Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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I guess some RDs are sexy

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Eat big meals… Fat goes quick! Photo by L’imaGiraphe (en travaux) on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons LIcence.

Right on the heels of my post about we dietitians not being sexy, this article comes out in the Daily Mail, and I’m forced to eat my words (good thing there are no forbidden foods!). Dietitian Trudi Deakin is proclaiming a high-fat, low-carb diet to be the be all and end all, and she’s written the book to “prove” it. Sigh.

Now, as you (my regular readers) know, I’m certainly not one to shy away from fat. New readers, My original by line was “real dietitians eat butter”. However, I also subscribe to the school of thought that says too much of anything is bad for you. Be it fat, salt, sugar, or carrots. You can have too much of a good thing. According to Trudi, saturated fat is the key. While it’s become widely accepted that saturated fat is not the demon it was once believed to be, that doesn’t mean that it’s suddenly a dietary super hero.

Trudi claims that her diet is 82% fat, and she’s never felt healthier. She alleges that high-carb diets are fuelling the obesity epidemic. The gist is that low-fat was wrong so low-carb must be right. Why do we have to go from one extreme to another? I’ll say the same thing about this that I said about demonizing sugar: blaming one nutrient for obesity or chronic disease isn’t getting us anywhere. These are complex problems that aren’t going to be remedied with simple solutions.

This 82% fat has me curious though. What would a diet that’s 82% fat look like? According to Trudi:

BREAKFAST: Three eggs cooked in the microwave with butter and cheese, like a souffle, served with oily fish – smoked salmon or mackerel – or avocado.

LUNCH:A bowl of berries with double cream or a homemade walnut scone, made with ground almonds rather than flour, served with double cream

DINNER: Meat or fish with a serving of vegetables cooked in butter 

Just for fun, I entered this meal plan into my fitness pal to find out the breakdown. Obviously without quantities, it’s near impossible to say exactly what caloric and macronutrient totals would look like. Based on one serving of each of the items listed above, I would only be consuming 995 kcal, and fat would account for roughly 40% of these. If Trudi’s diet is being accurately reported, she’s obviously consuming greater quantities than I recorded, particularly of the high-fat foods. Regardless, it doesn’t sounds overly appealing to me. I’d rather be a few pounds heavier and die a couple of years earlier than never have cereal for breakfast, never snack, and put butter on everything (as much as I love butter).

While Trudi may be content with this restrictive diet for now, it will be interesting to see what will happen with time. Most people following low-carb diets find them to be extremely difficult to follow over the long-term and usually relinquish them. Aside from the difficulty adhering to these low-carb, high-fat diets, there are other risk factors to consider.

Children with epililepsy following ketogenic diets provide us with some insight into the long term effects of a ketogenic diet. A study of children following a ketogenic diet found that poor growth was common. Other side effects were kidney stones and bone fractures.

There’s some other misinformation in the article. Trudi states that she consumes 30 grams of protein at breakfast because “your body doesn’t store it.” Um… I don’t know where this is coming from. While 30 calories at breakfast is certainly reasonable, excess calories, regardless of macronutrient, will be stored as fat.

The unfortunate thing about most weight management research is that “long term” equals several months to a year. While someone might experience weight loss, and find a high-fat diet relatively easy to adhere to for a few months, years, or a lifetime, are a far different story. Trudi’s been following this diet for less than year. Let’s see the tune she’s singing in a decade. Until then, you might want to take her high-fat diet with a grain of salt, or better yet, a baked potato.


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Of mice and omegas

Apparently the anti-omega-3 supplement trend is continuing. The latest piece of research comes from BC and shows that, in combination, omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may be increasing inflammation in the body. The study concluded that omega-3 supplementation could be increasing gastrointestinal distress in the elderly. According to a news article quoting the lead author, “levels of omega 6 are so high in our bodies that any more unsaturated fatty acid — even omega 3, despite its health benefits — will actually contribute to the negative effects omega 6 PUFA have on the heart and gut”.

I don’t dispute the likelihood that many of us are now consuming too much omega-6. However, this study is not affecting my decision to take omega-3 supplements. As a dietitian, I know that it’s better to get my nutrients from food and I should be eating more fish. Because I don’t eat as much fish as I should, I take an omega-3 supplement.

Why isn’t this study influencing my decision to pop an omega-3 supplement every second day? Well, the study was done on mice and recent evidence shows that mice studies may not be the best models for humans. In addition, the mice were fed a high fat diet (40% of total calories) with fat coming from canola oil and corn oil, with some mice being given fish oil as well. From where I sit, this is not much of an approximation of my fat consumption and I’m sure that applies to many of you as well. I get fat from olive oil, butter, dairy products (especially yoghurt and cheese), nuts and nut butters, coconut oil, eggs, etc. Very little of my fat intake comes from canola or corn oil. In addition, 40% is quite a high intake of calories from fat – the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution (AMDR) for fat is 20-35% of total calories.

If you are consuming all (or most) of your fat from canola and corn oil and you’re eating a high-fat diet (and if you’re a mouse) then perhaps this study should give you pause before you decide to start taking an omega-3 supplement. However, I think that you should be more concerned about the excessive consumption of a limited variety of fats than you should be about adding omega-3 PUFAs to the mix.