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Friday, January 11, 2019

On low carb diets and other fads

One of my favourite Woody Allen lines is in the film Sleeper, when the main character wakes up 200 years in the future to be told that all of today's health food fads have been proved to be wrong. It is more a commentary on societal trends than science, but funny nevertheless.

I was reminded of this line again, when I saw this article in yesterday's Guardian. They report that a review by the World Health Organisation has concluded that eating more fibre, found in wholegrain cereals, pasta and bread as well as nuts and pulses, will cut people’s chances of heart disease and early death. They add that this is incompatible with fashionable low carb diets:

The research is led by Prof Jim Mann’s team at the University of Otago in New Zealand, who also carried out the major review that informed WHO guidance on curbing sugar in the diet, leading to sugar taxes around the world.

Sugar is a “bad” carbohydrate, but fibre is found in “good” carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread and oat-based muesli. However, the overwhelming backlash against sugar has led to popular diets that reject carbohydrates, including the fibrous sort that can, say the scientists, save lives.

Mann told the Guardian that the research “does contribute to the debate considerably. Here we have got very strong evidence that a high-fibre diet, which for the majority of people is at least high-ish in carbohydrates, has an enormous protective effect – a wide range of diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer benefit from a high-carbohydrate diet.”

But he said it would not end the “diet wars”, because there were so many vested interests involved. “It’s twofold. There is the commercial vested interest, which there is an enormous amount of from chefs and celebrity chefs and so on. And there is also the professional vested interest.” This included some doctors and scientists, he said.

The review found that we should be eating at least 25g to 29g of fibre a day, with indications that over 30g is even better. Most people in the world manage less than 20g.

Among those who ate the most fibre, the analysis found a 15-30% reduction in deaths from all causes, as well as those related to the heart, compared with those eating the least fibre.

Coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer were reduced by 16-24%. The results mean 13 fewer deaths and six fewer cases of coronary heart disease for every 1,000 people who eat high-fibre foods compared with those who do not.

To be fair, I think these findings are in line with the expert advice we have been receiving for some time. Time to give away those left-over Christmas chocolates I think.
I have eaten all but one of my Chrissie chocs ,so. I suppose,it is time to get back to jogging around the park and have a fibre bar as my reward.
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