Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Nutrition Debate #201: Horton Hears a Who!

In this 2008 movie (I saw it with the “grands”), “Horton the Elephant struggles to protect a microscopic community from his neighbors who refuse to believe it exists,” according to the IMDb synopsis. Hey, it was 6 years ago, and I wasn’t really into it. But I can make it topical now, with the recent World Health Organization (WHO) guidance on sugar consumption. I could also relate it to gut biota (another “microscopic community”), if the WHO would just issue some guidance there. But, for now, this post will address the “recent discovery” that we are eating too much sugar.

I put “recent discovery” in quotes because I am reminded of a quote from Weston A. Price (Wiki bio here) that I read in Catherine Shanahan’s book, Deep Nutrition: “It is of interest that the diets of the primitive groups […] have all provided a nutrition containing at least four times these minimum [mineral] requirements; whereas the displacing nutrition of commerce, consisting largely of white-flour products, sugar, polished rice, jams [nutritionally equivalent to fruit juice], canned goods and vegetable fats [oils] have invariably failed to provided even the minimum requirements. (brackets by Shanahan; bold is mine). This quote is from Weston Price’s magnum opus, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration (1939).

The draft WHO guideline has been widely disseminated in the mass media, and regurgitated by bloviating bloggers everywhere; but, just in case you missed it, I will provide this extract from the abstract in Diabetes in Control, a website intended to inform medical providers:

“WHO's current recommendation, from 2002, is that sugars should make up less than 10% of total energy intake per day. The new draft guideline also proposes that sugars should be less than 10% of total energy intake per day. It further suggests that a reduction to below 5% of total energy intake per day would have additional benefits. Five per cent of total energy intake is equivalent to around 25 grams (around 6 teaspoons) of sugar per day for an adult of normal Body Mass Index (BMI).

The suggested limits on intake of sugars in the draft guideline apply to all monosaccharides (such as glucose, fructose) and disaccharides (such as sucrose or table sugar) that are added to food by the manufacturer, the cook or the consumer, as well as sugars that are naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates.

Much of the sugars consumed today are "hidden" in processed foods that are not usually seen as sweets. For example, 1 tablespoon of ketchup contains around 4 grams (around 1 teaspoon) of sugars. A single can of sugar-sweetened soda contains up to 40 grams (around 10 teaspoons) of sugar.”

I could go on and on about the dangers of “hidden” sugar, and of flour, sugar and vegetable oils, but I won’t, here or now.  Suffice it to say: how prescient Weston A. Price was! And so many others, whose message is being drowned out today by the tsunami of modern “sort-of- science” that Gary Taubes describes and I report on in #192 and #193.

I am reminded of the prologue to Taubes’s seminal Good Calories-Bad Calories (The Diet Delusion in the UK). In it, he relates how in 1863 William Banting, a portly retired London undertaker, asked his doctor how to lose weight. The doctor had just heard a lecture in Paris by Claude Bernard, the famed physiologist, and told Banting to “scrupulously avoid eating any…food that might contain either sugar or starch.” He “avoided altogether “bread, milk, beer, sweets and potatoes” and dropped 50 pounds in 18 months. His 18-page pamphlet instantly became a best seller, as I tell in my #1

But in the U.S., will the HHS/USDA “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015,” now in preparation, be “guided” by the WHO? Will they be as sensitive as Horton was to the “microscopic community” that exists, and lives, within each of us: the trillions of human cells, and the trillions more of biota living in our gut, that depend on what we eat for our and their good health and the health of future generations who will populate the earth with the epigenetic inheritance we bequeath them? As Dr. Shanahan points out, we have “intelligent genes” that learn how to express themselves, or not…
It’s up to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, but if this piece from Britain is a harbinger, I fear it will not. Nottingham University Professor Ian Macdonald, chair of the government panel tasked with examining the health impact of sugar consumption, is a paid consultant to both Mars and Coca Cola, according to the Mail Online. “We would take note of it [the WHO guidelines], but we would not act on it,” MacDonald said. He added, “The Government would take the recommendations of his own panel, the Carbohydrate Working Group of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, rather than those of the WHO.” So, if Horton is not looking out for the WHOs, who is?


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Helen. I think I've fixed it. And thanks for reading my blog!

    2. Well, it's good stuff.. Thanks for writing

  2. Great post as usual Dan. We've barely gotten to first base with sugar in conventional dietary (un) wisdom and will be fighting this battle for a while. Then there's the starch issue that no one has noticed: all that sugar in (un) healthy whole grains, potatoes, etc, that isn't considered in the sugar debate (for them). That's another battle for another day. As long as panels and boards are infected with phamaceutical and industry schills, there will be no progress and lots of suffering.

    1. I know, and alas, I agree (with your conclusions). I've written 2 more today. I'm about a month ahead. Two inches of snow fell last night, and I'm waiting for it to all melt so I can continue my 'Spring' cleanup! The fire's roaring now. Life is good.