If anyone had doubts about why the current official dietary recommendations which emphasise the benefits of a diet low fat and high carbohydrates are fundamentally flawed, they should have been at the recent Low Carb Summit in Cape Town. When all the available scientific evidence is collected together it is abundantly obvious that the existing approach has been absolutely disastrous. In addition, there are an enormous number of individuals, who have improved their own personal health by switching to a diet which is high in the right type of fats and low in carbohydrates (LCHF, widely referred to as the Banting diet). All of these simply cannot be written off as anecdotal. To do so is to imply these people are all charlatans!
At the end of the conference the following statement, endorsed by all the speakers was issued:
“The mainstream dietary advice that we are currently giving to the world has simply not worked. Instead it is the opinion of the speakers at this convention that this incorrect nutritional advice is the immediate cause of the global obesity and diabetes epidemics.
This advice has failed because it completely ignores the history of why and how human nutrition has developed over the past three million years. More importantly, it refuses to acknowledge the presence of insulin resistance (carbohydrate intolerance) as the single most prevalent biological state in modern humans.
Persons with insulin resistance are at an increased risk of developing a wide range of chronic medical conditions if they ingest a high carbohydrate diet for any length of time (decades).”
Or to put it another way:
“Excessive insulin in the body causes damage to the internal organs, which in turn leads to chronic diseases/conditions including Type 2 Diabetes (T2D), obesity, high blood pressure, fatty liver, heart disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and cancer. The insulin production is stimulated by the high level of glucose in the blood, which is caused by the consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates. Hence a diet which is low in carbohydrates and has fat as the main sources of energy will result in better health and a reduced risk of developing many diseases.”
The key message from the conference is that the time for debate is over. The emphasis now must be to focus on how the message can be disseminated to all those people who could benefit by altering the composition of their diet. Ideally national policies should be re-vamped but there is so much entrenched opposition and built-in inertia in most governmental systems that this approach is unlikely to be successful in the short term. In the real world, the starting point has to be with the grassroots. As awareness of the effectiveness of the LCHF gathers momentum, there will be opportunities for businesses to capitalise and generate further impetus.
This is already happening in South Africa and some other parts of the world. One of the most significant aspects of the Cape Town conference was the sponsorship by Old Mutual, which is an international investment and insurance company. One of the keynote speakers was Dr Peter Bond who is the company’s Chief Medical Officer. In particular, he described how the standards of public health across the globe are deteriorating because of the increasing incidence of T2D, obesity and the various related diseases. According to company estimates, 3.5 million South Africans have T2D and 50% are unaware of the condition, which is often only diagnosed when an insurance examination is done. As a consequence the application may be declined or subjected to an additional mortality or morbidity loading. Seven out of 10 women and 4 out of 10 men are overweight or obese, which is double the global rate of almost 30%. It is evident that current strategies are not working. Data collected by Old Mutual confirms that total cholesterol (TC) is NOT an effective measure of mortality risk. If currents trends are maintained, then the costs of health care will continue to rise. From the company perspective, this means that the premiums will have to be increased and therefore customers may allow their policies to lapse and it becomes much more difficult to get new business. Old Mutual sells critical illness products: so if those who purchase these policies can be persuaded to adopt lifestyle changes such as a LCHF diet, everyone benefits. The costs of pay-outs will be reduced, which results in lower premiums and increased profitability. From the individual perspective, a reduction in the chances of a serious illness equals better health and quality of life.
Although Dr Bond stated that he was not endorsing any particular diet or way of eating the company has clearly recognised the significance of the event and the impact that the Banting approach is already having in South Africa. All the indications are that the response to the Old Mutual involvement has been very positive.
The crucial factor is that the business understands there is a powerful incentive to encourage people to follow a healthy lifestyle. This may prove to be of huge significance in promoting the benefits of a Banting diet to a much wider audience. The fact that Old Mutual operates in many different parts of the world could be vital. If the initiative in South Africa is a success, then we may expect to see it repeated in many other countries. Assuming this happens, competitors are likely to follow suit. Ultimately governments will wake up to the fact that there are actually ways of halting the apparently inevitable increases in the costs of health care.
This approach is in stark contrast to many other businesses currently involved in health care where consistent poor health equates to the continued demand for drugs and use of the various tests and procedures. As one cynic has pointed out, drug companies derive little benefit if their products successfully cure patients. The ideal for them is to have patients who remain ill and therefore continue to purchase their products. However the reality is that many drugs show absolutely no benefit and are a waste of money (1).
The LCHF approach has tremendous potential to reverse the current disastrous trends in chronic disease patterns and it is imperative that all possible opportunities are exploited so the basic messages are disseminated as widely as possible and as quickly as possible.
1. http://vernerwheelock.com/?p=587