183. The Significance of the Low Carb Summit in Cape Town, February 2015

There is no absolutely no doubt that the dietary recommendations which were formulated by the US Senate Committee chaired by George McGovern have proved to be disastrous. Effectively this resulted in public health policies all over the world advising that total fat, especially the saturated fats (SFAs) should be reduced and that there should be an increase in the intake of carbohydrates. Consequently there has been a shift in food consumption patterns as various measures have been implemented as a response. In particular, the food industry has altered the composition of many products so that they can be promoted as “low fat”. Very often the fat has been replaced by sugar. In addition the use of sugar as an ingredient in manufactured products has become widespread. The growth in the consumption of soft drinks has contributed to the increased sugar intake.

In parallel with these changes in food consumption, there have been progressive increases in the incidence of obesity, Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) and many other related conditions such as kidney disease. We have now reached a point where the science confirms that the change in diet is one of the primary causes of the deterioration in public health standards. It follows therefore that these changes which have occurred over the past 40 years or so will have to be reversed. Hence the carbohydrates will have to be reduced and replaced by healthy fats summarised by the Low Carb High Fat (LCHF). In an ideal world, the logic of the case would lead to initiatives designed to achieve this objective. Unfortunately there is resistance from very powerful interests including businesses that feel threatened and scientists who are not prepared to admit that they have been wrong.

Nevertheless things are starting to move. The most recent significant event was the Low Carb Summit which was held in Cape Town in February 2015 hosted by Tim Noakes and organised by Karen Thomson, who is a grand-daughter of Professor Christiaan Barnard. It was the first time that most of the leading figures in the world from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds came together to share their experience and knowledge. This meeting was highly successful. The presentations by speakers representing a range of disciplines and backgrounds were extremely impressive and provided a very powerful and compelling case in support of an LCHF diet. The rationale is extremely convincing, especially as the same message is coming through loud and clear from a wide variety of perspectives.

At the end of the conference the following statement was issued which was endorsed by all the speakers:

“The mainstream dietary advice that we are currently giving to the world has simply not worked. Instead it is the opinion of all 15 speakers at the Old Mutual Health Summit 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 eating according to those current dietary guidelines which promote low-fat and high-carbohydrate intakes.

Persons with insulin resistance are at an increased risk of developing a wide range of chronic medical conditions if they ingest high carbohydrate diets for any length of time (decades).”

It was extremely relevant that the Summit was held in South Africa because of the developments there. Last year Tim Noakes and colleagues produced a comprehensive book which described the background to the flawed recommendations and explained the rationale of the new approach based on LCHF which is also referred to as a Banting diet (1). However the book also contained a variety of recipes for very attractive meals which were admirably illustrated. The initial print run was 3,000 but it proved to be an immediate success topping the best seller lists in South Africa for at least 20 weeks. It has now sold over 200,000 copies and has been launched overseas. Clearly it struck a chord. It came as a pleasant surprise that meals prepared from ingredients which had been portrayed as “unhealthy” such as meat and full fat dairy products could now be regarded as “healthy”. Even more significant was there were many individuals who discovered that they started to lose weight and that within a matter of months had reached an acceptable level. To cap it all, their general health improved. Further evidence of the impact is that there is a growing number of restaurants which provide and promote menus based on the Banting principles.

The conference speakers have produced a wealth of knowledge which will be invaluable for anyone who is interested in understanding the background research which demonstrates the dangers of excess sugar and carbohydrates and why the case for reducing the SFAs was full of holes. The whole cholesterol story has turned out to rubbish which means that there is absolutely no justification for recommending the polyunsaturated (omega-6s) on the grounds that they “lower cholesterol”. In reality the excessive amounts consumed in most countries contribute to the development of inflammation, which can lead to a range of serious chronic diseases.

The conference proceedings are now available and will be invaluable to anyone who accepts the ideas presented here and has doubts about the current advice promulgated by the mainstream professionals. Individuals concerned about their personal health and/or wishing to lose weight will be very encouraged by the various presentations. In addition, professionals who genuinely wish to tune into the latest thinking will be amazed at the way everything fits together and just makes such good sense!

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1. Having tried various ways to lose weight, he eventually succeeded with a diet based on meat, fruit and vegetables but avoiding sugar and starchy foods. He wrote a pamphlet, which proved to be very popular. By all accounts those who followed the advice managed to lose weight. It is worth noting that these principles were effectively accepted until the late 1960s.

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