Horrors! Aussies Are Ignoring The Anointed

As you know if you’re a long-time reader or have heard me as a guest on podcasts over the years, I’m often asked what we can do change government dietary advice. My answer is always some variation of My goal isn’t to change government dietary advice. My goal is to convince people to ignore the advice.

Here’s my reply to a comment from 2011:

That’s what I love about the internet age. We can educate ourselves and ignore the self-interested “experts.”

Here are three replies to comments from 2012:

I think we’re more likely to convince people to ignore the USDA.

We can’t out-bribe Monsanto, but we can ignore the USDA.

I think we’re getting there. The USDA will always be the USDA — essentially a government arm of the grain industry — but we can convince people to ignore them.

I’m not quite ready to declare victory and retire, but here’s more evidence that what I’ve been predicting for several years is actually happening, at least in Australia. A recent article in the U.K. Daily Mail is titled How fad diets could be doing more harm than good. We’ll start with the bullet points beneath the headline:

  • Australian’s are falling for fad diets in high numbers, new research reveals [It’s sad when people who work for newspapers can’t distinguish between a plural and a possessive – Tom]

  • A whopping 67 per cent of the population has opted to go gluten-free

  • Sixty five per cent ditched an entire food group, without advice from a doctor

  • Over fifty per cent of people indicated they don’t know what foods are healthy

Goodness. Aussies are falling for fad diets, ditching entire food groups (you can guess which groups) and going gluten-free – without advice from a doctor!

At the risk of repeating myself, it’s odd that anyone in Australia believes we should turn to doctors for dietary advice. After all, this is the country whose own Health Practitioner Regulation Agency actually prohibited Dr. Gary Fettke from giving dietary advice to diabetics. To quote the agency itself:

The committee does not accept that your medicine studies of themselves provide sufficient education or training to justify you providing specific advice or recommendations to patients or the public about nutrition and diet.

Dr. Fettke was, of course, advising diabetics to adopt a LCHF diet. As a surgeon, he appalled at the number of amputations he was performing on diabetic patients. Research combined with experience convinced him that a change in diet would help patients avoid that awful fate. But I’m sure Dr. Fettke would be first to tell you he learned most of what he knows about nutrition long after medical school.

Here are some quotes from a recent Washington Post article on how little medical students learn about nutrition:

When Americans hear about a health craze, they may turn to their physician for advice: Will that superfood really boost brain function? Is that supplement okay for me to take?

Or they may be interested in food choices because of obesity, malnutrition or the role of diet in chronic disease.

But a doctor may not be a reliable source. Experts say that while most physicians may recognize that diet is influential in health, they don’t learn enough about nutrition in medical school or the training programs that follow.

Nutrition is crucial to good health, as the article notes:

An estimated 50 to 80 percent of chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer, are partly related to or affected by nutrition, according to Martin Kohlmeier, a research professor in nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

And yet nutrition is mere blip in most medical schools:

In a 2015 survey of 121 four-year medical schools, Kohlmeier and colleagues found that 71 percent did not require at least 25 hours of nutrition education and that fewer than 20 percent required a nutrition course — fewer even than 15 years before.

Just wrap your head around that one for a minute. Perhaps nothing has a more profound effect on our health than diet.  And yet most medical schools don’t require a nutrition course, and 71 percent don’t require at least 25 hours of nutrition education.

I read Good Calories, Bad Calories cover-to-cover twice and re-read some sections multiple times. I didn’t add up the time I spent reading it, but it was certainly more than 25 hours. More like 100 hours, easily.

But that’s just one book. When we moved to the farm, one of the movers looked at our bookshelves before packing up the books and asked, “Which one of you is a doctor?” Oh, the irony. Like many if not most people, he assumed doctors read a lot about nutrition.

Out of curiosity, I just counted the number of books about diet and health sitting on the bookshelf in my office – the ones I’ve actually read, anyway. There are 56 of them. I’m sure there are more elsewhere in the house. And that doesn’t include the lectures I’ve attended, the YouTube videos I’ve watched and the podcasts I’ve listened to, which would number in the hundreds. I’m sure many of you could cite similar numbers.

So I’ll say it again: asking the average doctor about nutrition is as useful as asking the average plumber. The only difference is that the doctor is more likely to have been indoctrinated about the evils of saturated fat and the wonders of whole grains during that one course in nutrition offered in medical school.

Anyway, back to the Daily Mail article about those pesky Australians who are changing their diets without consulting a doctor:

Whether it’s to drop a few kilograms or an effort to put health first, Australians are falling for fad diets in high numbers.

New survey results released indicate a whopping 67 per cent of the population has opted to go gluten-free despite not being instructed to by a doctor.

Somebody from Down Under tell me: can that 67 percent figure actually be true? Two-thirds of Aussies are gluten-free now? If so, why wasn’t that a plot line on Rake? Cleaver Greene goes gluten-free to suck up to a hot new paleo attorney or something like that.

Going gluten-free without being instructed to by a doctor is roughly as dangerous as going tobacco-free without being instructed to by a doctor. What’s the harm, exactly?

The alarming research also states 65 per cent have ditched an entire food group, without the caution or guidance from a health professional.

If the entire food group was red meat, most of the media would be cheering.  But since people are giving up grains, the research is “alarming.”  To whom?  Kellogg’s?

TV presenter and Sydney GP Dr Sam Hay believes the influx of people attempting fad diets was putting them at risk, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Issues could include problems with the kidney and liver as well as growth and development.

Hmmm … how exactly is giving up grains going to damage my kidneys or liver?

‘The number of people restricting gluten is nuts, by doing that you’re missing out on grain fibre and putting the nation’s gut health at risk,’ Dr Hay said.

I see. So before humans started eating grains somewhere around 12,000 years ago (and much later than that in most of the world), they had damaged livers and kidneys and bad gut health. It’s amazing that the millions of people who’ve adopted a paleo diet didn’t make the connection between the diet and their plummeting health. You’d think that would come up in social media now and then.

‘The eastern suburbs are all about avocado and kombucha and paleo. Australians are getting very caught up in influential media personalities who really push particular eating plans or fads and most don’t have any science behind them,’ Dr Hay said.

As opposed to the rock-solid science behind most government dietary guidelines.

This isn’t about people being caught up in fads, of course. It isn’t about influential media personalities (meaning Pete Evans) steering the poor saps in the wrong direction.  It’s about people who are tired of lousy results doing their own research and looking for something that works. It’s about people sharing their own positive results in social media. It’s about the Wisdom of Crowds.

It’s also about people rebelling against The Anointed, or what Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls The Intellectual Yet Idiot. Taleb wrote quite a bit about the IYI in his recent book Skin in the Game, but as a reminder, here’s part of an essay on the subject:

What we have been seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.

… their main skill is capacity to pass exams written by people like them. With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30 years of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating at best only 1/3 of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers (or Montaigne and such filtered classical knowledge) with a better track record than these policymaking goons.

Yes, given the lousy track record of dietary advice from The Anointed, people are perfectly entitled to listen to their grandmothers. Or their friends. Or well-informed strangers in a Facebook group.

I have an email buddy who lives in Australia but has done quite a bit of traveling for work, including some long stints in the States. He told me Americans and Aussies are much more alike than Aussies and Brits. We’re friendlier, less formal, less impressed by titles and authority, and generally more rebellious. Perhaps because we’re both nations settled by castoffs.

Anyway, if Aussies truly are rebelling against The Anointed and other nutritional “experts” in the large numbers cited in the article, that’s great. And let’s hope Americans continue to do the same.

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46 thoughts on “Horrors! Aussies Are Ignoring The Anointed

  1. Firebird7478

    I think I may be the only American among your readers who gets the “Rake” reference. Brilliant show! Then again, Hulu has opened my eyes to some great TV from Australia, and I concur that Aussies are much more like us (with the exception of cricket). The shows portray the Aussies as big toast and jam eaters, lots of Chinese and Indian takeaway.

    Another Aussie show, which I think is on Netflix but I catch on two local PBS stations is “The Doctor Blake Mysteries”, about a 1950s family doctor who doubles as the police surgeon in charge of determining cause of death (which ultimately leads to him solving a murder). They accurately portray the medical and dietary thinking of the times. On a number of occasions, Dr. Blake has taken a patient’s BP, found it to be a bit high and rather than prescribe a med, asked the patient, “What is troubling you?” Brilliant. And they portray dinner back then as “Meat w/three veg.”

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      “Rake” is one of my favorites. I watch a lot of Aussie shows on Netflix, and the people do remind me of Americans, at least culturally.

      Reply
      1. JillOz

        If you want a really fun show check out Rosehaven, a delightful comedy by two local standups, about 2 best friends who work in country real estate. great fun, lots of giggles and warmth.

        Reply
      2. Firebird7478

        My favorite “Rake” episode is when Sam Neal (Jurassic Park) guests as a doctor who loses a DVD containing video of a masked couple having sex with their dog. While on trial, he protects his wife from any guilt. Cleaver Greene gets him off by arguing animal rights cases (factory farming, for one). The running joke throughout the episode is that the rule of the house is that the dog is not allowed in the bedroom, but keeps barking and clawing at the door trying to get in.

        If they are available on your streaming platform, I also recommend “Packed to the Rafters”, the “Underbelly” series (true stories of Aussie and New Zealand organized crime), “City Homicide”, “The Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries” and if you like hospital dramas, “All Saints”.

        Reply
  2. Jeffrey T Ranney

    Very well written, Tom. Loved your plugging of the Wisdom of Crowds, your best presentation, IMHO.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Thank you. I’m giving an updated version of that speech in November at the annual meeting of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

      Reply
  3. Janet

    Horrors! I just read an article about the crisis in the Keto-stick supply down under. Seems all of those self educated citizens are buying up those Keto-sticks and endangering the lives of type 1 diabetics who can’t find them in the stores. What an opportunity in the world of supply and demand. This could be bigger than margarine and fat free milk! I’m off to buy Keto-stick stock.

    Reply
  4. RJF

    As an Aussie, I love that you appreciate Rake. Our sense of humour is often misunderstood! As an allied health practitioner doing a PhD in the effects of low carbohydrate nutrition on chronic pain, I suspect 67% of the population isn’t gluten free, but the tide is definitely turning. Dr Fettke’s story, APHRA’s response to the complaint and the subsequent government senate hearing into this becoming very well known although it still has providers scared about giving advice that might attract a similar vexatious complaint. As much as the mainstream likes to hate on Pete Evans, his push to teach people to cook real food and reduce processed food is being appreciated by many….evidenced by the number of followers on his social media compared to the DAA.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      When Cleave got into a brawl with the guy who pushed the “WALK” sign after Cleave had already pushed it, I knew I’d found a soul brother. Okay, I wouldn’t start a brawl, but the little rant he gave there has run in my head many times.

      Reply
      1. Firebird7478

        I thought it was great when he passed out drunk in the park, woke up and walked over to someone reading a paper to see what day it was.

        I’ve seen the wife and son in other things as well. The boy in particular is excellent in “Please Like Me”. It’s still on Hulu. Not sure if it is on Netflix.

        Reply
    2. Firebird7478

      Until Hulu removed it, my go-to Christmas binge watch was “A Moody Christmas”. David Field is one of my favorite actors.

      Reply
  5. Kate

    Loved your article and I’m from Australia and live a LCHF with some intermittent fasting thrown in for good measure lifestyle 95% of the time.
    I was very fortunate to have a GP who originated from India, so was all for fasting and that way of eating.

    Reply
  6. JillOz

    “Australians are getting very caught up in influential media personalities who really push particular eating plans or fads and most don’t have any science behind them,’ Dr Hay said.”

    He’s talking about Pete Evans, who gets treated with a sneer and smear campaign every time he is mentioned re diet, ignoring the fact he is actually helping people get well as well as the science behind the diet he helps people with.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Yup. It’s not as if Pete just plucked the paleo diet out of thin air. He’s read the research and seen the results, which is more than most doctors can say.

      Reply
  7. Tom Welsh

    I think we may assume that the “entire food group” is code for carbs.

    We are told that 65% of Australians have given up eating carbs. But we are also told that 67% have gone gluten-free. How do you “go gluten-free” if you don’t eat any carbs? So what’s with that extra 2%?

    Do you find that as worrying as I do? Inability to do simple arithmetic seems to me even worse than inability to use apostrophes correctly.

    Reply
  8. Tom Welsh

    Against my better judgment, I took a look at the Daily Fail article. The first photograph caught my attention. All sorts of possibly “LCHF” foods, with pride of place given to some big salmon steaks. But what’s obviously missing? Where is the red meat (preferably fatty)?

    That might be a piece of it at the back, right, but it’s hard to make out what it is meant to be.

    Reply
      1. chris c

        Well it will. It just might take eighty years or more but it’ll get you in the end. Mind you, not eating it produces much the same results, but let’s not let mere facts interfere with dogma.

        I don’t know about you but I can see a massive fightback against the successes of low carb/paleo/keto funded by corporates and fronted by the vegans. The legacy of Ancel Keys is not going to die any time soon.

        Reply
        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          We’re seeing plenty of articles by what I call The Save The Grains Campaign. Just had a laughable land in my inbox this week.

          Reply
          1. chris c

            Yes and they’re all over Twitter. They’re getting marginally more subtle “of course I’m not a vegan but here is some science from Michael Greger”

            The good news is that our local arable farmers have grown less wheat this year. The bad news is that it has been replaced by rape (canola) and sugar beet.

            Reply
  9. JR62

    “And yet nutrition is mere blip in most medical schools:”

    Maybe that’s only good. The education would come from usual suspects like USDA, AHA and likes anyway.

    Reply
  10. Wayne Gage

    “…macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, …” Sadly true but I still laughed out loud.

    Reply
  11. Nads

    I reckon it must be that sixty something percent have tried going gluten free as I’m in Australia and haven’t found many people eating like that, or even sugar free. I am a physiotherapist
    and sneakily hand people info about LCHF if they seem likl.y to be able to research it and try it out. Oops AHPRA is my board too. Come and get me.

    Reply
  12. Erik

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/20/business/wework-vegetarian.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fhealth&action=click&contentCollection=health&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=5&pgtype=sectionfront

    Looks like the annointed have moved into corporate America. An article appeared in the New York Times recently about the Chief Culture Officer at WeWork having implemented a vegetarian only policy where company functions will only serve meatless dishes and employees will not be reimbursed for meals containing meat. All of this, he claims, is because meat is unhealthy and damaging to the environment. Another arrogant, misinformed do-gooder who thinks he is going to save the planet! The guy claims going meatless is more beneficial to the planet than driving a hybrid.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      The Anointed moved into corporate headquarters long ago, as spelled out in the book “SJWs Always Lie.”

      Reply
  13. Patrik

    Great post Tom. That’s my stance as well these days after 8 years of “being awake”. The system will never change from within because of outside pressure. That is a windmill fight. What will happen and what are happening is that it will lose its legitimacy and become ignored.

    Reply
    1. Patrik

      And if we put things into perspective it’s the SAD-diet that’s the fad diet. People have been encouraged to eat like this for about four decades now, and have never been on this diet before. And the result is a global pandemic of disease, so I suggest we drop this fad diet.

      Reply
  14. Gerard

    I have a good GP that I found by chance. He took my complete blood work and didnt bother with cholesterol. I asked “why?” And he replied “we can do cholesterol if you want”… I told him I didnt. But pressed him on his views on the lipid hypothesis. Kinda laughed and said he couldn’t put his name to anything.

    In terms of gluten in Australia. My wife is very low level celiac. You can get gluten free in pretty much all cafes, and supermarkets. She went to some gluten free festival where they said per capita Australia is #1 consumer of it.

    Im still not so sure of that number though. Also Melbourne and Sydney are pretty similar to SF in terms of lardy de dah coffee shops. Unless on holiday never out of the 3 major cities. So unsure if those product are readily available outside.

    One caution on gluten free. Its easy to stack up the calories eating grain based gluten free muffins, donuts, & pizza bases. If im eating crap I generally opt for the gluten based one. Bouncier, better texture and usually lower in calories. And heck, its crap either way.

    Good piece btw

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I hope people realize gluten-free doesn’t automatically mean healthy. Lots of gluten-free products are made with rice flour. That stuff jacks up my blood sugar faster than anything.

      Reply

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