/ Food & Drink, Health

How much sugar is in your breakfast bowl?

Magnifying glass looking at calorie label

We’ve always known children’s cereals aren’t always the most healthy option to kick start the day. And now it seems the sugar content in many is on the up. Is it time we started to pick from elsewhere on the shelf?

We’ve looked at breakfast cereals many times over the years. Each time I’ve been amazed at how a product category with such a healthy image contains so many products laden with sugar – and in some cases salt.

Most shocking of all, it’s generally the ones that are aimed at children that are the least healthy. New research on cereal sugar content has been published by Action on Sugar today and the results aren’t promising.

From looking at the cereals we included in our ‘What’s in your bowl report’ in 2012, Action on Sugar have revealed that in some cases the sugar content is going up. Results show 14 out 50 cereals tested contained at least 33.3g of sugar, or eight teaspoons, per 100g. This is all despite some manufacturers claims of improving the health of the nation’s breakfast.

According to Action on Sugar’s report there’s been an 8% increase in sugar level of Morrisons Honey & Nut Cornflakes and Sainsbury’s Honey Nut Cornflakes, increasing from 33.3g per 100g to 36.3g.

But there has been a reduction in some – Honey Monster Puffs, previously known as Sugar Puffs, has had a 17% reduction from 35g to 29g.

Healthy promotion needs to take priority

Many people will have their favourite cereals and will have grown up with the cartoon characters that promote them – whether that’s Tony the Tiger, Coco the Monkey or Chip the Woolf. But isn’t it time that cartoon characters started to promote healthier products, rather than less healthy ones to children?

Despite concern about rates of obesity and poor diets, there have been few attempts to put all of this creativity into helping encourage children to eat healthily. To make matters worse, cereals that can contain around a third sugar often make claims about the vitamins and minerals that have been added to them – giving false reassurance that they aren’t such a guilty pleasure after all.

Transparency in the milky waters

This wouldn’t all be quite so bad if manufacturers were more transparent about what is in the products. Credit has to go to the supermarkets who have committed to putting traffic light nutrition labelling on their own-brand products. Branded products sit next to them in stark contrast though, with the lack of traffic light labelling making it difficult to spot the healthier alternatives.

It’s time cereal manufacturers got their act together. We need to see more healthier cereals, particularly those aimed at children.

The effort that goes into encouraging children to ask for sugary cereals should shift to promoting healthier choices. And all cereal manufacturers, branded or own-branded, should be up front about what they contain and put traffic light labelling on their products.

Do you struggle to get your kids to eat the healthier cereals? Do you think it’s the responsibility of the manufactures to be clearer about the contents of their cereals?

Comments
Member

I enjoy muesli and try to avoid anything with added sugar as a matter of principle. There is enough sugar in muesli based on wholewheat or oats without adding to it. Maybe it’s time to get rid of sugar as an ingredient of all breakfast cereals.

Member
Clare says:
28 January 2015

As a child, I always enjoyed a bowl of Weeto’s for breakfast. Everything in moderation, surely?

Member

I have fond memories of Force breakfast cereal which went out of favour [and flavour unfortunately] a few years ago because of the compettion from the heavily-advertised sugar-coated products that nowadays cram the grocers’ shelves. The Force brand featured a curious character called Sunny Jim and the pack carried this little ditty: “High over the fence leaps Sunny Jim – Force is the food that nourishes him!”.

I notice that a large number of breakfast cereals now have chocolate in some shape or form to make them more appealing to the junior tooth. What might once have been a treat is now a regular part of the daily intake.

Member

I agree with you, John. I think things like chocolate need to become more of a treat, rather than part of daily diets. Now our palates are all used to sugary foods, especially with younger people, it becomes harder to get used to and appreciate the more natural flavours. I wonder what this will mean in years to come…

Member

John, I suspect all these additions to basically healthy cereals are done for “added value” – aka bigger profit – by using children to put pressure on parents to buy them, like sweets were near checkouts. I can only see educating oarents to resist these sales and marketing techniques as a solution. But how do you do that? Like buying branded clothing when cheaper plain clothes do just as good a job.

Member

I stopped eating Waitrose Fruit & Fibre last year when I discovered it had 29g sugar or as I prefer to think as 29%. I enjoyed it for several years as it also suited my digestive system. I thought I was having a healthy breakfast until I heard all the warnings about sugar being just as bad for us as saturated fat. I changed to Weetabix with only 4.4g sugar, with a banana or apple chopped into it. When blueberries were cheap I liked to add them for variety. The texture is like baby food though so I sometimes add a dessertspoon of Super Berry Granola (17.8g sugar) to give it some ‘bite’. I gave up sugar many years ago and don’t care for cornflake or similar cereals. Ironically, the Waitrose Fruit & Fibre cereal is much higher in sugar & fat than the corn flake type cereals. wonder why the cereal manufacturers are unable to make interesting lower fat/lower sugar choices for adults like me.

I think it is time for the Government or Which? to ask the manufacturers why they have to load a cereal with sugar and/or fat. I would love to see the manufacturers answering to someone like Margaret Hodge MP in a Parliamentary select committee.

Member

29% seems very high, so I presume it is not only added sugar, but mostly the natural sugar in the dried fruit. Blueberries and bananas have a quite high content of natural sugar, so you might not be making a difference in total sugars/calories. I’m making assumptions, but with a bit of research you might find you can go back to the Waitrose product that you enjoyed.

Member

I wondered about this too. Waitrose Fruit & Fibre is currently shown as containing about 23% sugars. We don’t know how much is present in ingredients other than the added sugar.

I’m not paranoid about sugar but seeing a label ‘No added sugar’ on a packet shows some responsibility by the manufacturer, and I am more likely to consider buying the product.

Member

I commented in an earlier conversation last Summer/Autumn on the 29% sugar content of the Waitrose Fruit & Fibre and that figure was correct at that time. I was paying particular attention to their labelling as the text was very small in the panel. On Friday, I checked the packet in Waitrose and the sugar content is now 23% and the text in the panel is larger. Perhaps they took note of my comments.

I bought two new cereals to try out in the hope that I will find one with a reasonable sugar and fat content but without the baby food texture.

Member

As the cereal was the only food I had for breakfast I was horrified that almost a third was sugar. How much sugar in a medium apple or banana or a tablespoon/handful of blueberries. Bananas are high in potassium, blueberries a super fruit, and an apple a day keeps the Doctor away.

Member

Wwaitrose Fruit & Fibre – according to the product information on the website, this still has 29.4g of sugar per 100g.

http://www.waitrose.com/shop/ProductView-10317–15753-essential+Waitrose+fruit+and+fibre

Member

You are right of course. I got my information from the Ocado website, which gives a figure of 22.7g.

I don’t like using the Waitrose site because it always tells me to turn off private browsing. I don’t want to be tracked by supermarkets, thank you.

Member
Sophie Gilbert says:
29 January 2015

I think manufacturers follow the same train of thought as Jesuits, “give me child before the age of 7 and I’ll have him for life”. Train the child to have an even more than naturally sweet tooth and he will be my consumer for life.

Maybe manufacturers could use health to sell their products, “Why are Snap, Crackle and Pop so slim and healthy looking? Because they eat Rice Krispies with no added sugar!”

When I stay in a B&B I sometimes treat myself to corn flakes or rice crispies and add a good teaspoonful of sugar and full fat milk if available, and that’s before a full cooked Scottish breakfast, followed by orange marmelade on white bread toast. That’s me until teatime. Utter bliss because it’s such a rare occasion.

Member

Better do something or the UK will soon be like the US where is it almost impossible to get a breakfast cereal that is not sugar coated or stuffed.

One solution is to add dry porridge oats. More filling, no added sugar, and good for your heart

Member

Martin – Kelloggs has decided that porridge oats need something added to bring them into the 21st century. Sugar of course.

Maybe they could do an offer of a cheap blood glucose meter if you collect five packet tops.

Member

We gave up trying to find a cereal suitable for a diet-controlled diabetic when in the US.

They were all too high in sugar.

Member

Is it really such a shock that cereals with the words chocolate, honey, sugar in the names have a high sugar content ? Of course kids are keen on them and many adults as well.

What is worth reminding consumers is that fruit especially dried fruit is high in sugars as well.
So even if you use Weetabix and then add honey or sugar or fruit to it you may end up with as much sugar in your bowl as a bowl of Honey Nut conrflakes would have.

Member

As well as dried fruit having a high sugar content, nuts and seeds have a high fat content.

It’s not going to put me off starting the day with muesli.

Member
Dade says:
31 January 2015

The unfair demonising of fat – particularly saturated fat – is, I am glad to say, slowly losing ground. Increasing research is laying to rest the so-called pathological effects of fat and is stressing the benefits. Particularly interesting are the studies which show the positive effect with respect to strokes and colon cancer associated with eating saturated fats and and in particular dairy. Sugar on the other hand: At last people are realising the problems of over consumption of sugar in terms of brain health, vascular health, obesity and diabetes. To replace healthful fats with sugar and label the result “The healthy option” is one of today’s striking ironies.

Keep eating the nuts – the fats are good.

Member

Do you make your own muesli or buy already mixed and do you know the total sugar & fat content?

Member

Figgerty – In the days when muesli was generally so-called Swiss-style, full of sugar and milk powder, I used to buy basic muesli from places other than supermarkets. Sadly, most of them have closed. Most of my muesli is basic stuff from supermarkets, supplemented with whatever is to hand. I love nuts and seeds and should really have been a hamster. Yesterday I bought Jordans Natural Muesli, which has 16% sugar and 5% fat. Not exciting but at least the manufacturer has not felt the need to add sugar. I confess to eating twice the portion size recommended.

I make fruit salad regularly and eat that at breakfast, either separate or mixed with muesli, depending on ingredients. Unfortunately, I’m too fond of mango, which is absolutely full of sugar, and the other ingredients are not much better. What helps to restrict my intake is the fact that Waitrose ‘Perfectly Ripe’ mangoes don’t fit the description and I make about two batches of fruit salad a week.

As far as my breakfast sugar intake goes, I would probably be best to stick to kids’ cereals laced with sugar.

Member

A couple of the Dorset Cereals mueslis don’t contain added sugar, and they a bit more interesting than the one I mentioned.

Member

Wavechange – I too love mango and have it as a desert once or twice a week. When persimmons/sharon fruits were in plentiful supply I also had one of them as a dessert. We must have been telepathically connected when I was shopping this morning. I bought a Dorset simply delicious muesli and that has 30% fruit, nuts and seeds – no baby food mush – 17g sugar and 1.1g saturated fat. There are a couple more Dorset cereals that look interesting. My breakfast keeps me going all day and I don’t feel hungry until the evening but when I stay in a hotel or B&B and have a full cooked breakfast I run out of fuel by about 3pm.

Member

Figgerty – Today’s fruit salad should contain mango, pineapple, persimmon, passion fruit, grapes and orange and lime juice to delay browning. Many of my ingredients are bought at reduced price in Waitrose. Much though I miss having a local greengrocer (it and the butcher closed when Tesco opened), the supermarkets sell some interesting products.

Generally the supermarkets have at least one variety of muesli that contains little or no sugar. Dorset Cereals have some interesting products with little or no sugar but I fear that with the increasing promotion, I fear that adding sugar will become one of the tactics used to increase market share. As you say, eating muesli can mean that you don’t feel hungry for hours. Some of the best muesli I have had has been from health food shops near universities (there are discerning students as well as those who live on junk food), but most of these have moved to selling supplements to people who don’t need them.

It’s good to know we share a common interest. 🙂 I nearly chose ‘mango’ for my username on W?C.

Member

Figgerty,
If you want to make your own muesli, your local health food shop should have all the ingredients. Then you know exactly what is in it.

Member

Hi Mango, oops sorry, I mean Wavechange ;). I found your point on increased promotion leading to higher sugar content an interesting one. Surely if the promotion is deserved and spread by word of mouth, a product is already suited for a wide audience and won’t need more sugar ?

Member

Alex – I had not given any thought to promotion by word of mouth. Dorset Cereals would be a good example of increased promotion by the manufacturer and possibly retailers. Rather than one or two products available not so long ago, there is a whole shelf of their products in my local supermarket. Tesco regularly discounts at least one variety. I saw two unfamiliar products yesterday. One was Raspberry porridge and the other was a variety of granola that I had not seen before. Both contain added sugar, as do quite a number of their products these days. What attracted me to Dorset Cereals in the first place was the lack of added sugar. Obviously total sugar is what matters but I try to avoid products with added sugar as a matter of principle.

The reason for my choice of username is buried in an old Conversation, obviously well off-topic.

Member

As I posted once before, I always mix my own muesli, from ingredients bought by one of those wholefood shops near a university, as mentioned by Wavechange! Just whole-grains, nuts and seeds, with some chopped dates for a little sweetness, served with a chopped banana and unsweetened soy-milk. Very simple and absolutely delicious – I wouldn’t want to start the day any other way, and it keeps me from feeling hungry all morning.

Member

Hi Esther. It’s good to hear from someone else with a passion for muesli. As you say, it’s not difficult to make and even if using a base mix it’s nice to add bits and pieces. In the days before muesli became popular (I don’t count the Swiss-style stuff as muesli) I used to take my own when staying in an hotel, rejecting the Kelloggs variety packs or whatever was on offer.

If I did not have muesli for breakfast I would not last until lunchtime without breaking out the stem ginger cookies.

Member
Jenny says:
30 January 2015

Interesting that over the last 20-30 years adult obesity has risen at the same time as the massive increased use of high fructose corn syrup in processed foods, and of course the blitz on smoking. Really perverse, of course, but smoking does kill appetite. Devilish.

Member

High fructose corn syrup has been demonised but it’s just another way that we are fed sugar by the manufacturers of processed foods. I’m more concerned about the amount of refined carbohydrate we eat, since that is quickly digested to produce sugar. Unrefined carbohydrates and most vegetables are better because they are digested more slowly than sugars and refined carbohydrates.

There’s no doubt that smoking can be an effective way of controlling weight but I have vivid memories of a former neighbour with chronic emphysema attributed to smoking. She spent the last ten years of her life on continuous oxygen therapy.

Member

Smoking kills more than the appetite if we are to believe all medical and scientific information. I smoked until I was 30 years old and gave up because I wanted to buy a more expensive house. I smoked about 40 per day and stayed slim without effort. Now I have to try hard to not gain any weight. Cutting down on saturated fat and sugar was my attempt to lose weight – a .vain attempt, I’m afraid.

Member

My day begins with a bowl of Quaker Oats creamy hot porridge, cooked 2 minutes in the microwave with semi skimmed milk, topped with a few blueberries and because of its slow release carbohydrates, sustains me until lunchtime. Each 27g packet contains 0.3g sugar. I suspect the blueberries contain more sugar in the form of fructose but they do help to supply me with my daily measure of vitamin C. I have tried eating muesli many times but as it always gives me tummy ache and therefore inevitably finishes up outside on the bird table. The magpies and crows love it; evidently their alimentary tract is more robust than mine!

As Sue rightly points out it is pretty shocking the way cereal manufacturers target the very young with the high sugar content of some of their cereals, creating an early sugar dependency that can last them the rest of their lives, adding to the general increase in obesity and type 2 diabetes so prevalent today.

Member

Recently Morrison’s remodelled one of the stores near us and reduced the width of some of the aisles so they could squeeze in an extra gondola. The cereal aisle is one of the more popular ones and although two trollies can pass with room to spare it is not so easy for some of the customers to do so without coming into contact [and turning sideways doesn’t always make much difference]. There is probably no causal relationship here, but one does wonder . . . .

Member

John, perhaps the Govt could pass a law that all food containing an excess of fattening ingredients should be place on very narrow aisles that would prevent certain people getting access. It is good to hear that childhood obesity seems to have peaked; I wonder whether that is down to education ?

Member

Yes Malcolm, I was wondering that myself, but then it occurred to me that I often find myself helping people in wheelchairs or on mobility scooters to reach products in supermarkets and it seemed to me that the whole layout and organisation of these stores is incredibly awkward for such customers, so any strategic repositioning of food along those lines would not be a good idea.

I noticed the headline on childhood obesity and that one possible explanation for the levelling-off in the under-10’s was that “public health campaigns and initiatives could be starting to work”. That would indicate a parental response to such influences rather than by children of their own volition [it being significant that no such decline is apparent in the 11-15 age group where the children have more determination over their food choice and intake level]. Another suggested explanation was that “a ceiling or ‘saturation point’ had been reached with obesity rates”; I would say it’s far too early to make that call, and looking across the Atlantic it appears to me that, without clinical intervention, there is a tendency for obesity to persist incrementally – but at diminishing rates – until complete incapacitation occurs. While statistically there might be a ceiling for obesity rates, in each individual case there might not be a ‘saturation point’ before termination.

Member

I agree John the onus is very much geared toward parental responsibility, but having watched a recent BBC2 programme about the reasons why people eat what they do, it is very complex involving gene mutation, psychology (emotional) and addiction (stress). There is also the increasing problem of anorexia and bulimia which can start as young as 11 years and under which has its roots in media, sociological and peer pressure. There are also children who don’t eat breakfast at all and as a consequence will spend the rest of their day snacking on sweet junk food.

Member

I agree, Beryl, but how do we help those children whose parents don’t act responsibly? As I see it, peer pressure has become as important if not more so than parental guidance in some areas.

I would like to see sugar and sugar-rich ingredients such as honey disappear from breakfast cereals as one of the food industry’s contributions to more healthy eating. I appreciate that cereals can be very rich in natural sugar but it would be a step in the right direction. Maybe designing a conspicuous logo that all manufacturers could use on products that contain no added sugar might be helpful.

Member

Wavechange: The FSA need to differentiate between natural and added sugar content and set guidelines on the two. I agree cereal packets should contain a warning such as “This product contains a higher content of ADDED SUGAR than is recommended for a healthy diet.” Or something more simple such as “WATCH YOUR FIGURE – EAT LESS SUGAR.” There are few words that rhyme with sugar but maybe Which? could start a campaign to see who could come up with the best logo and pass it onto the FSA.

If the message is aimed at parents health, maybe this in turn would be passed onto their kids.

Apologies for shouting but hopefully justified in this instance!

Member

Beryl – That is an excellent slogan. A Which Campaign would be great because the food industry is manipulating what we eat and breakfast cereals are a good example of this. The problems of obesity and diabetes in later life are very well known by the general public and it would be great to have someone from Which? on TV news telling us about the launch of this campaign.

In the meantime, I will continue to look for my favourite label: NO ADDED SUGAR.

Member

Wavechange: If all low sugar products were also targeted with logos to promote the health benefits of no added sugar it may assist in differentiating between the two. I don’t think the traffic light system is very effective due to its very small size and inconspicuous siting at shelf level.

Member

Another problem with the traffic light system is that there are still manufacturers that are not using it. There is also opposition to adoption of the system within other European countries, which could result in lack of progress or even abandonment of the system.

I cannot see a problem with people adding sugar or sweetener to breakfast cereal if they feel the need. (That approach works with salt.) Obviously that’s not relevant to cakes, biscuits and many other products, which is why we need to know the total sugar content.

Member

Some opposition in Europe, particularly from Italy, suggests the traffic light system is too simplistic and will hinder trade. They, naturally, want to protect their own products (as would, and do, some of our food producers) that may contain high levels of salt and fat – cheese and ham for example. However I believe only a simple system will help most people who care in their choice of food – particularly those with dietary problems; GDA is unlikely to be of wide benefit in the same way if people don’t fully understand it.

However, I’d be happy to see it continue as a voluntary system – it has its flaws and I resist the imposition of flawed legislation.

Member

I don’t understand how the traffic light system is simplistic and unlike the various alternatives that predate it, it has the advantage of standardisation. I believe that people need to be reminded that some foods contain a lot of salt, sugar, fat and saturated fat. The traffic light system does this admirably. These foods can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet.

As far as trade goes, if all companies are selling a product such as cheese or ham that merits one or more ‘red traffic light’ symbols, then it should not affect competition. It might affect overall sales of that product but I suggest that public health is a more important factor than the profitability of businesses.

To go off topic a little, ham contains salt and nitrites, used as preservatives. Soaking ham before cooking helps to remove to remove them and anyone put off by salty foods could find ham much more enjoyable, as I do.

Member

I would like to see added sugar and natural sugars listed separately on all food labelling.

Member

Putting content in %, weight or volume is detailed information. Putting this detailed information into jst three bands – such as low / medium / high is simplistic.

I would think that whilst presenting this data in either form is useful, I suspect what matters more than your “reference intake” or “guidance daily allowance” is your weekly or monthly intake, and I wonder how many people can or will calculate this from all the foods they buy, or need to if they eat a balanced diet. For those where it essential because of health issues the detailed information will be the one they need to use.

As I said, I am in favour of an indicator like traffic lights but do not think it appropriate to legislate for it. Legislate for disclosing detailed contents of fat, saturates, sugars, salt.

Member

The traffic light labels have not replaced the figures. It is now much easier to look along the shelves and see, for example, which packs have an amber label and which have a red one. For those who are not up to paying attention to the numbers, having the traffic light labels is a useful visual indicator.

Presentation of information depends on how it is used, so a bar chart or pie chart would be ideal when doing a PowerPoint presentation, whereas a table of figures would suit a printed technical article. We already had the information in writing and now we have the traffic light labels. We can have our cake and eat it – as long as we keep an eye on the nutritional information, of course.

It would be interesting to know how we decide what to eat and what to buy. There are those who count calories and others who pay particular attention to omega 3, various vitamins, and so on, whether or not this relates to a health problem. Many of us vary the amount and choice of foods in response to our weight and health advice from various sources.

We have legislation for many foods and it would be good to see nutritional information for everything we buy, even if that cannot be given accurately. For example, a small baker might not have the same quality control as a factory churning out thousands of loaves for supermarkets. It was Which? that drew my attention to the amount of salt in bread. I loathe salty food but bread does not taste salty to me.

Member
reviewtrawler says:
31 January 2015

I find it hard finding ANY cereal packet which does not have sugar as the second in the ingredients list. I particularly miss plane old fashioned puffed wheat which is only found covered with sickly sugar etc.

Member

Puffed wheat does not seem to be a trade mark and I cannot remember which company made it when I was a kid. It does seem to be available from the supermarkets – hopefully without sugar, honey, golden syrup or chocolate.

During an earlier Conversation about sugar-rich breakfast cereal I contacted a well known manufacturer to complain about one of their new products. I had a really interesting discussion and received some vouchers in the post. I searched the packets on the supermarket shelves and came to the conclusion that none of their products was free from sugar.

Member

I seem to remember puffed wheat needed a big spoonful of sugar to make it edible, perhaps a child’s sweet taste! I didn’t like it much anyway.

These days I don’t put any sugar on cereal even porridge. Flahavan’s is 100% oats with 1.3% natural sugar.

Member

I have often been told that Scots traditionally put salt on their porridge. That seems as unnecessary as sugar. The new agency Food Standards Scotland may have its work cut out.

Member

alfa, we used to have Puffed Wheat (Quaker I think) in preference to cornflakes when I was young. But I agree, it needed sugar both to add sweetness and a bit of crunch. same as cornflakes (which I rarely eat). I’m not sure you can get basic puffed wheat now can you? Does it all have “value added” ingredients?

Member

I was once told that Kellogg’s were required to add the vitamins etc to their cornflakes because the processing destroyed those that were present in the ingredients. I don’t think there is any doubt that making corn flakes and other popular cereals, but I have never seen anything about a legal requirement.

I believe there is a requirement to add vitamins A and D to margarine, dating from when it was introduced as an alternative to butter.

Member

Malcolms reply posted on the 2nd has just got into my inbox !!! 5 days for an email?

Must get the award for snail mail of the week.

Member
Dr Charlie, a biochemist says:
2 February 2015

Could nutritionist/dieticians/medics please go back to university and study biochemistry so that we are not side-tracked by the food industry into simply looking at sugar content and not at the potentially much larger problem of starch content. I hope you will forgive my strong feelings but if you manage to get to the end of this piece you will perhaps understand why.

We breakdown both table sugar (sucrose) and starch into simpler sugars, for example glucose. If you look at the rate that the body produces glucose in the blood over a 2 hour period and call this 100 (the glycemic index), then you find that sucrose yields a figure of 60; yet white bread yields 70. In other words, glucose is released more quickly from white bread than sugar.

So if you have say, 1 teaspoon (5 g) of sugar in your coffee, you will release (2.5 g of glucose and 2.5 g of fructose) and this is frowned upon, but if you eat 100 g of bread then you will release 50 g of glucose (from the breakdown of starch in the bread) very, very quickly – but yet this much larger amount is considered to be OK.

Obviously, this is silly.

So just the same as when considering whether to eat bread (or pasta, potatoes, pastries, cakes – all high carbohydrate containing food), you have to consider the total carbohydrate load when consuming breakfast cereals; and the total load may be well far above just the sugar load.

Why is the total carbohydrate load so important? Well since the 1980s we have been told to eat more and more carbohydrate (“healthy grains”) and cut down on fat, and since that time the incidence of obesity and Type 2 diabetes has shot up and continues to rise.

The reason for this is very simple, the more carbohydrate we eat – the more blood glucose we generate – the more blood glucose the greater the release of the storage hormone, insulin – the more insulin in circulation the more fat is taken up into the adipose tissue (and the less fat is released) and the more the liver is instructed to convert the excess glucose into fat (which is then taken up by the adipose tissue under the direction of insulin).

So the total load of carbohydrate is very important in the incidence of obesity, but its concentration is also linked to Type 2 diabetes and to the incidence of cancer (the only source of food for cancer cells in 95% of cancers is glucose, unlike most of our cells and tissues that can also consume fats) and to Type 3 diabetes (ie Alzheimer’s).

Which macronutrient has been consumed in ever increasing amounts over the last 100 years – carbohydrates – which macronutrient’s consumption has actually gone down, fat.

Strange then that we link fat to heart disease, especially when all the many major studies designed to show the linkage between fat and CHD have failed to do so. In fact the large Nurses Health Study showed that substituting carbohydrates for fat increased the risk of heart disease. Why is this never highlighted and reported? When you look at the relationships between the lipoproteins circulating in the blood the answer becomes more apparent – but unfortunately this is outside the scope of nutritionist/dieticians and medics. You may consider this harsh, but the mantra -carbohydrates good, fat bad – has led to so much avoidable disease. Just consider for a moment that the very people who cannot adequately reduce their blood glucose level and are poisoned by too much glucose (Type 2 diabetics) are actually advised to eat a diet containing 60% carbohydrate – and then the medical profession wonder why the disease is progressive and causes, blindness, kidney failure and CHD.

Please read the article written by a one time editor of the prestigious British Medical Journal (https://www.metabolance.com/mediafiles/Sonstiges/BMJ%20article%20on%20fat.pdf). No doubt he followed the prevailing mantra until a little research led him to the book written by Nina Teicholz entitled “The Big Fat Surprise, Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Health Diet” – obviously a eureka moment for him.

It seems utterly amazing that investigative reporters (What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie, and Good Calories, Bad Calories) and even comedians (http://www.fathead-movie.com/index.php/2013/12/17/speech-diet-health-and-the-wisdom-of-crowds/) can carry out interviews and read the scientific literature and uncover the truth – that we have been led up the garden path for the last 40 years – the substitution of carbohydrate for fat has been devastating and don’t let anyone tell you the solution is simply to remove only one carbohydrate, sugar – it is not.

Member

Excellent explanation.

My other half has been a diet-controlled diabetic for 13 years and at that time the NHS pushed carbohydrates.

Luckily, by reading the diabetic forums and with the help of a blood glucose meter, we discovered just how bad carbohydrates were.

Member

People in my parents’ generation grew up eating bread and potatoes. Rice is the staple food in some countries. It’s unreasonable to blame obesity on carbohydrates.

It’s well known that refined carbohydrates are rapidly converted into sugars, so apart from causing less tooth decay, they are not much better than eating sugar. That does not mean to say that all carbohydrates are bad. Many of us are aware of the fact that porridge is more sustaining than cornflakes. To lump unrefined and complex carbohydrates together with sugars and refined carbohydrates would not be helpful.

In the past couple of decades I have met plenty of diet-controlled diabetics who include unrefined carbohydrate in their diet and get on fine.

To get back to the breakfast cereals, I believe that the first step should be to get rid of added sugar. The message that eating refined carbohydrates is not much better than eating sugar applies to much more than breakfast cereals.

Member

There are good and bad fats as well as good and bad carbohydrates. Too much saturated fat causes heart disease and high LDL cholesterol levels and too much high glycaemic carbohydrate such as white bread and refined sugar causes rapid hikes in blood sugar levels whereas low glycaemic (GI) carbohydrates such as whole grains etc cause lower, gentler change in blood sugar levels as they are digested more slowly.

Member
Dr Charlie, a biochemist says:
4 February 2015

Sorry Beryl, you are accepting Ancel Keys theory. He presented evidence to show that in seven countries the incidence of heart disease was related to the amount of fat consumed. However, he could and should have presented all the evidence that was known at the time since information was available from 22 countries. When all the countries are plotted on the graph there is simply no correlation between heart disease and fat consumption. This information was published by other researchers but to their amazement it was simply ignored. Keys shouted louder than others.

If you also consider that the country that eats the most saturated fat is France – it has the least incidence of heart disease. The country that eats the second largest amount of saturated fat is Switzerland and it reports the second smallest level of heart disease. Yet other countries eat much less saturated fat but suffer hugely from heart problems, for example, Belarus. The graph can be seen on many sites, including http://authoritynutrition.com/6-graphs-the-war-on-fat-was-a-mistake/.

This site also shows a graph linking obesity and the change in dietary recommendations in the 80s and how a low carb diet is the best diet to follow if you wish to lose weight.

I’ll just review one ironical aspect concerning the low fat myth. If I were to ask you which diet, high or low fat leads to the greatest amount of fat flowing through your arteries – I’m sure you would say – well it is obviously the high fat diet. Unfortunately, you would be wrong since the level of carbohydrate in your diet is directly related to the blood lipid (triglyceride or fat if you prefer) content. People following the low carb diet have about 1/3 of the circulating fat of people eating our current western high carb diet.

The reason is that glucose stimulates insulin release and this in turn tells the liver to convert excess glucose into fat – the more carb taken in, the more fat made. This fat cannot remain in the liver and is therefore dumped into the blood stream in the form of vLDLs. Since the insulin will have also diverted glucose into cells, they will have no use for the storage product (fat) and so it will circulate in the blood until directed, again by insulin, into the fat cells.

So because the western diet ensures that individuals are eating carb for breakfast, elevens, lunch, tea, and dinner, the liver becomes a factory for vLDLs and the blood and adipose tissue a repository for this fat.

So when you eat the western diet high carbohydrate, your blood lipid levels go up in relation to the amount of carb you eat.

In a similar manner, the more fat you eat is reflected in your level of HDL, the more you eat the higher the HDL level (perhaps I should have more accurately said the the more carbohydrate you eat the lower the level of HDL). This is more complex and assumes knowledge of relationships between the various lipid particles circulating in the blood, so I won’t go into the mechanism.

Since you brought up levels of cholesterol and heart disease, I’ll just make a few comments.

1. The reliance on a total cholesterol figure is obviously silly – since it is made up of “good” and “bad” cholesterol.

2. The level of LDL is poorly associated with heart disease.

3. The best indicators are HDL and fat (triglyceride levels) and their ratio. So when you have a high HDL and a low fat ratio, this is ideal and is achieved by the low carb/high fat diet.

I realise that we have been brain washed for the past half century into believing the opposite but if you read Nina Teicholz book (mentioned in the my first contribution) you may also have a eureka moment like Dr Richard Smith, ex editor of the BMJ. He blames people for not telling him – yet people have been trying to educate the medical profession but they will not uncover their ears.

If you can stand a little biochemistry there is also a new book by Dr Richard Feinman entitled “The World Turned Upside Down – The Second Low-carbohydrate Revolution.”

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Dr Charlie, a biochemist says:
4 February 2015

Alfa, I am so pleased that you looked at the problem and came up with a successful solution. Unfortunately, we have a friend who would not take advice (because she assumed that the person who had adopted the job title of doctor must know what she was talking about) and is coming to the end of the predicted path – totally avoidable and very sad.

I would advise everyone, not just Type 2 diabetics, to buy a glucose monitor and test themselves 1 hour after a meal. Please note – 1 hour after a meal not the usually stated 2 hours. This is because you need to know the peak blood sugar after a meal. If it is above 7.5 mmol/L, and if it were me, I would cut down on the carbohydrate component of that meal because there is evidence that continued spiking of blood glucose above that level is linked to the development of Type 2 diabetes.

There is of course direct evidence that HbA1c levels, the measurement of blood glucose levels over a three month period, should be maintained below 6% – if they are not, then damage could well occur to the blood vessels in the eye, kidney and cardiovascular system. If a reduction is required then this can be achieved by the use of drugs or by reducing carbohydrate intake – but why would any medic initially chose the drugs route to reduce the amount of glucose in the blood when you can simply do it by diet and avoid the risk of adverse reactions.

Coming on to Wavechange’s points, I would agree that our parents and their children in the 50s did eat meat and two veg etc – I can remember it myself! But, very importantly, the dietary recommendations in those days did not demonise fat – in the way that they do now, so food was more satiating and thus people ate less. The moment you replace fat by addictive carbohydrates, you tend to be less full and need carby top ups; and overall consumption appears to slowly and progressively rise.

It was around this time that Ancel Keys began manipulating his stats and even though they were shown to be bogus within a year, he by sheer propaganda won the war and the nonsense about the link between low fat and heart disease was accepted. Even though this relationship has never been proved to this day, this pernicious theory led to the replacement of fats in the diet by carbohydrates – and we can see the effects when we walk along the street.

Many people fervently objected to Ancel’s nonsense at the time because they knew the dietary habits of numerous populations. You mentioned rice so I hope people forgive me for reproducing a paragraph from Nina Teicholz’s recent book mentioned in my first contribution above. “As it turns out many healthy human populations have survived mainly on animal foods historically and into this present day. It is easy to find examples. In the early 1900’s, for instance, Sir Robert McCarrison, the British government’s director of nutrition research in the Indian Medical Service and perhaps the most influential nutritionist of the first half of the twentieth century, wrote that he was deeply impressed by the health and vigour of certain races there. The Sikhs and Hunzas notably suffered from “none of the major diseases of the Western nations such as cancer, peptic ulcer, appendicitis, and dental decay.” These Indians in the north were generally long-lived and had “good physique[s], and their vibrant health stood “in marked contrast” to the high morbidity of other groups in the southern part of India who ate mainly white rice with minimal dairy or meat……….The healthy people McCarrison observed ate some meat but mostly “an abundance” of milk and milk products such as butter and cheese, which meant that the fat content of their diet was mainly saturated.”

Mann had also noted a similar picture in Africa where the Masai warriors ate only animal products and were exceptional tall and again did not show any signs of the common western diseases such as cancer. Interestingly, those Masai who had moved to the urban areas began to suffer from our diseases. Similar patterns were observed with the Inuit and original inhabitants of North America.

Going back to cereals, I am sure that if a fit young person eats a modicum of cereals for breakfast and continues in that restrained way for the rest of the day, the total load (sugar and starch) could well be bearable.

Unfortunately, the population is not led to believe this, they are told that they can – rather should – eat carbohydrates willy nilly ie “healthy grains” even though the glycemic index of these “healthy grains” is the same or a little below table sugar (sucrose – 60) ie bran muffin – 60, banana – 60 and whole wheat bread – 50. So I am not sure that I can go along with you too far about splitting foods into complex and simple; although I would agree that there is some difference in the rate of catabolism of the various polysaccharides. In fact, I would guess, and it is only a guess, that those people who are susceptible to the development of metabolic disease/Type 2 diabetes find it all too easy to convert degradable polysaccharides into glucose. But at the end of the day, most people will be generating far more blood glucose from the starch component of their food than sugar – thus increasing the elevation of their insulin levels – and thus increasing their synthesis of fat and its subsequent storage.

The end effect is that since the change to our dietary recommendations in the 80s, the population has become overweight and diabetic – this is undeniable.

Unfortunately, the above article, that we are both responding to, implies that the solution to our overweight and diabetes problem is to cut a small fraction of the carbohydrate from our diet. This is too little and too late, particularly for the millions of people who are now insulin resistant (ie possess metabolic syndrome or full-blown Type 2).

On top of the problems mentioned above, most grains like wheat contain gluten and this component causes a whole series of autoimmune diseases through the manipulation of the hormone, zonulin. In some people, it acts locally causing the various types of inflammatory bowel diseases, and in others the tissues can be more distant causing, for example, Type 1 diabetes, or arthritis, or skin problems (psoriasis) or alkykosing spondylitis etc etc. Again, as you might expect, medics have reported a sharp rise in the incidence of these diseases.

Member

Charlie – My view is that we should not demonise any food unless there is good reason to do so. Official dietary advice should evolve to take account of the scientific evidence currently available. I am very much in favour of evolution than revolution dietary advice because of the possibility of confusion and distrust, encouraging the public to turn to crank diets published on the internet and in magazines.

Regarding fats, we cannot get away from the fact that they have a higher energy content. I have never regarded UK dietary advice as demonising fats. Maybe this is happening more nowadays with the current obsession with cholesterol and mass prescription of statins. For the reasons you give, I believe it would be good to move towards breakfast cereals that are based on grains other than wheat. In the supermarket the only readily available choices seem to be based on wheat and everything other than porridge oats contain sugar. I think I would rather take my chances eating muesli than have a full English breakfast, though it’s the carcinogens produced by high temperature cooking rather than the fat content that concerns me.

Historical data and current studies of diet in other countries may be of limited value because of variation in environmental factors, not least the pollutants in our food, our water and the air we breathe, physical activity, and so on. Having read some studies there seems to be some poor science going on. I am not suggesting that the information should be disregarded but there may be more room for caution in drawing conclusions.

I very much agree about routine testing of blood glucose and learning how we respond to diet. In view of the serious and unpleasant consequences of undiagnosed diabetes and the future cost of management, it seems short sighted not to screen for problems. I was pleased to be told that my GP practice had introduced HbA1c testing last year. I hope this is now standard.

Having had a look at current advice, I would agree that carbohydrates are promoted too strongly and would definitely like to see refined carbohydrates receiving a bit more adverse publicity.

Member

Dr Charlie, I have written a conversation about diabetes and the importance of blood glucose testers that I was going to submit to Which? for their consideration.

I know several medicated diabetics who don’t test themselves and think medication is a passport to eating anything they like. Taking control of diabetes is something that is not encouraged nearly enough and good support and advice from the NHS seems to be lacking.

Member

Years ago, an elderly relative was diagnosed with late-onset diabetes. He was overweight but not obese. The GP gave him the minimum dose of a drug without even trying diet control and prescribed urine test sticks. The results were always negative. It was at the time when the public could buy glucose test meters, though they were not available on prescription. He discussed this with the GP, who said blood testing was not necessary. I bought him a meter and test strips and he learned how his blood sugar responded to diet and exercise, keeping a meticulous record of his tests and noting any factor that might explain the occasional high or low reading. Eventually he was provided test strips by the diabetic clinic and then by his GP. For the rest of his life, his diabetes was very well controlled and to the best of my knowledge developed none of the well known complications.

Everyone should be aware that it is possible to reach the pre-diabetes stage or worse without being aware of the problem. Thankfully I don’t have a problem myself but it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Member
Dr Charlie, a biochemist says:
4 February 2015

Alfa, I hope Which takes note of your proposal since it seems a really good idea.

If people (non, pre- and diabetics) could be encouraged to monitor they would soon realize the importance of the various dietary constituents in relation to blood glucose concentrations.

Look forward to Which publishing a valuable contribution soon.

Member
Dr Charlie, a biochemist says:
4 February 2015

Wavechange – yes that is the problem with diabetes – it sneaks up on you.

Low blood sugar lets you know that there is a problem, you feel light-headed. Unfortunately, high blood sugar levels do not seem to give adequate warning. That is why I support Alfa and hope that Which will publish her comments.

In addition, I would hope Which would make it clear that non-diabetics would be wise to test themselves simply because by the time they do feel that something is wrong, it will not be the high glucose concentration that alerts them but more likely a problem with eyes, kidneys or vascular tissue.

I hope your relative appreciated your efforts.

Member

Which? recently published a review of BP meters for home use. Perhaps the same could be done for blood glucose meters, with some basic advice and links to reliable advice for further reading.

Member

I wish that our GPs would do routine basic health checks to cover this type of problem. Better to know sooner than (too) later and probably cheaper for the NHS as well.

Member

Dr Charlie: Proponents of a one-sided viewpoint always set alarm bells ringing in my inner conscience, and whilst I respect your convincing eruditions in all things of a biological nature, I confess to feeling a little more comfortable with a broader perspective and would invite you to read up on the evidence relating to Low-Carbohydrate Diets for People with Type 2 Diabetes which can be found @diabetes.org.uk, and pertains to the bigger picture with particular reference to the following:

“5 year cohort evidence from people previously treated in the Diabetes Control and Complicated Trial show that lower carbohydrate and higher saturated, monounsaturated and total fat intake were associated with higher HbA1c levels.”

The jury is still out however on the safety of Dr Atkins high fat diet, very popular a few years ago until his death aged 71 from a head injury caused by a fall in icy conditions. However, historical medical evidence came to light about the condition of his heart and cardiovascular system which was attributed to a viral infection, but suspicions were raised when his wife refused to allow an autopsy at the time of his death. A more comprehensive viewpoint can be found @en.m.wikipedia.org – Robert Atkins (nutritionist.)

Notwithstanding genetic influences, the evidence shows people contract type 2 diabetes from consuming an unbalanced diet, i.e. excesses of one and not enough of another. Maybe the Japanese who, it is generally well known, live longer than any other culture, have got it right with their high intake of fish and rice, albeit white.

Member

That’s a really good suggestion for a future report wavechange – I’ll definitely share your comments with our health researchers for their consideration. Glad to know that my daily bowl of Weetabix in the morning is one of the healthier options!

Member

Thanks Andrew. These meters could help people change their diet and lifestyle in time to avoid future problems.

Member

Everyone, meet Andrew. He’s joining me and Alex to help out in the community. Hope you’re nice and welcoming to him 🙂

Member

If you pop in to my local Lloyds chemists they will carry out a blood sugar check. The problem is as Dr Charlie points out people don’t usually bother until symptoms arise. Lightheadiness can also be a symptom of other problems so its as well to check it with your GP. My BP always rockets in a clinical environment so my GP loaned me a BP monitor to carry out a 7 day analysis at home. Thankfully it was within the acceptable range but interestingly, I also checked it with my own BP wrist monitor at the same time and it was spot on – a Boots own make which was in the top recommended by Which?

Hi Andrew! Welcome to the fold. I hope your remembered to bring your sense of humour hat along with you!

Member

Morning Beryl, and thank you! Nice to meet you all! – Of course, I’ve certainly brought along my humour hat to the Which? Conversation website!

Member
Dr Charlie, a biochemist says:
8 February 2015

Beryl, I appreciate your feelings, I felt like you until about 12 years ago – that is “They” must know what they are talking about since they are the “experts”. Most biochemists study the basic energy releasing pathways in their first year at university and never go back to them since there are so many trendy and new things to discover. So I was a true believer in – fat in, fat on. My wife though knew a friend who had gone low carb and she wondered if there could be some truth behind the Atkins diet. She still remembers the day that she saw me clutch my head in my hands – I had just worked through the steps that made it possible to lose weight on a high fat/low carb diet. I went to a biochemistry text and the steps were there – eureka.

Essentially, it’s a simple mechanism for making our main storage product, fat after a meal and storing it away, and then slowly releasing it between meals. In other words, our food provides us with a variety of energy sources, excess is converted to fat and stored and then it is released slowly to provide the energy until the next meal. I will look into this in a little more detail below (point d).

But I hope you take the point that fat is a natural thing for the human body to use and in fact many of our cells and tissues prefer fat to carbohydrate. Fat is our major energy reserve (about 10 kg per person) rather than carbohydrate (going up to around 0.5 kg of glycogen per person) because it contains more than twice the energy per unit of weight. So if carbohydrate was our main reserve we would have to carry around more than 20 kg to possess an equivalent store. Not a good idea for a human who had to rely on mobility to capture and escape from other animals.

I would like to go over three things. Firstly, how our diet has become progressively more carbohydrate rich and fat poor and how this is related to the so called western diseases. Secondly, how the evidence absolves the high fat diet of harm – but is constantly ignored even by the people who have just paid millions to sponsor major pieces of research; albeit in the hope that it would. And finally, I will explain why I am a little skeptical of the any information given by advice groups/professional societies.

Topic 1
a. Coronary heart disease (CHD) was virtually unknown at the beginning of the 20th century, yet became one of the big three killers within 100 years. During that time period, the consumption of fat went down but the consumption of carbohydrate increased.

b. The best predictors of future CHD events are HDL and triglycerides concentrations in the blood. A person is most at risk if they have a low HDL and high triglyceride concentration – and both are achieved by eating a high carbohydrate diet. A high fat diet provides the opposite results and is protective (one of many references is given later).

c. After the dietary recommendations changed in the 1970/80s both here and in the US, there has been an uptick in obesity, type 2 diabetes, and autoimmune diseases. These recommendations led to a replacement of fat by “healthy” carbohydrate and gluten packed grains.

d. If you eat fat, say butter, on its own then no storage hormone is excreted and it is simply used as a cellular energy source and it is consumed quite rapidly. However, if you eat it with a source of carbohydrate, say bread, then the blood glucose will rise and trigger insulin release and the excess glucose will be converted into fat and stored – together with the ingested fat (ie the butter) – all under the direction of insulin. If you eat bread by itself, then the excess glucose will still be converted to fat and stored again because insulin release is stimulated. This is not new biochemistry it can be found in first year biochemistry textbooks. Insulin, also has a second trick, because it would be wasteful to utilise our storage material, ie fat when there is another energy source available (again say glucose), this hormone tightly regulates the release of fat from the adipose tissue ie blocking it when other sources of energy are available and releasing it to some extent when they are not ie the pancreas releases reduced quantities of insulin even in the absence of carbohydrate ( – this regulation was appreciated in the early part of the 20th century when medics had to watch when their Type 1 patients suddenly lost the power to generate insulin and the fat poured out of the stores leading to death).

e. Many human populations that retained their hunter/gather heritage like the Inuit/Masai lived on a high fat diet containing lots of saturated fat and were very fit and did not suffer from the diseases associated with the west (diabetes, cancer and dementia) – until that is some adopted the western diet.

f. The human race has been evolving independently over the last few million years and during this time adopted a hunter/gather life style. The preferred food for these populations was a. large game b. small game c. fish and finally d. vegetation. We know from the surviving populations that the most prized parts of the game were the fatty organs and fatty meat (the non-fatty meats like the fillet were given to their dogs!). Our physical structure and metabolic pathways therefore have evolved to accommodate our diet (ie we do not have the large tummy of the chimps and apes because we no longer need the same amount of intestines to allow the lengthy digestion required of vegetation).

g. Only 10,000 years ago we suddenly adopted a new diet with the introduction of agriculture and the production of quantities of grain and what do the anthropologists tell us about the people who adopted this change – they were suddenly diminished, people became shorter and their bone structure weakened and the presence of western diseases became apparent.

h. Pet scans tell us that 95% of cancers rely on glucose for their energy and consume it at a prodigious rate. This does not come as a surprise since Otto Warburg in the 1930s obtained a Nobel Prize for demonstrating that cancer cells basically only use glucose for energy. We now know this is due to the degradation of mitochondria within cancers. This means that cancer cells can no longer use fat and can now only use glucose – and only partially – so in order to generate the amount of energy to drive growth they must ramp up the early stages of glucose utilisation which produces a small amount of energy. To recap, in order to generate sufficient energy within the cancer cell, the early part of glucose metabolism (glycolysis) is ramped up around 15 times and the consumption of glucose obviously is much increased. Is it therefore surprising that Type 2 diabetics, because of their high blood glucose load are more susceptible to this disease or indeed, the general population because of the greater consumption of carbohydrates and the higher incidence of the metabolic syndrome?

Even the ancient Greeks realised that there was a relationship between diet and rate of cancer growth!

Just to recap, the introduction of grains in our diet 10,000 years ago, the increase in carbohydrate in our diet since the start of the 20th century with the additional tweaking of the dietary recommendations have all been accompanied by rises in the western diseases.

I realize that not everyone is affected to the same extent by carbohydrates, for example, I know someone who eats a high carb diet – but he does have a small appetite. Or alternatively, as has been suggested, a diet containing the more resistant polysaccharides may, if taken in moderation be survivable – if one takes particular care. And in theory, another person may be less affected because they express fewer genes for the enzymes that breakdown carbohydrate. I remember one person who runs a low carb web site suddenly become a little bit upset with the odd person writing in to say that these people should get a grip and do what I do – he simply said – just count yourself lucky that you can do that – most people cannot!

Must people on the high carb diet, release a shot of insulin when they have had a meal and their blood glucose then shoots down, they feel terrible, so eat more carb and the experience keeps repeating itself every two hours over the day. There is no chance for their insulin levels to subside sufficiently to allow the required amount of fat to come out of their reserves – they have to eat and their reserves keep growing. On the other hand, if they go on a low carb diet, not only is fat far more satisfying than carbohydrate, but since insulin release will be limited fat can flow more easily from their reserves and snacks etc can often be avoided and weight will often drop off. It really is a win – win situation.

On one medics website he actually shows before and after pictures – I think it is worth a look – who needs gastric band surgery – http://www.dietdoctor.com/category/weight-loss/weight-loss-stories

Topic 2
Beryl, you mentioned that the jury was out on the low carb diet, well I would say that this just is not the case. Since the 1980s, the fatophobia brigade have spent millions upon millions of dollars/pounds devising and running huge trials to prove that a low fat diet is best – but these trials refuse to play ball and so they run another one and then another one at our expense. In other words, they run a trial – and then just ignore the results. I’ll just quote from page 83 of Dr Feinman’s latest book (title given in previous contribution to this debate) –

“The low-fat idea wasn’t good to begin with, but, of the tests of the idea that failed, one after another, nothing was more embarrassing than the Woman’s Health Initiative (WHI) which reported in 2006: “Over a mean of 8.1 years, a dietary intervention that reduced total fat intake and increased intakes of vegetables, fruits, and grains did not significantly reduce the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, or CVD in postmenopausal women….” A multi-center, $400 million study, the WHI had assigned 19,541 postmenopausal women to the dietary intervention and a control group of 29,294 women, in a free living setting. As such, its failure should have been a bombshell. It was not long before Dr Elizabeth Nabel, director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the NIH appeared on television to assure the nation that, instead, recommendations had not changed, that you really needed to reduce saturated fat. Nothing’s changed, despite the scientific study that they had funded showing that a change was needed. It is serious. The refusal to accept the failure of a scientific test and the stubborn insistence on doctrine was palpably harmful.”

So after a long line of large-scale trials (including the Framingham study) that failed, the NIH set up its own – that failed, but then said, in effect, don’t believe our results –we don’t – stick with the dietary recommendations that are known to cause obesity and diabetes and were introduced without any scientific justification in the 70/80s. These recommendations were introduced against the advice of our own most senior scientist in this area at the time, Professor John Yudkin, and the President of the American Academy of Sciences, Professor Phillip Handler. The latter, a biochemist, testified before Congress that in effect these recommendations where the largest experiment ever conducted on the American population – we can now see the result.
Unfortunately, many people’s reputations are now at stake and they simply will not accept any evidence that indicates that a change of policy should take place. So they simply state that – the jury is out – step along nothing to see.

Unfortunately for them the internet allows people to see for themselves what the latest research is actually showing. I could literally give tens and tens of examples here but I’ll restrict myself to just one recent paper published by the Annals of Internal Medicine in September 2014 (http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1900694). It is entitled “Effects of Low-Carbohydrate and Low-fat diets: A Randomized Trial” and I will quote the paper’s conclusion – “The low-carbohydrate diet was more effective for weight loss and cardiovascular risk factor reduction than the low-fat diet, Restricting carbohydrate may be an option for persons seeking to lose weight and reduce cardiovascular risk factors.”

I could also give references demonstrating that spiking glucose levels are linked to Type 2 but enough is enough.

Topic 3
I am wary of advice given by various bodies for two reasons, firstly some is of very dubious quality, and secondly, I am not convinced that it is given impartially.

I’ll quote a short passage from Dr Malcolm Kendrick’s new book “Doctoring Data” – “The sad truth is that most of the advice we are now bombarded with varies from neutral to damaging. In some cases it can be potentially very damaging indeed. Advising people with diabetes to eat a low fat, high carbohydrate diet, for example. As a piece of harmful idiocy, this really could hardly be bettered.”

If we look at the sponsors of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, we find: Aramark, Coca-Cola, Hershey, National Dairy Council, Abbott, CoroWise, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Mars, Pepsico, Unilever, and Soyjoy. The list of sponsors of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) is essentially similar, with the big drug companies added to the mix. In an article by Marc Santora in the New York Times (November 25, 2006) and entitled “In Diabetes Fight, Raising Cash and Keeping Trust”, he wrote – “Pharmaceutical companies sell $15 billion worth of diabetes drugs in the United States every year and the ADA is now a fixture in their marketing strategy. The companies advertise in ADA journals and announce new medicines at ADA conventions, where a coming-out party for a touted drug can drive a stock higher.” Further, in a linked panel at the side of the article entitled “Diabetes Panel’s Relationship with Drug Companies”, more details were provided relating to just one of the ADA’s panels. I’ll again give a direct quote – “Six of the seven panel members of the American Diabetes Association panel chosen to study how to treat prediabetics, including whether drugs should be used, reported some form of financial relationship with pharmaceutical companies, many of whom make drugs to treat diabetics. The panellists either owned stock, or received compensation or research funds from some of the companies.” Returning to the main article in the New York Times – again a direct quote from the article – “In the past year, Dr DeFronzo has received compensation from seven drug companies … The companies either financed his research or paid him as a speaker or as a consultant, according to his disclosure form. He said he was confident that such support never influenced his judgement.”

As Dr Malcolm Kendrick points out in “doctoring data” – if judges/journalists etc exhibited beneficiary links there would be an outcry. And why are food companies sponsoring the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association)?

Member

Unfortunately if you are diabetic any sugar is not good news. That includes honey, maple syrup etc.

I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth but find totally sugar free cereal tastes a bit like cardboard. I make my own muesli using a muesli base then add my own nuts and seeds, a tiny bit of dried fruit and a sprinkling of dried raspberries or strawberries (my new find in Waitrose). If I haven’t too many carbs I add a chopped banana.

Member

Public Health England has published a new report focusing on the need to reduce sugar intake and possible ways of achieving this goal: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/470179/Sugar_reduction_The_evidence_for_action.pdf

It’s time for action and a good start would be to tackle sweetened cereals and other breakfast offerings. As I mentioned above, even porridge oats have not escaped the addition of sugar.

Member

One argument in favour of a sugar tax was that Mexico imposed one (around 10%) and consumption dropped 6%. However I remember a recent documentary that showed a stranglehold Coca Cola seemed to have on many villages that had a poor water supply; so they bought Coke instead and used it like water, even to babies. Obesity and diabetes was rife. So perhaps not a good supportive example.

Personally I don’t see a tax working. No more than increasing the price of alcohol or tobacco. People still imbibe. I’d favour continual strong publicity about the problems associated with excessive sugar consumption, and focused on drinks and food that provide excessive amounts. We should then make our own minds up – as we do with drinking alcohol, smoking.

If we go for sugar substitutes in any food and drink do we know how safe they are?

You can wean yourself off sugar to some extent. I used to have sugar in tea and coffee; reduced it to nil and they taste so much better. Perhaps reducing the sweetness of fizzy drinks (and other foods), and paying more attention to the flavour, might work in a similar way?

Why do we take this stance though and then allow Coca Cola to sponsor “healthy” events like the Olympics.

Member

I would like young people to learn of the complications of diabetes, in the same way that we warn of the dangers of smoking and drinking heavily.

I know of someone who recently had his foot amputated because of a chronic infection with a drug-resistant bug. He had type 2 diabetes and no feeling in his feet, and a small injury had become progressively more serious over a period of two years. His sight has deteriorated during the time he has had diabetes. He had been a hospital doctor until arthritis had forced him to retire, and I believe his inability to take exercise contributed to his worsening condition. In most cases, people I have known have managed their diabetes adequately or better, but this is the exception.

It’s not just sugar that is the problem. Eating lots of refined carbohydrate is best avoided, though it won’t rot your teeth. Rightly or wrongly, artificial sweeteners have received a huge amount of criticism. Stevia, which is sold under various brand names, has avoided most of the criticism. The supermarket own-label is just as good as the big brands and somewhat cheaper.