11 February 2009

Eggs are now okay - but not saturated fat!

Hi all

This morning (11 Feb), BBC News announced that we could all eat eggs again. Dr Bruce Griffin of Surrey University said that the anti-egg campaign had been based on "a misconception based on out-of-date evidence".
"The ingrained misconception linking egg consumption to high blood cholesterol and heart disease must be corrected."
"The UK public do not need to be limiting the number of eggs they eat - indeed they can be encouraged to include them in a healthy diet as they are one of nature's most nutritionally dense foods."

Great, I thought, at long last they are finally catching up with what I have been preaching since I started to give a talk called "The Fat of the Land" in 1971. The tide is finally turning.

But I wonder if it is really. Further down he is reported to have said that:
"The amount of saturated fat in our diet exerts an effect on blood cholesterol that is several times greater than the relatively small amounts of dietary cholesterol.

So, Dr Griffin has yet to catch up on the couple of decades' worth of news about saturated fat! But, at least it is a start, I suppose.

Yesterday, four bank CEOs apologised to Parliament and the people for the mess they had made and the harm they had caused to world finances. I wonder how long we will have to wait for the nutritionists to make similar apologies.

Or will they wait until someone who has contracted one of the over 70 diseases discussed in Trick and Treat by following 'healthy eating' guidelines decides to sue them?

06 February 2009

Food Standards Agency shows its ignorance

The following article appeared in the Guardian a couple of days ago. It demonstrates yet again that we are living in an asylum that's being run by the inmates.

People urged to cut out foods with 'killer' fats
guardian.co.uk by Rebecca Smithers on 4 February 2009

The food watchdog is to launch a multi-million campaign to urge people to cut out foods with "killer" fats amid growing evidence that families of all classes are eating far too many crisps, biscuits, cakes and pastries.

The Food Standards Agency will next week underline the strong links between heart disease and diets high in saturated fats, featuring "striking heart-shaped" images in popular foods.

Significantly the agency's research has shown that saturated fat consumption is too high across all social groupings, so the campaign will attempt to reach families from all classes and on various budgets. Middle-class cheese eaters, for example, will be urged to cut back on high-fat hard cheese products and to eat less cheese by grating it rather than eating it in blocks.

One image in the campaign reveals cheese coming through a grater in a heart shape, while another picture shows a "balanced" meal of salmon, peas and broccoli arranged in a heart.

According to the FSA, Britons are eating 20% more than the maximum recommended amount of saturated fat. The campaign will aim to educate consumers about the relationship between saturated fat and heart health, and will provide tips on shopping, preparation and cooking to help adults choose lower saturated fat options. The wide-ranging TV and media campaign will start next week, backed by leaflets, posters, flyers, recipe cards, postcards and shopping guides.

Last year the government announced a series of initiatives to crack down on saturated fats, including the appointment of a "tsar", Susan Jebb, of the government's Medical Research Council, to lead an academic group looking at strategies to reduce saturated fat consumption.

Cutting levels of fat intake by 20% would save an estimated 3,500 deaths a year, the FSA says. Although Britain's consumption of saturated fats has been falling over the past 20 years, largely due to people switching from full-fat to semi-skimmed milk, scientists say it is still too high. The fats make up almost one seventh of the average Briton's calorie intake.

Food manufacturers are also being encouraged to play their part by reformulating products. Snacks such as crisps are high in both salt and saturated fats, for example, but recipes have been altered so that many brands now contain 70% less fat than before.

Claire Hughes, nutritionist with Marks & Spencer, said: "We welcome any campaign from the FSA that helps educate consumers about a healthy diet, and how they can make more informed choices about what they eat."

The FSA hitlist

Foods high in saturated fat, which the FSA wants us to eat less often:

• Meat pies, sausages, meat with visible white fat
• Hard cheese
• Butter, and lard, spreads containing palm oil
• Pastry, cakes and biscuits
• Cream, soured cream, and crème fraîche
• Coconut oil or coconut cream


The Food Standards Agency (FSA) was correct to indict the fats found in crisps, biscuits, cakes and pastries. But these are NOT saturated fats; they are artifically hydrogenated fats which merely resemble saturated fats. There is a huge difference between the two as far as our health is concerned; lumping the two together is highly misleading.

When we talk about saturated fats these days, the popular perception is that we are talking about animal fats. But animal fats are entirely healthy. Indeed, when all the fats we ate were from animal sources -- butter, lard, dripping, cream, et cetera -- the chronic degenerative diseases that plague our lives today were either very rare or non-existent. Evidence over the last decade or so indicates that for optimum health, animal fats should provide upwards of 50% of calorie intake. We should be eating more of them, not less.

An FSA campaign aimed at cutting the consumption of crisps, biscuits, cakes and pastries, may have a useful purpose as the fats used in these have been shown to be harmful, as have the starches they include. But if the safest fats of all -- the fats found in meat, sausages, cheese, cream, butter, and tropical oils such as coconut oil -- are also to be targeted, then our health will only decline even more rapidly than it is at present.

It is no coincidence that diseases such as diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer's and more have taken off since 'healthy eating' was introduced by the COMA Report of 1984. These are classic cases of cause and effect. 'Healthy eating' is not the answer to the problem, it IS the problem. Until that is acknowledged, our health will only get worse.

04 February 2009

So breast cancer screening really isn’t worth it – but women aren’t told that.

Supports Chapter 2: What’s behind the screens?

There is another gem in the British Medical Journal.

Peter Gøtzsche and colleagues argue that women are still not given enough, nor correct, information about the harms of screening.

Three years ago, Peter Gøtzsche and colleagues at the Nordic Cochrane Centre, the Department of Nuclear Medicine, and the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, published a survey of the information given to women invited for breast screening with mammography in six countries with publicly funded screening programmes. The major harm of screening, which is overdiagnosis and subsequent overtreatment of healthy women, was not mentioned in any of them.

This latest analysis shows that nothing has changed. Although the information that women were given should have been about both the benefits and adverse effects of breast cancer screening, the supposed benefits were hyped up, but the harms were still not mentioned. The authors say:
“By contrast, little information is given about harms. It states that "some women" find mammography uncomfortable or painful, which becomes "many women" in the summary. The summary also notes that recalls for more investigations "can cause worry." No mention is made of the major harm of screening - that is, unnecessary treatment of harmless lesions that would not have been identified without screening. This harm is well known and acknowledged, even among screening enthusiasts. It is in violation of guidelines and laws for informed consent not to mention this common harm, especially when screening is aimed at healthy people. The new guidelines from the General Medical Council state: "You must tell patients if an investigation or treatment might result in a serious adverse outcome, even if the likelihood is very small." The likelihood of being overdiagnosed after mammography is not very small; it is ten times larger than the likelihood of avoiding death from breast cancer.”

“Another harm is false positive diagnoses. The leaflet notes that about one in every 20 women screened will be recalled for more tests, but does not explain that this 5% rate applies to only one round of screening. The rate of false positive diagnosis after 10 screenings was 50% in the United States and 20% in Norway.”
And there are many more examples of the harm that mammography causes that are mentioned in Chapter 2 of Trick and Treat.

Gøtzsche and co publish a specimen leaflet which does list both sides. It is this:

Summary from evidence based leaflet
• It may be reasonable to attend for breast cancer screening with mammography, but it may also be reasonable not to attend because screening has both benefits and harms

• If 2000 women are screened regularly for 10 years, one will benefit from the screening, as she will avoid dying from breast cancer

• At the same time, 10 healthy women will, as a consequence, become cancer patients and will be treated unnecessarily. These women will have either a part of their breast or the whole breast removed, and they will often receive radiotherapy and sometimes chemotherapy

• Furthermore, about 200 healthy women will experience a false alarm. The psychological strain until one knows whether it was cancer, and even afterwards, can be severe
But I doubt that women will be told the truth. If they were, they would probably say ‘no, thank you’ and doctors would then see a cut in their salaries – and that would never do, would it?

Gøtzsche PC, et al. Breast screening: the facts—or maybe not. BMJ 2009;338:b86

It’s the glucose, stupid!

Supports Chapter 21: Diseases of the heart and blood vessels

An interesting study has just been published which looks at a wide range of possible variables in the formation of the arterial lesions thought to cause heart attacks. The interesting part is that, although all the traditional ‘risk factors’ for heart disease such as cholesterol, HDL, LDL were considered, the factor that really stood out was none of these. It was blood glucose levels – from a ‘healthy’ carbohydrate-based diet, perhaps?

This study is open access so anyone can read the full paper online.

Nunes JPL, Silva JC (2009) Systemic Correlates of Angiographic Coronary Artery Disease. PLoS ONE 4(1): e4322. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004322

Coronary angiography allows a direct evaluation of coronary anatomy.

The aim of the present investigation was to search for correlations between the magnitude of coronary artery disease, as assessed by angiography, and a number of systemic parameters.

A group of 116 patients (80 male, 36 female) with coronary heart disease diagnosed by angiography, aged 62.0610.5 years, was the subject of an observational study.

Correlation and linear regression analysis using coronary artery disease burden (CADB - sum of the percentage of the luminal stenosis encountered in all the lesions of the coronary arterial trees) as dependent variable, and age, sex, plasma calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, glucose, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, uric acid, estimated glomerular filtration rate and body mass index as independent variables, were carried out.

Significant correlation values versus CADB were seen with age (r 0.19, p 0.04), uric acid (r 0.18, p 0.048) and fasting plasma glucose (r 0.33, p,0.001). Linear regression analysis, yielding a global significance level of 0.002, showed a significant value for glucose (p 0.018) and for sex (0.008).

In conclusion, among several systemic parameters studied, plasma glucose was found to be correlated to coronary artery atherosclerosis lesions.