In this month’s roundup:
- Raw milk ‘revolution’
- Study recommends grass-fed organic beef
- Protein not carbs for breakfast
- Weight loss and weight gain
- Benefits of a Mediterranean diet
- Ethical Seafood
- Artificial light and central heating suppress seasonal gene expression
- Cutting sugar ‘can improve health in nine days’
- WHO classifies red meat as a ‘probable carcinogen’
Raw milk ‘revolution’
At the beginning of the month, The Telegraph (October 7th) ran an unusually positive article about raw milk. It’s worth a look. (We get our organic raw milk from Goodwood – and it does taste better than anything in the supermarket). A nice quote from the article:
“According to the FSA, there has not been a single reported illness associated with drinking raw milk in the UK since 2002. Since then, in excess of 10m litres has been drunk.”
Study recommends grass-fed organic beef
The New York Times (October 23rd) has an article on grass-fed beef, and reports on an interesting study in which 300 samples of beef purchased at stores across the United States were tested, revealing that beef from conventionally raised cows was three times as likely as grass-fed beef to contain bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics, posing a food poisoning threat. The report recommended that consumers choose grass-fed organic beef “whenever possible.”
Protein not carbs for breakfast
The Daily Mail (October 25th) says breakfasts should be based around proteins, not carbs to help maintain a healthy weight. I’d agree with this and the evidence base is quite strong. In fact, we have written about this before (see: Calorie counting vs meal timing).
They go on to rate various breakfasts, giving scrambled egg and smoked salmon top marks. Some of their suggestions, unfortunately, are based around grains, so I’d suggest taking a look at our 10 low carb breakfast ideas, which are all high in protein.
Weight loss and weight gain
The Guardian (October 4th) asks Why eating more fruit and veg doesn’t always help you lose weight. Worth a look, but it’s pretty obvious stuff – avoid potatoes and fruit juice.
More interesting is a meta-analysis reported in MedPage Today (October 29th) saying that low-fat diets are no better than other diets. (In fact, low carb diets came out as most effective, but only by a small amount). The authors conclude: “Health and nutrition guidelines should cease recommending low-fat diets for weight loss in view of the clear absence of long-term efficacy when compared with other similar intensity dietary interventions,”
Meanwhile, Professor Brian Wansink claims that the design of your kitchen determines whether you are likely to overeat or not. The Daily Mail (October 28th) explains his ideas clearly and provides lots of ideas to help control food urges and portion sizes – many of them working subconsciously. They are all easy to implement, so take a look.
Also in the The Daily Mail (October 28th) is a report on a key new study showing how antibiotics in childhood increase the risk of weight gain later in life: the more antibiotics the greater the likelihood.
“Your BMI may be forever altered by the antibiotics you take as a child. Our data suggest that every time we give an antibiotic to kids they gain weight faster over time”
Professor Brian Schwartz
This effect is suspected to be due to long-term changes in gut microbes (the microbiome). It is interesting that French doctors routinely prescribe probiotics (good bacteria) alongside antibiotics, to reduce the harmful effects.
Benefits of a Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet is based on real foods, including fish, fruit, nuts and vegetables and olive oil.
The ‘Mediterranean diet’ is not the product of any trend or A-list best selling diet plan. It’s actually a fiction of the scientific community vaguely based on the traditional diet of Southern Europe, particularly Greece. This month it has made the headlines on a number of fronts:
The Telegraph (October 21st) headlines with “Mediterranean diet slows ageing of brain, study shows”
The Guardian has two reports: (October 21st) “Mediterranean diet ‘may slow the ageing process by five years” and one I missed last month (September 2nd) “Mediterranean diet ‘as effective as statins’ in reducing heart attack risk”
The Express (October 25th) reports on a campaign by world leading cardiologist, Dr Aseem Malhotra and backed by Jamie Oliver and Keith Vaz, MP. They claim that the “true secret” to longevity is the Mediterranean approach to life – moderate exercise, time outdoors, socializing, and regular sex – alongside a high-fat Mediterranean diet.
Why does the Mediterranean diet work? Because its full of real foods, cooked from scratch, utilising a broad range of animal and plant foods. In many respects, it is close to paleo / ancestral diet. In studies, paleo diets achieve similar results. [For example see here, here and here] – yet none of these studies made the headlines!
Ethical seafood increasing
If you attended our seafood talks or watched the videos, you will know how important seafood are for health. So it is good to see that “Sustainable seafood sales soar as ethical choices of TV chefs go mainstream” as The Herald Scotland (October 31st) put it.
Artificial light and central heating suppress seasonal gene expression
In our post on the importance of sleep, we looked at how artificial light, especially blue light from screens and some LED bulbs, can interfere with the body’s circadian rhythms. An article in The Telegraph (October 14th) reports on studies that extend these ideas to include how central heating and lighting together prevent changes in gene expression that should vary with the seasons. Dr Tyler Stevenson, a senior lecturer at the University of Aberdeen. sounded more like an old hippie rather than a researcher when he said:
“Seasonal changes in environmental variables play a significant role in the regulation of many physiological and behavioural processes. Presently many of us no longer live in accordance with the naturally occurring variation in geophysical rhythms.”
Cutting sugar ‘can improve health in nine days’
The Telegraph (October 27th) reports on a study in which obese children had significantly lower blood pressure and cholesterol in less than two weeks when sugar in their diet was reduced by two thirds, but calories were not restricted. One of the authors said, “I have never seen results as striking or significant in our human studies”.
The article included this infographic which I thought illustrated the relative importance of nutrition compared to other factors, in world health
WHO classifies meat as a carcinogen
The big story this month that hit all the papers, radio and TV was the report that the World Health Organisation has declared meat to be a probable carcinogen and processed meat a definite carcinogen.
The initial response of the media was to be expected, with Monday’s The Guardian (October 26th) headlining “Processed meats pose same cancer risk as smoking and asbestos, reports say”. By Thursday more reflective articles appeared, with The Independent (October 29th) providing a rather sober, balanced overview of the stats. By Friday Gregory Härtl, a spokesman for WHO issued a clarification:
“We’re not saying stop eating processed meats altogether. Do not cut out meat completely as it has nutrients,” he said. – (The Irish Times October 30th)
For clarification, The WHO tweeted: “Meat provides a number of essential nutrients and, when consumed in moderation, has a place in a healthy diet. We do not want to compare meat to tobacco and asbestos. Tobacco and asbestos have no safe levels of exposure”
I’d like to give a full rebuttal at some point, but for the moment lets just look at the figures in a commentary on the WHO report by Cancer Research UK (October 26th). Their figures make clear that among people eating the highest levels of red and processed meat (about 160g a day) 6.1% will get bowel cancer at some point in their lifetime. For those eating the least processed and red meat (25g per day), about 5.6% will go on to get the disease. An absolute risk difference of 0.5%.
Another way of saying that is that for 93.9% of people, the quantity of red and processed meats they eat will have no effect as they will not get bowel cancer in any case. For 5.6% of the population, they will get bowel cancer regardless even if they are vegan. That’s assuming you trust the statistics all of this is based on, which I don’t as it is primarily from observational studies that cannot separate out cause and correlation. Indeed Cancer Research UK refer to these numbers as “ballpark figures” and point out that “there are many different factors at play”.
In case I don’t get round to doing a full post on this ‘meaty’ issue here are some rebuttals from other bloggers to take a look at:
- Precision Nutrition: Research Review: Red meat – is it bad for you?
– Explains the problem with observational studies
- Zoe Harcombe: World Health Organisation, meat & cancer
– Zoe critiques the methodology and stats
- Examine.com: Does red meat cause cancer?
– Nice explanation and assessment of the possible mechanisms at play