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What is the world’s biggest nutritional problem? Until fairly recently, the answer was often hunger. In previous decades there were numerous solicitations in the media asking for donations to help feed the hungry — but those have largely disappeared. In the early 80s the marketing of processed food fundamentally changed from marketing to satisfy hunger to marketing processed food to satisfy desire and pleasure. Essential nutrients were removed from food to extend its shelf life and promote a “better taste” that would appeal to the tongue and generate more profit. One could argue the obesity epidemic had its origins there. Today, one might answer the world’s biggest nutrition problem is obesity and the associated problem of malnutrition from lack of adequate intake of essential nutrients, which causes the metabolic diseases of diabetes, heart disease, and some say cancer.
The answer to the obesity epidemic seems to have gotten lost in the modern world, but it has long been discussed under two buzzwords. One is “ketogenics” or driving the body into fat burning mode. The other is “low carb, high fat”. They are very similar in approach.
The low carb – high fat proposition is quite a startling if not radical change from the doctrine, familiar over the last five decades, of avoiding fat. After studying this material, I found that the conventional wisdom was wrong — and has substantially contributed to the world’s population of people who just don’t feel good.
In a profound lecture, Dr. Joan Ifland presents her twenty-three-year journey of understanding how the world switched from hunger to (shall we say) “non-hunger” but with the rather huge side effect of metabolic diseases. Metabolic diseases are ones that are self-inflicted or developed from within, whereas communicable diseases are ones we get from each other.
Dr. Ifland’s thesis is that the largest addict group in the world today is addicted to carbohydrates, in particular, sugar. The size of this group far exceeds any traditional addictions to drugs or alcohol. Her insight is that in the ’80s and ’90s big business learned from the early hugely successful marketing of tobacco how to mass-market today’s junk food. It has been a huge business success for a few but devastating to health and life spans for many. She explains there are too many contributors to the status-quo to hope for government action, but the solution can only come from individual action. She further explains that modern communication technology can be very useful to promote individual action to solve this worldwide problem. A recent global conference in Cape Town, South Africa on the Low Carb, High Fat subject presented several excellent lectures, itemized below. All the conference lectures appear to be high quality. The science appears solid, and these are well worth a few evenings of study.
Dr. Gary Fettke, an orthopedic surgeon from Australia, explains chronic inflammation and its causes in processed food. Although he appears to have started out as a surgeon, as he saw amputations for diabetic patients becoming a large part of his practice, he changed focus to become an enthusiastic advocate of the low carb high fat diet.
Dr. Eric Westman from Duke University in North Carolina explains how fifteen years ago, two patients told him about their success with ketogenic diets. His investigation into the subject has transformed his practice into a full-time university-based, drug free, weight loss clinic. He explains that many of his colleagues have proposed that this, too, will be a fad. However, the science has shown to be solid.
Dr. Zoe Harcombe is an interesting lecturer from Wales, UK. She is one of the leading proponents of a low fat high carb diet. Her research shows there was never any scientific justification for low fat diets. The theory sounded good, that is “fat is bad”, and thus the politicians promoted it, case closed. At least until Dr. Zoe took a new look. She did not find faulty science, she found no science to support low fat diets.
Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt is widely known as Sweden’s esteemed diet doctor. He has an interesting story on the causes of a butter shortage in Norway. Additionally he presents how Sweden became the first national government to support low carb, high fat eating in preference to the traditional food pyramid.
Energized by these lectures, I have learned that by eating the classic French fries and high-carb lunch, I will likely be fall-out-of-the-chair fatigued about 4 pm. To avoid that I’ve cut out big doses of processed carbohydrates and sweets, and include a larger portion of healthy fatty foods such as butter, nuts, whole olives, and avocados, per the recommendations above. It makes a big difference on what one gets done in a day.
The science behind the low carb, high fat trend is solid. Be your own scientist. It is easy to run your own experiments to verify what has been presented. To put it concisely, “What is it worth to you to feel really good?”
(About the author: Tom Taylor has engineering degrees from Georgia Tech and a MBA. He became interested in nutrition subjects as a solution to feeling too old and stiff to do the peculiar positions required to work on boats and airplanes. He has contributed prior articles to OMNS.)
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