Electronic Engineers and Dietary Advice

Do you remember DiseaseProof’s week-long examination of The Atkins Diet? In it Dr. Fuhrman discusses the risks and misinformation associated with high-protein diets. In case you missed it, here are the five posts:

Now, why do I bring this up again? Well as you can imagine it more than miffed many of the low-carb loonies out there. One in particular was Barry Groves, PhD. Who is he? To quote Dr. Fuhrman, Barry Groves is “an electronic engineer and honorary board member of the Weston Price Foundation.” Mr. Groves was so flustered by Dr. Fuhrman’s opinion of high-protein diets that he actually made a few comments, that later spawned a couple of posts. Here they are:

The last post in particular has proved quite popular. Now even though it’s many months old and buried deep in the archives it’s still good for an occasional comment. But most of the comments are nothing more than lemming-like meat mongering or Fuhrman bashing. Like this:

Why does saturated fat increase cholesterol? Why the addition of a few hydrogen atoms suddenly makes fat more likely to be turned into cholesterol? what ISOLATED, OBJECTIVE, REPEATABLE evidence do you have that saturated fat from healthy sources increases cholesterol? im not either for your argument or against it, its just i have searched the internet for PROOF of the health harming effects of saturated fat and found none.

Epidemiological evidence is nothing like enough! groves has plenty of that in his favour and you seem to have a small amount in yours, but neither is any form of proof. You can correlate sesame seeds with cancer but only because there sprinkled upon most burgers.

You should not post YOUR OPINION as though it is scientific fact, many real scientists disagree, so it seems to me either you PROOVE IT or ZIP IT.

So as you can imagine I just approve comments like this and pay them no mind. But that doesn’t mean the occasional negative comment or dissenting opinion is just automatically ignored. Actually, a well supported counterclaim is always welcome here on DiseaseProof. Check out this one from last week:

Most Importantly we should remember that no randomised controlled Clinical Trial has ever shown any reduction at all in Coronary heart Disease mortality or overall mortality from replacing animal fats with polyunsaturated vegetable fats.

In fact, just the opposite persons randomised to polyunsaturated fat had significant increases in Coronary Heart Disease mortality rates.
Are you familiar with the research Dr. Fuhrman?

There are 18 Clinical Dietary Intervention Trials and 26 prospectiuve Trials to date on the saturated fat/Coronary Heart Disease issue.

Here are all 18 Clinical and you can look them up at a Medical University Library to confirm it everyone.

*Sydney Diet Heart Study
*National Diet heart Study
*Los Angeles Veterans Administration Study
*Ball et al
*Minnesota Survey
*Lyon Diet Heart Study
*Women's Health Initiative
*Bierenbaum et al
*Anti Coronary Club
*Medical Research Council
*Hood et al
*Finnish Mental Hospital Stusy
*Medical research Council
*Rose etal
*Oslo Diet Heart Study

Clearly when you look these up you will see the research does not support the anti-cholesterol/anti-saturated fat paradigm.

Okay, now as I’ve said many times before, I’m not the expert. So when DiseaseProof receives a comment like this, I pass it on to the man. And here’s what Dr. Fuhrman say—it’s thorough to say the least:

I am familiar with the research, but there are lots more than that. I have made an effort to review every study on this subject in the last 20 years and through a comprehensive view of all the literature, the message is clear. I realize that there are people out there that deny the link between a diet rich in animal products and heart disease, diet and cancer and diet and any disease. The internet has become a forum for all different type of individuals to express their alternative beliefs, and the occasional disagreeing comments here serve a good purpose because by addressing them it helps the informed health seeker improve their view of the issues and get a better handle of the complexities of human nutrition. It is only that I am so busy working that makes the length of these responses somewhat limited and that to get the whole view it would help to first read Eat to Live and then review the posts here on this subject that have been already posted before reading this one.

I think if this commenter was already familiar with my body of work and not just commenting on one issue in a vacuum he may have already understood my answer here. Also, obviously, this is a complicated subject, but I have addressed the complexities before on this blog and in my recent newsletter addressing the poor science promoted by the Weston Price crowd and those denying that the amount and the type of animal products in one’s diet does matter when it comes to disease risk. More explanation can’t hurt though and we can review the reasons for the inconsistency in the scientific studies.

Eating less animal products and avoiding trans fat and in their place, utilizing more fruits and vegetables, beans and nuts is a goal of those seeking to reduce their risk of both heart disease and cancer. The evidence regarding these guidelines is overwhelming and I have referenced over 1500 scientific references in Eat to Live. What makes my dietary advice somewhat unique is that I insist that increasing the micronutrient density of food is an important component of a good diet and that foods that are naturally rich in vitamins and minerals are also rich in thousands of phytochemicals that are a critical (but largely ignored and unmeasured) link to good health. Since 90 percent of calories consumed in America is either animal products or processed foods, neither which contain antioxidants and phytochemicals, we suffer the medical tragedies as a result of this nutritional folly. It is the total micronutrient and phytochemical density of the diet which is more important in disease-prevention than moderating fat intake. The standard modern diet is disease-promoting and just decreasing or exchanging the type of fat can’t change its pitiful level of protective nutrients. I repeat, micronutrient density and variety overwhelms saturated fat (lowering) as a disease protector. If interested, as it will help you understand this, check out the library on DrFuhrman.com. There you can view a chart of nutrient per calorie density of selected foods.

I also teach that the saturated fat content of the animal products chosen to include in one’s diet does also make a difference when it comes to health science and promoting optimal health; not just for heart disease, but for cancer reduction too. Animal fats are more risky than vegetable fats, but they both promote disease if eaten in excess and the fact that cheese has much more saturated fat than fish and fowl, makes it a more risky food to include in one’s diet in any substantial amount. That does not mean I advocate eating vegetable oils and consider them health foods. I am not a promoter of processed oils as they dilute the nutrient density of our diet and are a high calorie, low nutrient food. Saturated fat does not become good because trans fat and some processed oils are bad. Polyunsaturated oils are processed foods, consumed in a rancid state, with little or no fiber, micronutrients, antioxidants or phytochemicals. In no way do I agree with Walter Willet and other highly esteemed names in the field of nutritional science who think that substituting polyunsaturated oils in place of saturated fats is the answer for optimal health. Oil is too fattening a food to be promoted has health food and I thinks Willet’s message to put olive oil and other polyunsaturated and monounsaturated oil at the base of a nutrition pyramid is ridiculous and most likely reflects his desire to commercially appeal to America’s food preferences. Instead, I recommend most of our fat intake come in the whole food form from flax seeds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, avocados, sesame seeds and other foods that are not only rich in healthy fats, but also contain antioxidants, lignans, flavonoids and other protective compounds (and I make delicious salad dressings from these whole-food plant fats).

When we consider these complicated issues we must be familiar with hundreds and in some cases thousands of research articles to understand the complexities of human nutrition. One thing that stands out in all this is that it is not one element good or bad that can explain the complicated nutritional component in disease-causation. So I would never encourage the thinking that looking at saturated fat intake alone in a diet and no other critical factors would afford us good health and protection from heart disease and cancer. Comparing one type of low nutrient diet to another does not show much, they are all bad. But I agree with the point made by some of the articles the commenter mentioned; that moderate reductions in saturated fat intake, in an elderly population, while the diet stays relatively low in high-nutrient plant foods is not likely to offer dramatic health benefits. Especially because what we do at a younger age has a more powerful effect to modulate the expression of these later life diseases compared to what we do at a later age. This is especially true with cancer, where we expect to see a 25 to 50 year lag time between cause and effect. So another element that this question and a review of all these studies indicate is that the earlier in life that dietary change is instituted more dramatic protective effects are seen and the later in life, the smaller the benefit, if any. I spend a lot of time discussing this in my book, Disease-Proof Your Child, which explained that dietary factors in childhood are the largest component of adult cancer causation.

More recent studies are accumulating that show eating more high-nutrient plant food is a more powerful intervention to prevent disease, than just reducing saturated fat alone. You can reduce cheese and butter and still be eating a crummy, low nutrient, disease-promoting diet; big deal! But the best protection from disease occurs and the most dramatic amount of disease reversal is accomplished when the diet is both low in saturated fat and high in micronutrients. This is the pattern of the dietary recommendations in Eat to Live and my other works. Eat to Live because it is written for the overweight individual is more restricted in nuts, seeds and avocados (higher fat, higher calorie plant foods) compared to Disease-Proof Your Child, which contains dietary guidelines somewhat higher in the fattier whole foods (healthy fats) geared for a general audience, not for those who are so weight-challenged.

So even though we could point to some older studies that looked at a population with a high animal product intake and then compared it to one that was still high in animal products but somewhat lower in saturated fat and added oils to it, to show an unclear differences in outcome is not surprising. Especially when both studied diets are still rich in processed foods and animal product, and especially when the subjects are older and not followed for enough years to see the differences or when both the size of the study, the amount of dietary change, and the number of years studied make the difference in “relative risk” insignificant. So contrary to the commenter’s assertion most of the studies mentioned show insignificant and inconsistent mortality differences. When you read the whole study, you can usually understand why it found the outcome it did and the better quality studies explain the inconsistencies better. And you have to look at the nutritional quality of the whole diet studied to predict the outcomes not merely one of the many variables that give a diet its disease promoting or health promoting properties.

Let’s look at some of the most recent studies (click “Permalink” or “Continue Reading”) and see what they really say. Oh, and for other readers who want to post references to support their views, like this commenter did, please include the complete reference so others can easily look it up and check the facts.

Of course some people are not interested in science or logic, to them nutrition is based on emotion and what they want to believe and what they want to eat and no matter what I say or the research says won’t change their fixed views.

Don’t forget, click Permalink or Continue Reading to check out those studies Dr. Fuhrman mentioned—there’s a bunch of them!

Continue Reading...