Thousands of Physicians Endorse This Alternative Diet

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Last month marked the end of a Scottish Government consultation regarding new proposed food legislation. Already having been enacted in the UK on April 1st, the proposed law will require companies with more than 250 employees to display calorie information regarding foods sold, on menus and apps. Opponents of the new legislation include incoming Prime Minister Liz Truss, and UK eating disorder charity, Beat. The charity’s Chief Executive Andrew Radford said, “evidence shows that calorie labelling exacerbates eating disorders of all kinds.”

The Negative Effects of Calorie Restriction

Ancel Keys has been the most influential thinker concerning heart disease and diet over the last 60 years. During World War II, he investigated the effects of a calorie restricting diet. He enlisted 36 mostly lean (along with a few heavier), conscientious objectors to participate in a low fat diet, in which participants consumed only 1600 calories a day – a regime not too dissimilar to a standard calorie restricting diet implemented today.
  • During the course of half a year, the participants lost around a stone (7kg) in weight.
However after the study was completed:
  • Those who had partaken in the experiment consumed up to 10,000 calories a day
  • After 20 weeks, they were 50% fatter than when they had started the trial.
The participants also experienced a number of negative side-effects during the study. They,
  • Experienced slowed metabolism
  • Underwent hair loss
  • Continuously felt cold
  • Lost their libidos
  • Threw tantrums
  • Thought about food obsessively
Further, the Minnesota University researchers conducting the experiment with Ancel Keys, said,
  • The participants underwent “personality deterioration”
  • They experienced “semi-starvation neurosis”
  • 4 of the participants developed “character neurosis”
  • 2 experienced breakdowns (one of whom wept, spoke of suicide, threatened violence and was finally committed to a psychiatric ward)
  • One man even attempted to cut off the tip of a finger with an axe. After this protestation did not result in his release from the study, he ‘accidentally’ chopped off three of his own fingers
“But”, I hear the reader respond, “most of these participants were lean before the experiment began. No wonder they struggled.” One might assume that overweight people will find the process of calorie restriction easier, since they have more weight to lose. But try asking someone who is obese about their experiences of dieting through calorie counting, and you will hear first hand just how distressing the process actually is. We cannot assume it is easier for obese people to diet than for an average weight individual. In any event, if it was easy, more people would successfully lose weight.

Hormones regulate weight

The idea that obesity is caused by excess consumption of calories was popularised in the 1930s by a physician named Louis Newburgh. Blaming weight gain entirely on overconsumption of calories, he claimed that the cause of obesity is never an “endocrine [i.e. hormonal] disturbance”. Obvious evidence suggests Newburgh was wrong. For example women who have begun to experience menopause or have undergone a hysterectomy, typically put on weight. By the late 1920s, endocrinologists had discovered that female sex hormones were implicated in this scenario: when less oestrogen is secreted, fat is deposited. The same effect is seen in animals. However, in a manner foreshadowing what would become the medical community’s enduring refusal to consider the role of hormones in obesity, Newburgh attempted to blame menopausal weight gain on overeating. The menopausal woman, he suggested, probably “does not know or is but dimly aware that the candies she nibbles at the bridge parties which she now enjoys ...are adding their quota to her girth”. The obvious non-linear relationship between calories eaten and weight gained, is not lost on many of us who stop to think about this dynamic. In 1977, leading academic experts explained the calorie deficit model for weight loss to a U.S. Congress subcommittee. Senator Henry Bellmon spoke for many of us when he posed the following question:
Start Quote We make it sound like there is no problem for those of us who are overweight except to push back from the table sooner. But I watched Senator Dole in the Senate dining room: a double dip of ice cream, a piece of blueberry pie, meat and potatoes ...yet he stays as lean as a west Kansas coyote. Some of the rest of us who live on lettuce, cottage cheese and RyKrist don’t do nearly as well. Is there a difference in individuals as to how they utilise fuel? End Quote

Dissenting Voices Are Silenced

For decades, it has been near impossible for researchers to advocate any dissenting views regarding weight gain within medical circles, due to the controlling influence of extremely well-funded organisations such as the American Heart Association (AHA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH – now incorporated into the NIHLBI) in the US, and the British Heart Foundation (BHF) in the UK. The money controlled by these organisations is immense. By the mid 1990s, the NIHLBI’s annual funding was $1.5bn. And the AHA and the NIH have financed almost all of the significant studies relating to weight loss. Nina Teicholz, food journalist and author of The Big Fat Surprise, says that she interviewed ‘pretty much every single living nutrition expert in the United States: some several times’. She has found that the nutritional research community has (in her own words), ‘a surprising lack of oxygen for alternative viewpoints’.
Start Quote Researchers who have not supported the ideas of the AHA and the NIH, have lost jobs, had research funding withdrawn, forfeited speaking engagements and have been unable to get their work published in prestigious journals. End Quote
Experiments obtaining results that have conflicted with the dogma of these key organisations, are ignored. Even researchers at the top of their fields like Edward R. Pinkney, a former editor of the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, have been sidelined when they have expressed dissenting views. Edward was unable to secure a publisher to print his book, The Cholesterol Controversy, which according to Nina is the most thorough critique of mainstream dietary hypotheses ever written. However, the endorsement of the ideas espoused by NIH and AHA, has inadvertently constituted an international real-life experiment. During the 1960s, when governments began to endorse and obsessively promote the dietary guidelines of the aforementioned renowned organisations,
  • only 13% of adults were classified as obese
However by 2010, Clearly, something is not working.

The Alternative Diet

Perhaps it is as a result of the failure of this standard dietary dogma, that since the turn of the century, a growing minority of medical professionals has begun to employ low carbohydrate, high fat (LCHF) diets – popularly known as ‘keto’.
Start Quote These diets draw on our understanding that the deposit of fat is triggered by the secretion of a hormone called insulin. In much the same way as fat is deposited in response to reduced oestrogen in women, fat is also deposited when insulin levels are raised. Insulin is elevated after the consumption of carbohydrates: particularly sugar, refined carbohydrates (e.g. bread, pasta, rice) and starchy vegetables (e.g. potatoes). End Quote
Before 2000 few clinical trials had tested the LCHF paradigm, due to a lack of funding. However, according to Gary Taubes, author of The Case For Keto, between 2000 and 2019, close to 100 clinical trials have been conducted, with highly consistent results. During these trials, LCHF diets have been compared with standard diets: typically low fat diets recommended by AHA and BHF. Those adhering to the LCHF diets are encouraged to ‘eat to satiety’ (i.e. eat until their hunger subsides) - the exact opposite of the current UK government’s stated target of reducing individuals’ calorie intake. LCHF diets have consistently resulted in greater weight loss than any other diets to which they have been compared. And according to Taubes, “thousands or tens of thousands” of physicians now endorse the LCHF paradigm. For example, the Canadian Women Physicians LCHF Network group on Facebook currently has just shy of 4000 members. Or consider the formal statement of 100 Canadian physicians writing for the Huffington Post listing a litany of benefits associated with LCHF: “What we see in our clinics: “blood sugar drops, lipid profiles improve, ...weight decreases ...medication is adjusted downwards”.

Government Interference

I could probably best describe my political leanings as libertarian. At the heart of this philosophical banner, lies the belief that government intervention should be largely confined to the protection of civil liberties. This is because, when governments intervene, they are forced to choose between conflicting evidence concerning which course of action will reap the best results. Such evidence is notoriously influenced by biases. And worse:
Start Quote Governments tend to respond to the strong-arming of well funded pressure groups and campaign organisations. This process bypasses the desires of less wealthy and less well organised individuals (i.e. the wider population). End Quote
Multiple websites documenting the most popular diet-related internet search terms purport that ‘keto diet’ is the most sought term. This recent surge in popular interest is occurring despite the opposition of the mainstream medical profession and formidable pressure groups. In the instance of the new ‘calorie labelling’ legislation, the government is attempting to coerce the British populace into following the prescriptions of highly funded and vocal groups such as the AHA and BHF. From a libertarian perspective, a government would serve the people better, by allowing them to find their own way with regard to their choice of diet.

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References

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