Healthy food. Trying to reach the stars, but ending up with heads in the clouds.

Here’s a cloud. It has little to do with this post.

No, I refuse to rave on about how bad are our current dietary guidelines or the government’s Health Star Rating fiasco. No I won’t rave. David Gillespie has done the raving for me here (thankyou David)

I would just like to point out that dietary guidelines or health star ratings are NOT based on science. They just contain input from hand selected representatives of science in their advisory panels through a process called “consensus” to hammer out something that looks to me like it’s been battered.

Talking of battered (fats). Here’s a real problem in the health star rating assumptions.

“What are the stars based on?

Under the system, packaged foods are given a star rating based on their nutritional profile.

This includes:

  • Energy (kilojoules).
  • Risk nutrients – saturated fat, sodium (salt) and sugars.
  • Positive nutrients – dietary fibre, protein and the proportion of fruit, vegetable, nut and legume content.”

They say that then give lots of stars to products with lots of sugars. Read David Gillespie’s blog then check them out for yourself. I think its misleading to put saturated fat in the risk nutrients and omit “processed carbohydrates”. I think it’s negligent to omit “healthy fats” from the positive nutrients. Such omissions leave it all too possible for people to read quickly and be left with “fat is bad” which is what we’ve been told for decades and is an untruth, and has been counterproductive to public health.

I think I’d rather read information from the Harvard School of Public Health who say “a low-carbohydrate diet may help people lose weight more quickly than a low-fat diet and may help them maintain that weight loss.”

Furthermore “Research shows that a moderately low-carbohydrate diet can help the heart, as long as protein and fat selections come from healthy sources.”

Or I would trust the researchers who through the Journal of the American Association have recommended that the American 2015 dietary guidelines abandon advice to lower fat as it has been counterproductive.

They say “Modern evidence clearly shows that eating more foods rich in healthful fats like nuts, vegetable oils, and fish have protective effects, particularly for cardiovascular disease. Other fat-rich foods, like whole milk and cheese, appear pretty neutral; while many low-fat foods, like low-fat deli meats, fat-free salad dressing, and baked potato chips, are no better and often even worse than full-fat alternatives. It’s the food that matters, not its fat content.”(quoted from here, which gives a readable summary of the research)

I’m no longer saying that saturated fat is safe (although I’m pretty certain that it is if you are eating a very low carb diet). I’m sticking with Cochrane who conclude that there may be a “small but important” reduction in cardiovascular risk by reducing saturated fat. They suggest replacing in with polyunsaturated fat (they can’t recommend which one/s) Strangely they avoid saying “use olive oil” despite the strong evidence for the Mediterranean diet reducing cardiovascular risk. I suggest sticking to olive oil, or polyunsaturated fatty acids -PUFAs that existed before the industrial revolution.  I’ve got some other suggestions for simple dietary guidelines.. more to follow.

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