coronary heart disease nor is it likely that such a trial will be undertaken.” (COMA – Committee On Medical Aspects, 1984).

“The ideal controlled dietary trial for prevention of heart disease has not yet been done and it is unlikely ever to be done.” (FSA, 2009).

So just to clear this up. No study has ever been done, nor will it ever be done to prove or even establish an association between saturated fat and heart disease. And I bet you thought it was an open and shut case, especially since advertisers seem to love ramming their low fat products down our throats. Want more? Ok how about this;

In 1988, the Surgeon General’s office in the USA set about gathering all the evidence linking a high-fat or high saturated fat diet to heart disease to prove, once and for all any doubters wrong. After eleven years the project was abandoned and what did they find? Errrrrrrrrrrrr, well…..Nothing, zip, zilch, nada, nowt. If the medical profession, government and advertisers are so convinced saturated fat is the devil and will have us all dying of heart disease surely there would be some clear cause and effect, wouldn’t there? But no, after eleven years of trying the Surgeon General’s office could find no evidence, nothing at all to support their theory. Perhaps it was hidden in Hogwarts, but as Harry Potter didn’t exist in 1999 it would have been difficult to look in the Room of Requirement. Maybe they could give JK a call and pop in for a quick look.

In spite of all this we are still told that meat is bad, and FULL of saturated fat. In fact meat is a combination of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Let’s take Pork as an example. A typical 100 gram serving of pork chop contains 4.2 grams of fat. 1.5g saturated fat, and 2.7g unsaturated. Which means it contain 47% monounsaturated, 40% saturated and 13% polyunsaturated fat. The government and media constantly bombard us with the FACT that saturated fat is bad so are you really trying to tell me that in the pork chop the 40% saturated fat is trying to kill you while the other 60% unsaturated fat is trying to save you? It’s just ridiculous, utterly ridiculous.

Here’s a quote from a very clever woman and nutrition expert Zoe Harcombe, you should really listen to;

There are three facts that I can state without any fear of being proven wrong:

1) It has not been proven that saturated fat consumption causes heart disease;

2) It has not even been proven that there is a consistent association between saturated fat consumption and heart disease;

3) The definitive study to try to prove this has not been done and likely never will be.

Over the last 20-30 years we have moved away from traditional diets and the things we used to eat for hundreds and thousands of years. What was once considered healthy, like butter, meat and eggs were suddenly vilified and shunned in favour of processed, low fat, cheap packaged meals. We moved away from eating real food to instead eating synthetic crap! Is it any wonder we’re facing the health crisis that we are today?

In your diet, like many things you need a balance. So try to balance out your intake of fats and cut out the processed crap. If you want to start eating healthier go for foods that are as close as possible to their natural state, if something has a massive long list of ingredients you can be fairly certain it will be bad for you.

Keep it simple and just eat REAL FOOD.