Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Dietician does it again...

Now, I am not wanting to sound like I have an issue with dieticians, but this morning on BBC Breakfast they (well more specifically one of them - Dr Clare Leonard) over stepped the line.

Always, we are told how how a few of those with a dietetic degree think most of us nutritionist types to be quacks who peddle unnecessary supplements, bad science, and holistic nonsense. They will point to the lack of a dietetic degree (despite the fact that many of us possess science based degrees, masters or PhD's and are more current with the research than they are) as an indictment of the fact that we are not to be trusted. We could go on, but let's get back to the story in hand...

This morning's story was centred around the amount of sugar in breakfast cereals (us quack nutritionists have of course known this a long time) revealing the frankly astonishing amounts in some of the popular brands of cereal (in particular those aimed specifically at children tended to be the worst offenders).

In true BBC form they invited an expert in to talk about it (she must be an expert as she calls herself Doctor) - but we should of course mention that far from being impartial - Dr Leonard is the nutritional 'expert' for Nestle under the more official sounding moniker of 'Cereal Partners Worldwide' and clearly a strong advocate of us all eating a wheat/sugar refined cereal for breakfast.

Amongst some of the other unbelievable statements our good doctor has to offer was the fact (according to her) that "there is no research linking sugar consumption to obesity"

Yes, you read it correct, but in case you are finding it hard to comprehend that anyone with more than GCSE Physiology would say that I am going to write it again....

"there is no research linking sugar consumption to obesity"

Oh really??? I am sure that I need not go into the absolute dearth of research from some brilliant individuals, such as John Yudkin, Gerald Reaven, David Jenkins, or the pioneering concepts and findings from someone like T.L Cleave who realised many years ago the damage refined sugars and flour were causing. In fact, two things we can be pretty sure of are that sugar makes you fat and rots your teeth, while (by it's effects on insulin and links to insulin resistance) we can be pretty confident of its role in a whole range of maladies, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, parkinsons, gastrointestinal ills, and the list goes on (sometimes called diseases of civilisation or western illnesses due to the relative absence of them in indigenous populations until the arrival of 'civilisation' and the importing of sugar in its various forms).

Another of her pearls was that it is "fat in the diet that causes you to get fat" and at this point I nearly spat my eggs out all over the television in sheer incredulity at that statement. Clearly she has no knowledge whatsoever of triglyceride formation...some fructose anyone?

Why the BBC decided to interview such a one-eyed so-called 'expert' to do nothing but try and deflect questions and peddle false truths is beyond me. What is worse is that by calling her a Doctor they give the public the impression that this person is a medical expert and should be listened too.

Let me state this clearly. It is very rare, as someone who has studied and researched also, that I can state anything as equivocally as I am about to, but there is no place in your child's diet (or your own) for refined carbohydrates and sugar-filled cereals. There simply is no real basis on which you can argue for their inclusion. These foods are so devoid in nutrition that they actually have to try and add something back in during the processing. You could leave a bowl of cereals outside your door overnight and it would be left untouched by all the wild animals in the neighbourhood, which should tell you something!

What concerns me most is the effect these cereals are having on our kids from a young age, developing insulin resistance and hyperglycemia in our youngsters that is creating a dangerous public health issue, damaging organs, increasing their fat cells, promoting obesity and affecting behaviour. Kids are taught that food is super sweet, comes in a packaged box, and doesn't actually resemble any kind of actual food itself (scary how many kids now can't even recognise common fruit and vegetables....).

Any nutrition expert who doesn't think this is the case is either deluding themselves or has 'sold out' to a commercial interest. Simple as that. Those of us who work with regular people trying to lose weight clearly have a different perspective (sure, take a 24 stone teen who is eating 30 pop tarts for breakfast and replace with a small bowl of All-Bran and you might see a difference, but that is hardly evidence of the benefits of sugar laden cereals) on this topic.

If you'd like to read more then I highly recommend the excellent book, 'Diet Delusion' by Gary Taubes (sold in the USA as 'Good Calorie, Bad Calorie') although any good textbook on nutritional biochemistry will shed some light on the links between sugar and insulin...

Let's hope that next time the BBC covers this topic they do so in a better way than they did today, which quite honestly was RUBBISH!


Greg Smith said...

I must admit that it is now 4 hours since I saw that piece on the news this morning and my blood pressure has not reduced. Livid!!! would be the best way to describe how I felt when I watch it.

BBC were completely irresponsible!!!

Great post BTW!


David Brown said...

You wrote, "Another of her pearls was that it is 'fat in the diet that causes you to get fat.'"

Having done some research of your own I'm sure you realize that this notion is based more on logic than science. But there is some science involved.

To determine basal metabolic rate, scientists measure calories in food, subtract out calories contained in urine and feces and check the result against energy expended using a metabolic chamber.

It's a matter of energy balance. Problem is, as far as I can tell, no one has ever tried to measure the metabolic activity of gut bacteria to determine their contribution to the total heat energy generated by the system. That's why, in overfeeding studies, where subjects don't gain as much weight as expected (or no weight at all in some cases), scientists can't seem to make sense of the data.

Anyone who composts knows that when bacteria feed and multiply, they produce heat. Both the heat lost during urination and defecation and the heat that diffuses into the body, as waste material moves through the gut, must be included in any calculation of total energy absorption. As mentioned earlier, researchers simply ignore the bacterial heat factor (BHF). Perhaps that explains why some people don't gain weight with an increase in caloric intake. It also may explain the observed discrepancies between measured caloric intake and weight loss as reported by Dr. Penelope J. Greene in her 2003 low-carb/low-fat comparison study.

There would be far less bacterial activity in the gut were it not for the limited ability of the digestive system to transfer calories from the small intestine to the bloodstream. In a 1981 FAO report entitled ENERGY ABSORPTION AND DIETARY FIBRE the authors note that "Faecal energy losses arise from several sources, including endogenous waste material such as mucus and exfoliated mucosal cells, bacterial cell mass from the intestinal flora, and finally undigested food residues themselves."

The authors also noted that "The total available energy of a food may be defined simply as its heat of combustion, minus the heat of combustion of the faecal and urinary residues to which it gives rise."

More recently, on page 3 of a February 2008 article published in Food Technology the authors note, "Heaton (1973) proposed that fiber acts as a physiological obstacle to energy intake through at least three mechanisms: 1) fiber displaces available calories and nutrients from the diet; 2) fiber increases chewing, which limits intake by promoting the secretion of saliva and gastric juice, resulting in an expansion of the stomach and increased satiety; and 3) fiber reduces the absorption efficiency of the small intestine."

Sorry this material wasn't organized better. I didn't have much time to compose a comment this morning. Good luck with your research.

Dave Brown
Nutrition Education Project

Team Aegis said...

Hi David,

All good comments, but not I feel any justification for the gross oversimplifications and false truths peddled by this woman this morning. Telling people that 'fat makes you fat' is not only physiologically incorrect it is only part of the picture, for example she didn't say that 'fat is an essential for life' ? Hmmm why not?

Her argument for sugar is that it is fine to eat loads of it as it won't make you fat and the fluoride in our water will protect your teeth.....please!!!! This is meant to have been a scientist speaking but she sounded like some misguided idiot from the Nestle PR department!

Weight gain is complex for sure, but what is not in doubt is that sugar-laden cereals are a sure-fire way to ensure that we add more fuel to the current obesity fire that is growing in our teenage (and younger) population!

Emma Lynn said...

Well said! I was so incensed whilst eating my cereal yesterday this women so vehemently misled the public, that I was shouting at the television - not the usual behaviour of the sane!

So, according to Dr Clare Leonard (sadly a bona fida public health nutritionist number RPHN475 registered with the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists), sugar doesn't turn into fat and there's no evidence of sugar leading to obesity.

As you so rightly pointed out, they're bare faced lies from someone who really should and does know better.

Whilst having breakfast is better than skipping it, I recommend clients/parents to choose cereals with as little sugar content as possible - that will give their children a far better start to their day and their life!

Whichever way you look at it, Dr Clare Leonard is guilty of misleading the public in the worst possible way.


Team Aegis said...

Thanks Emma - really great to hear we are not alone in being so outraged at such flagrantly erroneous comments. How can ANYONE be so far from the truth and more importantly the actual reality of the situation ? This so called expert is nothing more than a wolf in sheeps clothing , a marketing tool masquerading as a responsible health professional.

We were laughing at her comments on the radio that if you add milk it also reduces the total sugar percentage of the meal, making it actually o.k to eat a meal that is a 1/3 refined is so bad it is laughable!!!

Johanne said...

"...there is no research linking sugar consumption to obesity..."

That is a shocking statement.

Ian Mellis said...

I have had the same problem. I guess due to their code of conduct they are legally bound in what they say and how they practice. There aproach is bound by calories in and out, an abundance of carbohydrates as well as not really commenting on the role of healthy fats in the diet. It's hard for someone to understand that most things change in exercising individual's escpecially when a lot of practitioners have no frame of reference in these situations.