Blog 

Here is where I share my thoughts, ideas and opinions about the world of nutrition, food and health. I hope you find good sense, helpful guidance and inspiration to eat great healthy food that makes you feel good.

I write regularly for GI News, an online newsletter for 60,000+ Australasian and International subscribers interested in the glycemic index (GI) and associated health topics such as diabetes, weight loss and a healthy heart. It’s a great read. http://www.gisymbol.com/category/gi-news/

 

17 Oct 2016

Food myths, profitable half-truths and pseudoscience

Posted by Nicole Senior on Monday, October 17, 2016

No doubt you’ve heard word on the street that saturated fat is no longer bad for your cholesterol or bad for your heart. You’ve probably heard the seemingly welcome news to enjoy butter on your toast and chomp through fatty chops with newfound freedom. Don’t you know that sugar and vegetable oils are the new baddies? It’s all been a conspiracy you see. Those nasty drug companies, cane farmers and oilseed farmers are simply trying to kill you in order to sell more product. Don’t worry about the bulk of evidence that doesn’t support such assertions, just be reassured the minority of loud and persuasive doctors and researchers (and the odd lawyer) are the only ones who know the real truth. It is because they are not at the centre of the science and research that gives them this enlightened perspective. Where the experts see outliers, they see the hidden truth. We are blind and they are the ones who see. And of course celebrities are also on board with these anti-sugar, anti-oils messages and they know their stuff. Even the ABC has examined the scientific arguments on their smarty-pants show Catalyst and found sugar is the root of all evil. It doesn’t really matter they gave more time to the American made-for-TV kiddie doctor than our home grown world-leading experts on carbohydrates and health. Maybe the experts are just making a mountain out of a molehill with the whole obesity and chronic disease problem. They really have been naïve – the answer has been staring them in the face the whole time: it’s the sugar and oils at the root of all modern maladies. And that National Health and Medical Research Council review of thousands of studies that took three years to complete? Well, that was a token effort. What would they know? The World Heart Federation and our own Heart Foundation with their panel of experts and review of the evidence don’t hold a candle to the single minded efforts of a few committed individuals. And who wouldn’t support the idea of a simple solution, especially when Jill from finance cut out sugar and lost 4 kilograms. And Helen from HR swears coconut oil has cleared up her skin and improved her cholesterol. And John from sales uses butter on everything and hasn’t had a sick day in years.

Ok, now I’ve got that out of my system. The world is full of food and nutrition myths and sometimes I fall into to a funk of cynicism. I pick myself up to fight another day with the thought that it’s all a game. Someone is always controlling the conversation for their own ends. It is my quest to go with the evidence, even when it’s uncool (see last point below). Oh, and if you’re interested here are my evidence based statements regarding the manufactured controversies of the moment (with a little translation into practical daily tips):

Sugar is not toxic. You can enjoy a little sweetness in your life without harm. It’s best to get it in nutritious foods. Keep sweet drinks to a minimum and enjoy confectionary sparingly. Fruit is healthy but best eaten whole. Dilute juice with water.

Vegetable (seed and fruit) oils are good for you. Enjoy a variety of different oils instead of butter for cooking. Olive, canola, sunflower, rice bran – whatever you fancy. The idea that omega-6 fats are harmful is a minority opinion and unsupported by the evidence. And despite a concerted smear campaign, Australian margarines are healthier than butter and recommended by health authorities here and around the world.