Dr Zoe Harcombe – The Obesity Epidemic and Understanding the Dietary Guidelines

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Dr Zoe Harcombe, PhD, researcher, author, blogger and public speaker joins me to discuss public health. In particular, we explore Zoe’s expertise in dietary guidelines, nutrition and obesity. We are facing an obesity epidemic and Zoe sheds light on why our public health messages are playing a major role in it. 

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Dr Ron Ehrlich:

Hello and welcome to Unstress. I’m Dr Ron Ehrlich. Now a subject, I’ve discussed in my own book and I think is relevant to every one of us is public health messages. How do they come about? What’s the evidence to support them? What impact do they have on individual community, public and in fact global health? Well, not surprisingly, they play a huge role in our health at every level. My guest today is Dr Zoe Harcombe, PhD, a researcher and author, a blogger, a public speaker in the field of diet and health. Her particular areas of interest and expertise are public health, dietary guidelines, especially dietary fat nutrition and obesity. Zoe got a BA and a master’s degree from Cambridge University in economics and math, so she understands numbers, statistics and analysis and the impact of all of those on public health and she understands the nuances of research. Do the numbers stack up?

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

In 2015 she released a bestseller ‘The Obesity Epidemic’. What causes it? How can we stop it and that prompted her to do a PhD, which she got in 2016 in public health nutrition. Her thesis was on the actual evidence for the introduction of dietary fat recommendations during those critical years from 1977 to 1983 which still affect public health messages to this very day. Now if you’re looking for the most significant public health message, then the low-fat hypothesis espoused, that is telling us to eat everything low fat and demonizing fat espoused by almost every, every supposedly reputable health organization and all authority and then almost every health practitioner for the last 40 years, then this would have to be it. It’s had a tremendous impact and if the evidence is anything to go by, it was a major contributor to set us up for the epidemic of preventable chronic degenerative diseases and arguably the environmental degradation that has occurred to this very day. There is so much we talk about obviously dietary guidelines and the evidence for the propaganda behind the plant based dietary recommendations. We are hearing so much about today, cholesterol and heart disease and much, much more. I hope you enjoy this conversation I had with Dr Zoe Harcombe. 

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Welcome to the show Zoe.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Hi Ron. Thanks so much for having me.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

Zoe. I first followed your conversations on, on the group that was [inaudible]. The cholesterol sceptics, I think it’s called thinks the international, the international network of cholesterol sceptics. And of course, we might talk about that cause I always thought the contributors were amazing and the information was amazing and all of that. And that’s where I first, uh, came in contact with your contributions there, which I also thought were quite incredible. Um, but I was wondering if you might share with us your story cause it’s a really interesting one. 

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Yeah, sure. It didn’t actually start off in anything to do with cholesterol, but it started off with a fascination with obesity and it was as simple as I’m a mathematician by background and logic is really, really important to me as you probably worked out for my newsletters. Um, but what didn’t make sense was that I’ve never met anyone who wants to be overweight, let alone obese. And yet two thirds of the developed world are, and that’s obviously Australia, New Zealand, UK, US, I think even sort of spaces like France and Spain and countries that follow the so-called Mediterranean diets, they’re catching up rapidly as well. And it just makes no sense because nobody wants to be obese. So why do we have this obesity epidemic? And if the solution is as simple as eat less, do more, then why don’t people just do that? And that’s what I started looking at back at university to be honest. Um, because the epidemic was starting to gather pace in the early nineties and then of course by the end of the last century we had 25% obesity, let alone overweight in the UK. And the U S was ahead of that. And I think Australia and New Zealand were catching up at that time.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

We were up there.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Yeah, no, absolutely. It is all the developed nations and you, you try to understand what caused that. And for something to change something must change is that there’s a basic principle in science. If you do nothing to change a circumstance, then nothing changes. So you start looking at what changed and did we start eating more? Actually, no we didn’t. And if you look at some of the evidence from government literature, certainly in the UK, if not in other nations, were actually eating fewer calories than we were back at the time when we didn’t have this obesity epidemic. Are we doing less? I don’t think we are. I never used to see anyone jogging or cycling or running marathons or joining gyms or whatever when I was a kid. Everybody’s doing it now. Everybody seems to be trying to run off, um, something that they shouldn’t have eaten.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

The only thing that I’ve ever come across that did actually change was our dietary guidelines. And I’m really happy for somebody to put forward another hypothesis because it isn’t that we act more in dead last. It really isn’t. The evidence just doesn’t show that. And Gary Taubes came to the same conclusion in ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories’. But what changed is our dietary guidelines. And we started eating differently. We didn’t necessarily start eating more, but we started eating differently and we started eating really badly. And that seems to be what coincided with the obesity epidemic. So that then became my fascination too to try to understand why did we change our dietary guidelines? What did we change them to and was that change evidence? 

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

Yes. I mean really I think you’ve struck right at the heart of the problem. And so often whenever we hear about nutrition or poor nutrition, we always have the images of hamburgers and hotdogs and chips and pizzas. But I think largely I share the view that the food pyramid set us up for failure and was perhaps the biggest nutritional stress we’ve had to encounter. Tell us, because your PhD was actually on that. Tell us a little bit about that. Cause very relevant to this conversation.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

It is because when you see that the change in the dietary guidelines it literally coincided with the start of their obesity epidemic. So you look at the famous graph that comes from Ann Haynes in the US and it’s got that kink where obesity just takes off like an aeroplane and it takes off at about 1976 to 1980 and of course that dietary guidelines were introduced in 1977 in the US and then the UK followed in 83 and then pretty much the rest of the world all came out with their own plates and pyramids. But they were so very much based on one principle which was base your meals on starchy foods. And we get told to, I remember having to look at the Australian advice once we get told to have sort of six to 11 starchy food portions on a daily basis. Now I enjoy being slim.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

I find it really easy to stay slim. I can absolutely go and say, if I followed that advice, I wouldn’t be slim for more than a week. Why would you tell people to eat the stuff that fattens cattle? Why would you tell people to eat the stuff that you use to fatten geese to provide foie gras fatty liver? I mean it’s just, it makes no sense. And the thing, I think one of the things that people don’t realize if they’re not familiar with nutrition, there’s only three things that we can eat. Carbohydrates, fat and protein. And then a little known fact is that in any natural diet we tend to eat approximately 15% protein. It doesn’t matter much whether it’s a vegetarian natural diet or an omnivore natural diet. If you look at the evidence from the pure study right across the world, you are looking at pretty much an average of 15% intake of protein.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

So as soon as you set a dietary fat guideline, a restriction is a better description or 30% fat. The only thing that’s left to take up the Slack is carbohydrate. So you immediately inset in that dietary fat restriction to tell people to have a minimum of 55% of your diet in the form of carbohydrate. And as I say at conferences, we never tested that. We never knew that that would be safe, let alone healthy. We really didn’t know. We just inflicted this experiment on the developed world. The undeveloped world eats carbs cause they can’t afford anything better. And then we were told to eat carbs because somehow we should fear fat. So my PhD was trying to understand where’s the evidence there to ban fat? And I thought there would be some evidence, I mean you shouldn’t go into a PhD expecting anything. You should go in completely open-minded.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

But if someone had held a gun to my head and said, you’re going to be studying this for three years, you’ve actually been studying it at some level for many years already, what do you think you’re going to find? I thought, yeah, I’m gonna find some evidence for heart disease. Because it was in the name of heart disease that we introduced the dietary fat guidelines, but maybe on balance, other things haven’t turned out so well. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea on balance. I found nothing. I found absolutely no evidence whatsoever that those guidelines should have been introduced. And that was using systematic review and meta analysis of both randomized controlled trials and epidemiological population cohort studies, whatever you want to call them, did the most rigorous analysis of all the evidence, looking at the evidence that was available at the time the guidelines were introduced and then looking at the evidence available today.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

And the interesting thing about the second part is I’m obviously not the only person to have done that because you’ve got people like who, Pershing, Shanklin Hoffman, Siri, Torino scap and Miller. You’ve got a lot of people who’ve looked at randomized control trials in a meta-analysis, best available evidence that we have. And that was really interesting, well, there were so many interesting findings, but that was one of the most interesting ones that when other people had looked at the same literature that I had done, there was 37 or 40 non-findings. As in 37 out of 40 different investigations, the researchers found nothing. So I wasn’t alone finding effects. When you then look at the three cause you think, okay, there were three findings. One was against trans fats, no argument. That’s all agree. That’s horrible and two fell away when subjected to sensitivity analysis. The two findings against, I think it was saturated fat for cardiovascular disease events, which was the only small niche finding fell away and sensitivity analysis. So 39 out of 40 findings have found nothing whatsoever. Again, it’s total fat or saturated fat or swapping out saturated fat and swapping in polyunsaturated fat. All the stuff that we’re told to do there is no evidence for.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

It’s absolutely mind-boggling and I’m actually familiar with this story and I’m sure most, not, most a lot of my listeners are, but for the vast majority of the population who feel a public health message is a public health message endorsed by governments and regulatory bodies and professional bodies because that’s exactly what has happened. How did we get it so wrong?

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Oh, say that some, yeah, that’s probably the million-dollar question, isn’t it? I think a lot.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

That’s probably the answer, Zoe. That’s probably the answer.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

I think it’s been quite well documented in books by people like Nina Teicholz, ‘Big Fat Surprise’ and also Denise Minger of the ‘Death by Food Pyramid’. And I think you have to go back to some of the anecdotal evidence at the time. And the guy, who was behind the introduction of the 1977 guidelines, which we then just all followed was, of course, Senator George McGovern who was a failed presidential candidate. They then want to go on and make their mark in a different way.. And I think the most important thing is that Senator McGovern had just been on a low-fat Pritikin style Bootcamp. So he was coming in to set in the guidelines with a prejudice. But the bias of actually having just been on this very low-fat Bootcamp and depending on what his diet was like before, what we tend to see when people move to a whole food plant-based diet is if they’ve been on the standard American diet, they actually feel better quite quickly because the standard American diet is so bad.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

The whole food plant based diet isn’t going to be good long term cause it’s got nutritional deficiencies, but it’s just the whole food element that makes the difference. So let’s say a Senator George had been making, uh, having the normal standard American diet. Then he goes on this bootcamp, which is no doubt going to be whole foods, nicely cooked fruits and vegetables and legumes and whatever. And he probably did feel a bit better and he probably did lose a few pounds. And then he goes straight into the government committee where he sat in the guidelines for 200 Americans and 50 million Brits, but we’re going to follow at the same time and he’s got a bias. And then there’s documented evidence. There’s a great clip in the Tom Naughton movie, um, fat tape. The movie when he shows the clip of Rob Olson pleading with the Senator saying, Senator, please, we do not have the evidence to unleash this experiment on the American people. And Senator McGovern’s reply is, Oh, it’s all right for you academics. You’ve got all the time in the world as politicians, we don’t, we need to do something and I’m doing something. So get over it. And that was essentially the exchange between the two.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

Mmm. But of course,  industry picked up and ran with it?

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Oh, massively advantageous to industry music to the ear of industry. I mean, practically the irony industry that has a good lobby that might have suffered in some way was probably dairy, but then could adapt as their case. If you’re going low fat, then we’ll go low fat dairy. They certainly weren’t demonized  in the way that they are today because of course now the world, I know that vegans are punching way above their weight in terms of numbers. There’s still probably only 1%. They just make a lot of noise at the moment and they’ll get sick very quickly. So they’ll make less noise.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

We’re going to touch on vegan. We’re gonna touch on them. Yeah.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Dairy didn’t mind so much cause they could go low fat dairy. And then, of course, the whole low fat, high sugar industry came up. The low fat, high sugar dessert. So dairy was okay. Cereal companies with rotor bets and let’s face it, the silver companies have had a hand in sponsoring the kind of people that get behind the guidelines. He just needs to look at the work of blend effect key if you’ve got any photos of it so that the serial relationship goes back to the seventh day Adventists, 18 six days, uh, and you should have lots of fibre because fibre is purging and are sinful and all the rest of it. I mean it’s this scary, scary, scary stuff, but that’s the root of why cereal has done so well. And of course in Australia with Sanitarium, you’ve got the ultimate religious serial organization trying to get the population to have cereal for breakfast instead of eggs, which is what people probably should be having for breakfast or yogurt or steak or bacon or whatever you don’t see. Um, and then, of course, the ready meal came in the snap teaming because you’re hungry. Do you have cereal for breakfast? You’re going to want something at 11:00 AM. Um, and you have the manufacturers loved it and they’ve loved it ever since. And they’ve become more and more embedded in keeping these guidelines going despite the consequences being fairly Orpheus.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

Mmm. And they have kept going. Haven’t they ever come up? You mentioned plates and all this. I mean, in Australia we have the Australian healthy eating guidelines. I think that I think that came out in 2013 it was really just a slight fairy eye for a variation on the plate and the pyramid. Um, this sort of thing is not, I’ve, I’ve often said this isn’t going away easy. Uh, you know, quickly because there’s just too much at stake here, isn’t there

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

diaries? Um, there really is. And um, that’s, that’s the difficult thing. You’ve, you’ve got a lot of people now invested in it. You’ve got public health experts, so-called. So we would have somebody like the chief medical officer, we’d have one for England, we’d have one for Wales. Um, you’ve got public health England, public health Wales, you’ve got these public health bodies where you’ve got so called experts who’ve been giving out this advice for a long period of time. They don’t want to look stupid by saying, Hey, I’m really sorry but I’ve been telling you the wrong stuff personally for the last five, 10 years, however long they’ve been imposed. And governments don’t want to say that I’m terribly sorry. We’ve been giving you the wrong advice for 40 years. And potentially there could be lawsuits, there could be large class action suits. He made me obesity, made me type two diabetic. Um, we haven’t made the strongest connections yet with cancer and heart disease, but it might only be a matter of, of research being needed to show that. Actually it hasn’t helped either of those, uh, chronic conditions either. Um, and you’ve got the best of interest. So you’ve got companies that stand to do very well. Why continuing these guidelines?

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

Hmm. Yeah, I know it’s, it’s uh, well it’s such, just such a great economic model. Um, the problem is it’s just not a very good health model and so many, so many reputations are built on it. But I wonder if, um, and I, I guess the connection there between public health messages and industry, I think this is another one that, that people, I know we see it a lot in environmental medicine where people just assume if a chemical is on the shelf, you know, in a product, then it’s been tested. So it’s all fine. And I think the majority of the population take that view, isn’t it?

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

I think they do. And you know, it’s really funny cause I’ve just retweeted someone who’s just on the funniest we ever, she’s put up the ingredients of the beyond meat burger versus the impossible burger versus dog food. Um, and you just see the street. It’s just so funny because you can’t tell the difference. It’s just three less of concoctions. Protein concentrate oils, natural flavours, potato protein, methyl the sex drive, cultured dextrose and multi dextrose. Maltodextrin is always in these things. Then of course nutrients, because the natural product has no nutritional value whatsoever, so you then got added nice in B12 they sat on the other because you’ve got to put it in, but it does just read like a chemistry set and you can’t tell the difference between real food and pet food and that shouldn’t be, you should be putting something in your body.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

I used to say if I walked up to you in a supermarket and showed you a white pill and said, take that a hundred people out of a hundred would say, well, what is it? I’m not just going to take a pill. It could be all snake or something, and then he points out that I can absolutely guarantee that there will be a product in your shopping trolley that has an ingredient that you don’t know what it is and yet you just want to take it home and put it in your mouth. Why aren’t you more questioning? But people just don’t think what you say is exactly right. People trust that our public health authorities have our best interests at heart. I don’t think they do. I think they have big companies interests at heart.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

Yes, it’s a, well I think that’s one of the reasons why people are becoming so disillusioned with government. You know, I think it’s the fact that you, you look, take a step back and think, well what does the government therefore well does it, is it for the public health or is it for maintaining corporate profits? And, and I think, you know, sadly I think the second one comes up trumps, Oh I hate to use that term. I’m sorry. But you know, it comes out on top of too often and then I think people are feeling a bit disillusioned with, with that about that. But let’s, let’s set the record a little bit straight here. So we, because I know you, you’ve looked at different diets and I thought I’d be very interested just to get a little bit of a, you know, comment from you about a couple of pluses and minuses of each of these. And I thought I must start with the carnivore diet because, you know, we’re always gonna lobbying on the vegans and the vegetarian. But why don’t we start with the carnivore diet? What do you, what do you know about that? What do you think about that?

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

It seems to be working for some people and you can’t knock that on very much of the view that people are individuals and you’ve got people, so for example, Jordan Peterson, Mikayla Peterson and Georgia EDE, there are people that I’ve met, I’ve certainly met Georgia. I haven’t met, um, Mikayla or, um, or Jordan, although I think I will probably meet McKayla on, on the conference circuit at some point because she’s on that, um, been in comms with her anyway. There are people for whom it works and you just can’t knock that. I get really annoyed when people are so judgmental. I mean, the articles that have been written about McKayla and Jordan following this diet and how dangerous it is and what is it, how, how the day you think you’ve got the right to comment on someone else’s diet, particularly with somebody like McKayla and Jordan. Um, I don’t know Georgia’s history so much.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

I do know she’s had terrible, terrible problems trying to feel healthy and this is the one thing that has made her feel healthy. But you look at McKayla history with the chronic, um, joint problems that she’s had in the number of operations that she’d had before she’d even reached out or heard and she sounded something that is making her feel well for the first time in her life and free from depression as well as the physicalities. It’s just like colonies. Get out of here, leave her alone, let her do what she wants to do. Really object to sort of the way that people go into other people’s diets and feel that they’ve got a right to comment on them. Um, some somebody says, Oh, I’m a fruitarian or something. Um, and for who weighed in and give their own opinion on that. I mean, do what you want to do. You’ll, in my opinion, you’ll suffer ill health quite quickly, but if that’s what you want to try and you have to find out for yourself, then go try it. You’re grown up. Just what I do get mad at, it’s when people inflict things on children. And so when you’ve got a vegan diet, for example, being inflicted on children, then I get annoyed because you are harming your child. Um, and, and that’s pretty serious. But carnivore diet, I would hate it. I would absolutely hate it.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

Is it, is it just that, is it, is it literally just kind of voids? It’s, I’m not eating any vegetables, not eating any grass absolutely.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Just meat some people. It’s not I’m nose to tail meat. It’s just particular meat. So I happened to know Georgia. There are some meats that she doesn’t get on with, so it’s not even all the meat. I can’t remember. I have dined with her, but I can’t remember. I think we had lamb at the time that she was with us. I know that lamb is okay for her and it might be lamb is okay, but beef and pork ions or something like that. So for, for some people, they are just eating. I think Sean, pretty much just the steak. Sean Baker, I don’t think he’s looking to eat pigs Trotters or um, or, or things like that.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

When you think about it. And I’ve done a few programs on various aspects of vegetables. You know, there were a few things in vegetables that could, could actually be, well they are very irritating. Salicylates, phytates, FODMAPs, oxalates, gluten. I mean vegetables are pretty dangerous.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Jordy does some great work on this actually. Actually, in both of them, we’ll layer I think describes plants as um, opioids or something or yeah, just plants January because plants have the carbohydrate base as opioids that try desperately not to be eaten. They put out signals so that we don’t eat them and then we the many ways, um, it’s a difficult one to say that we’re not intended to eat them. I mean we have this whole debate. What have we evolved to eat? Absolutely. Believe if there’s any animal we could ever have caught fish or land-based or whatever, we would have eaten it because it would just be too rich in nutrients for us not to eat it. And similarly, when you look at farms, they do bring some things to the party.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Nothing that you can’t get in animal foods, but if you didn’t catch an animal and you could find some nuts or some berries or some plants that were non-toxic at the time, you would have eaten them. And a lot of people are okay with parts. I think again it’s, it’s about not being too general and recognizing individuals. So thought maps I think is a really interesting area that some people need to know about because I, for example, would be really fine eating pretty much any vegetables, no problems eating any of them. I’ve got friends and family who really aren’t so okay with the FODMAP kind of vegetables. So when they get into the more cruciferous vegetables, cauliflower, maybe even onion, in fact, quite often onion and garlic and not so good. And if you know that something doesn’t agree with you, for some people it’s tomatoes and this makes sense not to eat it.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

That’s unfortunate. If you’re one of the people who just can’t tolerate any pounds, I’m just, Mikayla says, I don’t do this for fun. If you think this is fun, why can’t go out and dying normally my friends and eat what my friends are eating and eat, everyone around me is eating? You don’t do this because this is fun. You have to recognize the benefit that she must get from eating in that way, given what she’s given up to have to do it on balance. It just shows you how powerful that diet must be for her, that she’s prepared to do it. I can’t think of the circumstances in which you could say to me, right, you’re only going to eat meat for the rest of your life and no fruit. You know you’re got no dairy, no cappuccinos, no dark chocolate, no veggie Curry, no croissant once in a while cause,

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

Oh, stop. Sorry I stopped you. You’re obviously just at the beginning of your day. I’ve already had dinner here in Australia now. No, but I, yeah, no, absolutely. And given her, I mean I think she was suffering really badly from room rheumatoid arthritis. You know, rheumatic has sort of joint problems and all this so, so clearly, I mean this whole idea of listening to your body and uh, and customizing it, you know, is a, is a really important aspect of our health journey, don’t you think?

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And you know, I think most the average person following the standard American diet, the prescribed Australian diet, I don’t think they realize just how well they could feel. I was up in London last week and we don’t have so many people down in Wales where I live, there are more people in London by factor spores and in the whole of Wales. So you just on the tube with so many people in a crowded area with so many people and you just glance around and the average person looks so well, it’s not true. They look pale, they look tired, they slump. They don’t seem to have the muscular structure to stand up. Well, they clearly not exercising on a regular basis at clearly not eating well. The hair isn’t shining and glossy and you just look around and think what are you going to do and then you just want to say to them, you have no idea how well you could fail it.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

If I could just get you off that diet that has been prescribed that you think has been prescribed honestly that you don’t realize the food companies were appointed to prescribe cause that’s what happens in the, in the U K public health England put together a panel to come up with our latest dietary advice which happened in March 2016 and they appointed representatives. You just almost can’t believe this from the food and drink Federation. The association for convenience stores, which is basically the corner shop that sells the sausage rolls and the rubbish and the crisps and the confectionary and the, I know it’s five industry reps, basically British nutrition foundation. That’s an industry rep. It’s not a nutrition organization. People don’t realize that. And you want to say to him if I could just get you into whole food just as a starter, I actually don’t really mind if that’s plant-based or animal-based would be healthier, but let me just get you off rubbish.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

And then if you ever went back to eating rubbish, you would feel so well so quickly, you would realize that white flour and sugar makes you feel so well. So quickly. You have this sort of just low-level malaise the whole time you’re just feeling rubbish and tired the whole time and you don’t even realize that if we could get you out of that, you would then have a severe reaction when you have foreign sugar and it would make you realize you don’t want to go back to that. People are just living with this background of just feeling rough.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

So, so did I get that right? The panel that we’re determining, the British dietary guidelines were basically very heavily influenced or you know, the the people on the panel were from industry.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Well, I show organizations, um, you know the mayor as well. Um, McDonald’s, PepsiCo, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Mars, Kellogg’s, which is our equivalent of your Sanitarium. And then you’ve got major, yeah, major grocers. And then you’ve got British sugar Taten LA, which is a sugar making company, McCain, which makes up and chips Iceland, which just basically makes rubbish, frozen chicken nuggets and all that kind of stuff. Um, all of those with just the members of one of the organizations. So they, they put together a panel of 11 people and three of them just never turned up. I checked all the original minutes and they just didn’t turn up so effectively down to a panel of eight. All eight of those had conflicts. One was a rep from the British dietetic association. Of course, they’ve got conflicts and the Australian dieticians had conflicts for many years. They’re trying to disassociate themselves from those conflicts now, but that’s going to take a long time to trickle through.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

So essentially all the eight had conflicts, but five were actually industry reps. So the five industry bodies where the Institute of grocery distribution, British nutrition foundation, which is the, who’s who of the fake food industry, British retail consortium. Ditto. Food and drink Federation, ditto. And the association of convenience stores. Now the matter, you think about that as you, if you’ve ever been to the UK, there is a corner store on every street. There’s a little news agent that sells newspapers and crisps and confectionary, ice cream and fizzy drinks and absolutely nothing healthy. And at the time they were on this panel putting together the so called healthy eating guidelines, that association of convenience stores was also fighting government legislation to put cigarettes in plain packaging because obviously their convenient stores didn’t want that to happen because they wanted people to go in and buy cigarettes because they make good money on cigarettes. So this is not a body that cares about human health in any shape or form. And yet there they were as one of the dominant panel members putting together our eat badly plate, as I call it, on famed for calling it the eat badly plate. Not the eat well plate.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

Yeah, no, no, no. I’ve, I’ve looked at the, um, the corporate sponsorships of some pretty major corporations, you know, co, uh, health, uh, bodies in Australia and in America. And in the UK. And it’s a pretty sad story when you look at it. So, and you’ve just mentioned exactly that, but getting back to another diet, and we’ve already kind of mentioned it and you’ve mentioned some problems with it and [inaudible] and they are punching a bit above their weight and that is the vegan diet. Tell us what your, what’s your assessment of the vegan diet and the vegan movement? What’s going on?

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Yeah, it’s very interesting actually. Um, so the vegan diet, because of the whole food aspect is what I said earlier. So if anybody moves from a standard prescribed government diet to a whole food vegan diet, they will actually feel better because they’ve got rid of the worst aspect of what makes us feel unwell, which is processed food. And they stop eating things like gummy bears and Haribo because they contain gelatin and they probably stopped drinking because a lot of drink is processed using fish scales. So there’s just a lot of rubbish that you cut out. There’s almost no cakes, biscuits, confectionery that don’t have animal foods at some level. So they might, um, base their mails on, uh, whole grains and vegetables and fruits and legumes. And in the short term that is actually better than the standard diet that they were on, but it is nutritionally deficient.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

So there are certain nutrients and it’s not just a B12. There are a number of nutrients that you can only get in animal foods. So sort of going through an order, you can only get retinal, which is a form of vitamin a that the body wants from animal foods. These three is a form of vitamin D that the body wants. K two you can get from fermented foods, but it’s essentially coming from um, animal foods. Um, he Mayan only found in certain animal foods, um, red meat and seafood essentially, or meat generally. Uh, red meat particularly B12, of course, is only found in animal foods. That’s the one thing that vegans tend to acquiesce on and admit. Yes, okay, we’ve got to have B12 injections every now and again. Um, omega3 in the right form. DHA and EPA, um, they tried to say, well, we can eat a shed load of our gay and it can have the same impact as us eating the fish who have processed the algae for us.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Um, good luck with that one. I’m not convinced. If you’re on a rescue or brain health from that one, that’s, that’s your call. Um, Coleen, you can get from some plant foods. It’s a heck of a lot easier. If you’ve got eggs in your diet, you’re likely to be deficient in that one. Um, and it’s just fought with, with nutritional deficiencies. Even though, for example, you can get calcium from plant foods is extremely unlikely. You’re going to get enough if you’re not eating or any fish or dairy, which are particularly rich sources of calcium. And that does seem to be a view, particularly with young vegans. They just think, okay, I can go vegan. It’s going to be good for me. It’s going to be good for the planet. And they just don’t think at all what the consequences could be, what the deficiencies could be, what they should be doing to make sure that they’re not going to be nutritionally deficient.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

And we’ve even had some of the ones that blog on YouTube who’ve had quite a following. So going vegan who’s than them. I mean, really great honesty has gone out to their fan base and say, guys, I’m really sorry I’ve started eating eggs or fish because I just didn’t feel well. I had to listen to my body and my body was telling me to eat this. And there’s nothing like the backlash that you get from vegans when you stopped being vegan. Um, it really has to be seen to be believed. Um, I probably should declare at this point that she thought I was vegetarian for 20 years.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

Okay.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Yeah, it did. Lapse into veganism without realizing that you think, how could you do that? I was in my twenties. I didn’t know about nutrition, what I know now, I was living with someone who was vegan. Um, and I don’t like cooking. And he did like cooking and I just kind of didn’t realize every night we were having a vegan meal and breakfast has sort of gone vegan. Um, cause there wasn’t milk in the fridge. I kind of didn’t really think anything of, it’s like, okay, you’re gonna have porridge with water, what’s the problem? Well, there’s lots of fruit and that’s nice. I’ll have some fruit or I’ll just have some dry toast or just wasn’t thinking about it. And I ended up having two eye operations that I think now looking back, we’re connected to that lapse into veganism without realizing because I wasn’t getting retinal and a number of people are not good converters from carotene, the pound form of vitamin a to um, retinol, the animal form of vitamin a.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

And maybe I was one of those. Um, and generally just, just didn’t feel good and just didn’t make the connection. And then a coffee thing opened up at my workplace. I love cappuccinos and I just started drinking milk. So, even though I was vegan at sort of breakfast and dinner, um, I was having a good amount of milk in between in the Dianne and just suddenly started feeling better. And I can look back with the knowledge that I’ve got now and realize what was going on. But I had no idea at the time, didn’t make those connections at all. So why would any 20-year-old vegan who thinks they’re doing the right thing, why, why would they know anything about retinol or carotene or the three will be 12 one they don’t get taught that in school. They might get taught the food pyramid in school, which is a far less used to them than actually teaching them what the 13 vitamins are in the essential amino acids and the essential fats and where you get them got how useful that would be.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

Hmm. It’s interesting, isn’t it? Because the fat makes you fat was a very easy message to convey to people because it may make sense, doesn’t it? I mean it was easy. I just said it. Fat makes you fat. I think there are three words there. Fat, you know, and people understand it. And uh, you know, um, the ethics of animal agriculture is an easy one. And I, and I actually on this note, I agree with the, in the, with the vegans in that, uh, industrial animal agriculture, you know, the [inaudible], the, the pins, the, you know, the feedlots. I think that there, there is a problem with that. But, uh, the answer, yeah, I mean I don’t, I don’t think anybody really could argue with that, but to say I’m therefore rejecting all animal products, as a result, is kind of, again, over-simplistic in the same way that fat makes you fat was a bit over-simplistic cause you know, to think that, uh, um, it’s environmentally friendly to mono-crop um, you know, foods around the world and all the wildlife and land that’s cleared and chemicals that are used, et cetera, et cetera. It’s just a little over-simplistic isn’t it?

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Well, isn’t that the way that the vegan movement has latched onto the environmental movement? It’s almost created this perfect storm at the moment out of which he’s coming and stuff like the eat lots set diet. You’ve got these massive agri chemical companies who would be quite happy if there were no topsoil left and they’re left to control the food supply because they were already working on it. They were already growing food upside down in greenhouses. They were already growing fake meat in laboratories, the impossible burger and beyond burger and all that kind of thing. Again. Um, the interesting thing is that the vegans are wrong. Woman nutrition is absolutely not healthier to be vegan than it is to be a whole food omnivore. And that also ramen, the environmental thing is that one of the the two things that drove me back to eating meat, cause I don’t want to eat meat.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

My, my heart is against eating an animal. I really struggle with eating an animal, but I understand that it’s what I must do for my health and for the planet health. And that’s the thing that the vegans just don’t seem to get. But we can only feed the world when we have topsoil. And in a lot of areas of the world at the moment where topsoil was once several feet deep, it’s now inches deep, millimetres even. It is so thin and I don’t know if you can see it, we live it in the countryside. So when it rains and it rains all the time in Wales, the roads turn muddy Brown because that’s the soil washing off from the fields and just running down the road into the drains where it will get screened out in the water process in the system. And that soil has gone forever.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

And that’s our top soil gone forever. And vegan food does not give back to the land. Vegan food rapes the land. So as you say, growing these monocots but in soy beans in the field one year, then rapeseed for oil the next year and then Bali for bread or wheat or whatever the next year, that is just continually taking from the soil. The only thing in the food chain that gives back to the soil is ruminants, which will be cows, um, sheep, um, rain day over here, including that as well. So, so what then comes from those in terms of you’ve got beef and you’ve got dairy, you’ve got lamb, you’ve got sheep’s dairy and um, goats, cheese, goat’s milk, all that kind of thing. All of those food products end up in the food chain, give back to the land because those animals are rooming and its characteristic is a fourth stomach system where they host billions of micro flora and regurgitate it back onto the land.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

And of course, there will be an improvement all the time and giving back to the land and then eating the grass that [inaudible] in and pooing on. And it’s just this incredible continuous cycle of life hosting life and giving back to the soil. And the ideal soil system is actually what was developed in the English agricultural revolution, which was the free field system. So one year you have the animals in the field, the next year you grow crops in the field and all the fabulous nutrition that has been laid down in the soil by the animals then goes into the plant food. We know that plants now of thought have far fewer things like selenium. Um, an OAM and nutrients that would actually be found in plant foods in the ground because the soil is just not off the quality that it was. And then the third day you actually leave the field fallow to recover from the crop that’s just been planted.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

And then you put the animals back in and they give back to the land and then you plant the crop and so on. And so it goes. But of course, today’s modern manufacturers are so greedy, they will never leave a field fallow and they don’t want to put the animals in that field when they can be growing soybeans for vegans and rapeseed for rapeseed oil, which our governments tell us to have in preference to a natural fats that come from those animals. It’s just the most insane system that the most single, most insane thing we ever do is to rape the land, growing grains and soybeans to give to Castile who are kept in sheds in concrete, which is evil for the animal and it’s evil for the planet and it’s, it’s just evil for everyone. It’s just horrible. That’s the bit that we should universally agree has to go worldwide degrees and animal outside or you don’t eat an animal or keep an animal at all. End of,

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

Hmm. Well, Zoe, music to my ears and our listeners, you know, we, we’ve covered regenerative agriculture is a very favourite topic of ours on this show. And I love that three field system. I’ve actually, I, I, when I think about it, you know, how have we for thousands of years in these, well in Britain for example, or in Europe, uh, been, uh, agriculture, you know, uh, continued the agricultural process given the last 50 years. If we continued the way we’re going, I mean, I’ve heard one estimate saying we only have 60 harvests left.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Yeah, I have as well. Um, and it will be far fewer if we do more times agriculture if fewer people eat meat, that will only get worse. And, uh, particularly in countries like New Zealand, um, Wales where we’ve just got natural lands, the glazing lamb, particularly cattle as well. Um, w we don’t need to put animals in, in shades in those kinds of countries because we need them to be grazing the land and, and looking after the grass. I mean, some, some people with big plots of land in Wales actually get in touch with a local farmer and the local farmer will come around and say, okay, to keep that field so that you don’t have to mow the grass every week, you’re going to need three sheep or 10 sheep. And the farmer will actually say this is how many sheets that you need in that field.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

And then they do a deal, which is a complete win-win. And the landowner will say, can you put 10 sheep in my field, Ben? And they’ll mow the grass for me. And the farmer has got 10 sheep phase and somebody at the end of the garden looking out for her. She, I mean, it’s just such a win-win. Don’t need to be putting them in shades. I mean, that is just such a horrible thing to do, that that’s what we should unite, that the omnivores carnivores and vegan should unite to end that practice worldwide compassion in world farming.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

Mmm Hmm.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

The answer is not, if not going vegan, it really isn’t. We’d all be so sick and we’d have no soil and the only winners in that game are the agrichemical companies like Cargill and Bayer and whatever else who incidentally were the people behind the long sit diet.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

I was going to ask you about that. You mentioned Lance it and I listen to, may not be aware of it, but it’s often quoted. Can you just tell our listener a little bit about the eight Lance at a report and what your thoughts are on it?

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Well, it came out in, um, in January of last year, so it’s almost a year old now. Um, I had a bloke up within about an hour of, of seeing the report. Um, I looked at, I mean the diet was just so prescriptive. It was so acutely described. Um, it was, it was really quite incredible how, um, in what detail is just going to pull it up actually, um, get the little table up in front of me. So it went down to the level of, you should have 232 grams a day of whole grains, rice, wheat, corn and other, and that’s going to give you 811 calories. I mean, just that was the detail that they put in. So one of the staggering, um, details they, what did you have in, uh, about um, 450 calories of basic oils, um, Palm oil, unsaturated oils, um, and so on, which is fat at that level just doesn’t bring anything to the table. Sometimes it’s got some vitamin a, sometimes it’s got some vitamin K , it’s got no minerals, it’s got no other vitamins have any nutritional quality. This is why I ended up being completely nutritionally deficient. And then perhaps the most staggering collusion of all, they wanted people to have 120 calories a day of pure sugar. That’s [inaudible]. I mean, yeah, absolutely.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

Said that. Say that again, Zoe. 120 grams,

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

120 calories. That’s what they called all, all sweetness. So that has to be choleric sweetness, which is basically, it could be honey, it could be [inaudible], it could be high fructose corn syrup, but it’s basically completely empty sugar calories. And then when you compare that to the fact that they wanted you to have 15 calories, ideally zero, but you could have up to 15 calories of beef and lamb, 15 calories of pork, 62 calories of chicken, 40 a fash and 19 of aches that in a quick tot up in, in my head, um, you’d be looking at, um, okay. So beef, lamb, pork, chicken, other poultry and fish. You’re having slightly about the same calories from all of those food groups as they wanted you to have impure sugar. Unsurprisingly, it ended up being deficient in a large number of nutrients. B12 iron, particularly severe in our inefficiency and women because of course women have a higher iron requirements.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Calcium, vitamin D. so I wrote a letter to the Lancette cause they do allow letters to be published. They tend to publish them about six months after the article has been published. By which point it’s hardly rebuttal. It’s long gone since Ben chip paper. Um, they refused to publish that one because that was obviously not the kind of thing that they wanted alongside their, um, the lovely article that they had sponsored, remember. Um, but then, of course, the organizations behind the eight Lance it diet included the usual suspects, Nestle, PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, Unilever as the same as in the UK. One, um, Dan own often crops up in these things. And then you’ve got sort of angry food biotech companies like Cargill, Bueller, um, Bayer,

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

They were all contributors to this article.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Uh, they, they were all, um, they were all backers basically. Um, so there’s an organization called fresh, which was jointly launched in January 2017 by the eat foundation and the world business council for sustainable development, whoever the heck clout and 25 founding member companies. And then the membership went up to about 40 companies. And those were basically the guys behind the eight months at diet. And if you look at the individuals who were putting together the Eaton Vance at diet, um, I think it was Nina titles, you had a look at the number who were personally vegan. Um, and it’s massively over a representative of the, uh, the national population. Should we say, I mean, on a panel of 39 experts, which was a number of people putting together the eat Lance report on the normal average, you’d be lucky if you had one vegan. Um, you should have had not even half of Egan. Um, but I think it was, uh, PAF

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

incredibly, I mean land the Lancet is supposedly a reputable, um, uh, journal in by world standards in, in science and health. And yet here was what, uh, what amounted to little more than a very elegant commercial.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Yup.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

Yeah. I mean that’s quite breathtaking, isn’t it?

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Yeah, it is. Yeah. And I think then, I mean, it sounds so cynical, but I think you get to the point then that you trust nothing. Trust, nothing. Trust. No. Um, um, which is actually, I think it’s very healthy to have an inquisitive mind anyway. And I think the younger that people develop this, the better. Um, you do tend to come across, um, 18-year-olds. Let’s say, people, I did a lot of graduate recruitment. The previous job I was an HR director. Um, my proper job was my mom calls it. Um, so I did a lot of graduate recruitment and it’s really interesting interviewing graduates cause they have such a, a clear view of the world, um, that essentially they have picked up from influential teachers who might have had quite a clear view of the world or parents if they’re full of admiration for their parents.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

But if you probe their views, they, they don’t stand up to scrutiny because they’ve actually not their own views. So they might be vegan, they might, um, be advocates of a particular political policy. And when you probate it falls away so quickly because they don’t, they don’t know, they haven’t researched it in depth. It’s not a real belief. It’s just something that they’ve picked up. And also when you’re younger, you tend to see the world in black and white. It just is the way the older you get, the more nuances that you can see in the more shades of grey that you can see. So when you’re doing graduate interviewing and you see somebody that has got shades of gray is so refreshing and it’s so encouraging and it’s actually likely the person that you’re going to take on your graduate program because you can see that they were already ahead of their peer group.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

So you might pick a controversial topic and you might say, what do you think of Fox on 10 and 19 out of 20 graduates will give you a very firm view and most graduates are very pro animals and anti animal cruelty and most of their say, or Fox on tin is a Bala Boren should be banned, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. So then you give the counter argument that perhaps farmers would give, which is, well the Fox that came into my yard at the weekend just killed a hundred chickens. So should I have killed the one Fox or is okay, which is worth more to an animal lover, a hundred chickens or one Fox. And you then start, get into the shades of gray and the person that can handle that kind of debate is the more mature person.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

Yeah. Yeah. I often, I often feel like I often said that I only wish I knew as much as I thought I did when I graduated and that was 40 years ago. But um, another thing, another one we hear a lot about is low carb and uh, you know, low carb means lots of different things to lots of people. I know I went onto the USDA site for health practitioners, advice for health practitioners and put in my weight and height and activity level and all of that. And it came back telling me that I should be eating 350 to 420 grams of carbohydrate today and I should be avoiding cholesterol at all costs. And this was 2019. Mind you, so what is, I mean, low carb means lots of different things to lots of people. What does low carb mean to you?

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Yeah, well I think the really helpful paper in this respect, it’s on that cross note stayed with a guy called Jonathan went some, I think it was published either the back end of 2016 or 2017. Um, but you could put them into pub maiden and find the paper and had a little table where they defined a low carb and um, if I can remember it, I think I know this bit. So they defined moderate carb as 130 grams of carbohydrate a day. And then I think they defined very low carb as sort of 30 to 50 grams and then low carb as, as that sort of range in between. Um, so I think maybe low carb was, was under a hundred or something. I, I don’t have,

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

but that’s good. I mean, because, because it is important isn’t it?

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Definitely. Yeah. They put some definitions on it, which I think it is quite important in this field. Um, it means different things to different people. So I’ve just spent some time at a conference in Israel with Eric Westman who I see as as the modern leader of the low carb movement. So if we had Banting back many, many years ago, and then Pennington in the 1950s and then of course Atkins came along and resurrected the low carb diet in the 1970s seventies icy Eric Westman as the forerunner of this current modern movement. He was the one who wrote the revised Atkins revolution and Eric will say low carb is 20 to 30 grams of carbohydrate and don’t count net carbs, count carbohydrate. And he has this lovely little sound bite where he says, if you need to count carbs, you need to count carbs. And I mean carbs, not net carbs. Um, so that really is, I think is the key to genic level of counting. It’s the level most likely to reverse or put type two diabetes into remission. But then Dr. David, Kevin has been having great success over in the muse or just trying to get there catastrophic type two diabetes epidemic under control just by taking people under a hundred carbs, a hundred grams of carbs a day, because of course they’re living on fruits and yams and very heavily carbohydrate based food over in their local area and drinking fruit juice and 50 drinks.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

What’s the difference? What’s the difference between carbs and net carbs? I mean, I haven’t really made that distinction.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Yes. So, um, if you put in nuts, for example, on a nutrition database, um, I don’t know, a knot might contain 20, uh, 20% carbohydrates. Um, and 10% of that they might say is fiber. So it can’t be counted. It doesn’t have to be counted. Um, and of course the immediate question is, well, why doesn’t it have to be counted? Are you seriously trying to tell me that the body or the fiber in vegetables, the body does not register in any way? You don’t sing with numbers? I’m with Eric on this one. If he’s got to count carbs, you’ve got to count carbs. So I see people who say that they’re counting carbohydrates, but they’re trying to eat high fiber things including flax seeds and nuts, which are very calorific. And the interesting thing about nuts, um, in the diet books that I wrote, the, the really interesting thing about nuts and seeds is that they have very high levels of both fat and carbohydrate.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

And that is unique in the real food world. So nature tends to provide Carr proteins, which are grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables or fat proteins, which are meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. Nature really doesn’t often put fat and carb in the same foods. That’s what food manufacturers have worked out. We find air resistible, we can’t stop eating it. We want more of that. And that’s why cookies, ice cream, cakes, biscuits, muffins are all based on combinations of fat and carbohydrates at a crazy level. Now the fake food of the real food world, in my view, is nuts because a bowl of cashews in front of a average person, let alone when you really make it difficult and you put salt on them. Um, and most people just keep eating the bowl. They just have no limit. And that’s the fat carb combo. We have a limit when it comes to eating natural food that is fat, protein or [inaudible] protein. But the minute we start mixing fat and carb, which is why I say to guys, just don’t have chips with your fake, have steak and salad or have chips with a veggie Curry, but don’t mix your fats and carbs because you will have no limit in terms of safety ability as soon as you start doing that.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

That’s so interesting. I’ve never really thought of it like that, but yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s a really good one. Listen, another one that I wanted to throw out too, cause I’ve been interested in nutrition for a really long time and I just can’t believe that this, this is so new and that is this time restricted eating. And I know it’s been around for five, maybe 10 years, but I think that’s relatively new. Um, what do you think time restricted eating and fasting? What are your thoughts?

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

The evidence just isn’t there. If you’d go looking for it, it just isn’t compelling. Um, there’s little bits that are starting to come through. And I did a a note on it a little while ago. There’d been a study that was, um, it was quite an interesting study and it looked at giving people exactly the same kind of food. And I think one of the groups was fed within a 12 or 18 hour window and the other was fed within a six hour window and they’d measured tiny differences in markers. Um, which is all that you can do in a randomized controlled trial. You won’t get, um, serious outcomes and outcome would be a diagnosis of a disease or death. You couldn’t do that kind of, um, tests where you, you’d have to do it over several years to get that kind of of outcome measure.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Um, so I think it’s starting to be tested more and more. Um, and I think evidence might, might come through, but I’m not persuaded of it yet. And I think it then goes back to being an individual when the five two diet first came out in the UK and it was builders, you could eat what you want for five days and then just be really, really, really strict for two days. And of course it’s not, you can’t eat what you want for five days. The reality of that diet is you eat in a restricted way for five days and then you eat in a super, super restricted way for two days. But I remember journalists phoned him out for quote, and I said, look, I did that when I was a teenager. It’s just, it was called bulemia back.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

It’s really dangerous, I think for people who’ve had eating disorders or for people who have a less than healthy relationship with food, which is almost everyone I’ve ever met to be honest. Um, particularly women. Um, most people are that there’s almost nobody that can just have a completely relaxed relationship with food. There’s either something that you don’t like from childhood or there’s something that you know makes you feel bad or you’re counting calories, which I hate, or you can’t in carbohydrates, which I just wish people didn’t have to count anything. Um, most people have some kind of weird relationship with food at the moment.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Put in an extra restriction on top. When I see we’ve got an online club forum where we try to help people who are trying to eat real food, try to help them to get off of junk food and overcome sugar addiction and competition and just give support to each other. And when I see people that I know have had problems with food saying, Oh, I’m going to try and fast him for a couple of days, it’s like you just know what you’re gonna do on the day that you go back to eating food because you’re going to have a massively disproportionate impact on your blood glucose levels almost immediately. The body’s going to have no glucose, let’s say for a day. And then suddenly you have even an app when you’ve got three times the entire glucose in the bloodstream being chops in with just one app, PO. I mean what on earth is the body going to do?

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Well we have nothing. And then suddenly we’ve got all this sugar and the body tries to get it out of the bloodstream and maybe does it too well and then blood glucose goes lower than normal. And then you want something else. And hypoglycemia is a big driver of overeating and food cravings. And of course it’s driven by having too much glucose in the first place. So when you say to people, do you find when you have carbohydrates that biscuit or start the day with cereal, you just can’t stop. And they say, yeah, I have a biscuit and then I want another one. I have a chocolate bar, I then want another one. It’s cause your blood glucose went lower than normal because it was trying to get the glucose out from the first basket. And as soon as it’s lower than normal, you want another biscuit. And then the same thing happens again. And there anything that breaks the cycle is that you fall asleep in this carbohydrates stupor and you probably have a very good sleep because your blood sugar’s all over the place and then you wake up the next morning and most people then repeat the whole thing again. Having cereal and orange juice and fruit for breakfast and then a snack mid morning and pastor salad and all the things we told to have the rest of the day.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

Well, I don’t know. I mean I think if we follow the food pyramid or the dietary guidelines and we then embark on a, um, on, on time restricted eating or fasting, then then we are doomed to failure. I think, uh, from my reading of it, we have to segway through the low carb, sort of give ourselves a few weeks at least of low carb eating before we’d even contemplate that. Cause, uh, to go down the, the dietary guidelines into intermittent fasting is, is a recipe for disaster. But listen, you know, you’ve looked at so many different things. Now, let’s w w I wondered if we might leave our listener with, um, a couple of tips. I mean, given everything you’ve read and studied over many years and now this a PhD, which I can just imagine you’ve kind of had to elevate randomized control studies to this, um, very pinnacle of research. Um, but, but putting even that aside, what, what is some, um, tips you would give to our listener who’s seeking some clarity in this fog of dietary advice?

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Uh, my dietary advice devices become incredibly simple. I mean, I just wish every government would just rip up every document they’ve ever published on diet and health cause you only need three rules. Basically. Number one is eat real food and you get some really stupid people going in. And what’s real food? It’s like the oranges grow on trees. Cartons of orange juice. Don’t fish swim in the sea, fish breaded, fingers don’t. Um, it’s really not difficult. Can actually explain it to a five year old cause I did when my niece was five years old. So number one, eat real food. We should be able to agree on that. If we can get the conflicts out of the way. Number two then is choose cause we agree the vegans and the carnivals agree on number one they should do anyway. Number two then is choose that real food for the nutrients it provides and that then drives you to eat animal foods because when you make a list of what we need, what are essential nutrients, so that’s essentially amino acids, complete protein, essential fats and Mika three Omega six in the right form for the body, the vitamins and the minerals in the right form, the most absorbable form, what the body wants.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

You can put together your own table. I’ve done it on blogs on my website and you can put up a vegetable, a fruit, healthy whole grain and they do them and then put up meat but up liver cause it is the single most nutritious food on the planet. First appointee, pointy fish, butter, eggs, put up dairy and just compare those nutrients against those foods and then just show the table to people and say, if you are choosing real foods, the nutrients it provides, what would you choose? And that is no way you can answer vegetables, fruits, carbs, grains, makings you just call them. The answer can only be I would eat awful. I would eat right me over white meat cause it’s more nutritious. I would eat oily fish over even white fish. It’s more nutritious and eggs and dairy and you’d eat full fat dairy, not low fat dairy.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

And the decision is then made for you because the evidence tells you what the most nutritious foods are. And then my third rule would be eat three times a day maximum. Some people don’t like breakfast, that’s fine. Eat twice a day. Um, but I sat at conferences, unless you are a cow or wants to be the size of one stop grazing because we just eat the whole damn time and how we are ever supposed to let our body breakdown body fat or fuel off its own reserves or having a fat store in the fat releasing mechanism working in both ways, which is what it’s designed to do. It’s designed to store fat and release fats and most people in the developed world have only got it working in, they’ve got the switch stuck on one mode at the moment, which is fat store and, and they just got to stop eating.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

So often. It doesn’t mean you need to fall for a day, but once you’ve had your day in out of asset and if you can extend your overnight fast, that’s where the evidence I think is, is starting to show that there might be something in a 12 hour overnight fast and nothing else. It just gives you the justice system arrest. It just lets you digest your food before you sleep so you have a better sleep if you can finish dinner at sex. And then not have breakfast until six or seven the next morning. I can’t think that you’re doing anything but good.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

Hmm. Hmm. That’s great. Now listen, just I, one last thing I wanted to ask you and I wanted you to take a step back from your role as a researcher, author, blogger, public speaker, um, because all on this health journey together, well, we’re all on this health journey in this modern world. What do you think the biggest challenge is for people in our modern world on their health journey?

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Crikey. I think it’s, um, that they’re trusting people who are not showing themselves to be trustworthy. So when we’re going to go full circle here, actually, because when I said about how I started doing what I did, this is very well, very well not plans. Um, but when I came in and said, I just couldn’t understand why we had an obesity epidemic when nobody wanted to be obese. And then when you start looking at things like [inaudible] and you realize that there’s no evidence base for our dietary guidelines, you then start questioning everything, which is what I think people should be doing. So you look at five a day and you realize that it’s completely not a fairy story. You look at the idea that one pound of fat equals three and a half thousand calories. To lose a pound of fat, you need to create a death set of three and a half thousand calories.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

If you go on my blog, [inaudible] dot com and put in the words, prove it in the search box, there’s opposed that that challenge, not calorie theory. Um, eight glasses of water, no evidence-based fiber, 30 grams a day, no evidence space, 30% calories from total fat, 10% from saturated fat, no evidence-base, six to 11 servings of whole grains, whatever your Australian guidelines are, no evidence base. And then of course you move into the field of cholesterol, which is where we met. I’m going through the thing, cause I remember the very first time I read some work of Malcolm Kendricks. And of course you’re told that there’s such a thing as good cholesterol and bad cholesterol and you just say to you, you don’t think about it. And then you suddenly realize that the chemical formula for cholesterol is C 27 eight 46 Oh and that’s it. There’s a good version or bad version.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

So you think, hang on a sec, that this just doesn’t make sense. So there is no good cholesterol, there’s no bad cholesterol. So what is LDL cholesterol? Well, it’s the cholesterol in an LDL, which is the low density lipoprotein, which is effectively a taxi that goes around the body. And HDL cholesterol is the cholesterol in a taxi called high density lipoprotein that’s traveling around the body. So it’s the same cholesterol. So why is the same cholesterol bad in one taxi and good in another taxi? That’s like saying, if I get in a black cab, I’m a good person. And if I get in an Uber cab, I’m a bad person. I’m, I’m the same person. How does that work? And then you start challenging everything in a whole other fields and just every field that you look at in health medicine, food, we have been told a whole heap of nonsense.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

I mean you look at so called normal blood pressure, so called normal blood pressure. If you look at the actual evidence is about one 40 over 90 and they’ll tell you that that’s high blood pressure and start putting you on blood pressure meds. That’s actually entirely normal. That is the population norm. That is what normally is. It’s the middle of the normal distribution in normal population. It’s like the redefine in mathematics. They say, no, no, no, no. That’s not the norm. We’re going to give you a new norm. We’re going to decree that the norm is one 20 over 80 and anyone who’s above that is abnormal and therefore needs to be on medication and who does that benefit? The people making blood pressure, meds, everything. Everything needs to be challenged. Trust, no one belief, nothing. Challenge everything you read, read my blog and challenge it. That work as if I’m coming from some bias. I take nothing from no one. I have no conflicts of interest, but don’t even trust me. You’ve got to trust, trust no one work out for yourself because we are being fed. So many lies in the interest of big organizations. We are the the poems in this massive global game of making money and the only way we can stop it is to wise up and take ourselves out of being one of those poems.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

So he wanted a note to finish on and thank you so much for joining us today. We will of course have links to your website and your, I mean I, I would encourage our listeners to join up because I, I think I said to you before we came on your weekly New York, your newsletters, uh, just a separate folder where I store all this gold. So thank you so much for joining us today.

Dr Zoe Harcombe:

Oh, thanks so much for having me. It’s been a real pleasure.

Dr Ron Ehrlich:

Now, as I mentioned, Zoe’s website and her newsletter, which you have to subscribe to, but it’s very worthwhile. It’s full of great information, beautifully researched and very accessible. So check out the show notes and the hyperlinks. Now, while you’re checking things out, don’t forget to download the Unstress app and keep up to date with all the latest episodes, the blogs, the courses, and the events. Because 2020 is going to be a very exciting year for us and we’re wanting to share it with you. And of course, as always, I remind you to leave a review on iTunes. It helps to push us up the writings and get our message out to a lot more people. So until next time, this is Dr Ron Ehrlich. Be well.

This podcast provides general information and discussion about medicine, health, and related subjects. The content is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for care by qualified medical practitioner. If you or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. Guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, experiences, and conclusions.

Dr Ron Ehrlich
Dr Ron Ehrlich
Dr Ron Ehrlich, or ‘Dr Ron’ as he is affectionately known, is one of Australia’s leading holistic health advocates, educators and a holistic dentist. Dr Ron also hosts a free weekly podcast called "Unstress with Dr Ron Ehrlich" and is the author of, "A Life Less Stressed: the 5 pillars of health and wellness".