/ Food & Drink, Health

Are breakfast biscuits a good start to the day?

Breakfast biscuits

Are breakfast biscuits a good option for your morning meal? Or are you kidding yourself if you think they are? We compared them to breakfast cereals and even everyday Digestive biscuits…

Breakfast biscuits are big business – for a niche market that began in 2010, it is now worth around £76m. Belvita was the original but now Kellogg’s, Weetabix, Oats So Simple, supermarkets and biscuit brands like McVitie’s have jumped on the bandwagon and brought out their own breakfast biscuits.

But what has driven this demand? Is a breakfast biscuit any better than a standard biscuit? Or is it that we always wanted to eat biscuits for breakfast but felt too guilty until someone created a biscuit especially for this occasion?

How healthy are breakfast biscuits?

I’m not sold – you have a long way to go before I’m convinced that a biscuit is a healthy breakfast. The breakfast biscuits we looked at (from leading brands Belvita, Weetabix, Oats So Simple, Kellogg’s and McVities) contain between 14.5% and 28% sugar.

While there are some cereals that contain more sugar than this (Cocopops and Frosties for example), Weetabix, porridge and Cornflakes contain 4.4%, 1% and 8% respectively.

And per pack they all contain more calories than a bowl of the above three cereals with milk, which also have the added benefit of providing around a third of your daily calcium needs. The best the breakfast biscuits could offer was 16% of your daily calcium needs, and some only contain around 2% of your daily calcium needs – Belvita Milk & Cereals biscuits (despite having milk in their name).

Breakfast biscuits

Could you just eat a standard biscuit?

I get that the biscuits are more convenient than a bowl of cereal if you’re on the go, but a banana is just as convenient or even a couple of Digestive biscuits.

Per pack Belvita Milk and Cereal breakfast biscuits contain 224 calories, 7.6g sugar, 7.6g fat and 2g sat fat. Three digestive biscuits (around the same weight) contain 213 calories, 7.5g sugar, 9.2g fat and 0.9g sat fat.

There isn’t enough in it to convince me that they are that different. While breakfast biscuits have added vitamins and/or minerals (mainly B-vitamins and iron) that you might not find in a Digestive, these are readily available in your diet via green, leafy veg and wholegrains.

In my opinion if you want a biscuit for breakfast then eat one, but don’t kid yourself it’s a healthy option. What’s next? Breakfast cake? Or breakfast crisps?


Shefalee is right saying that we should not kid ourselves about breakfast biscuits being a healthy option. The same applies to many products we buy in the supermarket.

I am increasingly eating home-made soup for breakfast. It is easy to make, not full of fat and sugar, and contains less salt than what is on sale in the local supermarket.


Well it’s all about trying to do ones best in a busy schedule.
I remember when Belvita first hit the shelves and a few people encouraged me to try them, saying they were very nice, but more importantly very filling, and slow release. I don’t know how they came to that conclusion.

The problem for me with regular cereal is that it doesn’t fill me up, so within an hour I’m hungry again. To be honest, the breakfast biscuits don’t really fill me up any more than cereal, so I’ve given up on them.

Nowadays I tend to go for a small bowl of cereal, then later on, a Banana. This seems to almost do the trick until lunchtime. However, the problem with Bananas is that they go off too quickly. So forget buying a bunch to last you a week, they’ll be rough long before the the week’s out.

So there’s the next problem, I don’t have time to go shopping more than once a week in order to buy stuff which goes off quickly.

So what’s needed then… A breakfast which is healthy, can be eaten on the go with little-no prep, and fills you up for a decent period of time. Not gonna happen me thinks….


If you eat cereals containing unrefined carbohydrate they will go some way to delay feeling hungry, but probably not entirely solve the problem. The problem, I believe, is that many of us have become accustomed to eating between meals. Sweet food such as biscuits and bananas are easy to eat and it is well known that sweet food is rather addictive.

A healthy person does not need to eat between meals but can easily become conditioned to doing this. At home I tend to eat between meals. If I am out, I think much less about food and often the snacks come home untouched. I’ve just realised that I have eaten three bananas in between meals today, thanks to staying at home. 🙁


Once your bananas are ripe, put them in the fridge. It may make the skin go brown but the flesh will be fine.

You can also whizz bananas up with just cold milk to make a delicious drink. (And if you are worried about using too much of your fresh milk you can get away with using UHT no-one will know. UHT is also brilliant for cocoa and custard.) I think that this is the easiest and quickest way to manage bananas which you might not otherwise eat because they are too ripe.

Carole says:
20 December 2013

There is some sort of bag you can put bananas in that keeps them ok when they’re in the fridge. Friends of mine use one – I’ll ask them where they bought it


I remember Lakeland do these, from an earlier Conversation. I eat too many bananas to want to keep them but would like to know if these bags really work.

James says:
21 December 2013

You can buy the Banana Bags in LAKELAND, they are coloured yellow

Tim C says:
4 August 2015

You should try frozen bananas. You can leave the banana to ripen to the perfect point (for me that’s nicely speckled!) and then just break them up and put them in freezer for sometime in the future. Frozen banana on it’s own makes a great snack or blend them with milk to make a healthy milkshake. Alternatively add frozen bananas and some honey to a blender and blend into a healthy, guilt-free ice cream. Very tasty


I was just reading the article and I was a little suspicious of you picture. Cereals and “low fat” cereal bars have been loading up on sugar a lot, so this story is no surprise to me. I normally check the sugar content of most things I now buy.

But I was suspicious of your pictures but after checking online.You have to be very careful not to confuse “Oats”, “Oats so simple”, and all the many varieties of “oat so simple” aside from the fact you are paying a massive premium to have your oat put into small bags. There is massive hidden sugar content. If you chose any other flavour of “oats so simple” you are eating a massive amount of sugar for breakfast.

Just looking at the large product list at http://quaker.co.uk/products/oat-so-simple-original. Sugar content varies but is roughly 20% sugar for all varieties except the “original”. But to me if your buying original why not just by Oats which are much cheaper.

You warn people of the danger between cereals and cereal bars, But the more worrying and very subtle different between Oats and Oats so simple all in similar branded boxes with lovely pictures of healthy nature countryside can make a massive difference in you sugar intake. Even your image might lead some people who do not check to believe oats so simple is a healthy brand.


Not only that, but if you choose the ‘Original’ variety as a pot it contains 22% sugar. 🙁

Roll on the ‘traffic light’ labels.


I am fascinated by Health and Nutrition and considering doing an online course despite being an OAP. I ate raw foods for over a year, but was anxious about getting ‘a balanced diet’. I had hoped to lose a few lbs, but that did not happen. I tried juicing and still did not. Finally I went wack to an elimination diet to find that I cannot afford to eat carbohydrates (which I already knew) BUT nor could I eat any fruit, tomatoes,peppers and aubergines……

As both my grandmother and mother suffered from dementia I am keen to preserve my brains as best I can. I discovered that if one is diabetic then there is a 30% chance of getting one of the various forms of neurodegenerative diseases. Obviously diabetics need to avoid carbohydrates as much as possible too.

One learns that diabetes and cancers etc all feed on ‘sugar’/carbohydrates, so I ask ‘Why eat any form of cereal for breakfast – or any other time?’

Carole says:
20 December 2013

I am not surprised by your comments. There are reports (properly accredited) that show that wheat reacts on blood sugar levels quicker than straightforward sugar. For example, two slices of wholemeal bread produce a greater and faster sugar spike than a Mars bar.

Eating wheat cereals for breakfast more or less guarantees unstable blood sugar and feelings of hunger 90 minutes to two hours later.

I remember reading that tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and potatoes are all part of the nightshade family and often cause difficulties for some people.

Carole says:
20 December 2013

Oo – I see in the guidelines I should have posted details of the wheat/Mars bar reference. Sorry.
It’s in this book


Everything we eat can be converted into glucose in the blood, and this sugar is needed by our brains. Diabetics have to be careful with sugar and refined carbohydrates including starch, but unrefined carbohydrate is converted to glucose at a slower rate and need not be a problem for diabetics. It used to be recommended that diabetics eat a high-fat diet but that can be a route to heart disease.

If cancer could be cured by avoiding sugars and carbohydrates then cancer would be a disease of the past. As I have said, any food you eat will be converted into sugar. Even if you stop eating, your body will maintain its sugar level in the blood by using glycogen in the liver, fats and eventually muscle tissue. There are plenty of people who ignore this basic biochemistry, often because they can make money from those who have cancer.

Diabetics have a problem with regulating the glucose level in the blood, though the reason depends on the nature of the diabetes. Occasionally, a change in diet and an increase in activity can reverse the problem, so that drugs are not needed. A friend who was diagnosed with Type II diabetes earlier this year has been successful, though I know others who have tried and failed. Fruit can contain large amounts of sugar, so diabetics should go easy on the mangos and other sweet fruit and focus on eating vegetables instead for their ‘five-a-day’.

Perhaps the manufacturers of breakfast biscuits and popular cereals should encourage us to collect tokens for a book on diabetes. 🙂


Another badly written piece of pretend scientists with all the elementary psychological trickery to deceive anyone who needs to believe this kind of thing.

The excellent accreditation is mostly done without peer review, permission or even any relevance to the massive leaps between connected theories.

It sells books all the same.

Dr Charlie - a biochemist says:
20 December 2013

The simple answer is that they are both unhealthy and current obsession with starchy grains has led to the recent explosive rise in the levels of obesity and diabetes.
As a biochemist, I am always amazed that the medical industry (medics and dieticians) makes so many elementary errors because they do not understand basic biochemistry.
Firstly, the most common flour, wheat flour, is digested even more quickly than table sugar (sucrose) to yield glucose – the blood sugar. So this idea that you should be worried about the small amount of sucrose that most of us eat whilst happily devouring large amounts of easily digested starch in bread, pasta, pastry, cereals, and potatoes – is frankly silly.
Secondly, when you eat bread, cereals etc you secrete a large amount of the storage hormone, insulin, which directs the fat cells in your adipose tissue to take in any passing fat and just as importantly, to retain the fat in the adipose tissue.
Thirdly, the insulin instructs the liver to convert the large dose of glucose into our major storage material – saturated fat. This is then released into the blood stream in the form of vLDL particles.
Fourthly, the content (fat) of the vLDL particles is taken up by the adipose tissue at the behest of insulin and is not released until the level of blood insulin drops.
Fifthly, the bulk of our tissues, including muscle and heart muscle utilise fat as a source of energy – often in preference to glucose.
Fifthly, we are designed to eat and store excess nutrients in the form of fat in the adipose tissue and then after a couple of hours, to release the fat and use it for energy until the next meal comes along. So, if you prevent fat from being released from your adipose tissue you will feel hungry very quickly and need a snack.
So, if you eat the recommended diet, high in carbohydrate, you constantly trigger insulin which leads to fat creation and storage and you feel hungry because you cannot retrieve the fuel that has been laid down.
We are now told to eat carbohydrate for breakfast, elevenses, lunch, tea, dinner and supper.
This dietary change was only introduced in the 1980s and before then medics used to tell their patients that if they wished to slim they should cut out bread, potatoes etc. However, since the 80s, the number of people who are obese and suffer from diabetes has gone sharply up and is continuing to go up. Until the dietary advice is changed it will continue to go up.
The last piece of biochemistry is that, although protein and fat are essential parts of our diet since we are unable to make say certain amino acids and fatty acids, the consumption of carbohydrate, however, is not required at all. We can make all the glucose we need from the bulk of the amino acids that are present in the proteins we eat. This biochemical process is called gluconeogenesis.
PS fat itself does not stimulate the hormone insulin so if you eat fat without carbohydrate then the cells use it for energy but if you eat it with lots of carbohydrate you get a double whammy – since the rise in blood glucose causes a rise in insulin which tells the adipose tissue to take up the fat – and, in addition, the insulin directs the liver to convert the excess glucose to fat that is again stored by the adipose tissue.


That’s great, but you have missed out the role of glycogen for short-term storage of carbohydrate.

Dr Charlie - a biochemist says:
20 December 2013

For brevity, I didn’t mention glycogen. As you know, insulin also causes cells to take up glucose and then directs the synthesis of excess glucose into the polymer, glycogen. When the levels of blood glucose and insulin drop the polymer is hydrolysed and glucose is released (in much the same way that glucose is released from the very similar polymer – the amylopectin component of starch.

But since glycogen possesses less than half the amount of energy of fat on a gram for gram basis, it seems reasonable that a mobile organism like ourselves would select the more energy dense material for our major store. So an average adult stores around 10 kg of fat and only 0.4 kg of glycogen. This means of course that glycogen can only supply the body with energy for a couple of hours of work whilst the fat store can keep us going for days.

Again, I did not mention the role of the gluten component of wheat grain. We now know that it disrupts junctions holding together the cells lining the gut, allowing the uptake into the body of food and microbial proteins that now can stimulate immune reactions. These reactions lead to the autoimmune destruction of different tissues in susceptible individuals, as outlined below.
Again, a combination of consuming more grains and the changing nature of gliadins and lectins has led to a sharp rise in the occurrence of these diseases. For example, coeliac disease is now 4 times as prevalent as it was 40 years ago. It would seem reasonable to assume that the incidence of the related inflammatory bowel diseases, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis will also show similar increases.
The removal of wheat from the diet of patients suffering from other autoimmune diseases, for example, alopecia, ankylosing spondylitis, lupus, MS, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, dementia etc etc has often shown an improvement. The sudden loss of the B cells in the pancreas resulting in Type 1 diabetes is also an autoimmune disease.
Oh the joys of eating these “healthy” grains.


Thanks for that, Charlie. I did not evolve much beyond microbial biochemistry. 🙂

I appreciate that oats can be contaminated with wheat, but would it be beneficial for those who have no apparent problem with wheat to switch to oats?

Dr Charlie - a biochemist says:
21 December 2013

Thanks for your question since a question always makes you think. As you say oat grains are classed as gluten free and therefore they do not pose all the problems associated with the grains that do.
But my question would be – why have something that tastes like the packaging that it came in – when you can eat bacon, egg, mushroom and tomato – a much more well-rounded and nourishing breakfast that will not spike your glucose and insulin levels. Levels that may lead at some future date to obesity and type 2 diabetes (coronary heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, stroke, blindness and kidney disease).
I suppose my hesitation comes from your wording “no apparent problem.” As you know, we have been evolving separately from the other great apes for a few million years. During this time we became accustomed to life as hunter/gathers. Such communities still existed around the world in the 19th and 20th centuries and their eating habits noted. What was found was that their preferred food was – firstly, large game animals – secondly, small game animals – thirdly, fish – and fourthly plant material. In other words, our biochemistry was adjusted to the consumption of protein and fat, although it was obviously important that during bad hunting spells we could manage on some plant material to tide us over (but not long term since plants cannot give us all the required nutrients). However, around 10,000 years ago, man learnt how to grow grain crops and our diet changed drastically (and so did our stature and health). I’m saying all this because it allows you to see that some adaptation to plant and carbohydrate was important during our evolution – if we don’t have food we die, so it is better to eat carbohydrate than die and since death could occur before child bearing age, this advantage would be selected for and passed on. However, the down side of eating our most popular grain mostly occur after child bearing age, and are therefore mostly not selected for.
So obesity, type 2 diabetes and all the autoimmune diseases mentioned in my second blog (hope that’s the right term) above, tend to occur later in life; including arthritis (which I should have included in the autoimmune list).
So I will return to your word “apparent” – how often are the above diseases written off in our society because they are associated with old age, for example, arthritis. Is arthritis, say, caused by the wearing out of our joints or could it be that this process has been helped along by our new diet – which, as I pointed out in the above blog – has been slanted even more towards grains since the dietary advice changed in the 1980s.


What about nitrites and nitrates in cooked breakfasts? Cooking bacon and sausages will produce carcinogenic nitrosamines. I appreciate that elevated cholesterol is not simply about dietary intake, but eating eggs on a daily basis might not be good, even though they are nutritionally very good.

I greatly enjoy the texture and taste of wholegrain muesli and some of the more interesting variants of wholemeal bread. It was very welcome when muesli moved from being something loaded with sugar and milk powder. Many find cooked breakfasts very satisfying, but I’ve hated them since I was a child. Though I enjoy foods containing wheat and have not had problems, many do and I think you are right to be concerned about the amount of wheat in the typical western diet.

I suspect that a major cause of obesity is simply that there are now so many foods that can be eaten without preparation, and many of us eat snacks rather than waiting for mealtimes. Add to that the large portion sizes that we are confronted with if we eat out and lack of activity, especially when arthritis and other health problems make it a challenge to remain active. If it is not snacks, it is bottled drinks. At present, much of this is just bottled water and harmless except for environmental reasons, but there are still many drinking sweetened soft drinks despite it being common knowledge that these are best avoided.

One of the virtues of a cooked breakfast or any meal that requires preparation is that you are unlikely to eat more than you intended. With a bowl of cereal it is very easy to have a second bowl before our brain has registered that we no longer feel hungry.


Interesting reading Charlie, Thanks.

Although I believe adictive sugar is the main problem with the Nations diet I have read other articles about the problems with wheat grain.

Haveing said that I do buy a box of Belvita from time to time to put a pack in my son’s packed lunch, he has a physical job and likes a biscuit with his mid morning cuppa, I like the B vits and iron they have to give him a boost. I wonder how many other boxes are bought for the same reason as opposed to a breakfast substitute.


Anybody would think (if you believe all the advertising and marketing) that the only thing available for breakfasts are cereals. I gave up eating cereals such as Weetabix, Shredded wheat etc after I was diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic because they increased my blood sugar to such dangerous levels. As a result I rediscovered some of the joyful breakfasts of my childhood such as kippers, bacon, cheese, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, baked beans etc. but of course not all at the same time. I just cannot give up bread but now it has to be seeded organic wholemeal, in moderation. Fruit also has to be limited due to the sugars present so a small greenish yellow banana is fine and or a small apple. Natural unsweetened yogurt is also great for breakfast and to that I usually add some thawed out frozen berries. Why bother with cereals when most of the nutritional value has to be added in the factory or from a bottle of milk? Please dont say you havnt got time for anything else!!


I have been told that porridge made from oatmeal rather than rolled oats is a good choice for diabetics.

I think everyone over 60 should check their blood glucose periodically. I’m OK at the moment but know many who have found out too late for dietary control to keep their blood sugar in a safe range.

Dr Charlie - a biochemist says:
23 December 2013

Wow Wavechange you packed a lot in your reply. Obviously, what people eat is determined by what they like and whether they believe their food is healthy. You obviously like carbs and I respect that but I cannot agree that they are a necessary part of our diet and that they are healthy.

Where to begin – perhaps I’ll start with your concern over cholesterol.

As you will know, cholesterol has many functions. It is an absolutely essential intermediate for the production of hormones, such as, the male and female hormones and vitamin D; and it is absolutely essential for maintaining the fluidity of our cell membranes. Without this fluidity our protein transporters, like GLUT 4 would be unable to function and shuttle polar compounds, in this case, glucose across the non-polar region of the cell membranes (I believe that this function is taken up by unsaturated fatty acids in bacterial membranes). Our brain only comprises 2% of our body weight yet it contains 25% of our total cholesterol because of the mass of membrane that this organ contains and the functions these membranes carry out. So important is cholesterol to the body that virtually all cells can both synthesize it and take it up from the blood stream; this requires very tight regulatory control.

So it is not surprising that the consumption of an egg causes little, if any, increase in the total body burden of cholesterol – ie the body responds by damping down cellular synthesis and taking digested cholesterol from the blood stream until the status quo is quickly regained. In other words, I believe your concern over cholesterol is unwarranted.

I would also make the point, that what is important is whether you die or not – not whether you have a CHD event. So, those medics who suggest that the lower the cholesterol the better and encourage people to go below 4 mmol/l simply are talking out of sheer and complete ignorance. I pity the poor patients who believe these people since studies have shown that the overall death rate starts to increase dramatically when cholesterol concentrations fall below 4 mmol/l due to creation of other disease processes and suicide.

Again studies, including the famous Framingham study begun in 1948, have shown that in people over 50/60, higher levels of cholesterol are protective (ie the death rate comes down with higher cholesterol). I just happen to have to hand the results of a recent Scandinavian study. This study published recently in the Scandinavian Journal of Health Care looked at the levels of cholesterol and risk of death in almost 120,000 adults living in Denmark.

The researchers found that having higher than recommended levels of total cholesterol was associated with a reduced risk of death. So they looked at the death rates amongst men who had a total cholesterol level of less than 5 mmol/l and compared that figure with the death rates of men who had total cholesterol levels between 5 and 5.99, and those between 6 and 7.99, and those with levels of 8 and above.
They found that in men aged 60-70 when compared to those who had a total cholesterol level of less than 5:
those with levels of 5.00-5.99 had a 32% reduced risk of death; and
those with levels 6.0-7.99 had a 33% reduced risk of death.
Even in individuals with levels of 8.00 mmol/l and above, the risk of death was no higher than it was for those with levels less than 5.0 mmol/l.
The results were similar for women too. In women aged 60-70, levels of 5.0-5.99 and 6.0-7.99 were associated with a 43 and 41 per cent reduced risk of death respectively.

In individuals aged 70 and over, the results were similar, except here, levels of total cholesterol of 8.00 mmol/l or more were associated with a reduced risk of death too (in both men and women).
Together, these findings suggest that the current total cholesterol recommended by medics and other health professionals are way off beam. And the authors of this study suggested –rather meekly that – these associations indicate that high lipoprotein levels do not seem to be harmful to the general population (apologies to the website I have used without attributing it to them).
So to precis the above, if you have an egg for breakfast it will have no or a tiny effect on your cholesterol level and if it does go up you may actually benefit from it.

I find it very odd that medics will prescribe drugs to lower a person’s cholesterol solely on a total cholesterol reading since this is supposedly made up of both good (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL) – without knowing the concentration of either. In fact, even if they know the concentrations of both it does not stop them from a knee jerk reaction, for example, my HDL is larger than my LDL, but it does not stop my medic from attempting to prescribe drugs.

Total cholesterol is now recognised to be virtually worthless as a guide to the likelihood of CHD, and the HDL/LDL ratio is a better predictive tool.

But a better indicator still is the Triglyceride/HDL ratio in fasting blood and the interesting thing here is that the person eating a high fat/low carb (HF/LC) diet will perform very well in this test. As I mentioned in one of the blogs above, carbohydrate is converted into fat in the liver and then parcelled up into vLDLs before being sent out into the blood stream so the (not so) surprising thing is that this results in a large amount of fat (triglyceride) in the blood stream – usually 2 to 3 times the amount found in the blood of those consuming a HF/LC diet – where the digested fat is very quickly removed from the blood stream and consumed by the muscle/heart cells etc and metabolised to generate energy. These results are taken from the work of Westman et al, The Effect of a Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet Versus a Low-Glycemic Index Diet on Glycemic Control in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Nutr Metab (Lond) 2008, 5(36)). His group compared the various diets with blood lipid determinations. The other finding was that the concentration of good cholesterol, HDL rose with the HF/LC diet ie a double whammy, but in a positive way, for the HF/LC diet. So a HF/LC diet led to a low triglyceride count and high HDL count.
Is it not ironic that medics tell you not to eat fat because you will have a heart attack, but the very thing that increases the amount of fat circulating in your arteries is – carbohydrate – because under the influence of insulin it is converted to fat (and cholesterol).

Although I agree with you that the preparation of meals is a good thing, I believe it is because when you are preparing your own food you are not looking around for the lowest cost ingredients (carbohydrates) to bulk out the meal. After all the carb industry is all about converting cheap starting materials in to expensive end products.

As I inferred in an above blog, I believe that the HF/LC diet allows people to slim, and you only need to go onto the web to see the fantastic before and after photographs, since this diet does not constantly stimulate insulin production. This allows the release of fatty acids from the adipose tissues and these then provide all the energy needed until the next meal comes along. If however, a person eats large amounts of carb every two hours – they will need to eat every two hours because they are hungry since their metabolism is slanted towards the creation and storage of fat rather than its release and energy production.

This relationship between insulin production and weight gain is clearly shown in those poor people who develop the metabolic syndrome ie the pre-diabetic phase. Put simply, when the normal concentration of insulin no longer stimulates cells to transfer the GLUT transporters to the cell membrane in say muscle cells – thus causing glucose resistance, the pancreas responds to the increase in blood glucose by secreting more insulin. This works for some time, but unfortunately the muscle cells become progressively more resistant, so less glucose is taken up, more circulates and therefore more insulin is produced. The upshot of this steadily increasing level of the circulating storage hormone, insulin is that the pre-diabetic patient gains weight. It is predictable and foreseeable – but what is the prescription of the medical industry and the Diabetic Association (or whatever it now calls itself) – eat more starchy grains!!!!!! It beggars belief especially when it is now believed that the spikes of high levels of glucose in the blood actually are responsible for the high levels of CHD, blindness, kidney disease, and peripheral vascular disease (responsible for the blockage of arteries in the arms and feet leading to amputation).

As you say, portion size is important, but when your high insulin levels swamp the leptin receptors in your brain, you carry on eating since the mechanism to say whoa – you are full no longer functions.

It is a common misconception believed by the medical industry that we need carbohydrate in our diet to provide energy to keep the brain functioning. This is incorrect on two fronts. Firstly, as mentioned above, we can create all the glucose we need from the bulk of the amino acids provided by the digestion of the protein in our diet, and secondly, ketone bodies can also be used as an energy source by the brain. These ketone bodies are created from the fatty acids released from the adipose tissue – if these acids are provided in sufficient quantities. So obviously, anyone eating a carb rich diet will not be able to go into ketosis ie will not generate ketone bodies.

Please don’t confuse this state (mild ketosis) with ketoacidosis that occurs when an autoimmune response suddenly destroys the Beta cells of the pancreas. When this occurs the supply of insulin suddenly stops and the major controlling hormone (insulin) preventing the fatty acids leaving the adipose tissue is suddenly removed. When this vast release of fat arrives at the liver, so many ketones are formed that the buffering capacity of the blood is overwhelmed and the poor person is overcome by ketoacidosis.

Before the introduction of insulin, medics had to watch their Type 1 diabetics simply waste away before their eyes as their fat reserves were too quickly converted to ketones. But at least, after the discovery of insulin, they appreciated for some time that insulin was involved in fat storage and release. Where did this knowledge go? Why were they so easily persuaded from what they knew ie that to slim, you cut out the foods that lead to weight gain ie the starchy bread and potatoes etc to now giving the totally wrong dietary advice, namely that to slim you eat the materials that lead to the secretion of the storage hormone, insulin.

I agree with you that anyone on a carb diet can remain slim as long as they watch the quantity they eat, but usually this takes a great deal of will-power because they are hungry and therefore looking forward to their next meal since they cannot easily access their food store. Unfortunately in most cases, because of hunger, this type of restricted diet usually fails and weight is quickly regained On the other hand, someone on the HF/LC diet does not need to count calories, leptin tells them when they are full, and fatty acid release sees them through to the next meal. In other words, over a period of weeks or months, their fat stores are mobilised and weight is lost without the person constantly feeling hungry.

I wish that someone who believed that the ingestion of saturated fat caused CHD could tell me why the country that eats the most saturated fat per head, namely France has the lowest incidence of CHD. And why Switzerland, the country that consumes the second highest amount of saturated fat has the second lowest rate of CHD. And why although the consumption of fat in both Britain and the USA remained static throughout the 20th century, the incidence of CHD (virtually unknown before the 1920s) rose rapidly from the 30s onwards until it became our greatest killer by the 1980s. In contrast, the consumption of sugar rose throughout this time and that is not counting the increased consumption of starch. And lastly, why the aboriginal people who have the lowest level of cholesterol in the world have one of the highest rates of CHD.
The damage done by carbs can unfortunately begin very early, the moving film “First Do No Harm” starring Meryl Streep illustrated how the removal of carbohydrates by employing a very strict low carb regime can overcome very, very severe childhood epilepsy. This form of treatment was introduced in the 1930s in John Hopkins, Baltimore. In this film it shows how a child was going to be subjected to brain surgery before his mother basically rescued him and sought a simple dietary cure in Baltimore. Yet, 80 years later, Channel 4 showed a program on 24/102012 about a “revolutionary new diet cure” in a program called The Food Hospital: Kids Special. I’m mentioning this because again it shows that the brain can use ketones and is not reliant on glucose. Obviously in some cases, carbs causes damage.

Finally, to comment on a statement you made in a blog before mine – not all food stuff can be converted to glucose, for example not all amino acids can undergo gluconeogenesis and the bulk of triglycerides ie the fatty acid component constituting around 94% of this major fat cannot be converted to this sugar. They certainly can in some plants and perhaps in some bacteria but humans lack the necessary biochemical pathway.

I could go into – why the claim “a calorie is calorie” makes no sense in a biochemical context, why glucose appears to be the food of choice for developing cancer cells (a surprising new idea since evidence was first provided by Otto Warburg in the 1920s – Nobel Prize in 1931), why any food stuffs that contain the cheaply obtained plant omega-6 fatty acids are bad for you as against the animal based omega-3 fatty acids, and why I do not worry about consuming bacon – but if people think enough is more than enough, I will close my computer for Christmas. Happy Christmas


Thanks for that little lot, Charlie. I will give that some thought after digesting my Christmas lunch. Have a great Christmas.



You sound like the sort of chap I would dearly love to discuss this topic more deeply with – are we able to do so directly?

Helen Mullineux says:
26 December 2013

I read an article on the New Scientist website (28 November 2013) and other articles previously that strongly indicate that Alzheimer’s-like changes are seen in brains swamped with insulin. Apparently, Alzheimer’s is more common in people with type 2 diabetes. I would be interested in Charlie’s comments on this.

Hungry in the morning says:
27 December 2013

I have cereal (muesli) in the morning, but am then hungry when I return from my morning run and can’t wait until lunch. I used to find that Weight Watchers breakfast biscuits were a nice high-fibre, low-sugar alternative. However, I find them harder and harder to find. Have you reviewed these? Perhaps if they were better known, I’d find it easier to buy them again!

Helen Mullineux says:
28 December 2013

The problem I have with Charlie’s views on eating bacon is that they run counter to World Cancer Research findings. They produced very clear advice that eating red meats and particularly smoked and cured meats too frequently increase the incidence of several types of cancer.


I agree, Helen. I’m another New Scientist reader and learned about carcinogenic nitrosamines in bacon, sausages, etc at least 40 years ago. High temperature cooking such as grilling also produces potentially harmful materials. For decades we have been avoid to avoid eating too much saturated fat to help avoid heart disease, which is another reason I will stick to my muesli for breakfast.

Pee/d says:
28 December 2013

Does Dr Charlie have regular colonic irrigations or how does he have natural bowel movements on his protein diet. I missed out on my regular fresh fruit and fibre cereal for the past four days and feel very uncomfortable. It’s back to the usual fruit and cereal breakfast tomorrow.

mmsurrey says:
31 December 2013


Dr Charlie - a biochemist says:
2 January 2014

Ellen could I respond to you – even though your post seems to have disappeared. First of all I do feel sorry for your plight. But you must remember that the medical industry (medics, dieticians and the pharmaceutical industry) is there to sell you something – even if the tab is picked up by the tax payer. Most (but by no means all – see below) medics do not go home at night and follow the latest lines in biochemical research, even though the major killers in the western world are metabolic diseases. Unfortunately, their training does not equip them with the desire to follow the latest research into say the action of zonulin, the hormone that determines whether your intestinal cells maintain a discrete and vital barrier to foreign materials and how this hormone’s action is disrupted by the presence of gluten and its digested byproducts. Hence, they feel very threatened if someone appears to know more than they do. If you follow the web on this issue you will see many examples of medics refusing to accept or even contemplate anything outwith their guidelines.

I’ll recount an applicable story. A little time ago, a neighbour came to me who had an autoimmune disease – one of the irritable bowel diseases. The person was so affected by this disease that holding down any job was becoming impossible and the person was told that the only solution was an operation to remove part of the gut. Fortunately, he listened to advice and gave up all food stuffs that contained wheat flour for just a trial period of one month. The recovery was immediate and dramatic and the person now stays off the offending material that is toxic to him. However, when he told the consultant what he intended to do, he was told that this approach would never work. I would imagine now that this approach has worked, the consultant will refuse to believe it and will carry on performing surgery on unsuspecting patients.

The unfortunate thing is that simply changing ones diet is not profitable to anyone. It does not keep the consultant in a job nor does it supply the pharmaceutical industry with the sale of profitable drugs. One could say – why does the government not step in – well, how are politicians going to know what to do, I think there is only 1 person with even a first degree in any science subject in the House of Commons. On the other hand, the pharmaceutical industry has the largest lobby on this side of the pond and the other.

If you have time, please read my blogs above. They attempt to show that biochemically speaking; weight gain is due to carbohydrate consumption – not fat consumption. I don’t want to go over everything again but when you eat carbohydrates (bread, pasta, pastries, potatoes etc), large quantities of glucose are formed which stimulate the release of insulin, the storage hormone. It’s insulin’s job to tell the adipose tissue to take in fat and hold it there – and to tell the liver that it must convert the excess glucose into fat and export it in the form of vLDLs. The fat in these vLDLs is also taken up by the adipose tissues under the influence of insulin, thus forming in the process – LDLs. On the other hand, if you consume fat alone, it is simply used very quickly and efficiently by the body to yield energy. That is why it is the carbohydrate consumers who have large amounts of fat roaming around in their blood ie this is the fat formed in the liver from glucose.

So the problem with biscuits, is not the fat content but the flour content – because it stimulates insulin release and for the unfortunate people whose gut is disrupted by gluten – it leads to severe autoimmunological diseases – not all of which actually affect the gut since they can affect any tissue around the body ie brain, pancreas, skin etc.

So I would want to know what you added to your soup before I would willingly mop it up (sorry if that sounds a bit arrogant) – if it contained mostly chicken or fish – OK, I would know that it would be nourishing and I would not be hungry for quite a while – but if it was, for example, mostly potato (approx. 20% starch – all hydrolysed quickly to glucose) or carrot (approx. 5% starch – ditto) – I would know that after a short time the large amount of insulin released would have directed the adipose tissue to store available nutrients. This would leave little of the digested food to circulate and nourish the body, and the high levels of blood insulin would crash and I would be desperate to eat again.

After spending time with grandchildren over the holidays, I do appreciate that getting children to eat what is good for them is far from easy.

PS If you find my posts (blogs?) heavy going, please visit Tom Naughton’s site and scroll down to his blog on the 17 December 2013 entitled “Speech: Diet, Health and the Wisdom of Crowds”. Some medics also produce some very good, thoughtful and educational sites, for example, Malcolm Kendrick, John Briffa, Macola and Mike Eades.


Sorry for the delay in publishing your comment. Ellen’s comment was removed at her request.


Thank you Dr Charlie for making some sense of a real dilemma.I did realise that there could be answers when doors started to close. Social media is something new to me, and agree with all that you have said.
The film of Tom Naughton’s brilliant speech, “Diet, Health, and the Wisdom of Crowds”, was exactly right, the books suggested should also make some more interesting reading. I laughed a lot what an interesting way to spend an hour, I learned a lot.

The protein and veg diet was exactly what I was left with.

It makes you aware of what people are putting in their shopping trolleys, and am horrified at the amount of sugar people are buying, and eating from breakfast to bedtime.
I can’t live without Marmite on buttered toast (wheat free of course) in the morning, I am thinking that I should though.


Thanks Charlie for the post addressed to Ellen – I found the link rewarding and endorsing what I have come to believe. i.e. we are being told what to eat by governments who are ‘in the pay’ of big agriculture. Then we are to have drugs dictated by big pharma. Our health comes a long way down their agenda right now – but of course the truth will out in the end because we will cannot afford the health disaster that is on its way/if not already arrived.

I would be interested in your views on vegetarians and those who eat entirely RAW vegetables/seeds/nuts – that’s where my dilemma is right now. I have read that vegetarians do live longer, but perhaps you have some data to back this?

Dr Charlie - a biochemist says:
7 January 2014

I’m very glad that Ellen and Simone took the time to look up Tom Naughton’s recent light-hearted look at why our nutritional guidelines are so wrong headed. He is quite funny but that does not stop him from getting right to the heart of a problem.

I would like to discuss the vegetarian diet but before I do, I’d like one more attempt at trying to disabuse anyone of the idea that our current dietary guide lines have evolved from a long line of scientific endeavour and that much research has been carefully carried out using the proper scientific method in order to justify these guidelines. Let’s be quite clear, it most certainly has not – no research was carried out or, indeed, prompted the change in dietary advice that occurred in the 1970s/80s.

Very briefly, the dietary advice given in Britain changed dramatically in the 1980s as a result of a decision made by Senator McGovern’s committee, a body set up to study the American diet. The deliberations of this committee can be seen on the internet (see Tom Naughton’s site mentioned in an above post) and there is a famous scene in which one of the science members of the committee suggests that time was needed to establish the evidence to back up their proposals and he was told by McGovern that the committee did not have the luxury of waiting for scientists to provide the answers and as a politician he had to come to a decision. When the decision was given to the then president of the American Academy of Science, Professor Phillip Handler, a biochemist, in the hope that he would publically support the campaign to replace fats in the diet with carbohydrates, he refused stating that there was no science to back up the proposal. In fact, he went further and stated before the Senate, that if the change went ahead it would be the largest experiment ever conducted on the American people. However, this did not stop the decision from being implemented and the famous food pyramid was born with its broad base of carbohydrates and grains with a little topping of fats and dairy. This pyramid has now been replaced by the food plate – which is just as damaging as its predecessor.

In an article by Walter Willett, Professor of Medicine and Chair of the Department of Nutrition within the Harvard School of Public Health (Scientific American, p52 Jan 2003), he stated that “the USDA pyramid is grossly flawed” and “…no study has demonstrated long-term benefits that can be directly attributed to a low-fat diet. The 30 per cent limit on fat was essentially drawn from thin air”. He was particularly upset when he presented a revised pyramid he was asked to justify any proposed changes by providing the scientific evidence when, as he said, this was strange because the original was not backed up by any scientific evidence.

The McGovern Committee was the precursor to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee which periodically issues reports advising the Administration on the diet the American public should follow. In 2010, the Committee issued it latest and 10th report that carried on with the advice that has resulted in the rise of disease and obesity since their first report in 1977 that proposed adding more carbohydrate to the diet and less fat. In a very critical paper written by Richard Feinman’s group entitled “In the face of contradictory evidence: Report of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee” (Nutrition, 26, 2010), he basically said that the Committee had cherry picked their data, had not reported on research contradicting their conclusions, had misrepresented other research, and had come to conclusions not justified by present knowledge. I will repeat below a section of the abstract to their paper since it is so damming.
“The initial Dietary Goals for Americans (1977) proposed increases in carbohydrate intake and decreases in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and salt consumption that are carried further in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) Report. Important aspects of these recommendations remain unproven, yet a dietary shift in this direction has already taken place even as overweight/obesity and diabetes have increased. Although appealing to an evidence-based methodology, the DGAC Report demonstrates several critical weaknesses, including use of an incomplete body of relevant science; inaccurately representing, interpreting, or summarizing the literature; and drawing conclusions and/or making recommendations that do not reflect the limitations or controversies in the science.”

The effect of the adoption of this misguided advice, the food pyramid/plate has been dramatic. In effect, in the USA the number of obese individuals has risen by 128% and extremely obese by 329% since 1980. And, of course, the number of Type 2 diabetics has risen in line with obesity.
Unfortunately, since the late 1980s we, in Britain, have simply mimicked the USA, and so our dietary advice has not been driven by science but by dogma and the numbers of overweight/obese people and diabetics have risen dramatically.

As mentioned by Simone, the cost to the nation of the dietary advice is great and growing and cannot be sustained.

Ellen, I will try again, the replacement of fat with carbohydrate has caused the current problems – so our diet should be high fat/low carbohydrate with some protein and some veg. I do understand that after decades of being told that eating a gram of fat will lead to instant death, it is hard to appreciate that our body is designed to run on fat utilising the biochemical process (involving our main energy production sites – the mitochondria) termed – the beta-oxidation cycle.

Many people have gone on the web to show how a change in diet which excludes the large amount of carbohydrate now normally consumed can result in tremendous weight loss, for example, http://www.dietdoctor.com/category/weight-loss/weight-loss-stories
Scroll down the page. I particularly like the mini film (some tricky time lapse photograph lasting around 30 seconds), that shows one lady, Amanda, slimming down from 220 lbs (100 kg) to 132 lbs (60 kg) in a year with an LCHF-like paleo diet (low carb, high fat, real food). I’m not sure how the time lapse was done so expertly, but the effect of seeing 88 lbs roll off someone is quite startling.

Similarly, people go on the web to share their experiences of overcoming very crippling autoimmune diseases by simply changing their diet, for example – http://robbwolf.com/2014/01/06/testimonial-inflammatory-arthritis-pain-weeks/

I wish Which would take diet seriously, and apply the scientific method they use to measure the efficacy of any product under test to measuring the effectiveness of diets. They should look for themselves rather than believing the current failed dietary advice. They do not take the word of a car maker/ washing machine manufacturer/ coffee machine manufacturer etc etc – when they say that they have produced the ultimate car etc, etc. Of course not, they realise that manufacturers have a vested interest – so they objectively compare like, rival models.

Anyone with eyes, can see that the current dietary advice is not working, in fact it has resulted in much misery – so why not apply the same objective standards to the comparison of diets? Does Which really believe that vested interests in the billion pound food and drug industries are not at work in this area?


Among other things, Charlie said….

“I wish Which would take diet seriously, and apply the scientific method they use to measure the efficacy of any product under test to measuring the effectiveness of diets. They should look for themselves rather than believing the current failed dietary advice. They do not take the word of a car maker/ washing machine manufacturer/ coffee machine manufacturer etc etc”

Well said, totaly agree

Paul says:
13 April 2016

What happened to discussing the vegetarian diet?

marie says:
14 October 2014

9.6g of sugar in a pack of 4 Belvita milk & cereal biscuits, not 7.6 Shocking.

Isaiah Adams says:
29 July 2015

Pls Dr Charlie! What do u advice on Ulcerative Collitis??? I hav had Ulcer for 8months now and i hav tried so hard to avoid pepper, Veg Oil, Fried food, Bean, Fatty meal yet it wont go away?

Phil says:
9 January 2016

Well 9/10 Italians eat just that- a few biscuits and a milky coffee for breakfast.

Your body doesn’t need a huge load of food shoved into it after you wake up. It needs a bit of sugar, a small snack followed maybe by a yogurt or piece of fruit at 11am and then a good lunch.

Unfortunately in the UK we have it banged into us at an early age by medical people and our parents that we are being both naughty and unhealthy if we don’t have a “big breakfast”

Sophia says:
4 May 2016

I respect and appreciate everyones opinion.. Im a licensed nurse and have been for 16 years.
I live with multiple sclerosis and crohns disease.
I started eating belvita biscuits daily about 2 months ago. Its increased my engery and my appetite. But, unbelievably i have lost weight!!!! About 15 pounds in 2 months. Other then adding that to my diet, i haven’t changed a thing.
I think its very individual thing, and shouldn’t be judged until you make it a daily part of your diet!


Your right Sophia each person is an individual not just in personality but in body chemistry there is no “standard person ” its a fallacy dreamed up to impose some type of control over us. Its trendy to say certain products are right for us all when that isnt true and diet is very individual. Both my wife and myself are allergic to certain foods and liquids and also medicine . What also must be taken into account is the metabolic rate of an individual ,in other words the bodies ability to burn off fat without exercising , many people can eat like a horse and never grow fat . I am large boned and 6 feet -1 inch but have only put on weight since my 30,s and even then it has stayed constant at around 15 stone to 16 stone and I do eat a lot due to an organic problem that makes me hungry most of the time. But I have never looked fat with a bulging stomach etc , its down to your DNA and people shouldnt try to bracket others into groups just to try to prove a point or to make people conform to what society thinks is the norms as to me that is social discrimination like talking down to someone in a wheel chair or deaf like myself . Just look at the American view of the police living on sugary do-nuts put out originally by companies like Dunkin -Do-nuts to sell their products ,do people not notice the amount of heart attacks and strokes they have ? just ask their widows .

ypekepuf says:
18 September 2017



szamba ekologiczne