What the health’ and the food industry

As a Holistic Health Coach and Food Addiction Counsellor, I am always amazed at the conflicting information in the Science of Nutrition.

There are two main reasons for this.

One, it is extremely difficult to get five years of nutritional data from people, which is the bare minimum of data for a respected scientific study… most studies are for two years if we are lucky.

And two, the funding behind the studies is not always from an impartial source (i.e. multinational firms known as Big Food), and therefore the findings cannot always be trusted. For example, a recent study letting us know that eggs really aren’t that bad for our health was funded by egg lobbyists. Yikes!

Recently, many Netflix subscribers were extremely confused by the documentary, What the Health.

Americans are constantly inundated with the anti-sugar movement which is contradictory to the message of this film. To summarise for readers who have not watched the documentary, the premise is that diabetes and heart disease are a direct result of increased consumption of animal proteins, especially processed meats (as a result of all the toxins). The World Health Organisation declared meat a carcinogen in 2015, and yet the American Heart Association currently has red meat on its website as part of a healthy diet. According to the featured experts in the short film, plant-based diets are the way to go for a long disease free life.

A different nutrition movie called Fed Up came out on Netflix three years ago and was the topic of much discussion, but there were significant differences in the message and the proposed solution. Fed Up focused on childhood obesity and sugar was to blame. They also dislike Big Food, so we can all agree we do not like those guys! The movie brings up the conflicts between Big Food and Science and proposed that a diet full of whole foods, including lean meats, was the best way to live a healthy life.

Not only do we fail to have long term studies in nutrition, but the likelihood of getting a reputable study published now on the ideal healthy diet is difficult as we have so much conflicting information. For every anti-sugar article, there is an anti-meat one. What is a regular person to do? Who is telling the truth and why is it so stinking hard to figure out what to eat? The USDA has dairy on its nutritional plate, even though many Americans are lactose intolerant. It doesn’t make sense, or does it make lots of cents?

Do big companies make money from consumer confusion?

In What the Health, Dr. Michael Greger refers to the notorious Tobacco Memo “Doubt is our Product” from the 1960s. Cigarette manufactures didn’t need to convince Americans that smoking cigarettes was healthy, they just needed to confuse them enough to get them to rationalise buying the next pack. Confusion was their gain.

Confusion is leading to big business for the Big Food companies, who promote sugar and meat. Sometimes one will hear arguments about freedom of speech or free will concerning soda size. Saying that you have the right to kill yourself slowly with a triple decker hamburger suggests that it is up to the consumer to take responsibility. After all, you will read conflicting studies and see conflicting movies, but you are in control of the food you eat.

My coaching clients always want to know what I eat and what I recommend they eat, which, by the way, are not always the same things. The reason is because I do not believe every body functions at its ideal peak on the same fuel. For example, I do best on a mostly grain-free diet, eating three meals a day spaced apart and including a small amount of high-quality meat. Other people eat fruits and vegetables all day, do well on certain grains and are plant-based with zero oil. I am not advocating one lifestyle over the other; what works for one person may not work for the next.

However, there are some pieces of advice that are universal for a healthy lifestyle:

– Eat the highest quality food you can afford. Go to Farmers’ Markets, buy Organic, Join a CSA group and or research your food. Figure out what your food is eating, because you are eating it!

– Throw out the diet or fad mentality. Think of the new way you are eating as a way of life. Nothing short term. When I decided to clean up my diet 2 years ago, I had to toss out my dieting mentality along with all of my protein shake mixes! Be kind to yourself.

– Each meal or mini meal should have fat, protein, carbs and fibre. Think of these as the four food groups you want to eat most of.

– Avoid eating foods with added sugar, hydrate with water and get enough sleep.

There will always be the latest health movie, and I like hearing the discussions from those not in the industry. Even if you are not interested in geeking out with me over the science of dopamine receptors and high fructose corn syrup, you still have to eat lunch in a few hours. Be an informed consumer, figure out what works best for you and research. If you are ever stumped, let me know and I am happy to help.

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