Monthly Archives: February 2015

Why is Chinese dietetics relevant to your diabetes?

Lunar-New-Year-2015-Year-of-the-GoatXin Nian Kuai Le! Gong Hei Fard Choy! Happy Chinese New Year!

This week, February 19th, is the start of the year of the goat/sheep. So I think this is an appropriate time to celebrate why I devote a whole chapter to Chinese dietetics in my book ‘the 6 diet’.

I was amused to see a review of ‘the 6 diet’ on Amazon recently:

When most of the information provided is scientifically supported I see no need to rely on some ancient Chinese gobbledy goog to validate the content. For me this destroys the author’s authority on the matter and goes some way to putting a hole in her credibility too.

Does this mean that Chinese dietetics is “gobbledy goog“? No, of course not. Here’s why:

Whenever you pick up a book about Chinese medicine, dietetics, feng shui, etc. it’s important to understand why the language will seem strange. That’s because it generally dates to a time, many centuries ago, before the world had any modern scientific understanding of physiology or the language to go with it. That’s not to say when you dig below the language the theories are not relevant – they are. Chinese medicine is essentially a paradigm developed by close observation of the minutiae of cause and effect: if I do this, that will occur, if I eat this, the effect will be that…etc.

Whilst our scientific knowledge has evolved significantly in the past 2 or 3 millennia, our biology hasn’t. If we expose ourselves to a given stimulus, the effect it has on us will very likely be the same effect it would have had on our ancestors. For example, if we eat wheat, or dairy, or raw food, or any food item actually, it will probably still affect us in the same ways that it affected the Chinese ancients who developed the wisdom that we can still draw upon today. If you have the mind to see through the linguistics!

Let’s take wheat as our example here.

DSC_2583In Chinese dietetics wheat is mysteriously classified as a “damp food” – i.e. it contributes to the accumulation of “internal dampness“. The key is understanding what internal dampness might correlate with in terms of physiology and pathology. Internal dampness is seen as a property in which a person might feel clogged up, sluggish, stodgy, heavy. Internal dampness is simultaneously associated with fatigue, lethargy, flabbiness, bloatedness, weight gain: hmm! not untypical of some aspects of insulin resistance or diabetes?

Today, in modern clinical practice, we increasingly associate wheat with these symptoms. Just as the Chinese ancients wrote! We know that wheat – typically in bread – so often causes us to feel bloated. People with actual allergies experience this more severely, but increasing numbers of people report some level of dietary “intolerance”. Scientifically we know that gluten, a protein in wheat, is a major culprit of digestive discomfort. In fact it’s such a common – and modern – phenomenon that the NHS website dedicates an area to wheat intolerance. Today we can add into the mix “lectins”, compounds recently identified in wheat as a causal factor of internal inflammation – and a possible factor in the development of insulin-dependent diabetes according to some research.
bananaSlicesFor many centuries, the Chinese have associated an excessive consumption of fruits with obesity. Modern science nods in the same direction: today we know that fructose, the sugar naturally occurring in fruit, is linked with the accumulation of visceral fat. The fat belly most commonly associated with visceral fat is seen as a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. Bananas are another food item classified as “damp” in Chinese dietetics. Today we know they’re the most starchy of all the fruits and few weight loss diets would recommend bananas!

With just these 2 simple examples we can see that Chinese dietetics may sound like “gobbledy goog“, but it’s increasingly “scientifically supported“. That makes it as relevant now as in 3000 BC!

One prediction for this Year of the Goat is that it will be good for health. Here’s to YOUR health!

Deja vu for diabetes!

TweetHere in the UK, since March 2011, our government has been running with a strategy called the Responsibility Deal. It has questionably made the food industry responsible for your health! Health experts will tell you quite simply – IT ISN’T WORKING! An article published in the British Medical Journal just yesterday says it’s “a “dead-duck” for sugar reduction“. Not so great then for people living with diabetes!

Today the headlines are screaming against the fact that the food industry has been allowed involvement in food research. Make no mistake – this is not right! It’s not OK. IT IS NOT OK!

Experts advising ministers on obesity are being paid hundreds of thousands of pounds by the junk food industry, an investigation has found. Key scientists behind policies aimed at encouraging the public to eat a healthier diet have been given vast sums for their research by the likes of Coca Cola, Nestle and Mars. The revelations prompted concerns that ‘cosy deals’ are deterring ministers from enforcing tough limits on sugar and fat.” says the Daily Mail.

Want to hear it from a “more serious” source? Well how about this?:

Prof Simon Capewell, from the University of Liverpool and an adviser for the group Action on Sugar, told the BBC: “I was shocked, quite honestly; this is heart-breaking news and basically it appears a lot of people have been seriously misled.” He said there would be an “inherent conflict of interest” between profits and public health. “It’s like putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank,” he concluded.” from the BBC.

Or this?:

David Stuckler, professor of political economy and sociology at Oxford University, said: “There are inherent conflicts of interest between corporations that profit from unhealthy food and public health collaborations.” In 2013 a study by the medical journal Plos found that reviews of the effects of sugary drinks on obesity with industry funding were five times more likely to conclude that there was no link than those without industry funding. It concluded that industry funding of research “may bias conclusions in favour of sponsors’ products, with potentially significant implications for public health”.” from the Telegraph.

The British Medical Journal is hardly likely to engage in tabloid sensationalism. This is a serious story – we can be sure!

The crux is that this government, these scientists, the food industry, have wasted another opportunity to put your health ahead of profits. They had a chance to benefit you, and they have again failed!

Again?

I read all this today and found myself having a deja vu experience. Haven’t governments squandered opportunities to improve public health before in favour of food industry interests and profits? Haven’t scientists more interested in their own livelihoods and reputations than in public health been allowed to influence government food policy before? Yes they have – and to devastating effects!

Am in wandering into conspiracy theory territory here? I’m afraid not!

Do you remember a BBC 2 series called “The Men Who Made Us Fat” in 2012? It’s all revealed in episode 1 – which you can watch on Vimeo – link here! That’s saved me a lot of typing today!

I really recommend you watch the whole programme, but if you’ve truly no time to watch for the whole hour, I’ve highlighted some salient points for you:

  • at 7 mins 42 secs into the programme we are told that political deals in the early 1970s under the Richard Nixon government in the U.S. put industry profits before public health.
  • 31 mins in, we learn that a “scientist” called Ancel Keys claimed fat was responsible for heart disease. He had no evidence, no actual research, just an opinion! Yet the vilification of saturated fat ever since the 1950s hinged on this one scientist’s opinion – BECAUSE his theory suited the mighty sugar industry!
  • 32 mins 50 secs, we hear about John Yudkin, who was the only scientist at the time speaking out against sugar. Of course he wasn’t popular with the food industry, who were making huge profits from sugar and high fructose corn syrup. So they discredited his work – which we know now was correct!
  • Skip to 39 mins 30 secs to hear from a food industry insider how the manufacturers know just how to get you hooked on their junk foods! Sugar is the key to you buying more and increasing their profits!!
  • Then to 44 mins 20 secs to hear how, in 1977, George McGovern’s report, criticising sugar for the emerging obesity problems fast-becoming apparent in the U.S., was amended to remove any blame of sugar and to point the finger at fat – in support of Ancel Keys’ opinion.
  • Move to 52 mins 20 secs, and be prepared to be horrified that in 2000 the sugar industry lobbied against the World Health Organisation’s recommendations to limit sugar – and won! WHO never published those recommendations for financial reasons!

It’s no wonder that responsible scientists and doctors are appalled by this current revelation, that their colleagues, that our government, is yet again collaborating with the food industry giants. Collaborating against your best interests. Collaborating for funding, for profit, simply for money.

Oh – of course they all say it’s up to the individual to make sure their own diet is healthy – see 18 mins 30 secs into ‘The Men Who Made Us Fat’ to see it’s been their long-standing mantra. They smilingly deny their products are in any way to blame for your obesity, for your heart disease, for your diabetes problems.

One thing I agree with – it IS up to you to take full responsibility for your own diet, your own health. Because two things are for sure, the food industry won’t help you, and the government won’t insist they do!

RebalanceDiabetes is standing right here – ready to help!

What drinks fit in with healthy eating for diabetes?

Today’s blog post popped into my head when I was talking to a RebalanceDiabetes client a few days ago. The theme of our chat was how to make a place for beverages in a healthy eating/weight loss plan. The specific topic was tea and coffee: is it OK to have tea or coffee with milk; is it OK to have tea or coffee with a milk substitute; is it OK to have tea or coffee at all?

If you love your tea and coffee it’s a hard one to get to grips with, because caffeine is addictive, and drinking the stuff becomes a habit – a bit like smoking in essence. This is where being told what to do without the why to do it is a non-starter! So let’s look at the “whys“!

To dairy or not to dairy, that is the question?” Well I’m definitely not a personal fan of dairy – but I am definitely not an enemy of it either. I indulge in the occasional portion of cheese, OK – not so much occasional but once or twice a week in small quantities! But I cut actual milk from my own diet many years ago. It’s seriously linked with so many health problems: from a blocked nose to cancer! It’s seriously linked with inflammation – which means it’s linked with Type 2 diabetes too! This isn’t scaremongering. A research report was recently published in the British Medical Journal showing that women who drink milk are MORE likely to have problems with their bones than those who don’t drink milk. That’s right! Dairy is now thought to damage, not protect, your bones! Worse: dairy is linked with death in both men and women, the same research concludes!

So what about dairy substitutes? There is a growing industry for all sorts of alternatives to milk. A recent report in the Daily Mail compared the pros and cons of each. Although the article ends with “dietitian’s verdicts” you’ll see that these dietitians spectacularly failed to reach a verdict or to provide useful advice to readers! So here goes…

When it comes down to healthy eating for diabetes, for me there is one huge consideration. The amount of sugar they each contain! Of course the ones with added sugar are off my list. But even those with no added sugar vary dramatically in their actual sugar content. The ones based on grains are more “carby” and inevitably have more sugar, or carbs that your body will convert to sugar very quickly. So my personal recommendation boils down to the dairy substitutes based on nuts: almond milk, coconut milk. Take a look at the photo below to see that an unsweetened rice milk contains over 7g sugar in a tiny 100ml portion, compared with 0.1g in almond milk!

IMG_20150130_092152

So what about caffeinated tea and coffee at all? It comes down to whether or not caffeine has any value in our healthy diet. Caffeine is technically called an “anti-nutrient”. This means it prevents your body from absorbing good nutrients from other foods. By binding to these nutrients the caffeine prevents them getting into your blood stream, and instead they are simply lost through excretion.

Still feel you need caffeine? How about you try to wean yourself off slowly? Green tea has caffeine, but less of it. White tea has less than green tea. There is also a growing industry in alternative teas. Give some a go? And please let me know your new favourites!