Updated: Aug 12, 2018
If you're over 50 (like me) you've been following "expert advice" for most of a half century.
Thus advised, I became a chronically exhausted, sickly 300+ pound pre-diabetic, hypercholesterolemic white whale of a guy--running fearfully to my doctor (or the ER, hospitalized 3 times) at the slightest new symptom. I redefined "pear shaped."
By age 57 I was well positioned to donate my entire disposable income to the medical and pharmaceutical industries. Looming metabolic issues could easily have defined the rest of my life, including diabetes, heart disease, dementia, arthritis--all the greatest hits.
Thanks to the experts.
Is this you?
It may pay to question "expert" advice
Experts, specialists, adepts, authorities, whatever you call them, make things easier by doing our thinking for us. Thanks to them, we can live our uncomplicated middle-class lives without worrying about why we follow certain rules.
Modern society provides our experts, and conditions us to accept what they say. We grow up learning that the (doctor, teacher, president, clergyman, scientist, etc.) knows best, and has our interests firmly at heart.
Some rules make sense (don't kill, don't steal, don't make a mess.)
Others, especially those packaged as expert advice, can actually be Trojan horses filled with murky agendas.
Modern Western dietary guidelines are the perfect example, going all the way back to the Food Pyramid (or even the start of wheat farming.)
School textbooks, cereal boxes, TV ads, "official" guidelines
We have heard some version of this our whole lives:
stay with high fiber
shoot for low fat
avoid red meat and saturated fats
avoid butter, eggs, dairy in general
margarine is better
eat more whole grains
sugar is ok in moderation
vegetable oil is your friend
"Make sure you eat your cereal and chips and crackers and noodles." (I've certainly been there.)
"Ice cream, donuts, candy and pie taste great, right? In moderation, no harm done." (Yes, done that, often immoderately.)
"Bread is the staff of life!" (I particularly enjoyed sourdough...)
These ideas are so carefully ingrained in the fabric of our lives that many otherwise intelligent people simply refuse, or are even unable, to question them.
Our parents and grandparents innocently swaddled us with these insidious, meticulously crafted, transgenerational marketing strategies--completely unaware that there IS NO SCIENTIFIC BASIS behind any of them.
Today, our warm and fuzzy attachments to all this "comfort food," with its heavy accent on sweets and refined carbohydrates, make it too confusing--even alarming--to step back and ask...
...in the face of rampant, skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and the rest--can this be the right way to go?
Real science, and even real doctors, contradict the experts
NO it's not a good idea. Any of it.
A sadly longstanding body of scientific knowledge, which grows every week, directly refutes this "conventional" Western dietary wisdom.
Even worse, deep-pocket corporate interests, abetted by"official" policy and academia, hide this knowledge from the public behind a carefully sanitized, major-media information firewall. You have to dig for the info, or stumble across it (like I did, with the articles below.)
Net neutrality rules will make this even harder as time passes.
What's behind this "wizard's curtain" is, of course, pretty much the exact opposite of what we're being told. We need to realize:
Refined carbohydrates, including all grain-based commercial products and sugars, impair health. Big time.
Processed foods of all kinds, especially "ultra" processed foods, are very bad news.
Industrially processed seed oils (corn, canola, "vegetable", soybean, safflower, many others), which infuse most packaged convenience foods, and margarines, offer not one good thing.
No, you don't drop dead the instant you eat chocolate cake or a fast food burger.
Instead, this hi-tech, toxic glop gradually destabilizes your body's digestive, immune and endocrine systems until 40 or 50 years later you "suddenly" have metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and host of other autoimmune and inflammation-related issues.
And it may not take that long.
(Age 50 or older? You need to stop NOW. Diet and lifestyle changes can slow or reverse much of the damage.)
Don't believe me? Have trouble with the idea that decades of conventional bullsh--sorry, conventional dietary EXPERT advice--is for the birds?
Would you believe a doctor?
A cardiologist speaks his mind
I haven't seen a doctor in almost three years--but if I had to, I'd want to visit cardiologist Eric Thorn, who wrote this fascinatingly blunt Washington Times article, "Carbohydrates Are Killing Us."
If you are over 50 (or even 20) you need to read this article. It takes less than five minutes.
Some high points:
Public health guidelines are based on weak or skewed science.
"Experts" including mainstream nutritionists have ignored or buried important studies that contradict the conventional low-fat/high carb narrative--and continue to promote that unhealthy narrative.
These guidelines are "dooming hundreds of thousands of people to early death and disability."
It's refined CARBS, not saturated fats, that cause heart disease.
Dr. Thorn gives examples of successfully treating diabetes, obesity and high ("bad") cholesterol with low carb diets (not medication, not even exercise.) His passion runs deep and I hope to hear more from him.
Awareness is growing, but usually BEHIND the firewall
Dr. Thorn, and a few other outspoken physicians like him, have a lot of backup.
You just don't hear about it.
For example, researchers have known at least since 2008 that elevated blood glucose drives not just diabetes but Alzheimer's disease (sometimes referred to as Type 3 Diabetes).
Numerous well-constructed but effectively buried studies show how low (or no-) carb diets can improve many conditions--but the mainstream media remain disconnected. Once in a while things pop through, then disappear without causing a ripple.
Here is an example. To see how experts have confused and polarized us on this issue, read through the comments...which may even include a troll or two.
Most health providers or medical organizations still refuse to admit a direct link between our "sugary, Western-style diet" and these health issues.
Experts continue to push the conventional mantra--sometimes in absurd or self-contradictory ways.
When experts don't even agree...do we notice?
Not all experts even agree (that is, are willing to admit) that high-carb diets contribute to Type 2 diabetes.
(See this page on the American Diabetes Association website for some confusing and contradictory statements on carbohydrates, sugar, and whole grains.)
The idea here appears to be..."it's ok to continue to eat crap, here is a pill that will protect you from crap (just in case crap is the problem.)"
Why not just stop eating crap? Wouldn't that be easier...and cheaper?
At some point, endless (mindless? something more sinister?) pill development flys in the face of common sense.
And, if many chronic, disabling diseases can be traced back to unhealthy life choices, are more pills what we need? A recent BMJ article asks this important question, tantalizing the Paleo and alternative diet community with searching insights--but then loses its way by equating "carbohydrate restriction" with "caloric restriction" in fighting obesity.
Caroming off into conventional wisdom, the article endorses "weight loss" to abate high blood glucose, hypertension, elevated lipids and even Type 2 Diabetes. This approach can leave readers (and patients) stuck in the cognitive-dissonance hell of trying to lose weight without understanding the role of carbohydrates in obesity or disease etiology.
I was one of them.
Yes, weight loss helps with all those conditions and many others...but please see Dr. Thorn's points above. We'll never get all the way there on our standard American carb-heavy feed.
Experts, money and the rest of us
Which makes most sense to you:
Eat yummy packaged, processed, sugary food your whole life, get sick from doing this, then die needlessly early and hard after years of expensive, largely palliative treatment.
Eat fabulous and delicious fresh whole food (meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts) your whole life, live years longer than average and maybe see your doctor once a year to say hello?
Following the money helps:
Spend a lifetime enriching processed food magnates (this stuff is very profitable), then ADD the expenses later on for constant medical care and drugs--to enrich the same magnates through their healthcare corporations.
Spend a little more on whole foods over your lifetime (paying mostly ranchers and organic farmers), and avoid becoming a permanent patient later. KEEP most of your money.
The experts--on this side of the media firewall--certainly line up favoring the corporate-centered options. Why is that?
For hints, try reading Death By Food Pyramid. You should read it even if you guessed right the first time.
Paleo: what the experts don't think you are smart enough to figure out
I am NOT an expert. I'm a curmudgeonly, peevish, lazy convert, persuaded only by undeniable results.
I stumbled into Paleo and discovered it really works--and a huge Paleo tenet is losing the grains, legumes, sweeteners, all refined carbs. And all processed food. Period.
That was almost three years ago. At age 60 I am in better shape, think clearer, and can go for longer than any time in my life after age 30. I look younger, feel better and have learned to deal with regular wardrobe replacements due to successful weight loss.
I take no medications. I have adopted a "not sick? no doctor" lifestyle. I have had one cold since going Paleo...and decided to self treat. I lived.
I have the occasional glass of wine (I miss beer on hot days, yes.)
I do eat TONS of fresh, organic non-starchy vegetables, 2/3-3/4 of each meal. A few nuts. A little raw or grass fed dairy. And, of course, grass fed, organic, or wild-caught protein.
According to the experts, particularly dietitians (who often pop up to defend the orthodoxy), I should be dead by now, of constipation (no grains for fiber) or brain rot (no refined carbs for brain function) or heart attack (too much meat, too many avocados.)
Instead I THRIVE by doing everything they say I shouldn't. So do thousands of other Paleo or "primal" dieters.
So can you.
And don't forget:
DAVID WHITESIDE IS NOT A DOCTOR and does not give medical advice or treatment. He offers information and personal experience only. Nothing you read on this website or blog should be construed as medical advice or as intended to supersede information you get from your medical professional. Following the advice given here or on any recommended resource site does not create a doctor-patient relationship or create liability for David or anyone else. David is not liable for any loss or complication you experience from following any diet or taking any action. You should check with your properly accredited medical professional if you think you are injured or ill.