Every day 2.5 million people in Britain eat from McDonald’s! So, is the 5-a-day campaign just a way to make fruit and vegetable companies rich? Is fibre actually good for you? Is fat healthy? A new book called The Obesity Epidemic: What caused it? How can we stop it? claims that many things we believe about food are wrong.
MYTH 1: Fat is bad for us
According to Harcombe: “Real fat is not bad for us”. It is the man made fats that we should be avoiding. In fact our body needs fat as it is essential for every cell. In a pork chop there is about 2.3% of unsaturated fat and 1.5% of saturated fat. According to a 2008 Family Food Survey we are deficient in the fat-soluble vitamins E, D and A. These fat-soluble vitamins are responsible for bone strength, mental health, healthy eyesight, protection of blood vessels and protection against cancer. When we eat “real” fat these vitamins are absorbed into the body.
MYTH 2: We should eat more fibre
We have always been told that fibre is important to help our digestive system and keep the food moving. Harcombe argues that this is not a good idea. She says: “The advice to eat more fibre is put forward along with the theory that we need to flush out our digestive systems. But essential minerals are absorbed from food while it is in the intestines, so why do we want to flush everything out? Concentrate on not putting bad foods in.”
MYTH 3: Saturated fat causes heart disease
Foods containing a high proportion of saturated fats include cream, cheese, butter, fatty meat, chocolate and coconut oil. We have become accustomed into believing that these foods can lead to heart disease. However, Harcombe writes: “No research has ever properly proved that eating saturated fat is associated with heart disease , let alone that causes it.”
MYTH 4: More exercise is a cure for the obesity epidemic
Exercise will speed up our metabolism and mean we burn more calories and lose fat. Harcombe is not convinced, telling us: “If you push yourself into doing extra exercise, it will be counter-productive because you will get hungry – your body will be craving carbohydrate to replenish its lost stores. If you are trying to control weight loss, it is so much easier to control what you put into your mouth. Not how much, but what. Then it doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do by way of exercise.”
MYTH 5: Cholesterol is a dietary enemy
Are high levels of cholesterol really a bad thing. Harcombe thinks not and believes that like your height it is difficult to prescribe a set level that we should aim for. Aiming for a level like 5 mmol/l is meaningless. Harcombe says, “Ancel Keys, who studied cholesterol extensively in the Fifties, said categorically that cholesterol in food does not have any impact on cholesterol in the blood. What is abnormal is the amount of carbohydrate we eat, especially refined carbohydrate, and this has been shown to determine triglyceride levels – the part of the cholesterol reading your GP may be most concerned about.”
“It’s the ultimate irony. We only told people to eat carbs because we demonised fat and, having picked the wrong villain, we are making things worse.”
MYTH 6: You need to eat 5 portions of fruit & veg every day
According to Harcombe: “Five-a-day is the most well-known piece of nutritional advice. You’d think it was based on firm evidence of health benefit. Think again!”
She continues, “Five-a-day started as a marketing campaign by 25 fruit and veg companies and the American National Cancer Institute in 1991. There was no evidence for any cancer benefit.”
MYTH 7: Fruit & Veg is the most nutritious things you can eat
Vegetables are a great addition to our diets but fruit is best avoided by those trying to lose weight. Harcombe states, “If served in butter to deliver the fat-soluble vitamins they contain – but fructose, the fruit sugar in fruit, goes straight to the liver and is stored as fat.”
She adds, “Vitamins and minerals in animal foods – meat, fish, eggs and dairy products – beat those in fruit hands down.”
MYTH 8: Food advisory bodies give us good, impartial advice
It seems that the food industry sponsors some of those impartial organisations we rely upon for our food advice. For example, the British Dietetic Association (BDA), who deliver much advice for the Department of Health and NHS is sponsored by Danone, who create yoghurt’s, and Abbott Nutrition, who produce infant formula and energy bars.
Furthermore, The British Nutrition Foundation, founded in 1967 has among its sustaining members British Sugar PLC, J Sainsbury PLC, Kraft foods, Cadbury and Coca-Cola. Harcombe states, “When the food and drink industry is so actively embracing public health advice, isn’t it time to wonder how healhty that advice can be?”
Tell us what you think. For more reading why not buy Zoe Harcombe’s book now to find out more. Source: Daily Mail newspaper.