A couple of interesting articles appeared in the British press this week. One was headlined The Big Fat Lies about Britain’s obesity epidemic, written by the author of a just-published book titled Big Fat Lies: Is Your Government Making You Fat? (The title is a question. The answer is yes.) I haven’t seen the book and I’m not even sure if it’s available in the U.S., but the article is a great read … like a quick synopsis of Fat Head or Good Calories, Bad Calories. Here are some edited quotes, with my comments:
For the past 30 years we’ve been told to eat less and exercise more, to cut back on calories and on saturated fat and, on the whole, we’re doing it. Our calorific intake between the years 1974 and 2004 decreased by 20 per cent. We are eating about 20 per cent more fruit and vegetables than in the Seventies. We are doing approximately 25 per cent more exercise than we were in 1997. But are our waist lines shrinking? No.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Jogging and joining a gym became popular here in the ’70s as well … along with pet rocks, Jimmy Carter, disaster movies, disco, and calling someone you just met to say, “Uh … I think you might need to go see your doctor for a test.” I don’t remember anyone jogging or working out when I was a kid in the ’60s. I also don’t remember seeing many fat people in our small town.
We’re following Government advice on how and what to eat, but that advice is so wrong it is actually making us fatter. The endless message of ‘eat less, do more’ has never been proven using proper clinical trials. And we’ve only started to get really fat since governments started promoting the current low-fat health messages, back in the early Nineties.
Ah, so we probably are fatter than the British. Our government started pushing low-fat diets in the early ’80s, so we have a ten-year head start.
The Government’s Food Standards Agency (FSA), among others, is pumping out a template of a balanced diet that is based on flawed science that I believe is responsible for thousands of people developing health problems. The co-defendant in the dock with the Government is starch.
Thousands of people developing health problems? What’s the population of the U.K.? I’d say it’s probably more like millions, but I guess she’s being cautious.
Another big fat lie we are fed is that we should eat less fat. The simple message is: saturated fats are high in calories and are making us fat. Saturated fats cause heart disease. And most people believe that the fear of saturated fat is based on robust science – why else would the Government be putting out this advice?
In our country, it’s to sell all those subsidized grains. In Britain, perhaps it’s to provide job security for the National Health Service.
Let’s look at the scientific evidence. When studies have been done with high saturated fat levels combined with low levels of starch and sugar, the subjects not only lost weight faster than the low-calorie, low-fat option but – perhaps more interestingly – the cholesterol profile of the subjects on the high-fat diet was better.
That’s what happened to me when Dr. Mike Eades challenged me to try a high-fat, low-starch diet and check my cholesterol before and after. My cholesterol dropped and my HDL went up. But I have to admit, I was kind of nervous waiting for those results to come back.
And the other lie we are fed: exercise more. There is no doubt that exercise is an excellent tool for weight maintenance and is fantastic for our general health. But what is really misleading is the idea that exercise will significantly help you to lose weight.
I attended the European Obesity Conference in 2006, at which Sir Neville Rigby, the former director of policy on the International Obesity Taskforce, referred to several major European studies showing categorically that exercise had no significant impact on the weight of the participants.
Since the conference, one of the studies that has added fuel to the doubters’ fire is the Early Bird Study in Plymouth. This lost its Government financial backing because it showed that exercise made no difference to the weight or weight loss of children.
Anyone who believes governments fund research because they’re interested in the truth should read that last sentence ten times — out loud. And anyone who believes researchers funded by government grants don’t occasionally fudge their results to keep the money-spigot open should read it twenty times. (I don’t actually believe reading the sentence twenty times will enlighten the “government is our savior” crowd, but given their slow comprehension, it should keep them occupied and out of trouble for a day or two.)
I’ve heard so many media pundits lamenting about all the lazy, fat Americans waddling around these days, I guess it’s oddly comforting to know our friends across the pond are dealing the same issues. And I must admit, I felt the same way when I read about the those Swedish Weight Watchers members who collapsed the floor during their weekly weigh-in. My media-induced impression was that everyone in Sweden is named Helga or Lars and looks like a model.
So the British government, like ours, is handing out advice that makes people fat. That made it especially interesting to learn how a former leader of the British government trimmed down. See if this diet, as explained in the online article, sounds familiar:
She fought hard to get the nation’s finances back in trim. But only now can the secret of Margaret Thatcher’s own diet be revealed – 28 eggs a week. The eggs, along with cucumber, spinach, tomatoes, steak and the odd swig of whisky, went towards a strict meal regime that promised to help her shed 20lb in two weeks.
The diet included a daily breakfast of grapefruit, one or two eggs, black coffee or clear tea. Two eggs were served in each weekday lunch, while steak, lamb chops and fish were the staple of most dinners.
Her political opponents probably wish the four eggs per day had given her a heart attack, but she’s 84 and still alive. The Daily Mail published a graphic of the diet, which I’ve reproduced below.
Looks as if her only significant carbohydrates were grapefruit and a piece of dry toast here and there. A half-grapefruit contains about 12 net carbs. A piece of toast is around 20. That means Ms. Thatcher was on something much like the induction phase of the Atkins diet. Naturally, one of the experts from the British Dietetic Association had to sound a warning:
These kinds of diets are very effective in losing weight quickly but you feel terrible because your blood sugar levels go right down. You feel cold, shivery, lethargic, fuzzy-minded and weak and can get bad breath.
Ah yes, in populations where type 2 diabetes is at epidemic levels, we certainly wouldn’t want our blood sugars to go down. We’ve got to keep that glucose spiking all day long to avoid feeling weak. That’s why cavemen were such wimpy specimens — not enough bread in their diets.
I don’t doubt that some people feel shivery and lethargic after giving up refined carbohydrates. It’s called withdrawal. People who give up heroin don’t feel so hot either, but nobody looks at them and says, “Geez, you look terrible! Shoot up, for Pete’s sake!”
According to the news stories, Ms. Thatcher wanted to lose weight more for the cameras than for her health. Well, it’s sad but true: image matters in politics. (If not, Richard Nixon would’ve been elected president in 1960 … although losing the cemetery vote in Chicago didn’t help his chances either.) It’s tough to live up to the nickname “The Iron Lady” if the iron appears to be jiggling.
But apparently there’s plenty of jiggling going on in Britain these days, just as there is here. Too bad our governments decided they should tell us how to eat. Now they’re piling up huge debts to pay for the consequences (meaning we’re all piling up huge debts, since we pay the taxes.) Pundits in both countries say our health-care systems are broken. That may be true — but our health got broken first.
If you enjoy my posts, please consider a small donation to the Fat Head Kids GoFundMe campaign.