Category: Food for Thought

Fasting without fasting: key to beat diabetes and cancer?

By Marika Sboros

Fasting is as old the hills of ancient Greece. Mention just about any Greek sage you can think of: Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, not forgetting the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates and maths whizzkid Pythagoras. All were dedicated followers of fasting. 

Fasting is not for the faint-hearted. In its classical form of no food or drink – except for water – for an extended period, it takes  commitment and discipline. (I’ve only ever managed to last eight days on water only.)

Below, a University College London neuroscientist looks at the power of intermittent fasting. Dr Nick Lesica says it’s ‘all the rage’ right now. Don’t even think of dismissing it as a fad. Research suggests it can give you the benefits of fasting without really fasting.



Healthwashing: 7 tactics Big Food, Big Soda use to fool you

Healthwashing is a dirty business – a close cousin of whitewashing. Whitewashing is loosely defined as ‘a coordinated attempt to hide unpleasant facts, especially in a political context’. Healthwashing is the weapon food and soft-drink companies use to hide unpleasant, soiled facts about their products.

In 2015,  New York Times writer Anahd O’Connor showed that Coke spent billions over decades funding scientists and front organisations to shift the blame from sugar to fat for the global obesity epidemic. Now in the US, two pastors have filed a lawsuit against Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association. They say that the company has deliberately deceived customers about health risks through its advertisements. Coca-Cola vigorously disputes all claims. It has deep pockets to protect its profits.



Loneliness – as lethal for body as for mind

Loneliness – the word reeks of sadness and longing. Language created it to express the pain of being alone. So said German-American existentialist philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich.

Tillich distinguished loneliness from “solitude”, which he said expresses “the glory of being alone”.

Research shows that loneliness is not only a psychological issue but a medical one.

Here, Icelandic cardiologist Dr Axel Sigurdsson explains why loneliness can affect the main organs associated with feelings: hearts and minds. He shows why it really is possible to die from a broken heart. 

In other words, the reality of psychosomatic medicine. He also contextualises the Roseto effectIt’s the term for the phenomenon by which a close-knit community experiences a reduced rate of heart disease. Sigurdsson delves into how and why loneliness really can be lethal. – MARIKA SBOROS



TIME FOR BIG FOOD TO GET TASTE OF OWN MEDICINE?

By Marika Sboros

There’s something deliciously karmic about giving Big Food a taste of its own medicine.

Years ago, I interviewed the head dietitian for that Big Food stalwart, Kellogg’s. She tried hard to persuade me that Fruity Loops really are good breakfast foods for children.

‘Do you feed them to your children for breakfast,’ I asked, looking her straight in the eye. She stared back. To her credit, she hesitated long and hard before saying: ‘Yes.’ It was an awkward moment because she knew that I knew she was lying.

But then, she had a job to do. In the trade, it’s called ‘eating your own dog food’, or ‘dogfooding’ for short. The software industry adopted it years ago for the process of actually using your own product.

Below, one of my favourite nutrition blogger poses an intriguing question. What if, to rise up in the ranks, managers in food and soft drink companies had to make a simple commitment: to ‘dogfood’ from now on. In other words, Big Food executives would have to take daily doses of their own’medicine’.



Why are so many doctors so stupid about nutrition?

By Marika Sboros

Why are doctors so stupid – particularly about nutrition? It’s a question one of my favourite scientist doctors, US physician Michael Eades, has asked.

It’s a question I’ve asked myself many times. More so recently after a ‘conversation’ with two paediatrician trolls on Twitter. (It was more like a testy, trivial exchange.)

These doctors live far apart – one in South Africa, the other in Canada. They could be twins when it comes to god complexes and willful ignorance about nutrition.

Of course, not all doctors are stupid when it comes to nutrition. And Eades says that stupid is not quite the right word to describe the dear medical souls who don’t know about nutrition. Ignorance is the word.



Relax: Your meat-eating ‘can beat climate change’!

The next time anyone says that your low-carb meat eating will make climate change worse, quote US physician Michael Eades. Eades is a myth buster. He says that you don’t make a Faustian pact by adopting a low-carb diet.

Here, Eades looks at the science behind the real effect of the removal of animals to help restore the grasslands: It brought about desertification even quicker.

He also shows the cognitive dissonance that overcame many in the wake of the obvious failure in that outcome:

They could not believe that herds of herbivores would actually produce the effect they were removing these same herds to achieve. It was the same kind of thinking that said we should all cut fat and increase carbs to reduce obesity or cure diabetes, Eades says. And it had about the same effect on climate change. 

He explains the seeming paradox of “more animals equals better grasslands equals better climate”. It’s controversial and not everyone is on board. It’s contained in a book called The Grazing Revolution: A Radical Plan to Save the Earth. – Marika Sboros



WANT TO LIVE FOREVER? POP OVER TO ICELAND!

By Marika Sboros

The title is one of Queen’s greatest hits: Who wants to live forever. It’s the annual conference of the Icelandic Health Symposium (IHS) in Reykjavik in September 2017. It brings together global experts in health and longevity.

They will reveal what science says about lifestyle for health and lifespan. They will gives talks on how your genes control your fate. And they will show how your species can achieve longevity in a way that harmonises with nature.

That’s the path to a long, sustainable future for both humans and the planet. And what better place to learn about that than Iceland? It is, says Icelandic cardiologist Dr Axel Sigurdsson, home to some of the planet’s strongest,  healthiest humans.



BIG PHARMA: DOSE OF OWN MEDICINE FOR PROFITS OVER PATIENTS

By Marika Sboros

Is Big Pharma really as sinister as research suggests? Certainly, its products have been life-saving but also life-taking. And the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies have long had unhealthy effects on economies in many countries. Consequently, people’s health in those countries has become secondary to Big Pharma’s profits.

It is especially the case in the US, which spends the most per capita on prescription drugs than any other country. Research by The Law Firm shows that Americans filled 4.3 billion prescriptions for $374 billion dollars in 2014.

Rebecca Hill has developed an innovative infographic for the personal injury law firm on how Big Pharma spends its money. (Scroll down  to view it below).  It highlights the effect of the spend on the health and finances of Americans, says Hill. It also reveals who spent the most money – Genentech, which spent $388 million in payments to 1,888 doctors. And it points the way forward to reducing the burden of Big Pharma on people’s health and pockets, she says.



DOES DAA TARGET DISSIDENT DIETITIANS WITH FAKE NEWS?

By Marika Sboros

When the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) isn’t dishing up fake nutrition news to the public, it makes up fake news to try to discredit dietitians who cross it, say critics. It’s probably no coincidence, that those dietitians support low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diets to treat obesity, diabetes and heart disease and/or criticise Australia’s dietary guidelines and DAA’s food industry links.

Critics say that  DAA’s Big Food sponsors don’t like those dietitians either as they affect product sales. In the final of a four-part series on DAA’s conflicts of interest, Foodmed.net looks at the cases of three dietitians who fell foul of DAA and its long-time CEO Claire Hewat. DAA also thought nothing of going after one of the dietitians in another country. It tried and failed to silence a top dietitian academic in New Zealand for her views on LCHF.

Hewat flatly denies that LCHF or its industry links had anything to do with actions against the dietitians below. Here, Foodmed.net looks at whether that claim stands up to scrutiny.



DAA CLUELESS ON LCHF – DIETITIAN DOWN UNDER

Feng-Yuan Liu

Feng-Yuan Liu, of Metro Dietetics, is a relatively rare but growing species Down Under: a dietitian who is a member of Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) and brave enough to speak up publicly for LCHF (low-carbohydrate, high-fat) diets to treat obesity and diabetes. DAA’s antagonism towards low-carb diets for diabetics is legendary.  Also becoming legendary is DAA’s response to some of its members who support LCHF. On January 30, 2017, Foodmed.net will publish the final of a four-part series on DAA’s links with Big Food. It will look at three dietitians who have fallen foul of DAA for various reasons.

Here, Liu goes head to head in a blog with DAA over the information it dishes out to the public on LCHF for diabetes. She quotes verbatim from DAA statements on its website and presents research in rebuttal. It’s another long read, but a fascinating one scientifically. Along the way, Liu shows that DAA uses a discredited study by South African researchers to discredit LCHF. She also suggests that DAA is clueless – she describes it as ‘confused’ – about just what constitutes LCHF. It will be interesting to see how DAA reacts to another of its members who believes that LCHF is a safe, effective option for diabetics.  – Marika Sboros



WHY DAA MAY REGRET ‘SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY’

By Marika Sboros

It’s no real surprise that Big Food loves the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA). DAA has quietly carved out close to a monopoly for its members on giving dietary advice to the public.

It regularly dishes up messages that feed Big Food’s interests and product sales. Critics say that it makes sense, then, that processed food and drink industries happily pay oodles of boodle to keep that monopoly going and messages flowing. They say that DAA’s self-regulated status makes it even more attractive to those interests. It means that DAA can pretty much do as it pleases and it does.

Yet there’s a downside to DAA’s cosy relationship with food industries. British obesity researcher Dr Zoë Harcombe has called it “sleeping with the enemy”. In a critique of conflicts of interest in her groundbreaking book, The Obesity Epidemic, What Caused it? How Can We Stop It?, she looks at the consequences. Harcombe was referring to the US dietetics fraternity. She could have been talking about DAA. In Part 3 of this series, Foodmed.net looks at why critics say that DAA may bitterly regret getting into bed with Big Food.



DAA TALKING HEADS: TIME FOR NEW CONVERSATION?

By Marika Sboros

One reason for the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) credibility problem, say critics, is its public face. They say that by default or design, DAA media spokespersons regularly dispense low-fat, high-carb dietary advice that serves the interests of food-industry partners. Such advice lacks evidence for safety and efficacy to treat or prevent obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

DAA spokespersons also regularly show special antipathy towards Paleo and low-carb diets to treat these conditions, despite growing evidence. As well, some spokespersons are prominent university academics. Thus, critics say this leaves DAA open to a common industry tactic. It is the “halo effect” that results from “eminence-based” rather than evidence-based nutrition information. It helps to embed unhealthy products as healthy in public consciousness

In Part 2 of this series, Foodmed.net takes a look at some of those talking heads. We also look at why critics say that the conversation needs to change.



IS DOWN UNDER’S DAA REALLY IN BED WITH BIG FOOD?

By Marika Sboros

Is the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) in bed with Big Food? It’s nearly two years since US public health lawyer Michele Simon first raised the question. She worded it slightly differently at the time. Her answer was an unequivocal “yes” in And Now A Word From Our Sponsors in February 2015. But has anything changed in the interim?

DAA says that it is not in bed with Big Food now and never has been. It claims that its sponsors – “partners”, it prefers to call them – have no influence on the advice it dishes out.  It also claims to take “great care to guard against conflict of interest”.

Its critics say otherwise. They say that DAA is heavily conflicted and has been for decades. Critics also say that DAA is little more than a front for the food industry. Read on and make up your own mind.



Cyber bullying virus – infection spreads among doctors

By Marika Sboros

cyber bullyingSomething is rotten in the state of nutrition science. In parts, it’s terminally ill. One symptom is cyber bullying. It’s a virus that is infecting doctors and dietitians on an unprecedented scale. These health professionals are also using their associations to spread the virus further and target nutrition experts who challenge conventional nutrition “wisdom”.

They are active on Twitter and Facebook hate pages. Those are toxic and unprofessional environments for doctors and dietitians to inhabit.

Two bloggers have started a series aimed at naming and shaming cyber bullies. It’s rough stuff but could help to stop infection rates. Cyber bullying creates significant collateral damage. It causes depression, even among doctors. It leads victims to kill themselves. Here’s the first in the series.



Kosterich: why this man isn’t Australia’s Public Health Enemy!

Dr Joe Kosterich

Dr Joe Kosterich

Australian physician Dr Joe Kosterich is one of a growing and precious breed Down Under: a doctor with an open heart and mind. Like growing numbers of his colleagues, Kosterich is not in the thrall of drug or food companies. He doesn’t think he’s godlike. He doesn’t whip out a prescription pad every time he sees a patient.  

Kosterich is more interested in health than in sickness.  He has done the unthinkable to more conventional orthodox doctors and dietitians in Australia. He has come out in support of a man they like to say is dangerous. There is even a Facebook page devoted to demonising and ridiculing this man. It was described as a hate page in an Australian government Senate Enquiry. It certainly has all the hallmarks of a hate page. 

Doctors and dietitians who really should know better comment on the page in the most unsavoury, unprofessional way. Some use foul language to denigrate fellow health professionals. So who is this man they desperately want you to believe is Australia’s Public Health Enemy?  Read on to find out who the real threat to public health is in that country. – Marika Sboros



Cannabis: high time South Africa legalises the drug?

cannabisBy Marika Sboros

I would never accuse members of South Africa’s Central Drug Authority (CDA) of smoking cannabis – or “dagga” as it is more popularly known. However, the CDA’s views on drug-law reform suggest they are smoking something.

In the June edition of the SAMJ (South African Medical Journal), executive member Dr Dan Stein had interesting things to say. For starters, the CDA now favours “decriminalisation rather than the legalisation of cannabis” for personal use.  It has vigorously opposed that previously. Now it accepts that alcohol causes more harm globally than cannabis causes.

Those can seem like two big steps forward – or not. Cape Town GP Dr Keith Scott would say: “Not”. In a recent issue of the SAMJ, Scott lights up the debate on the drug’s benefits versus risks.



Chatterjee on curing modern medicine’s sickness

YRangan Chatterjeeou may know Dr Rangan Chatterjee as the star power of the BBC’s Doctor in the House TV series. He is also one of that rare breed in modern medicine: a doctor with an open heart and mind.

Chatterjee has been examining a deadly sickness in medicine today. Its major symptom is doctors who don’t know enough about nutrition. It is about doctors who can’t – or won’t – acknowledge the real root causes of patients’ ill health. Spoiler alert: it’s not a deficiency of drugs.

Here, Chatterjee looks at why doctors need more education. It begins with understanding that ‘the food you eat can be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison’. – Marika Sboros



Alzheimer’s: can right diet prevent it? Sure, here’s how!

tree alzheimersAlzheimer’s is the most common dementia disease and its incidence is rising worldwide. Estimates currently are that nearly 5.5million people in the US alone have Alzheimer’s.

Some specialists like to say the spectre of dementia lies over us all. It’s mostly a function of growing older, they say. Evidence suggests that’s not the case.

Studies  show a powerful link between what you eat and your risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementia diseases. Research also shows that the pathway to Alzheimer’s is similar to that leading to type 2 diabetes. That’s why some doctors now call Alzheimer’s as ‘type 3 diabetes’.

In an article in Psychology Today, US psychiatrist and psychopharmacologist Dr Georgia Ede explains why preventing Alzheimer’s disease may be a whole lot easier than you think it is. – Marika Sboros



Medicine’s dirty little secret: ‘drug whore’ doctors

doctors drugs moneyIt’s a very real sickness in medicine. It is doctors in the thrall of the drug industry. It creates what British cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra calls ‘an epidemic of misinformed doctors and misinformed patients’. It causes biased research funding  – research funded for profit, not patients’ benefit, says Malhotra. 

It leads to biased reporting in medical journals, commercial conflicts of interest and medical curricula that ‘fail to teach doctors how to understand and communicate health statistics’. This year, for the first time, the US Surgeon General has reprimanded doctors for promoting Big Pharma at patients’ expense.  

At heart, it’s about doctors who flout the Hippocratic oath for a quick buck.  Here, Canadian nephrologist Dr Jason Fung takes a scalpel to expose the scandal of ‘continuing medical education’. He eviscerates doctors who, by default or design, act as agents – pushers, really – for drug companies. He calls them ‘drug whores’. It’s a disturbing read. – 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: