The Health Delusion is actually a book about how to achieve exceptional health in the 21st Century. Such an ambitious claim given that acceptable health is beyond the reach of many prompted me to read the book review in this week’s copy of the Pharmaceutical Journal.
According to the book review, the authors believe eating a predominantly non meat based diet and avoiding processed meats such as ham, bacon and sausages could be a solution to all our ills. If by non meat, they are alluding to plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, then so far so good. The authors are critical of fad diets which they claim reduce the metabolic rate and hence calorific requirements and creating the vicious circle effect of eating less, leading to needing less. I’ve never been certain of how true this effect really is but I don’t object to the theory since I support healthy eating and eating moderate portions rather than dieting.
What really caught my attention is their claim that saturated fats are actually not that bad for you. This goes against The Eat Well Plate guidance from the NHS which advises us to cut down on foods high in saturated fats such as fatty meats, particularly red, (and not just processed meats) butter, ghee (clarified butter), lard, hard cheese, cream, biscuits, cakes and pastries. What I found even more surprising is that the authors also postulate that the replacement of saturated fats in the diet with omega 6 polyunsaturated fats is a real disaster and contributes to an increased risk of heart disease. I went to check the label on the Flora Buttery in my fridge and horror of horrors – 28% omega 6 polyunsaturated fat. For some time I have had my doubts about how healthy margarine is. It is a processed product after all, unlike butter, which is more natural even when you consider what has been added to it to make it supermarket friendly and allow a longer shelf life. I was in a dilemma. Should I buy the book and read the detail?
Whilst this book is apparently well researched, it is still based on epidemiological studies which might show a relationship between a certain food and an effect but no proof that the food is a direct cause of that effect. This book review highlights for me the need to fund and conduct proper nutritional research that is designed to establish cause and effect. We desperately need to know what the true villains are in our diets that contribute to heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Otherwise, all we still have are theories and postulations and the same old notion that one man’s meat is another man’s poison.
Is it time for me to admit that Flora is in fact the “margarine for men?” (young and thin ones with years to go before they have to worry about their hearts!) Spreadable margarine straight from the fridge has a distinct advantage in that it can be spread thinly, cutting down the amount you have to use and reducing the calories. The thought of trying to spread Anchor butter straight from the fridge and breaking my toast convinces me I’m not yet ready to give up ownership of Flora to the younger and opposite sex.
What will you be spreading on your toast today?