As Usual, The Experts Are Blinded By Their Own Biases

You’re probably aware of the tragic story about a teen who apparently lost his vision because of a lousy diet. Here’s the opening to an article from CNN:

Eating a diet of french fries, Pringles and white bread was enough to make one teenage boy lose his sight, according to a case study published in a medical journal. Scientists from the University of Bristol examined the case of a young patient whose extremely picky eating led to blindness, and have warned of the dangers of a poor diet.

The unidentified patient told doctors he had only eaten fries from the fish and chip shop, Pringles potato chips, white bread, slices of processed ham and sausage since elementary school, and he avoided foods with certain textures. He first visited a doctor at age 14, complaining of tiredness, according to a case report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on Monday.

He wasn’t taking any medication, had a normal BMI and height, and showed no visible signs of malnutrition.

Doctors discovered low vitamin B12 levels and anemia, treating the patient with vitamin B12 injections and offering dietary advice. One year later there were signs of hearing loss and vision symptoms, but doctors did not find the cause.

His vision had worsened to the point of blindness by 17 years of age, and doctors identified vitamin B12 deficiency, low copper and selenium levels, a high zinc level, reduced vitamin D level and bone level density, according to a statement from the University of Bristol. By this stage, vision damage was permanent.

That’s horrible. As I read the article, I was expecting someone to point out what seems obvious to me: when your diet is refined carbs, more refined carbs, and even more refined carbs, your blood sugar is probably sky-high most of the time. Chronically high blood sugar damages nerves and other tissues. That’s why diabetics go blind or have their limbs amputated.

But the CNN article mostly blamed the tragic results on malnutrition:

Researchers from Bristol Medical School and the Bristol Eye Hospital examined the case and concluded that the patient suffered nutritional optic neuropathy, a dysfunction of the optic nerve.

The researchers say that poor diet and reduced intake of minerals caused vision loss in this case, and warn that nutritional optic neuropathy could become more common due to the consumption of junk food. They also warned vegans to make sure to supplement for vitamin B12 to avoid deficiency.

Yeah, okay, the kid probably wasn’t getting sufficient vitamins and minerals on that lousy diet. Maybe that figured into it. But again: WHAT ABOUT CHRONICALLY HIGH BLOOD SUGAR? Did anyone even check what his glucose levels were on a diet of fries, Pringles and white bread?

An article on the NPR news site did mention the dangers of too many refined carbs, but boy, it took them a long time to get there – and of course, they had to take a swipe at red meat and high-fat dairy foods along the way, as if that somehow explains what happened to the kid.

“It’s intriguing,” say Allen Taylor, the director of the Nutrition and Vision Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts. “But it’s important to remember it’s a study of only one case with very limited information in it,” Taylor says.

“There is, absolutely, a link between poor diet and vision loss,” Taylor explains. But, he says, usually people don’t develop symptoms until much later in life.

He points to a study he and his collaborators published back in 2014, which found that poor-quality diets can increase the risk of age-related macular degeneration. This can lead to blurry vision and can make reading more difficult. It usually occurs after age 60.

Oh, boy, here we go … I looked up Dr. Taylor’s study. It’s yet another observational study based on those oh-so-reliable food questionnaires. Dr. Taylor divided people into two groups: those who followed what he labeled an “oriental” diet pattern and those who followed a “western” dietary pattern.  The NPR article recounts the results:

People in Taylor’s study who consumed plenty of vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, tomatoes and seafood had a lower risk of developing AMD. On the other hand, people who consumed a diet rich in red meat, processed meat, high-fat dairy products, French fries and refined grains had a higher risk of developing the condition.

Head. Bang. On. Desk. Do we see the problem here? Fries and refined grains have nothing to do with red meat and high-fat dairy products. Refined carbs jack up your blood sugar. Meat and butter don’t. Lumping red meat and high-fat dairy foods together with fries and refined carbs because they’re all “western” foods is like lumping gin, vodka and water together because they’re all “clear liquid foods.”

Speaking of lumping foods together, we need to add fruitsvegetableswholegrains! to our dictionary of terms like arterycloggingsaturatedfat! and hearthealthywholegrains! Poke a dietician or health reporter in her sleep, and she’ll mutter fruitsvegetableswholegrains! fruitsvegetableswholegrains! fruitsvegetableswholegrains!

The kid who lived on fries, white bread and Pringles didn’t go blind because he failed to consume enough fruitsvegetableswholegrains! If he did, we can expect carnivores like Dr. Shawn Baker, Amber Hearn and Jordan Peterson to start having vision problems any day now. But I suspect that won’t happen.

Waaay deep into the NPR article, we finally get a possible explanation other than the lack of fruitsvegetableswholegrains!

Consuming a lot of refined carbohydrates, including foods such as white bread, chips, crackers and sweets, is linked to a higher risk of developing AMD and some forms of cataracts. Taylor and his collaborators are trying to understand how refined carbohydrates may inflict damage on the cells within our eyes and bodies.

“If you look at the chemistry behind what’s going on in the cells, you can actually see the vestiges of the carbohydrates in the cells,” Taylor says.

“The carbohydrates end up damaging the proteins within the cells of the eyes,” he says, so the proteins are no longer as functional as they might have been.

Yes. Now we’re getting somewhere. The refined carbohydrates lead to high levels of glucose, which end up damaging the proteins within the cells. Not the meat. Not the high-fat dairy foods. And all the fruitsvegetableswholegrains! in the world won’t prevent a diet of fries, Pringles and white bread from jacking up your glucose.

But as usual, the experts and the people who quote them are blinded by their own biases.

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43 thoughts on “As Usual, The Experts Are Blinded By Their Own Biases

  1. Beatrix Willius

    Everyone has biases.

    When you go to the doctor and complain about your eyes said doctor will not check for blood sugar if your BMI is normal. That would have been the problem for the teenager. And no doctor will ask his patient “what did you eat?” when the patient has eye problems. Even if the doctor had asked then the teenager would have answered “just normal stuff” anyways and that would have been the end of the “discussion”.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      When I saw the doctors reported he had a normal BMI, I suspected they didn’t bother to check his glucose levels. Interestingly, the doctor I see who seems most interested in checking for diabetes is my ophthalmologist. He told me when he uses his scope or whatever to look into his patients’ eyes, he often spots signs of diabetes before it’s diagnosed by a GP.

      1. chris c

        Oh yes, mine too, and I’ve heard this from other people. They also seem to notice that diabetic retinopathy and other conditions can be reversed, which many doctors still deny.

        Long ago a doctor noted my “strange blinking behaviour” without considering that the glucose spikes were filling my eyes with sorbitol. I suspect this kid had a double whammy from the glucose spikes AND the lack of nutrients, many of which of course can be found in meat.

  2. Lori Miller

    I guess that vegan diet didn’t work out. The B12 deficiency says he wasn’t eating much meat, if any. The high zinc level is curious, though. Maybe he was taking zinc cough drops.

    I would wonder if he had a digestive problem that was so bad he could only stand bland, processed food, but Theodore Dalrymple has written about poor diets of packaged foods in England’s ghettoes.

    BTW…weren’t the experts warning us a few years ago about nutrient deficiencies if we cut out bread, since bread is fortified with vitamins?

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      One of the experts quoted in some article also suspected that although the kid reported eating ham and sausage, the B12 deficiency suggests he was eating very little of it.

      1. Walter

        Could be proton pump inhibiters or just lack of stomach HCL, inability to digest protein or absorb B12 etcetera.

        Food does no good if you can’t digest or assimilate it.

  3. Lee Valentine

    Oh, boy! Some people have well understood the pathophysiology of diabetes for sometime. Here is a reference: Banting memorial lecture in 2004, the pathobiology of diabetic complications by Michael Brownlee.

    Of course, we don’t know whether blindness in this case was secondary to diabetic complications or some other mechanism. Unfortunately, the metabolic arrangements caused by non-optimal , That is not evolutionarily appropriate diet is still poorly understood.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Yeah, there could be explanations other than/in addition to high blood sugar, but clearly the diet pure garbage.

  4. Patrik

    Hello Tom and thank you for shedding some light into this crazy world by tirelessly blogging and making movies.

    Interesting case, although i feel sorry for this poor boy. Yes it seems like thee foods we are exposed to today is indeed very toxic elevating blood sugar to dangerous levels.

    One thing that haven’t been looked at is how safe the “unsaturated” fats (i.e. vegetable oils) that are that are commonly used in for example deep frying.

    I’ve been reading old medicine books lately and its amazing what you find. In the 19th century leprosy was a common disease and interestingly the symptoms of leprosy looks similar to many of the in-explainable diseases we have today. The cause of Leprosy have never been concluded but it is assumed to be an infectious disease. Leprosy declined during the 20th century.

    Sir Jonathan Hutchinson is a guy you probable never heard of. He had a theory that eating fermented/dried fish and bad diet in general was the true cause of Leprosy.

    What I’m getting at here is what if Hutchinsons theory was correct and that the western diseases we see today are mainly a result of bad diet (vegetarian, processed foods) and that processed vegetable oils is particularly toxic. Fermented and dried fish contains unsaturated oxidated fat just like processed vegetable oils. So could the cheap vegetable oils that are heavily consumed today in fact cause Leprosy even though it is not called that since Leprosy is believed to not exist any more?

    Just a thought. All the best and keep up the good work Tom.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I think the crap oils probably were a factor as well. I feel nothing but sympathy for this kid. Yes, his diet is probably the cause, but many of us went through crap-diet phases and didn’t pay for it with our sight.

      1. Patrik

        Yes it saddens me deeply as well. The kind of diet related problems we see at younger and younger ages takes years to build up and equally years to turn around.

        And I particularly suspect processed oils like those used in margarine and when deep frying etc. But of course sugar is also very damaging. And the thing is that the general health advice has been designed to make us over-consume these very products. Eating less “saturated” fat (i.e. natural healthy fat, will lead to greater consumption of both carbs and vegetable fats.

        It seems like the food and health industries main purpose is to create customers for Big Pharma. Brave new world…

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          I don’t think they’re working together, but the food industry certainly helps the health and pharma industries keep a steady supply of customers.

    2. Wayne Gage

      Diabetes is not a new condition…it has been around forever type two
      always depending on the foods eaten.

      1. Patrik

        Thank you LA_Bob. Very interesting.

        I’ve been studying 19th century medicine lately with the idea that human physiology haven’t changed over a few generations, and hence that common diseases and diagnoses prevalent in those days could be the same as in present day, only with different names.

        Leprosy was quite common in the 19th century. Dr. Hansen from Norway studied the disease and became famous for discovering the so called Bacterium Leprae. What is less know however is that neither Hansen nor any other researcher could demonstrate how/if this bacteria caused Leprosy. It has in fact never been established that it is an infectious disease. And as I mentioned before, Dr Hutchinson and others was convinced that it was bad nutrition that was the main culprit for Leprosy. In particular badly fermented/rotten fish.

        The problems with Leprosy in Norway disappeared for unknown reasons at the turn of the century. It could have been because of the industrialization and the invention of refrigeration and ice making which took away the need to ferment, salt or dry fish and other foods to conserve them.

        Now what if it was the oxidized fats in the bad fish that caused the problems with Leprosy? Then we have a similar situation today with oxidized vegetable fats. Something mankind has never consumed in large quantities before the last decades.

        Our days heart disease and cancer could very well have been diagnosed as Leprosy in the 19th century, and if this hypothesis is correct then it’s the oxidized polyunsaturated fats and nutrient depleted food in general that are the main problems. Combine that with sugar, food additives and preservatives. Fluoride (yes it is a toxix and it accumulates in the body) and other chemicals in food and hygiene products.

  5. Don

    I’m curious if your traffic to this site has recently decreased? Google is actively erasing searches to “alternative” medical sites. So not only are experts blinded by their own biases, laymen will no longer find any information to the contrary.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Traffic seems to be about the same, at least over the last six months. But yes, Google is continuing to demonstrate that they suck as a company and have no interest in freewheeling debates and discussion.

  6. Charles-André Fortin

    “didn’t go blind because he failed to consume enough fruitsvegetableswholegrains!”

    For a rare time, I disagree with you 😉 The depletion of micro-nutriment from lack of good food like fruits and vegetables (even fortified whole grain) could help prevent harm from bad diet. Many people don’t go blind even if they have a high carb, crappy diet.

    But if the boy was diabetic, it would be a whole different story of course. And the fact that the doctor would have not diagnose him would be border line malpractice…

    Has always keep up the good work Tom. 😉

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Sure, lack of micronutrients could figure into it. But if it were strictly a matter of not getting them from fruitsvegetableswholegrains, the carnivores would be having vision problems.

  7. Trevor

    Been trying a low-carb diet again and I’ve lost around 6 pounds in the last four weeks, which isn’t bad. This is on top of the 30 I lost a few years, which I managed to keep off in the long term. (Although it did fluctuate at times) I think it’s starting to grain traction, even if there’s a long way to go.

    I was wondering: does drinking water actually help you lose weight or is that merely something the “experts” concocted?

  8. Don

    Hmm… When I visit your site this article says 18 comments. When I click on them it goes to zero and shows no comments. Just me or is anyone else having problems?

  9. Dana

    Vitamin A?

    Did anyone even LOOK at his vitamin A status?

    I don’t doubt that his BG was really messed up and in fact, I think I remember reading that high carbs can deplete vitamin A all on their own.

    But that’s LITERALLY the first nutrient you look at if the kid’s admitting to a sub-par mostly-plants diet. But we’re so BRAINWASHED to believe (1) beta carotene gives us all the A we need all the time and (2) vitamin A is only an “antioxidant” and that’s its sole value, BOTH of which beliefs are WRONG.

    That poor kid. 🙁

      1. Walter

        Practically the government recommenced diet vegan diet version. I know a woman who is very post menstrual and claims to be a vegan, but she eats salmon every two weeks or so. She is also on anti stomach acid pills. I think she is starving herself. She is anemic and taking iron pill.

        Such a shame.

        I’ve heard a lot of vegan leaders eat salmon, but don’t talk about it. They may feel guilty and project their guilt on us out omnivores and carnivores. Just like the breatharians who are caught eating a Micky D’s.

          1. Tom Naughton Post author

            When we don’t have a rooster (like now), the hens will walk up to whoever enters the chicken yard, turn around, squat, and raise their backsides … apparently inviting the rapist to get to it.

  10. Robert

    I just saw an article on full fat dairy in “Newsweek” online saying a study says it reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. I just kind of skimmed over it. It might be a good thing to apply the “Science for Smart People” approach to. I also wonder if there have been any clinical studies on any of these “plant-based” meat substitutes as to whether they are superior to real meat in terms of health. Just applying the “Wisdom of Crowds” approach makes me very skeptical. Like when we were told that man-made chemistry lab concoctions like margarine were better for us than natural fats like butter, lard, and tallow. I’d be interested to hear your take on these.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      All I needed to do was look at the list of ingredients in the Impossible Burger to know I’ll never eat one.

  11. Gerard

    I must say these days Im no longer really concerned about bolus insulin. Yes, if I were diabetic I would pick a ketogenic approach to loose weight as heavily mitigating bolus insulin instantly would be a plus. The fact remains that vegans can reverse diabetes on practically a carb only diet with their bolus insulin going up and down. I know a vegan who has done this with a potato hack. Its not ideal – but it can be done. Heck, i’ve lost weight on high carb/low fat. Infact I regularly switch from high fat/low carb and high carb/low fat. Diabetes is created via excess caloric load which raises basal insulin. So long as you have a way to induce a caloric deficit over time, you can lower basal insulin reverse all diseases of civilisation. For me that is high protein (mainly Australian game meats), high vegetable, low fat, low carb diet. I can live off as little as 500 calories a day after thermogenic effect is taken into account and be full. If I want to maintain weight its a (high protein and high carb), or (high protein and high fat). Which ever im in the mood for. Both are equally satiating, both result in the same weight loss and both would reverse T2D. This allows for more flexibility. TLDR – eat a lot of protein, do not mix carbs with fat. For the record ive also seen studies that show bolus insulin is raised even more with carbs+fat then with refined carbs alone.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      An insulin spike after a meal is normal. Even if the meal contains no carbs at all, insulin needs to go up to shuttle the proteins into cells. I don’t think the issue with this kid was elevated insulin. I think it was chronically elevated blood sugar.

  12. Chareva

    Weston A Price wrote about a prospector in Northern Canada. He had terrible eye pain and lost his eyesight. An Indian recognized his plight and caught a fish. He instructed the man to eat the head, the tissues behind the eye and and eyes of the fish. The prospectors pain subsided and his vision returned. It was determined that he was deficient in vitamin A. (page 251 Nutrition and Physical Degeneration 1939).

    1. Walter

      The American Indians gave us a demonstration of proper diet, many times in many ways and we basically wiped them out.

      No good dead goes unpunished.

  13. Walter

    A boy with a abnormally high salt craving was eventually sent to a hospital and put on a low salt diet and died in a week.

    Salt is treated a hedonistic indulgence rather than a vital nutrient and the doctors didn’t think that there was a reason the boy needed salt until too late.

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