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Who owns the new Australian dietary guidelines?

For those who missed the announcement, Australia’s 24,000 GPs and 3500 dietitians will soon have a new weapon in their battle against big bellies and hard arteries. Junk food can be fast and greasy from multinationals with multimillion dollar advertising budgets or wanky and ever so slow and creamy from obese chefs with inexplicable TV pulling powers. Either way, the consequent early onset of ill-health is miserable and expensive.

The current weapon of choice against premature ill-health is nought but a post-hoc response. We have a vast and miraculous hospital system with a silo of subsidised medication so that older Australians can continue to greet the day with a zipper in their chest and bacon and eggs on their plate.

The new weapon is 300 pages of paper … yes, it’s our new draft Australian dietary guidelines!

It’s backed up by almost 2000 more pages of paper in the form of computer modelling and carefully selected readings on the state of nutritional science.

This is important stuff. Healthy eating really can make medical costs plunge and quality of life soar. Consider Cuba, which now has a First World life expectancy that has passed that of the US and is closing on Australia’s. Cuba’s cancer incidence (new cases per capita per year) is less than two thirds of Australia’s but the mortality rate is 20%. Uh? How does that work? Cuba is a poor country, it does a great job at preventing cancer but doesn’t have our expensive treatment regimes. Our approach to cancer is exemplified by the army of public-minded local community groups using barbecues to raise money for the Cancer Council’s courageous battles against the cancer those barbecues cause. The Cubans just have less barbecues and less cancer. It’s kind of obvious.

During any five-year period only 783 of every 100,000 Cubans will battle cancer compared to 1835 Australians. Diet isn’t the whole story, but the Cubans eat double the fruit, far more veggies, almost twice as many cereals, a quarter the milk and a quarter the meat. It’s carbs, carbs and more carbs and their overweight and obesity rate is about half of ours. All that and not a single low-carb high hype protein bar in sight.

So healthy eating can be a really big thing. While many senior Australians live out their twilight years managing a little bowls and a daily pill sequence memory test, the Cubans are still doing the salsa.

But how much difference can a really big report make? More importantly, how much difference will this particular report make?

The report begins with a lie.

Last week’s Sunday Mail (Body and Soul liftout, January 16) repeats and emphasises it:

In a world first, the focus of the guidelines is on food rather than nutrients to make it easier for health professionals and the public to understand.”

So what is guideline 2?

Limit intake of foods containing saturated and trans fats, added salt and sugars and alcohol”.

Last I checked, saturated and trans fats were nutrients. According to a 2007 CSIRO survey of children’s food intake, about 80% of children are eating 50% too much saturated fat. Why? Where is it coming from? What foods should children avoid?

What the guideline authors should have said was that they focus on foods unless they are bad foods coming Meat and Livestock Australia or Dairy Australia — - in which case the guidelines revert to the inscrutable language of nutrients.

New York’s whistleblowing professor of nutrition, Marion Nestle, got it right in her 2002 expose of the meat industry’s control of nutritional advice in the US — - “Food Politics”. Describing her appointment to a committee rather similar to the dietary guidelines committee she recounts:

My first day on the job, I was given the rules: No matter what the research indicated, the report could not recommend ‘eat less meat’ as a way to reduce saturated fat …”

Some things haven’t changed.

If you need any further indication of who was pulling the strings on these guidelines, all you need to do is check the references to “vegetarian” or “vegan”.

The word “vegetarian” is used 29 times in the report, but, apart from a technical definition, it never appears without some kind of warning. The guidelines make it sound like you need to be a bloody genius to balance your nutrient intake on a vegetarian diet. In UK and US, studies of many thousands of people, vegetarians have lower rates than the general population of almost all major diseases. So why all the warnings? What is it about normal diets that sees so many people bugger them up? Clearly there aren’t enough warnings or the warnings are singularly obscure like “Eat less saturated fat”. My favourite piece of warning idiocy is about protein combinations.

Those following a strict vegetarian or vegan diet need to choose a variety of protein sources throughout the day to get an adequate mix of amino acids (p.31)” … and “For lacto-ovo vegetarian diets, the Modelling System used a ratio of a 5:1:1 ‘legume:egg:nuts/seeds’ ratio [as] these foods would provide an adequate amino acid balance”

Gosh! I’ve been a vegan for three decades and regularly cycle 100-plus kilometres in the Adelaide Hills. How the hell did I manage without knowing this ratio?

I know this report is just a draft, but surely somebody did a little preliminary checking? You don’t expect this kind of bullshit in an expert document.

But it is an expert document, so it’s best I go into a little detail. Proteins are made of amino acids, some of which are essential. If you don’t get the essential ones in adequate amount, you could end up in hospital with an amino acid deficiency. I checked a decade of data on the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website and couldn’t find a single case of any deficiency that looked like an amino acid imbalance or deficiency. I asked a dietitian friend. She’d never heard of one. Somehow the almost 900,000 vegetarians or vegans manage that balancing of 22 amino acids … to a person.

Now consider the other 21 million or so Australians. During the past decade almost half a million have had major heart surgery, generally because of too much saturated fat … either from meat and dairy foods directly or from the excess fat removed from carcases or milk and used to make other foods dangerous. So most Australians only have to follow one simple rule but regularly bugger it up.

Are veggos really that smart? I decided to check. So I wrote a computer program to compare the amino acids in foods against the latest amino acid requirements. I confirmed in excruciating detail exactly what my dietitian friend had told me in general terms … it takes a really bizarre food intake pattern to flunk the essential amino acid requirements. Suppose, for example, you ate nothing but bananas all day? Would you get enough of the essential amino acids? Yes. Bread? yes. Potatoes? yes. Zuccini? yes. Broccoli? yes. Any mixture of these? Yes … obviously. You don’t actually need to eat any “protein foods” or any tricky mix to get enough of the essential amino acids (although you may want to eat them for other nutritional reasons). All you need to do is to eat enough food to maintain your body weight. Vegan athlete Harley Johnstone regularly eats 30 bananas a day, when he can afford them(!), and wins bicycle and running races. Harley’s diet is unusual for sure, but how weird do you have to be to get an amino acid deficiency? One hundred per cent chips and Coke should do it. Or trying to live entirely on corn flakes … without soy milk of course.

So as far as I can tell, of the million or so vegetarians in Australia during the past decade, not a single one has ever been so bloody silly and we aren’t all bloody geniuses. The “protein combining” myth was started in the 1970s, with the best of intentions, by one Frances Moore Lappe. But it was bullshit then and it’s still bullshit.

For comparison, do the new guidelines contain warnings about the risks of rabbit starvation (which can kill you) for people wacko enough to try living on lean meat? Of course not. So why did the guideline authors deliberately target for blanket warnings a diet which is demonstrably, on average, healthier than the Australian norm?

Australia needs a powerful weapon against the forces making our children fat and sick. Those forces control the mass media with huge budgets and tiny consciences, but I reckon it will take rather more than 300 pages of paper to defeat them … even assuming they get the obvious meat and dairy industry biases removed before the draft goes live.

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  • 1
    kerry russell
    Posted Wednesday, 18 January 2012 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this article, the belief that there is higher quality (animal) and lower quality (plant) protein has long been firmly fixed in the community, on top of this the many TV ads confirming the belief. The facts of nutritional science in opposition seems like just a squeaky mouse. I am usually at a loss to explain when asked “but what about the protein!” and getting Calcium, that is seen as even a bigger danger “you would need a barrow load of broccoli” I am told, so I generally try to keep my veggo beliefs to myself.
    I hope your studies can get out there a bit more. Kerry

  • 2
    Geoff Russell
    Posted Wednesday, 18 January 2012 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Kerry (no relation … that I know of).

    The history of the protein myth is fascinating and told well by Prof. Kenneth Carpenter,
    Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Berkeley:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3528432

    The problem is that the advertising industry keeps repeating the same protein lies and
    the history is forgotten and has to be relearned. In the world of medical intervention in developing
    countries, the protein myth is old news. Consider this study of malnutrition in
    developing countries (published in 2000), there is not a single mention of protein in
    the whole 100+ page study. It’s simply not relevant. People are malnourished if they
    don’t get enough food or are fighting infections because of dirty water.

    http://www.ifpri.org/publication/explaining-child-malnutrition-developing-countries-0

    The weapon of choice to bring children back from the brink of death isn’t steak, but fortified peanut butter … plant protein. In the early stages, a LOW protein formulation is used, later as the child’s
    organs start to function better, a slightly higher level is used.

  • 3
    AR
    Posted Wednesday, 18 January 2012 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been vegetarian for over 40 years (and also a farmer, willing to slaughter, and skin, stock for those keen on eating dead animals), and am happy to arm wrestle, lift & carry, or whatever macho claptrap is deemed necessary by the carnivore lobby to demonstrate fitness.
    I’m especially keen to try it in 20yrs time, if any shiteaters still exist.

  • 4
    drsmithy
    Posted Wednesday, 18 January 2012 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    During any five-year period only 783 of every 100,000 Cubans will battle cancer compared to 1835 Australians. Diet isn’t the whole story, but the Cubans eat double the fruit, far more veggies, almost twice as many cereals, a quarter the milk and a quarter the meat. It’s carbs, carbs and more carbs and their overweight and obesity rate is about half of ours. All that and not a single low-carb high hype protein bar in sight.

    How do the levels of physical activity compare ?

  • 5
    Geoff Russell
    Posted Wednesday, 18 January 2012 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    I don’t have any hard data … just guessing activity levels are higher. Cuba made conscious decisions to change its food supply over the past couple of decades … under extreme pressure caused by Soviet collapse and US sanctions. Calories from animal products plummeted and huge increases in fruit and veg. Heart disease rates dropped very quickly in response. Cancer has a much longer lead time so reflects long standing differences. Meat has always been at about a quarter of Australian levels, most
    of the drop in animal product calories came in reductions in dairy. Total calories in the
    food supply is almost identical to Australia … hence my guess that activity levels must
    be higher if obesity is half.

  • 6
    drsmithy
    Posted Thursday, 19 January 2012 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    For comparison, do the new guidelines contain warnings about the risks of rabbit starvation (which can kill you) for people wacko enough to try living on lean meat? Of course not. So why did the guideline authors deliberately target for blanket warnings a diet which is demonstrably, on average, healthier than the Australian norm?

    I suspect it’s recognising that the number of people “wacko” enough to try living only on a diet of only lean meat is so close to zero it’s irrelevant, whereas the number of people prepared to try and live on a diet of lettuce and green tea (or something equally extreme on the vegetarian side) is not at all unheard of (even if the motivation is not specifically to avoid meat - eg: Anorexia).

    A properly nutritious and balanced vegetarian or vegan diet is more difficult to achieve (without artificial supplements) than an omnivorous one. This is particularly true for children and teenagers. It makes sense that any nutritional and dietary guidelines take that into account.

  • 7
    Geoff Russell
    Posted Thursday, 19 January 2012 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    I’d agree it was more difficult to achieve good diet if there was ANY evidence that vegetarians lived shorter sicker lives. They don’t. So either 1) veggos are smarter, 2) leaving out meat makes a good diet easier to achieve for some weird reason or 3) some or all meat is bad for you. There is clear consensus now that processed meat is bad for you. There is very wide acceptance (but not consensus) that red meat causes bowel cancer and that most red and white meat causes heart disease because of its high saturated fat levels … which is why the Dietary Guidelines doesn’t have most of the red and white meat found in supermarkets in ANY of its food groups. It only has LEAN meat in its food groups and most supermarket meat, by volume sold, isn’t lean. Precise data on this is absent … nobody wants to know, my claim is based on the little numbers on the
    meat trays in Coles indicating how much of which meat is sold.

    The bottom line is that while it may be counterintuitive, leaving meat out of your diet makes a healthier
    diet easier.

    When I wrote my amino acid testing program I tested for 71 kg adult male requirements and for 8.1 kg female child requirements. It was EASIER to meet the amino acid requirments of the small girl. Children need to eat more energy dense foods for other nutrient requirements, but it isn’t for the protein.

  • 8
    drsmithy
    Posted Thursday, 19 January 2012 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    I’d agree it was more difficult to achieve good diet if there was ANY evidence that vegetarians lived shorter sicker lives. They don’t. So either 1) veggos are smarter, 2) leaving out meat makes a good diet easier to achieve for some weird reason or 3) some or all meat is bad for you.

    Sorry, that doesn’t follow. I’ll also point out that you are conflating two extremely different conclusions in your #3 option.

    Vegetarianism - and especially veganism - is an explicit and active dietary choice. It rarely occurs naturally without an external constraint on dietary options. Someone making an explicit choice about their diet is typically going to do so in a positive manner - ie: they’re going to make an effort to “eat the right foods”. Anecdotally, I’ve never known a single vegetarian who simply stopped eating meat - they all explicitly went out and investigated what they needed to do to _healthily_ replace meat in their diet. A decade or more later - for the few who remained vegetarian - most of them have forgotten they ever went through the process and now make the necessary nutritional substitutions automatically.

    Or, to put it another way, the issue is not so much the conceited “veggos are smarter”, it’s that “veggos have made an explicit choice to change their diet, and like most other individuals who do that, they have tried to make it healthier”.

    Thus, a valid comparison is not “vegetarians and everyone else”, it’s “vegetarians and people who actively manage their diet”. How does the health and lifespan of vegetarian or vegan and omnivorous elite sportsmen and women compare ? Any significant differences ?

    Dietary Guidelines doesn’t have most of the red and white meat found in supermarkets in ANY of its food groups. It only has LEAN meat in its food groups and most supermarket meat, by volume sold, isn’t lean.

    Yet the evidence - including from several links already posted - suggest that if you are going to eat meat (and other animal products), lean meat is actually a worse choice.

    Let’s also not forget the “French Paradox” in this discussion. “Vegetarianism will solve your ills” is a ridiculously simplistic answer to an extremely complex and barely understood system.

  • 9
    Geoff Russell
    Posted Thursday, 19 January 2012 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    …several links already posted” where? The saturated fat theory has vast support at both the epidemiological level and the mechanistic level. Scientists understand the mechanisms of atherosclerosis pretty well.

    Here’s a nice case study of what can happen to a person on a high fat Atkins diet:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19559147

  • 10
    drsmithy
    Posted Thursday, 19 January 2012 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    “…several links already posted” where?

    Your “rabbit starvation” link, I believe it was. I think I found a couple more searching along similar lines (lean meat vs fatty meat in the diet).

    The critical point, of course - as with most things - is moderation.

    (Not to mention simple enjoyment. Fatty foods taste better.)

    Here’s a nice case study of what can happen to a person on a high fat Atkins diet:

    It’s not freely accessible, and I’m not paying $30 for the sake of an internet argument.

    Can” happen or “will” happen ? These are two very different outcomes.

    The Atkins diet has a pretty good record for enabling weight loss and maintaining ongoing weight control, which is a fairly critical part of overall health and quality of life. It’s hard to get out and do anything if you weigh 200kg+. Given two extremes of being an idle, obese vegetarian who lives to 80 and a fit Atkins-dieter who lives to 70, I’m sure most people would go for the latter (especially in the context of living for 80 years without cheese and bacon). Which is not to say there aren’t consequent risks, but they need to be taken in context and as part of a larger picture.

  • 11
    Bo Gainsbourg
    Posted Thursday, 19 January 2012 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Hi there, this discussion may be over but I’m interested in the health benefits of meat reduction in the diet rather than elimination. Presumably there would be significant benefits if I substantially cut my red meat intake per month etc. By 50% or 75% or even 30%? I’d be interested in the collective thoughts around this. It may be an avenue for people to improve their overall health without facing a daunting task of going entirely meat free….which may not be doable for all in practice. I do admit to feeling slightly incredulous when people say we can’t cut back meat production as we need to feed the world etc, when it appears that if you are serious about feeding the world you’d replace more meat production with other non-meat crops etc that can sustain people.

  • 12
    Flower
    Posted Thursday, 19 January 2012 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    In April 2002, the “apostle of protein gluttony,” Dr Atkins, was hospitalized after he went into cardiac arrest, which he said in a statement was “in no way related to diet.” On his death in 2003, the poor fellow weighed 258 pounds.

    Meat and Livestock Australia (together with the industry aligned APVMA) should have been thrown in the slammer a decade ago. On principle, why should one indulge themselves in the hormone/pesticide/insecticide/antibiotic induced lumps of rotting flesh that they claim is fit for human consumption?:

  • 13
    Geoff Russell
    Posted Thursday, 19 January 2012 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    When Cancer Council epidemiologists calculated the percentage of the 13000 or so annual new bowel cancer cases due to red meat in Australia, they used a low point of 1 red meat meal per week. They estimated that about half of the 13000 new cases are attributable to more than
    1 red meat meal per week (Professor Graham Giles, personal communication). My eyeballing of the World Cancer Research Fund’s dose-response curve says the Cancer Council is about right (they probably used far more robust statistics than just looking at the curve!). I don’t have ready data on heart disease, but my feeling based on looking
    at plenty of research is that the point will be similar. Maybe 1 or 2 meat meals per week won’t do much damage … to you … assuming that’s your total concern. In countries which eat blood pudding, it only takes 1 serve a month to produce a measurable rise in bowel cancer risk.

  • 14
    drsmithy
    Posted Thursday, 19 January 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    In April 2002, the “apostle of protein gluttony,” Dr Atkins, was hospitalized after he went into cardiac arrest, which he said in a statement was “in no way related to diet.” On his death in 2003, the poor fellow weighed 258 pounds.

    The truth is apparently much more boring:

    http://lowcarbdiets.about.com/od/atkinsdiet/a/dratkinsdeath.htm

    On principle, why should one indulge themselves in the hormone/pesticide/insecticide/antibiotic induced lumps of rotting flesh that they claim is fit for human consumption?:

    On principle, why should one indulge themselves in the pesticide/insecticide induced lumps of rotting plants that you claim is fit for human consumption?

  • 15
    Lord Barry Bonkton
    Posted Friday, 20 January 2012 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    I have a Shar-pei dog , and i don’t feed him Beef or the cheap fat sprayed wheat filled dry food either . Both Beef and wheat are the biggest allergy ridden foods going around. He eats rice , vegies, fish and a good brand dry food and strawberries .
    Having cut back beef to maybe 1 or 2 times a week myself, i have lost about 10 kgs , with no exercise program ? I grow some of my own vegies, so no spraying pesticides.Very rarely do i eat the fatty , sugar fast food . Cannot get faster food than picking your own vegies and eating them as you water them.
    The large amount of Fat people in shopping centres , that are surrounded by Fast food outlets is scary , not many could afford to fly to the USA and get a rubber band operation like the over weight James Packer did recently. The govt. should bring in a FAT TAX on all unhealthy fast foods /drinks . These people are a burden on our hospitals and are costing US tax payers millions for their slack eating habits. User pays !

  • 16
    Flower
    Posted Friday, 20 January 2012 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the link to the Medical Examiner’s report on Dr Atkins which stated that he had a history of myocardial infarction (heart attack), congestive heart failure, and hypertension. And it’s rather implausible to believe that Dr Atkins was allowed to gain 63 pounds in weight “from fluid retention” over a mere nine days when medical intervention could have prevented this from occurring.

    And since the Atkin’s diet hit consumers, people have grown more obese but it’s pretty seductive when a doctor advises that you can eat as much steak, bacon, dioxins in accompanying fats and cheescake as you can imagine. There is nothing like the promotion of evil under the guise of good to appease the culinary delights of consumers and I don’t imagine the litigious actions of his victims (dead and alive) that have ensued, would have impacted greatly on the Atkins empire.

    In the face of land and water degradation, pollution and irreversible contamination, deforestation, food wars, global droughts, new and re-emerging zoonoses, starvation or obesity, caused from the growing of livestock, one should ask: “Who was pulling Dr Atkin’s strings?”

    1) 70% of the world’s agricultural lands are used for livestock (UNFAO, 2006b)

    2) In the US, livestock feeds on most of the crops irrigated by groundwater. They provide 40 percent of the feed to beef cattle in the United States. The aquifers are depleting as groundwater is accessed by boreholes which are irrigating increasing amounts of grazing land which provides for increasing livestock production.

    3) In Australia almost half of all domestic sales of wheat are used to feed livestock, namely cattle, chickens and pigs.

    4) The major users of feed grain in Australia are dairy, beef, chicken meat, pork and eggs.

    5) Australia ranks among the top three countries in feed grain exports.

    As a result, the motley smorgasbord of livestock growers (including the Sultan of Brunei who has cattle interests in over 10,000 sq. kms in the NT) are a major user of water in a nation whose fragile groundwater and aquifers are being abused and depleted in the driest occupied nation on the planet with 10 deserts.

    History will not be kind to the duplicitous Dr Atkins. Go figure.

  • 17
    drsmithy
    Posted Friday, 20 January 2012 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for the link to the Medical Examiner’s report on Dr Atkins which stated that he had a history of myocardial infarction (heart attack), congestive heart failure, and hypertension. And it’s rather implausible to believe that Dr Atkins was allowed to gain 63 pounds in weight “from fluid retention” over a mere nine days when medical intervention could have prevented this from occurring.

    And since the Atkin’s diet hit consumers, people have grown more obese but it’s pretty seductive when a doctor advises that you can eat as much steak, bacon, dioxins in accompanying fats and cheescake as you can imagine. There is nothing like the promotion of evil under the guise of good to appease the culinary delights of consumers and I don’t imagine the litigious actions of his victims (dead and alive) that have ensued, would have impacted greatly on the Atkins empire.

    Even if you weren’t an extremist, your willingness to deceptively present information is more than enough reason for me to assume everything you write as implicitly dishonest.

  • 18
    Flower
    Posted Friday, 20 January 2012 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    @ Dr Smithy: “Even if you weren’t an extremist, your willingness to deceptively present information is more than enough reason for me to assume everything you write as implicitly dishonest.”

    Oops - big mistake Smithy for you to hide behind witless allegations in your selective criticisms which you cannot or will not substantiate.

    I now suggest you provide evidence to back up your nonsense about my “deception and implicit dishonesty.” Permit me to expose your obfuscations:

    1) The Atkins diet books have sold more than 45 million copies over 40 years (up to 2004). (Source: Astrup A, Meinert Larsen T, Harper A.Department of Human Nutrition, Centre of Advanced Food Research, RVA University, Copenhagen, Denmark)

    2) In 1950 in the US, each person consumed an average of 152 pounds of meat per/year. In 2007, each person ate a staggering average of 220 pounds of meat per year (100 kgs.). In view of the obesity and health epidemics (including Diabetes type 2) since Dr Atkins commenced flogging his wares in the 70s, one should say: “Thanks for nothing Dr Atkins”:

    3) Two-thirds of all adults and about a third of all children and teenagers in the United States are overweight or obese according to a report released by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)……Since the 1970s, the rate of obesity has tripled or quadrupled in children.
    http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2011/07/07/obesity-is-getting-bigger-in-the-united-states/

    4) A new study shows the prevalence of gout in the U.S. has risen over the last twenty years and now affects 8.3 million Americans. Prevalence of increased uric acid levels (hyperuricemia) also rose, affecting 43.3 million (21%) adults in the U.S.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110728082551.htm
    Gout Diet Recommendations:

    Limit meat, poultry and fish. Animal proteins are high in purine. Avoid or severely limit high-purine foods, such as organ meats, herring, anchovies and mackerel. Red meat (beef, pork and lamb), fatty fish and seafood (tuna, shrimp, lobster and scallops) are associated with increased risk of gout.

    Eat more plant-based proteins. You can increase your protein by including more plant-based sources, such as beans and legumes. This switch will also help you cut down on saturated fats, which may indirectly contribute to obesity and gout.

    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/gout-diet/MY01137

    5) WASHINGTON — Farmers and the food industry are trying to kill a proposed safety standard for dioxins, chemicals that can cause cancer and are widely found in meat, seafood and dairy products………….Dioxins get into humans primarily because the chemicals accumulate in the fat of livestock and fish that people eat.

    http://www.agweb.com/article/epa_fighting_farmers_food_industry_over_dioxin_limit_LN/

    6) It has been estimated that more than 90% of current human exposure to dioxins among the general population occurs via food consumption, primarily from foods containing animal fats
    (USEPA, 2000).

    7) “You are what you eat.” A scary picture of Dr Atkins “in the prime of health.”

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2957623.stm

  • 19
    Puff, the Magic Dragon.
    Posted Sunday, 22 January 2012 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    Dr Atkins, a heart specialist, slipped in the snow outside his clinic, and hit his head. He was hospitalised in a coma for about five days before he died. His weight after death was caused by the intravenous fluids given to him as is normally done during a comatose state. Before hospitalisation his weight was normal. There was nothing wrong with his heart.

    The Atkins diet is high fat for the first two weeks only, to achieve satiation, after that the fat is cut and there is an emphasis on lean meat, fish and vegetables, with a low carb intake by cutting out most breads, pastas, potatoes and the usual starchy rubbish used in fast foods. Fruit and whole grain bread are added back gradually as the weight comes off and exercise is encouraged. There are bread recipes to make low carb breads, muffins, pancakes and pizza’s using soyflour and protein powder. Of course there is no sugar.

    On Atkins you actually eat less. How much lean steak can one person eat in a day after all?

    So Atkins is not a high fat diet, but the sugar and starch industry really hated it.

  • 20
    Puff, the Magic Dragon.
    Posted Sunday, 22 January 2012 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Dr Atkins come up with the diet in response to his health problems. His diiet makes absolute scientific sense. Actually it was not his diet, it was based on dietary studies in Europe where the corn-syrup soft drink and cupcake lobby didn’t rule supreme.

    Atkins was never a popular diet, because it is expensive. Only a small percentage of the population could actually afford the food required to stay with it. The overwhelming choice of weight loss diet has been the low-fat diet.

    Answer this question, for over 40 years recommended diets ask people to cut out fat, while allowing the unlimited consumption of sugar, corn syrup and starch. This forms the basis of USA and Australian diet. Now which way have the weight, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and size of plane seat charts gone in that time?

  • 21
    Puff, the Magic Dragon.
    Posted Sunday, 22 January 2012 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    Dr Atkins was also hospitalised for a infection in his heart, it had nothing to do with the diet.

    The impossible part of the Atkins program is sticking to it out of the house, as there is almost nothing to purchase that isn’t plumped up with carbs and sugar.

  • 22
    Geoff Russell
    Posted Sunday, 22 January 2012 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Puff: “Answer this question, for over 40 years recommended diets ask people to cut out fat, while allowing the unlimited consumption of sugar, corn syrup and starch. This forms the basis of USA and Australian diet. Now which way have the weight, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and size of plane seat charts gone in that time?”

    It’s not one question. Heart disease mortality has declined enormously over the past 50 years. Separating disease incidence from better heart bypass surgery isn’t easy but here what AIHW
    reckon … (http://www.nphp.gov.au/catitrg/cvdbgpaper.pdf)

    Advances in treatment, increased use of medical services and more intensive and coronary
    care units have contributed to a significant decline in cardiovascular disease mortality in
    Australia over the past thirty years (ABS 2002). However, the decrease is largely the result of
    lifestyle changes such as a reduction in smoking (particularly among middle-aged men), and
    the consumption of less animal fats as well as increased fitness levels.”

    At least some of the decline in animal fats is due to Sam Kekovich and the spectacular fall
    in the consumption of sheep meat to just a third of its quantity during the 1960s!

    The US case is very different. The Calories in the US food supply has risen inexorably and pretty well explains the abysmal state of ill-health in the US all by itself. The diabetes rise in Australia is curious given the fall in animal fat consumption and sugar consumption over the past 40 years. I’m betting on the decline in exercise as the main culprit rather than anything in the food supply but don’t know that anybody really understands what is happening. It’s multifactorial.

    The total fat (Animal fats+ veg oils) in the Australian food supply has risen for the past 40 years
    despite low fat advice … but total Calories has stayed fairly constant … so the number of
    “empty calories” in our food supply has increased. You can’t say that advice doesn’t work when people aren’t following it !!

  • 23
    drsmithy
    Posted Sunday, 22 January 2012 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    I now suggest you provide evidence to back up your nonsense about my “deception and implicit dishonesty.”

    That would have been the part where you implied Atkin’s history of problems was long-term and diet related, rather than only for the last few years of his life and (probably) due to a viral infection. It would also be the part where you call fluid retention “implausible”, with nothing to support that statement, even though it is common in coma patients. While the implication that there is a direct causal link between increased obesity levels on a worldwide scale and the publishing of the Atkins diet is merely dishonest, your statement that “a doctor advises that you can eat as much steak, bacon, dioxins in accompanying fats and cheescake as you can imagine” is simply a flat-out lie.

    The attempt to draw a direct connection between the Atkins diet and “land and water degradation, pollution and irreversible contamination, deforestation, food wars, global droughts, new and re-emerging zoonoses, starvation or obesity, caused from the growing of livestock” doesn’t even pass the laugh test of believability.

    Of course, unsurprisingly, you continue in the same vein:

    In 1950 in the US, each person consumed an average of 152 pounds of meat per/year. In 2007, each person ate a staggering average of 220 pounds of meat per year (100 kgs.). In view of the obesity and health epidemics (including Diabetes type 2) since Dr Atkins commenced flogging his wares in the 70s, one should say: “Thanks for nothing Dr Atkins”:

    Here, you conveniently ignore all the other factors at play in increasing levels of obesity - massive increase in sugar levels in food (thanks to the “low fat” craze kicked off by people you probably idolise, and the immense influence of the farming - especially corn - lobby in the US), increasingly sedentary lifestyles, increasing prices for healthy food, increasing portion sizes and the proliferation of incredibly calorie-heavy fast foods - to mention just a few.

    Further, if we look at a breakdown of that “staggering” statistic (http://www.ers.usda.gov/AmberWaves/April06/Findings/Chicken.htm), we can see that beef and pork consumption has been basically static for around 20 years, with beef peaking in the late ’70s. The “staggering” increase has come from increasing consumption of chicken - hardly an animal requiring an environment catastrophe to support.

    Another interesting thing to look at, is what other countries share this “staggering” level of meat consumption.
    http://chartsbin.com/view/bhy

    In fact, top of the list is Denmark, with 145kg of meat consumed per person each year. New Zealand is close behind at 140kg. Undoubtedly two of the first countries that come to mind when the words environmental disaster are mentioned. Other notable countries with roughly the same levels as the US are Spain, France and Canada.

    Lets compare obesity rates (http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/hea_obe-health-obesity)

    The US tops out list at 31%. New Zealand is next at 21%, followed by Canada (14%), Spain (13%), Denmark (10%) and France (9%).

    So far it doesn’t look good for a causal link. The US and France have basically the same levels of meat consumption, Denmark even higher, but both have less than 1/3 the obesity rate.

    Turning to heart disease rates (http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/hea_hea_dis_dea-health-heart-disease-deaths) (all numbers per 100,000, absolute top is Slovakia with 216)

    NZ: 127, Australia: 110, US: 107, Denmark: 105, Canada: 95, France: 40.

    So even from a cursory examination, your premise is on shaky ground.

    7) “You are what you eat.” A scary picture of Dr Atkins “in the prime of health.”

    I’m not quite sure what that was supposed to prove, but one of the closing paragraphs certainly leaps out:

    This year [2003], his approach was vindicated in part by some half-dozen studies showing that people on the Atkins diet lost weight without compromising their health.”

    Amazing how a diet “some half dozen studies” have shown is successful at helping people lose and maintain weight is responsible for “increased obesity levels worldwide”.

    Your whole “argument” (to use the term loosely) boils down to logical fallacies (post hoc ergo propter hoc, ad hominem) and the observance that people following unhealthy diets and lifestyles, are unhealthy and die sooner.

  • 24
    Flower
    Posted Monday, 23 January 2012 at 2:53 am | Permalink

    It has already been established that Robert Atkins fell from an upright position sustaining a blunt impact injury to his head.

    However where her late husband is concerned, Mrs Atkins sticks to a fiercely loyal script. Mrs Atkins, however, did not request a post mortem after Dr Atkins’ death.

    Dr Atkin’s diet included cheese cake - cream cheese, eggs, sour cream and the artificial sweetener Splenda, a toxic chemical according to a study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health.

    The embarrassing truth is that the Atkins foundation abandoned Dr Atkins’ diets after he died in 2003. The new diet encourages eating more high-fibre vegetables, accommodates vegetarian and vegan needs, and addresses health problems that may arise when initially starting a low-carb diet. “The research shows it’s a healthy lifestyle and many more foods are a part of it,” said co-author Eric Westman, who acknowledged that he has vested interests in promoting his own research.

    Odd that the Atkins Foundation has abandoned all of Dr Atkins’ diets while his ill-informed devotees continue to promote them.

    Alas, nothing changes the fact that Atkins’ medical record showed he had atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease, had suffered from a previous heart attack, and had high blood pressure.

    The guy was fat - big guy - but heavy. And the food was inedible.” ( New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, describing dinner at the home of diet doctor Robert Atkins.)

  • 25
    Flower
    Posted Monday, 23 January 2012 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    Dr Smithy – My reference to “meat” did include Dr Atkins’ deep-fried, fat-filled, chemically induced chicken. Further, antimicrobial resistance of zoonotic bacteria in chickens (and cattle and pigs) is now an international health disaster as is the food poisoning and the environmental impacts of animal faeces (>2 trillion pounds/yr in the US) , heavy metals, GHGs and chemical pollution that abounds around the planet and the 2 million gallons of water per day used in a typical chicken slaughterhouse in the US.

    Of course this ‘trivia’ would be of no consequence to eco-illiterates like the ignorant Robert Atkins or yourself, both complicit in the bullcrap of the livestock behemoth who would label this peer-reviewed data as nonsense.

    Further, there is no obligation for me to substantiate anything when using the term “implausible,” the definition being: “difficult to believe” which is neither a hypothesis or a theory but mere speculation.

    I daresay I have never witnessed such a deliberate and flagrant attempt to dupe readers like the creative accounting with which you have bombarded us. The statistics on Slovakia ranking No 1 for heart disease is at least 14 years old (1995-1998.) What an insult to Crikey readers when statistics for the 21st century are readily available.

    Highest Ranking:
    1. Mortality: Hypertensive heart disease: US
    2. Hypertensive H/D and Renal Disease: US
    3. Complicated and ill-defined description of heart disease: US
    4. Chronic Ischaemic heart disease: US
    5. Mortality – Obesity: US

    Highest Rankings:
    1. Highest consumption of meat: Luxembourg, US, Australia
    2. Highest protein intake: Greece, US
    3. Highest daily fat intake: US, Australia
    4. Highest ecological footprint of consumption: US, Australia

    The statistics I have provided are from your links – not mine!

    Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University, London and advisor to the World Health Organisation, claimed in December that meat consumption was “out of control”. He suggested consumers should go back to ancient traditions whereby meat was considered a treat and eaten only on feast days, such as Christmas. “Eating too much meat causes obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes,” he said. Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer for England, said cutting consumption of meat by 30 per cent would prevent 18,000 premature deaths a year.

    I imagine there’s nothing worse for the gullible than going the whole hog and consuming the eocidal Robert Atkins’ recommendation of 20 - 21 meat meals each week, just so they can “eat their heart out” and trash the environment beyond repair.

    The Atkins group’s prime motive is to restore its crumbling million dollar empire. Lift ya game Smithy. Your obfuscations are pathetic.

  • 26
    drsmithy
    Posted Tuesday, 24 January 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Dr Smithy – My reference to “meat” did include Dr Atkins’ deep-fried, fat-filled, chemically induced chicken. Further, antimicrobial resistance of zoonotic bacteria in chickens (and cattle and pigs) is now an international health disaster as is the food poisoning and the environmental impacts of animal faeces (>2 trillion pounds/yr in the US) , heavy metals, GHGs and chemical pollution that abounds around the planet and the 2 million gallons of water per day used in a typical chicken slaughterhouse in the US.

    What was that word you used ? Oh, yes. “Implausible”.

    I daresay I have never witnessed such a deliberate and flagrant attempt to dupe readers like the creative accounting with which you have bombarded us. The statistics on Slovakia ranking No 1 for heart disease is at least 14 years old (1995-1998.) What an insult to Crikey readers when statistics for the 21st century are readily available.

    If by “creative accounting” you mean “grabbed the first few reasonable looking results off Google”, then yes, I plead guilty. Unlike you, I’m not a zealot, and thus am not prepared to spend hours digging up just the right statistics to support an extremist argument while ignoring everything else.

    The simple fact is there are countries with incidences of meat and fat intake similar (if not higher) than the US, but without anything close to the health problems. This largely eliminates the possibility of a single factor causal link you want so desperately to exist.

    The statistics I have provided are from your links – not mine!

    That would be because you haven’t really provided any.

    Once again, you haven’t demonstrated anything to support your argument, merely that unhealthy eating and lifestyle lead to unhealthy results.

    I’ll add appeal to authority and non-sequitur to your list of logical fallacies.

  • 27
    Geoff Russell
    Posted Tuesday, 24 January 2012 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    I trust drsmithy and flower are enjoying yourselves, but population data gives clues about causality but never proof. The proof about saturated fat -> cholesterol -> heart disease has been seen in decades of research on individuals and has lead major official health bodies around the world to advise against “excessive” saturated
    fat … (<10% in Australia). This is a politically correct way of warning against animal products without upsetting the meat and dairy lobby. Equations predict disease outcomes pretty well based on cholesterol levels and a variety of other variables.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3184690/?tool=pubmed

    Drsmithy may call it argument from authority, but it's just a shorthand for trotting out all the evidence
    on which all the major official bodies have said that high saturated fat diets are dangerous. ergo Atkins
    is a killer diet. But not everybody who smokes gets cancer and not everybody on killer diets gets
    heart disease. So there will always be anecdotes in contravention of the data and some population averages will hide peaks.

  • 28
    drsmithy
    Posted Tuesday, 24 January 2012 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    This is a politically correct way of warning against animal products without upsetting the meat and dairy lobby.

    Amazing how, despite the immense influence of the farming industry in Australia and the US, it’s only the “meat and dairy lobby” we have to worry about trying to manipulate things for their own evil ends. Those pure and noble plant farmers would never try to game the system to their benefit.

    Equations predict disease outcomes pretty well based on cholesterol levels and a variety of other variables.

    Awesome. So therefore any and all countries with similarly high consumption levels of animal products should have similarly high levels of those “predictable disease outcomes”, right ?

    Conversely, in countries where consumption of animal products is relatively low, these “predictable diseases” should be nearly unheard of.

    Right ? I mean, if “equations” can genuinely “predict disease outcomes” then if you look at any statistically meaningful collection of subjects and their outcomes must match up with the predictions. That’s how “science” works, after all.

    Unless, of course, there’s a problem somewhere in the model.

    Drsmithy may call it argument from authority, but it’s just a shorthand for trotting out all the evidence on which all the major official bodies have said that high saturated fat diets are dangerous. ergo Atkins is a killer diet.

    Yet strangely, studies have apparently shown that people following the Atkins (and similar high protein diets) but eating healthily and exercising regularly, aren’t dying young of heart disease in statistically significant numbers, like you insist they must be.

    Quite a quandary, it is.

    But not everybody who smokes gets cancer […]

    Can you point to any rigorous scientific studies on smoking that don’t show a significant proportion of smokers having higher incidences of lung, bladder, and other associated cancers ?

  • 29
    Geoff Russell
    Posted Tuesday, 24 January 2012 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    Working from the bottom up:

    Can you point to any rigorous scientific studies on smoking that don’t show a significant proportion of smokers having higher incidences of lung, bladder, and other associated cancers ?”

    Don’t need studies, just raw data. Globocan. Lung cancer incidence in Australia is 11400 per year.
    About 20 percent of Australians smoke … 4.4 million. If the population stayed constant we would have about a million cases of lung cancer in the next 85 years. So, most smokers never get
    lung cancer. But of course your chances of getting lung cancer are much, much higher if you
    smoke than if you don’t. I don’t understand what you don’t understand. Of course you can find some Atkins dieters (or smokers) who don’t die young, but that proves nothing. Like me trying to prove smoking is safe by filling a room with old smokers. It’s just silly.

    As for the equations. Yes, they do indeed predict outcomes. Take a million people, measure the
    relevant parameters and you can predict quite well the number who will get heart disease. Follow
    the link I gave before. That’s how they budget hospital beds and surgeons and the like.

  • 30
    drsmithy
    Posted Tuesday, 24 January 2012 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    Of course you can find some Atkins dieters (or smokers) who don’t die young, but that proves nothing.

    But the point is those studies don’t just find some Atkins dieters who don’t die young. They look at a statistically meaningful sample and find that Atkins dieters *as a rule* don’t have any higher incidences of heart disease, et al.

    As for the equations. Yes, they do indeed predict outcomes. Take a million people, measure the relevant parameters and you can predict quite well the number who will get heart disease.

    Which implies that wherever those relevant parameters are applied, the result will be consistent.

    Which means that if one or more of those relevant parameters is a diet with a high proportion of animal products, then *every country* with such a diet will exhibit the same results across its population.

    However, it doesn’t. Which is the point.

    I don’t understand why this is hard for you to understand.’ Either the model (lots of animal products == bad) is good, and therefore all countries with such diets will exhibit the same medical problems, or it’s not, and they won’t. Since they don’t (France being a notable, but hardly the only, exception), the model is clearly wrong. You can’t take *whole countries* and say “oh, that’s just an anecdote” (or, if you’re going to, you have to accept it’s equally valid to take countries like America and say they’re just anecdotes in the opposite direction).

  • 31
    Geoff Russell
    Posted Wednesday, 25 January 2012 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Ah … now I see … you think that because a country has high meat consumption, that this
    implies lots of people are on an Atkins type diet. False. Consider Australia, one of the highest meat
    consumptions in the world … 122 kg/person/day. This is just 16 percent of Calories from meat. And that’s
    a “food supply” figure, the actual consumption figure is much less and doesn’t tell you how many people
    cut the fat off their meat. According to the last nutrition survey in Australia … 1995 … (its a disgrace that their isn’t more recent data), only about 1.4% of people were getting more than 30% of calories from protein,
    so there are very few people eating anything like an Atkins diet in Australia. Of this 1.4%, not a single one of these was meeting NHMRC nutrient intake recommendations for other nutrients. They weren’t even meeting the estimated requirements (EAR), let alone the higher recommended intakes (RDI) with a builtin buffer to cater for individuals with higher needs.

  • 32
    Flower
    Posted Wednesday, 25 January 2012 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    @ Dr Smithy: “ Either the model (lots of animal products == bad) is good, and therefore all countries with such diets will exhibit the same medical problems, or it’s not, and they won’t. Since they don’t (France being a notable, but hardly the only, exception), the model is clearly wrong.”

    Why does he flap his gums over large meat eating France where he’s implying that the French are healthier? More creative accounting?

    Fact 1: France has the highest male rate of cancer in the world.
    Fact 2: France has the sixth highest rate of overall cancers in the world.

    Why does he flap his gums over large meat eating Denmark where he’s implying that the Danes are healthier? More creative accounting?

    Fact 1: Denmark has the highest rate of all combined cancers in the world.

    Oh and:

    Fact 1: Highest meat eating Australia has the second highest male rate of cancer in the world.
    Fact 2: Australia has the third highest rate of all combined cancers in the world.

    (All estimates and names of countries and which territories constitute counties are from GLOBOCAN version 1.2 December 2010, a World Health Organization project. All cancer rates are adjusted for age and are expressed per 100,000 people.)

    Up on ya soapbox and spin us anotheree Mr Smithy!

  • 33
    drsmithy
    Posted Thursday, 26 January 2012 at 12:13 am | Permalink

    Ah … now I see … you think that because a country has high meat consumption, that this implies lots of people are on an Atkins type diet.

    No, I don’t think that at all. You were the one who brought Atkins into the discussion. It was just an example.

    The argument being presented is that a (relatively) high protein diet with a relatively high proportion of animal products - of which Atkins is an example - will inherently lead to greater incidences of obesity, heart disease, etc. This argument is being supported almost entirely by using America, and to a lesser degree Australia, as evidence.

    The point I’m trying to make is that there are countries with similarly high levels of animal products in their diets that do not have the same levels of problems with obesity, heart disease, etc.

  • 34
    drsmithy
    Posted Thursday, 26 January 2012 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    Up on ya soapbox and spin us anotheree Mr Smithy!

    No, you win. I can’t argue with someone who thinks everything from lung cancer to skin cancer is caused by eating meat.

  • 35
    Flower
    Posted Thursday, 26 January 2012 at 1:52 am | Permalink

    Dear Mr Smithy – Can we now agree that red and processed meat is a significant factor in promoting cancer whether you ride your bike or not? May I suggest that you stop bombarding us with nonsense extracted from the tabloids (that promote Dr Atkins’ colostomy bag diet) and start reading the peer-reviewed literature?

    http://www.nature.com/ajg/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ajg2010415a.html

    http://apocp.org/cancer_download/Volume10_No3/429cDagfinn%20Aune.pdf

    http://foodforbreastcancer.com/foods/beef

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15956652

  • 36
    drsmithy
    Posted Thursday, 26 January 2012 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Dear Mr Smithy – Can we now agree that red and processed meat is a significant factor in promoting cancer whether you ride your bike or not?

    We can agree you’ve dramatically changed your position from the original one about animal products being the direct cause of a wide range of illnesses to a very specific one about excessive red meat intake and particular types of cancer risk (though just the first page of a Google search shows at least one study on nih.gov refuting that).

    May I suggest that you stop bombarding us with nonsense extracted from the tabloids (that promote Dr Atkins’ colostomy bag diet) and start reading the peer-reviewed literature?

    It doesn’t seem difficult to find peer-reviewed literature saying there’s no negative impact from a healthy diet incorporating animal products. Nor similar evidence showing a diet with regular intake of animal products has been normal and natural, back into pre-history.

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