We have now reached a position where it is absolutely obvious that the conventional recommendations on Healthy Eating which advise reducing saturated fat (SFA) and increasing complex carbohydrates are fundamentally wrong! In fact they are a key factor responsible for the deteriorating standards of public health in many countries as illustrated, for example, by the increasing incidence of Type 2 Diabetes (T2D). Despite the overwhelming evidence the official government policies, reinforced by the attitudes of the public health professions and institutions, continue to promote policies which are untenable. There can be little doubt that this is responsible for immense suffering and premature deaths. Ultimately these policies will have to be completely revamped although it would be a mistake to underestimate the reluctance of the establishment to admit its errors.
The shining light on the world stage is current developments in South Africa. Four years ago Tim Noakes, who is Professor of Sports Science at Cape Town University and a keen marathon runner, realised that his poor health was related to his habitual diet, even though he was complying with the official recommendations. He decided to evaluate the scientific literature which underpins the conventional advice and to his surprise discovered that the rationale just did not stand up to rigorous scrutiny. As so many others have recognised, the formulation of the recommendations which was undertaken by a US Senate Committee, was characterised by incompetence and influenced by leading academics more interested in pushing a dogma than trying to get at the truth.
As a consequence, he made changes to his own personal diet and within a very short period he lost weight and his risk factors for various diseases soon showed significant improvement. This was convincing proof to him that the key to a healthy diet is low not high carbohydrates and high fat not low fat.
Eventually he decided that he had to go public with this information and together with some colleagues produce a book entitled “The Real Meal Revolution”. The initial print run was for 3,000 copies. However it proved to be so popular that it was the Number One on sale of books in South Africa, where it has remained for over 20 weeks. Total sales are over 120,000. It really has struck a chord for the simple reason that it works. What is more the benefits, especially weight loss, are evident within a matter of weeks. Contrast this with the conventional approach to losing weight by calorie reduction, which rarely is effective. Furthermore the few who are successful invariably regain the weight lost within a relatively short period. There are uncanny parallels between the reception of “The Real Meal Revolution” and that of the pamphlet distributed by William Banting, a London undertaker 150 years ago (1). This explains why the term “Banting Diet” has been coined to describe a diet which is in line with the advice currently promulgated by Tim Noakes. There are Banting restaurants being established and members of the South African Parliament are taking a positive interest. It is possible that this may lead to a radical change in public health policy. If so, this could be a major breakthrough.
With this background, the fact that Tim and his colleagues have decided to organise an international Summit in Cape Town next February could turn out to be of enormous significance. Already many of those who are actively promoting and campaigning for a re-think on nutrition policies have signified their intention to be present. It is to be hoped that there will be a critical mass which will have an enormous impact right across the globe.
The first event which will be for two days is aimed primarily at medical practitioners. The content will focus on scientific data, studies and facts relating to a lifestyle based on a Banting type diet. This will be followed by a one-day event which will be geared to the needs of the general public.
Further details are available on the official website at http://www.lowcarbhighfatexperts.com/
This Summit will be a unique occasion, which I expect will have ramifications way beyond Cape Town and South Africa. I am confident that bringing together most of those who have been researching and disseminating the relevant information about the benefits to health of a diet low in carbohydrates and high in fat will convey a very powerful message, which will be felt around the world.
When dietary guidelines, which deal with the major constituents in the diet of fat, protein and carbohydrates, were first introduced the changes in eating habits were stimulated by the signals sent out by governments, professional institutions and bodies such as the World Health Organisation. These were then amplified by health promotion agencies, consumer organisations and the food industries. The food manufacturers and retailers had a particularly strong influence because of the resources available for marketing purposes. The big problem we have now is that these policies and strategies have become so firmly embedded that there is very powerful resistance to make any fundamental change to the messages that are being pushed out. As things stand at present certain foods which are perceived as “healthy” under current official guidelines will suddenly be regarded as “unhealthy” if the validity of the low carb approach becomes accepted as the norm. So companies providing such foods are unlikely adopt the new concepts without a fight. But perhaps what is of greater significance is those academics, civil servants and public health professionals who will have to admit that they have been wrong. Tim Noakes has already experienced the wrath of his academic colleagues (2).
As a consequence of the firmly entrenched establishment positions, it is highly unlikely that change will be achieved by a top down approach. I believe that the pressure for change will probably be generated from the bottom up that. In other words it will be dependent on people power. This is why I am convinced this Summit in South Africa could be the turning point. However it will only happen if the key messages are presented clearly and concisely so that there is no doubt about the way food consumption patterns have to be changed and how this can be achieved. “The Real Meal Revolution” certainly meets these objectives and so the big challenge is to replicate this in other countries. It is striking how many people have found that it is easy to adopt the principles and to get quick results with respect to weight loss. Even more significant is the number who have been able to improve their personal health. An excellent example is shown by the numerous case studies of individuals who have overcome T2D to such an extent that it has been possible to cease all treatment with drugs (3).
If all goes well I can envisage the Summit having an impact in a number of different ways, including the following:
- Those who attend will gain new insight and understanding of how to achieve change and go home full of ideas and inspiration to make waves
- It will provide knowledge and information and so provide a boost to those who promulgating these concepts via the social media
- Already, there is coverage in some of the mainstream media and with luck this may well become much more extensive.
It really is very exciting. I plan to be there and I anticipate that it will a fascinating and stimulating experience.