Calorie craziness: dishing up the real dirt on CICO!

CaloriesWhat’s with our obsession with the calorie? Do we even really know what we are talking about when we fuss about calories? My favourite health blogger and ‘reluctant nutritionist’ Sammy Pepys dishes up the dirt on the CICO model – calories in, calories out. Here’s why calories can’t make you fat – even if they wanted to. And what you really need to fuss about. – Marika Sboros

By Sammy Pepys*

Have you been eating all those tasty calories again? Recent media headlines such as: Is it our fault if we eat too many calories? (an article in The Conversation) and Britons under-report calorie intake (on BBC TV show how the ‘C’ word dominates our thinking on diets, obesity and many other health matters. Let’s get some things straight about calories:

Radical! Rebel doctors, data geeks reject ‘rule book’ to beat diabesity

DEATHConventional medical treatment to beat obesity and diabetes clearly isn’t working. Both conditions are pandemic, so much so that doctors now call them diabesity. Conventional ‘wisdom’ about the reasons for diabesity isn’t proving very helpful or very clever. Now, a radical, ‘rag tag’  group of Canadian and South African doctors and data ‘geeks’ has thrown out the research ‘rule book’ in their small but ground-breaking study just published in the South African Journal of Medicine (SAMJ). They say the staunch faith most doctors still have in classic randomized trials is misplaced. So-called  ‘evidence-based medicine’ that doctors are supposed to rely on isn’t working to treat or beat the diabesity pandemics. Their inspiration is Prof John Ioannidis, Professor of Medicine and of Health Research and Policy at Stanford University School of Medicine. Ioannidis says powerful vested interests have “hijacked” evidence-based medicine and made medicine a ‘threat to public health’.

The group knows exactly what they are up against: doctors who are not ready to face some inconvenient truths.  Jerome Burne is an award-winning British journalist who has been specialising in medicine and health for the last 10 years. Here, Burne looks at why these ‘research mavericks’ are ushering in a research revolution and why they will need all the help they can get. It’s a vital, riveting read for anyone concerned with health. – Marika Sboros

Harvard’s hungry voice of nutrition sanity – David Ludwig!

Dr David Ludwig

Dr David Ludwig

Like many people, I used to be in awe of Harvard University Medical School. Until increasingly odd science began emanating from luminaries Harvard’s hallowed research halls. In 2009 the New York Times published reports on the ties of Harvard professors and lecturers to drug companies. Time magazine picked it up in how drug industry money is tainting medical education. Harvard appears increasingly impervious to dodgy behaviour of some professors. They seem to think it’s in their job description to muzzle scientific debate that opposes powerful vested interests.

Getting some Harvard professors to understand how iffy that is appears extraordinarily difficult. A quote by the late US investigative journalist and author Upton Sinclair springs unbidden mind. ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!’ Medical doctor and Harvard nutrition specialist Dr David Ludwig helps to restore faith in Harvard. Here, blogger and ‘reluctant nutritionist’ Sammy Pepys looks at how Ludwig maintains his influential independent thought and mind on nutrition. – Marika Sboros

Gary Fettke turns into ‘Australia’s Tim Noakes’!


Dr Gary Fettke

Dr Gary Fettke

By Marika Sboros

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) has banned orthopaedic surgeon Dr Gary Fettke from giving his patients nutrition advice. It has done so after a two-year “investigation” into Fettke’s qualifications.

Overnight they’ve turned him into “Australia’s Tim Noakes”.

Elements of this case mirror the  Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) case against Prof Tim Noakes, a world-renowned scientist who is also a medical doctor. There are  big differences, but both the AHPRA and the HPCSA cases open up a medical Pandora’s box. Both go to the heart of what it means to be a real “doctor of medicine”, and who is best qualified to give advice on nutrition:


light bulbIn Part One, South African doctors and dietitians say this small Canadian study isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. In the final Part Two,  looks at why this research really does shed new light on weight loss and diabetes, despite what the critics say.

Though small and short-term, experts say it  is  part of a movement towards ‘pragmatic trials’ that blur the lines between science and clinical practice. The movement is a new paradigm to replace medicine that ‘no longer cures’ and instead produces ‘customers for the pharmaceutical industry’: 


Photo credit:Photo credit: Wonder woman0731 via / CC BY

Obesity and diabetes are so common these days, doctors often refer to them as diabesity. Her’e’s a small Canadian study in the SAMJ that posits a whole new paradigm in research to treat diabesity. It’s a path filled with life-saving promise of ‘a ‘cure’ for obesity and diabetes. However, this study is not so much about diet as it is about terminal flaws in the system for generating evidence for medicine.

 In Part 1 of a two-part series, looks at why this study by Canadian and ex-pat South African doctors just may live up to the authors’ hopes and dreams of a real breakthrough, and what that means for patients who are obese or diabetic. More importantly perhaps, we look at why medical and dietetic establishments are not receptive to its message and evidence-based medicine: 

Dietary guidelines: why they make you fatter, sicker

overweightGovernments, doctors and dietitians use dietary guidelines to dish up advice to you on what to eat and what not to eat. You’d expect that advice to be  evidence-based. Your expectations are not always realistic. 

The US dietary guidelines are the world’s most influential public health nutrition advice. All English-speaking countries embraced the guidelines when the US government  launched them in 1977. These guidelines were without much solid science to back them up then. They remain so today.

Here,  in Part 1 of a 2-part series, US physician  Dr Michael Eades explains why the dietary guidelines are making us all fatter and sicker. It’s a sobering read. – Marika Sboros

Why is microbiome so important? Gut instinct tells you

gut health microbiomeThe ancient Greeks believed all disease begins and ends in the gut. South African Jessica le Roux is on board with that thinking. She is doing a masters degree in nutrition. A focus the role of the bugs in our bodies  that promote health and are vital for proper physiological function.

In an introduction to a series on gut health, Le Roux says in our fervour to purify our environment of all microbial creatures, we are in danger of throwing the baby bugs out with the bath water. – Marika Sboros


By Jessica le Roux*

If your ear is anywhere close to the ground in the health world, you’ll have heard an unusual word. Some might say it seems more fitting of an Avatar homestead in a Spielberg movie than your general health news fodder.

But the research is showing it’s a word worth knowing about: 

Real cause of heart disease? Not diet, says Kendrick!

heartSome doctors say a high-carb diet causes heart disease. Others say that’s not the case. Scottish GP Malcolm Kendrick has a different take. He says diet is not the key. When he talks, I listen. That’s because Kendrick is a specialist on heart disease. Because he beats to a very different drum from most cardiologists. And because he is author of The Great Cholesterol Con and Doctoring Data.

You absolutely must read those books if you are at all concerned about your health – and not dying prematurely from heart attack or stroke. Kendrick has written a series of blogs on heart disease – 18 so far. You’ll need to read them all to understand what Kendrick REALLY says about the causes of heart disease. – Marika Sboros. 

Why is Harvard sticking the knife into butter again?



By Marika Sboros

It is official: Harvard scientists say butter is not back. Saturated fat will kill you. Fat phobia is back –  with a vengeance.

The scientists from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and Brigham Women’s Hospital don’t say that in quite so many words. Those are just implications of conclusions in their new study  in the JAMA Internal Medicine.

They say the more saturated fat you eat, the shorter you’re likely to live. The more unsaturated fat you eat, the longer your days on this planet. They say you should replace saturated fats, such as butter, lard, and fat in red meat, and trans fats with unsaturated fats from plant-based foods, such as olive oil, canola oil, and soybean oil. They say this should  “continue to be a key message in dietary recommendations”. 

They say their study is “further support” for the 2015-2020 US dietary guidelines – that are high in carbs and low in saturated fats (HCLF).  But is this study really a fatal blow to the science behind low-carb, high-fat (LCHF)?

Obesity: how your body uses fat to protect you

obesityWho would have thought obesity has its good side? Most doctors will tell you it sets you up for a host of other life-threatening conditions, such as metabolic syndrome, heart disease and more. That much is true. However, the body in its infinite wisdom also makes you obese for good reason.

Here, Canadian nephrologist Dr Jason Fung explains how fat also protects against, rather than just causes, health problems. That’s not  licence to pile on the adipose tissue, of course. He’s just explaining how your body tries hard to protect you from yourself. It’s a fascinating read. – Marika Sboros. 


By Jason Fung*

Obesity is not widely considered a protective mechanism. Quite the opposite. It’s usually considered one of the causal factors of the metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance.

I think obesity is a marker of disease, but ultimately it serves to protect the body from the effects of hyperinsulinemia. Let me explain:

The Big Fat Fix: quick, get your hit here!

Big Fat FixBy Marika Sboros

How delicious and cool is this! British cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra’s new movie, The Big Fat Fix, premiered at Westminster to MPs on July 21. It is available to the public from today on the film’s website.

The Big Fat Fix is an independent co-production between Malhotra and former international athlete Donal O’Neill, producer of Cereal Killers (2013) and Run on Fat (2015).

It is a paean of praise to the Mediterranean diet – but only …

Finally – death to the idea that carbs make you fat?

cerealUS scientist Dr Kevin Hall is keen to kill off the carb-insulin hypothesis of obesity. That’s the one that says carbohydrates, especially refined carbs and sugar, are the primary cause of obesity because they increase circulating insulin. 

Hall, a researcher in the US National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, has done research in the past hinting at the mortal wounding of the hypothesis. At the International Obesity Congress in Vancouver, Canada, in May, Hall predicted his upcoming research would deliver the fatal blow. That prompted an irritated response from Dr Michael Eades, a US-based world authority on the carb-insulin hypothesis. Eades said Hall was probably ‘going rogue’, and had misrepresented his own data for his own ends.

Hall’s study has just been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  It has similarly infuriated another international expert on the carb-insulin hypothesis, Canadian nephrologist Dr Jason Fung. Read on to find out why Fung says Hall’s ‘blatantly biased reporting’ is not the end of the carb-insulin hypothesis. Rather it is the ‘final gasp of the dying paradigm that all calories are equal’. – Marika Sboros

Oscar Pistorius: the real malady that made him a killer?

Oscar PistoriusHere’s  an updated column I wrote during the trial of South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius for the murder of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp  on February 14, 2013. It’s not anything to do with the science around optimum nutrition for body and mind. I just take the broadest possible view of what constitutes food for thought for body and mind.

Pistorius is now serving time in jail for shooting Reeva to death. (The prosecutors are appealing what they have described as the ‘shockingly lenient’ sentence of just six years for murder.) During the trial, Pistorius’ defence team made much of his mental state. The team painted his emotional outbursts and retching in court as signs of a ‘remorseful, heartbroken’ man. 

To me, Pistorius’s own evidence proves he has a very real malady, very different from the one his defence wants us all to believe. It’s one that explains his peculiar behaviour in and out of court: 

Why coconut oil is so good for hearts and minds

coconutCoconut oil has had undeservedly bad press for decades. For years, scientists, doctors and dietitians demonised it and other foods such as butter, eggs and bacon. They believed these foods raised levels of ‘bad cholesterol’  and increased your risk of heart attack and stroke.

They believed the ‘diet-heart hypothesis’. The one that says fat in the diet equals fat in your arteries. I’m still waiting for them to explain just how dietary fat can wreak such havoc in the body. Their deafening silence tells me they can’t explain it. So why do they still cling to the belief that it is harmful?

Most likely, they suffer a bad case of cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon that explains why very clever people act very stupid at times. They ignore evidence right before their eyes because it contradicts a cherished belief.

Dr Verner Wheelock lives in Yorkshire, grew up in Ireland and has degrees in chemistry and agriculture from Queen’s University in Belfast. He has pioneered research on UK food policy with particular emphasis on official dietary advice and food and agriculture industries. Here, he looks at why we should eat coconut oil daily for the sake of our bodies, hearts and minds. Read on!  –  Marika Sboros

Will pasta make you thin? Fat chance!

PASTABy Marika Sboros

Italian scientists say they have proved that eating pasta won’t make you fat. That it actually helps you to get thin.

That’s how media across the globe heralded a new study published in Nutrition and Diabetes. That’s how the researchers themselves have happily punted it .

Can a pizza study be far behind? 

The research is grist to the anti-low-carb mill. A knock-out blow to the low-carb side of the UK “fat wars”. It sabotages a powerful “Martin Luther moment”. It supports Public Health England’s much maligned Eatwell Guide. 

Or does it? Is this just Big Carb fighting back – and losing? Here’s look at what the researchers really say and what their data really show: 

How to cure diabetes: Dr Jason Fung’s 2 easy steps

sugarAre you diabetic, pre-diabetic or have a family history of diabetes? If so, this is one of the most important blogs you’ll ever read. It’s by Canadian nephrologist Dr Jason Fung. He doesn’t tell patients that diabetes is chronic, progressive and incurable. He says that is actually a ‘big, fat lie’. Fung had a Damascene moment a few years ago. He realised he was giving his diabetic, obese patients the wrong treatment. He was prescribing insulin according to orthodox medical protocols. He was making his patients fatter and sicker. Diabetes is a disease of insulin resistance, Fung says. In other words, it’s a disease of excess insulin. It is a dietary disease, he says, and you can’t cure dietary disease with drugs.  Here’s a shortened version of Fung’s blog with a link to the full version.  – Marika Sboros

By Jason Fung*

Most doctors, dietitians and diabetes specialists claim that type 2 diabetes is a chronic, progressive disease. The American Diabetes Association almost proudly proclaims this on its website. Once you get the diagnosis, it’s a life sentence. But it’s actually a great big lie:

Noakes: doctors, dietitians make diabetes a threat to life?

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 6.49.17 AMHere’s a sobering thought: advice doctors and dietitians give diabetics worldwide makes the condition life-threatening. University of Cape Town emeritus professor Dr Tim Noakes has set up The Noakes Foundation to do independent research into issues that include diabetes. Here, looks at why conventional medical and dietetic advice on diabetes is likely to be  wrong. For starters, he shows why it has little if any science to back it up. Along the way, he shows why diabetes may turn out to be the most egregious example yet of iatrogenic (doctor-caused) disease. – Marika Sboros

By Tim Noakes* 

My interest in the dietary management of diabetes stems from watching my father’s rapid downward physical decent in the years after he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM); the diagnosis of T2DM in myself; and my reading of the “alternative” literature which convinces me that T2DM does not have to be an inevitably progressive disease:

UK Eatwell Guide leads to ‘food industry wealth not public health’

British poundsBy Marika Sboros

Is the UK government dishing up bad dietary advice to its citizens? Has it wrongly demonised fat, glorified carbohydrates and harmed people’s health for decades? Is Public Health England’s (PHE) Eatwell Guide really the Eatbadly Guide, as leading obesity researcher Dr Zoë Harcombe dubs it?

Is it a guide to food industry wealth rather than public health?

Well, yes, yes, yes – and yes. That’s if findings of a new systematic review led by Harcombe and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM) are anything to go by.

The findings come at a time when PHE is facing mounting criticism for its links with the food industry. Critics also say the industry has had undue influence on government dietary guidelines known as the Eatwell Guide (formerly the Eatwell Plate): 


exerciseThe Atkins Diet radically destabilised medical and dietary establishments in the US in the 1960s. The brainchild of the late US  physician and cardiologist Dr Robert Atkins in the early 1960s, it led Time magazine to name him one of the 10 most influential people in the world in 2002. Atkins paid the price for challenging the status quo. He was demonised. His weight loss advice became one of many casualties of the ‘diet-heart hypothesis’.

That’s the one which holds that saturated fat causes heart disease. The one enshrined in official dietary guidelines imposed on an unsuspecting public in the US in the late 1970s and the rest of the English-speaking world thereafter. It continues to demonise dietary saturated fat, glorifies carbohydrates. It holds sway today despite an avalanche of evidence showing that it’s unproven dogma. The Atkins Diet has undergone its own revival with publication of The New Atkins For A New You. The book is a nutrition phenomenon not just for weight loss but to improve health and boost sports performance. In South Africa, Atkins products are growing in popularity. In a Q&A here, Healthy Brands MD Justin Strout, a qualified fitness trainer, explains why Atkins offers ‘the exercise strategy of the future’: