xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: MY TEETH ARE KILLING ME…or are they?

Sunday, 27 October 2013


 We are what we eat. If this is true then people are healthy because they eat healthy foods and unhealthy because they eat unhealthy foods. Sounds perfectly reasonable. Why is it then that every six months we get news bulletins and magazine articles warning that foods  that we used think were healthy are now deemed to be unhealthy. We were told eggs are unhealthy, milk was unhealthy and, in extreme cases Vegans warned that meat, and even fish, in any form are very unhealthy?
We were told that fat is extremely unhealthy. I watched the ABC Catalyst programme at 8-00pm on Thursday the 24th of October, and to my very great surprise several respected cardiologists and medical researchers said that fat was not the cause of heart disease. It is all very confusing.

When I was a boy my mother gave me healthy and wholesome food. When I was growing up in the early Post World War 2 years, dieticians heavily promoted what was called the Oslo Lunch. I guess someone in Oslo thought of it first. It consisted of lean meat, wholemeal bread, cheese, milk, eggs, vegetables and fruit. That is basically what we ate, plus a healthy breakfast of cereal and two eggs on toast. Sometimes the eggs were fried with bacon or they were poached, scrambled or soft boiled.

My parents also liked lamb’s fry and bacon, kidney, tripe and brains. I could only handle about two mouthfuls of lamb’s fry before it became inedible and I could not stomach brains, kidney or tripe at all. My parents had lived through the depression and firmly believed in the adage “Waste not, want not”. With poignant comments about the starving children in Africa, they insisted that their children eat whatever food was put in front of them, and we did. Except for tripe. To me it was like chewing chopped up bicycle inner tubes and I was given a family dispensation as far as tripe was concerned.

But according to the medical wisdom of the 1970s, my loving and caring mother was quietly killing me. Until I was in my early twenties, I generally ate two eggs a day. Then some doctors said that eggs were very unhealthy and you should only eat one or two eggs a week. Eggs have very high cholesterol levels, in fact just one solitary egg contains much more than the recommended total daily intake of cholesterol. Other doctors said cheese was unhealthy, milk was unhealthy and butter was very unhealthy. It seemed as if the Oslo lunch was virtual suicide package.

Since the 1970s we have had more and more revelations of once healthy foods suddenly being named as harbingers of death. At the same time health food shops sprang up like mushrooms in shopping centres. Nobody seemed to be too concerned that a lot of these health foods were heavily laced with sugar…until sugar was also named as a very unhealthy nutrient.

So then we started using artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. Eventually, you guessed it, some scientists then warned that artificial sweeteners were even more unhealthy than sugar. They may not make you fat like sugar does, but they could make you very dead because they were carcinogenic.
Over the years other food fads followed in rapid succession:

 Salt is bad for you: Not true. Salt is essential for life. You cannot really overdose on salt because any excess is flushed away with your urine. Of course if you swallowed 500 grams of salt in one go you would die, that is, if you didn’t vomit it straight up again because, among other things, salt is an emetic.

Carrots improve your eyesight. No they don’t. It is believed this myth was promulgated by the Royal Air Force in World War Two. The British were using RADAR to detect German planes and they did not want to Germans to know what they were doing so they put about the story that RAF pilots ate a lot of carrots which gave them improved vision for detecting enemy planes at night.

Chocolate causes acne. No it doesn’t. Stress is one cause of acne. Chocolate produces Serontin in the brain which has a calming effect of those who are stressed. Another cause of acne is oil, so it would be better to cut down on fried food and eat more chocolate.

Carbohydrates make you fat. Generally the potato gets the blame here. However, it is not the potato but how we eat it that is the cause of the problem. Putting huge dollops of butter on baked potatoes or eating greasy fried chips will make you fat. 

Skimmed milk is useless. No it isn’t. It is true that skimmed milk is low in vitamin A, but it is rich in minerals, sugar, protein and vitamin C. Since it is low in fat and cholesterol it is an ideal substitute for full cream milk.

Bananas are fattening.  Compared to an apple or an orange that is true. Apples and oranges contain about 50 calories and a banana contains about 60 calories. Not a huge difference in the scheme of things.

Cholesterol kills. Cholesterol is a fat and appears in our bodies in two forms, HDL(Good cholesterol) and LDL(Bad cholesterol). The fact is that both these good and bad lipoproteins contain exactly the same cholesterol. HDL dissolves cholesterol in the liver and LDL delivers it to various organs that need it to function properly, including our brains which use quite a lot of cholesterol. Studies show  that a high fat diet does produce more cholesterol in the blood, so people have inferred that 
high fat = high cholesterol = heart disease.

However, the latest medical research, such as that referred to in the Catalyst programme, shows that high fat actually increases the ratio of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol. These findings mean that high fat diets should reduce the risk of heart disease. Understandably, many doctors are reluctant to come out publicly and say this.

Margarine is better than butter.  They both have the same amount of calories but butter has slightly more saturated fats. This is a healthy natural fat that helps increase the absorption rate of many nutrients. Margarine is artificially concocted from chemicals and is very high in trans fats which some doctors say triples the rate of heart disease. Margarine also lowers the quality of breast milk and decreases immune and insulin responses. One of the doctors on the Catalyst programme said people choosing margarine over butter are being influenced by a marketing strategy not a medical plan. It is also worth pondering that margarine is only one molecule away from being plastic.

Dr Aseem Malhotra, a respected UK doctor, recently wrote in the British Medical Journal that fatty foods like butter, milk and eggs have been demonised. He says his research indicates that the best way to lose weight is to eat a high fat and low carbohydrate diet.

This seems a little like the famous Atkins Diet of the 1970s. Dr Atkins said carbohydrates were the cause of obesity and people should eat steak and salad and avoid carbohydrates at all costs. It was a popular diet and it seemed to work. People lost weight and they could eat as much as they liked as long as it wasn’t a carbohydrate. Dr Atkins promoted his diet with great enthusiasm. Then one day in 2002 he slipped on ice while walking to work. He hit his head and died some days later of heart complications. He was 72 years old. Card carrying Vegans immediately said Dr Atkins was killed by his diet and many people believed them and the Atkins Low Carb/No Carb diet waned in popularity. 

In recent years the Atkins Diet has made a comeback of sorts, as colleagues of Dr Atkinson have continued to point out that he was a healthy man who died because of complications resulting from his injuries and a viral condition which attacked his heart.

So where exactly are we on what constitutes a healthy diet?

According to the ABC’s Catalyst programme the much maligned eggs, butter, whole cream milk and fat in general are all now acceptable food sources. The programme interviewed several cardiologist and medical researchers who all said that there was no correlation between high fat diets and heart disease. The programme interviewed cardiologists who said that randomised and controlled clinical trials recently discovered that reduced total fat or saturated fat diets over several years resulted in NO lowering of heart disease, stroke or cardiovascular disease. In  other words high fat diets, such as the French enjoy, probably have no detrimental impact on your health. 

What is more,  some of these scientists point out that since the 1970s government and health department campaigns have reduced fat consumption by 10%. At the same time obesity rates have lifted by 10%. Could it be that strict low fat diets stop people from being satiated at the dinner table and consequently they over eat low fat but high calorie food.

And what of the government health departments who are now big sponsors of sport and who are telling sporting organisations that they will get no government sponsorship money while they also obtain sponsorship  dollars from food outlets like KFC and Hungry Jacks. According to many medical experts KFC and Hungry Jacks provide food that cannot be related to heart health.

Twenty years ago I had a mild heart attack. While I was in hospital they also discovered that I had Type Two diabetes. The wise doctor who informed me of my diabetes said that when I had recovered I would need to change my lifestyle and do more exercise. He suggested walking as a suitable activity. He made the valid point that if "energy in" is greater than "energy out" then you will get fat. You need to burn up that excess energy with a more active lifestyle. As far as my diet was concerned he said I should generally follow a low fat, high fibre diet but he was not going to tell me that I could never eat certain foods ever again.

“Eat what you like, but always in moderation and try to eat a well balanced diet including all important food groups.”
It seemed like very good advice and I’ve followed it ever since. It is good to know that, after all these years, that my teeth are not killing me.

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