People love a good conspiracy theory these days, don’t they? And look… who can blame them really? From climate change to… oh… I dunno man, whatever… people are taking off their tin foil hats and questioning EVERYTHING. Questioning things is good. Healthy scepticism as well. Hell I barely trust anyone, truth be told. But there’s a limit. I mean… it’s a bit like that awesome quote from… you know… that guy.
You have the right to your own opinion, but you don’t have the right to your own facts.
And here in lies the issue. People come up with a theory, come up with some ideas that support the theory, maybe even cherry pick a few scientific reports (while arbitrarily dismissing any to the contrary of course) and decide for themselves “these are the facts”. Not “this seems likely to me” or “this seems to make sense, don’t you think?”, but “this is how it was and how it is, and you’re a sucker if you believe otherwise”.
In case you haven’t noticed, most of what I write is in the style of “this makes sense, don’t you think?” but I can tell you who to follow for a more scientific explanation if you want one.
So… conspiracy theories. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of them about nutrition, from the “low carb” people. Again, we’re not talking “this is what works for me”, or even “clearly this is the smart option” or even all the revisionist history that has been made up about what people DEFINITELY ate in ancient times. Nope. Apparently the food pyramid and all other nutritional and dietary guidelines put out by…. you know… actual nutritionists and dieticians is a massive conspiracy perpetrated by the government and “big agriculture”. Oh the Heart Foundation is in on it too.
I swear I’m not making this up. We’re not supposed to eat carbs, it’s all a conspiracy to make you sick. That’s what these low carb nut jobs think.
Now I can only speculate on stuff that I wasn’t around for, but I do know that you don’t have to cut out carbs to manage your weight, and there’ll be a guest post soon with a much more scientific look at how your body uses different macronutrients and what processes are involved in storing fat from excess calories. In the meantime, let’s discuss the most frequent and dubious claims of the fanatical low carbers, as follows.
The vilification of fats from the 1960s onwards was the biggest health blunder in human history. Fats are good for you!
Quite correct in fact. Fats are good for you and in fact are an essential part of a healthy balanced diet. Of course, “too much” of a good thing is still “too much”. I’m not quite old enough to remember the 60s but for all I know, I’m quite happy to accept the possibility that people may have been likely to consume an excessively fatty diet at that time. They’re weren’t all supersizing their cokes into buckets instead of cans to an extent that excess carbs was such a problem (please note my use of the word excess). There may have been a very good reason to advise reducing fat intake to a more appropriate level.
OR, they may have just screwed up and come up with bad advice. But if we can all agree that vilifying one macronutrient was a bad idea then, why would it seem logical that we should now vilify another one in it’s place?
The strangest part to me is that the low carbers still blame this advice on the world’s current obesity problem. Which is strange because doesn’t everyone know by now, to lose weight you’re supposed to cut carbs? Isn’t that all you’ve heard from anyone since about 1995? Remind me what has happened since then, again?
Traditionally, people would have consumed a high protein, high fat diet of mostly meats and animal products.
Really? And where pray tell would they be getting so many of these animals to eat? I suppose if you were good at hunting you might be able bring home a hare or other small animal often enough… but how many chickens would you need to keep in order to kill one or two a day to feed your family? How many pigs assuming you might eat one a week? Larger animals? There were no freezers to keep the leftovers in!
In actual fact… I would speculate that meat was not so readily available. Why kill a hen for a single meal when you could have eggs every day? When people did have meat, they made use of the whole animal, boiling up the bones for broth for example. My ancestors invented haggis which is a sheep’s stomach stuffed with oatmeal (aka carbs) and whatever else was available. Intestines, heart, lungs… none of this went to waste. I would suggest that this implies that there was not an abundance of meat in steady supply.
Oh yes, haggis would be served with turnips and potatoes. Speaking of potatoes, perhaps you’ve heard of the various potato famines throughout history? And I’m sure you’re aware that people in Asia have based their diet on rice for millennia. In the Americas, maize had been cultivated since prehistoric times.
I put it to you that the notion that human beings have not had, or were not designed to have a high carbohydrate diet is revisionist history at best, with no scientific validity. In fact, I would speculate that a diet that was both higher in carbs AND in fats (from eggs and dairy) would be far more likely, with meat also being consumed as often as possible if there was a successful hunt or an animal was ordered slaughtered by the chieftain.
The issue then has never been with carbs, or with fats. The issue is with EXCESS calories of any source, which we are far more likely to consume in modern times due to reduced activity, increased portion sizes and often poor meal choices. Neither need to be cut out or avoided entirely, we simply need to consume an appropriate amount.
The insulin thing.
The made up science I keep getting told about is that carbs drive insulin, and insulin drives fat storage. Partially true if you have a very poor understanding of how the human body works… but only EXCESS calories (of any source) can be stored as fat, and there’s also an insulin response to protein and some fats that these low carb high fat cultists never talk about.
So, where is the conspiracy?
Which seems more likely to you? The recommendations of dieticians and nutritionists are a part of a huge conspiracy to trick you into eating “non foods” that will make you fat and sick, even though we know people all over the world have based their diet on these foods since prehistoric times. Also everyone who’s lost weight and / or gotten into great shape without adopting the restrictive, low carb approach is simply mistaken, because they don’t understand the science. Even if they can quote the science.
So is THAT the conspiracy, or is the REAL conspiracy the self proclaimed “nutrition experts” who don’t actually hold any qualification in nutrition or any related field, telling you all sorts of alarmist fake science and made up history to make an absolute fortune selling their restrictive fad diet books?
For the record though, the only reason I give a shit.
You guys know this already. Your diet can be a little higher on carbs, a little higher on fats… some people may require a more specific ratio to really see results but for most people a reasonable balance is all that is required. Any suggestion to the contrary though, any bad information or false science and alarmism promoting restrictive dieting, food avoidance and so on is doing very real harm to vulnerable people.