Nutri-BS #1

Now, lets cut straight to the chase. There is a vast amount of nutritional information bollocks in the world. Far more than I could ever comment upon.

None of these things will cleanse you at all. What freeloaders.


I thought I would take a look at a few of my least favourite of these nutri-bs myths and make some statements about this. I've labelled this #1 because there is always the possibility likelihood that more will enrage me in time.

KEY POINT 1: If you are reading this, seething with impotent rage and whisper-shouting, "that works for me you mouthy bi***!!!", then great. You keep doing you. Just accept that not everyone agrees. Me, for one.
KEY POINT 2: Anec-data is not data. I don't care how many people you know who felt amazinggg on a juice cleanse. Caloric restriction can cause euphoria. Get me a peer-reviewed piece of science with a good sample size and no nasty financial sponsors and we will talk science.

I feel that the following is important to note. Please take in, digest (ha, pun), do your own research, and refuse to be a diet sheep.

See 'low fat' think 'chemical shitstorm'.

Low fat products are almost never good for you. Things that are naturally low fat tend not to have it written on. Removing natural fats from foods makes them taste like crap. In response, manufacturers add a ton of other unusual and wild things, usually in the form of sugars. Crazy, chemical compounds and sugars. That's worrying enough. Additionally, processed sugars are really quite harmful. Natural fat is likely not. The more processed the food, the more scared you should be. Do not eat omg 'low fat' foods. You know whats not low fat? Avocado. And its a nutritional wonder.

Never, ever, ever listen to the media.

In fact be very careful about who you do listen to, myself included. The media is not on the side of information. The media are not whistleblowers. The media is on the side of the wallets of the media. 'BROCCOLI KILLS' is a much better headline than 'EXPERTS STILL NOT QUITE SURE WHICH DIET IS OPTIMAL'. The media misinterpret science- either because the dramatic version is a better story, or because they genuinely don't  understand what the science is concluding. Scientists are also under intense pressure to get media attention. This leads to them handing the media soundbites which tend to vastly overstep what their results actually show, and include none of the conditions under which the results appeared. The new 'running is killing you' is a prime example. Thats not what their data shows. To publicize it under that story was bad science, followed by bad media who took it and ran.

In another inspired evil corp move, the media sometimes work for food companies, or could even be owned by a parent company that also owns food manufacturing. The media's aim is to get you to consume their publications. Not to get you healthy. The exact same goes for all and any food company. Their aim is to get you to consume and they will make any claim that it takes for that to happen.

All calories are not equal. Even all sugars are not equal.

Yes, weight is calories in versus calories out. You could lose weight on an all-Twinkies diet, theoretically. However, health is not calories in versus calories out. Health cares very much about the content of those calories. Although you could get by on 1400 kcals of chocolate a day, it wouldn't take long until your whole system was in revolt. The key is really to eat a big variety of lots of nutrients. Bonus points for an ingredients list where you can pronounce the items and vaguely guess at what nutrients they may provide. This is why people care about their protein, starch etc percentages; because examining things other than calorie content can be beneficial.

But watch out, even if you check the nutritional information, you can still be mislead. Look! Apples have as much sugar as chocolate! Apples are OUT, chocolate is IN. Whahooo! No. All sugars are not the same sugar. The apple wins out, firstly because of the other nutrients that are present in those calories (that aren't in chocolate), but secondly because the other content of the apple means its sugars are processed differently. The exact same goes for fat. The fat in an avocado is immensely more nutritionally fulfilling than the fat in corn syrup. Sorry, really not the same thing.

'Intolerances' are not a dietary aid.

It has become very popular to avoid wheat, gluten, sugars, fats and a whole host of other things under the umbrella term 'intolerances'. I will take gluten-free type diets as my example, since its the one I know most about and which seems most prevalent. This is particularly problematic for my family- we have a real coeliac, and have seen a dramatic rise in restaurants replying to food content requests with, "Okay but like, really allergic or just trying to cut back?". Really allergic.

There are a few salient issues with the big rise in GF eating:
  1. Very few humans in the population are truly gluten intolerant (6-8% intolerant, 1% completely coeliac(deadly allergic)).
  2. Humans are big, big fans of the confirmation bias.
Many, many people, will give evidence in their 'perceived reaction' to gluten. Unfortunately, no one's perceived reaction is scientific data. Anecdata does not count (see key pt 2). Additionally, many gluten containing foods are also bad for you in various other ways. Pizza for example. Too much processed carbohydrate will bloat you. Its not all the fault of gluten. If you feel unwell in a myriad of ways after pizza this could be gluten, or dairy, or 200ml of oil being processed, or the effect of 3000kcals. There are many ill-effects of eating foods, very few will be allergies.

Many people suggest 'intolerances' mean that gluten makes them fat. This is completely illogical and is not how allergies work. Although, another shocker for everyone, coeliac disease isn't an allergy and doesn't act like one. Its an autoimmune condition. However, sticking to the idea- if your body cannot process gluten, you do not metabolise it. The calories mean nothing. You'd lose weight as opposed to gaining it. Particularly as true coeliacs that eat gluten tend to get very upset stomachs, diarrhea, drop weight, and may develop malnutrition if left un-diagnosed.

Additionally, some grain intolerances may be caused by substances that aren't the gluten at all. Without a true scientific intolerance test, you know nothing. Going gluten free can cause weight loss, but that's because in most cases you will likely be reducing calories or changing the nutrient make up of your diet. Gluten-free diets can reduce symptoms of IBS, epilepsy, and even some mental health conditions. However, this may be because most processed grains are full of other things that aren't good for us, not because gluten is murdering us quietly via the medium of breadsticks.

If you're going to avoid gluten, please do so by replacing grains with naturally gluten free (GF) foods. Deliberately GF food is usually junk food. You don't want to know what they have to do to that bread to make it look and act like it has gluten in it. GF bread also has a scary amount of sugar in it. GF diets can be beneficial, but only if you replace the gluten with the non-processed, vegetable-based good stuff.

You cannot 'cleanse' your insides.

The only way you can deliberately cleanse your body is by taking a shower. And that only does the outside. No colonics, no juice fast, no total fast. Correctly working bodies provide their own toxin removal service via the liver, kidneys and spleen. There's no real evidence that drinking only green pulp aids them. If they aren't doing this job you'll know pretty fast, and have larger problems that weight loss. Note: You may indeed lose weight on a fast. Its called a caloric deficit.

These plans are fueled by the media and celebrity idiots, and contain a barrage of non specific meaningless phrases: "flush out your system" (never, ever, flush out your lungs without a medical professional); "remove toxic substances from the body" (please stop licking the lead paint); "give your GI tract a rest" (it wont turn off on command). The media loves cleanses because they sound mightier than thou hippy-tastic, and because they are sell-able. Don't fall for it.

Right, deep breath. If you felt like you were being attacked at any point during this, go up and re-read key point 1. If you feel better on diet X, that's your business. Just don't say its a vast worldwide conspiracy and everyone should be in on it too.

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Any opinions?

Whats your favourite Nutri-BS?- I will try to cover it next time!

As always, if anyone has any scientific objection or addition, please do let me know!



21 Comments:

  1. Next time I see someone tweeting about #eatclean this or #paleo that or #detox blah, blah, blah, I'm just going to direct them here. Brilliantly written with obvious time being spent on FACTS and SCIENCE.

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  2. Love this, you read my mind. So much of it is people falling for marketing - like back in the day when they told us cigarettes were good for our health. I HATE the demonisation of certain foods. So damaging.

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    1. Yeah demonising certain foods is odd. The humble potato seems to have gone that way too- what's wrong with spuds?!

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  3. Avocado is definitely a nutritional wonder! Great post :)

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    1. PS. Without wanting to be controversial "#eatclean" to me, means exactly what you've just said here- no processed crap, choosing natural foods etc.

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    2. Don't worry Beki that's not controversial! :-)

      Yeap natural foods etc is eating clean but most clean eating plans will also ban grains and other random things on thin or arbitrary scientific grounds.

      Eating clean plans are perhaps a good area to highlight the different eating required to be in sports model shape (clean eating with zero processed grains and treats but obscurely highly processed protein supplements are fine) and to be healthy (relative clean eating but wholewheat bread won't kill you and treats are better for your mental health than obsessive restriction).

      Definitely though, overall eating clean is close to optimal if people are not obsessive about it. Eat close to origin, be smart and understand processing, and focus on the veggies and everyone will be just fine :-D!

      Thanks for commenting xx

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    3. PS: I'm really glad that that's what eating clean means to you, sounds like you get it and understand eating despite all the misleading stuff!

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    4. Thanks for your reply! I think it's like any phrase, it can be used in the wrong way, to mean something much more harmful and constricting. To me, I try and "eat clean" the majority of the time (love my weekly veg box deliveries!) but not to the obsessive scale where I don't eat chocolate cake for my birthday, haha!

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    5. Absolutely! Love that idea of eating.

      Its been misappropriated in the same way that 'diet' only actually means 'the things you eat' but is now taken to mean 'an obsessive unhealthy regime in the hope of loosing what society tells me is 10lbs too many'!

      We should try and reclaim these words! Clean eating is eating good, healthy, variable, mostly natural things! Diet is those things you eat!

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    6. Definitely! So a "clean eating diet" is in no way as drastic as it sounds really :)

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    1. Thanks MrsB :-) always love your approval as I consider you both knowledgeable and sensible!

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  5. Cracking post. I don't have much more than praise to add, other than I love the use of one of my favourite words, "Anecdata" :D :D :D

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  6. This is great! My personal theory is that at least 75% of so-called "gluten intolerance" is actually hangovers. Now I just need someone to fund that study...

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    1. Hahaha great theory! Absolutely acknowledge that real intolerance is a concern. But if you just 'think' you might have one, I'd like to see a professionals opinion ;-)!

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  7. 'Anecdata' might just be my new favourite phrase. This post practically had me stood up and cheering when I first read it- it's wonderfully, hilariously written but from a science point of view, absolutely spot on too. *puts down bread and full fat dairy to clap*

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    1. Thanks Sarah, you enjoy that tasty food! ;-)

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  8. I'm very behind on blog reading of late, but couldn't agree more with this! Brilliant post.

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