Wednesday, 12 March 2014

NHMRC says unicorns are real, Heart Foundation says "we're totally ok with that"

It sometimes amazes me that the Australian Heart Foundation holds sway over public opinion and are not widely ridiculed. 

But then I remember that public opinion is invariably idiotic and my internal sense of calm returns. 

The Heart Foundation website is a surreal place to visit. It's kind of like when you stop and actually pay attention to the TV shows your kids are watching and realise it's some messed up shit. 

Funny, but in a completely different way to the HF.

But back to the HF, they certainly pack in maximum hilarity per page. Apart from their current war on salt, it seems sugar is not important unless you don't brush your teeth:

"The NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) recently reviewed all available evidence to update the Australian dietary guidelines and concluded that sugar as an individual nutrient was only important in relation to dental caries."

At this point I get the same sensation I had when my work colleague was butchering a South African accent and I thought I was having an aneurysm and/or stroke because I couldn't understand a word he was saying. That is to say - rising panic and dizziness. 

Regarding the NHMRC's outstanding guidelines, I've already had a splash around in the waters of insanity here, but I press on regardless:

"There is no scientific consensus that sugar as a nutrient causes heart disease. We believe that while overall kilojoule intake is important, other factors such as levels of sodium, fibre and saturated fat and trans fat are more important in preventing cardiovascular disease.

The advice of the National Heart Foundation of Australia is based on sound science. And we will continue to review new scientific evidence as it becomes available."

Now the debate in my head is heating up as my brain's rational voice is convinced they have been hacked by someone with a half-decent sense of humour, while the panicky voice is certain they are serious and society is on the brink of collapse.

Scientific consensus? Since when did they wait for scientific consensus before damning a macro-nutrient to hell? 

"If we were to consider only sugars in a food, it would mean foods like breakfast cereals, yoghurts and even fresh and dried fruit would appear to be poor choices as they can be higher in sugars than other foods despite providing vital nutrients for good health."

The website hacking scenario is out, because it's not even funny any more. Breakfast cereals only appear to be poor food choices if you're not on acid or don't have a severe learning disorder.

"The Heart Foundation encourages people to look at the total make-up of a food, not just one element, such as sugar, to determine if it is a healthier choice."

Because that is not what they do with fat or salt. At all.

"Healthy heart tip - Rather than making choices based on sugar content alone see what else a food offers nutritionally. Look for high fibre and calcium and foods low in saturated fat and sodium."

Brilliant. So it seems it is okey dokey to eat 3 bowls of Froot Loops for breakfast as long as you eat it with skim milk and dump a few tablespoons of psyllium husks in there. It's called the Froot Loop loophole and you heard it here first.

"Guides, policies & position statements - The Heart Foundation produces an extensive range of evidence-based position papers and guidelines for dieticians and other health professionals working in the area of nutrition and cardiovascular health." 

Yes, well, I don't really have the energy to go there at the moment, so instead I'll just point out that even their nutbag cousins in the US are a little less gung-ho when it comes to hopping on the sugar train to Diabetes Central.

And that the beacon of nutritional nonsense, the World Health Organisation, has just recently cut their daily sugar recommendation by half. Mind you, it's just a draft, so they may change their mind after consulting with 'experts' to see how much money is at stake. 

And finally links below to a few studies that the NHMRC had trouble finding when they said "sugar as an individual nutrient was only important in relation to dental caries." Some disclaimers before you take a look (1) I haven't read them all in detail (2) I cheated and took a few from Jenny's excellent website, and (3) in linking to some, I'm taking a monumental leap of faith that sugar intake is most likely leading to the type 2 diabetes or high blood sugar of the subjects. 

Look, just like any other nutrient, the perfect study is yet to be conducted. Regardless, some still think that fat is the key to all modern ills. I choose sugar. I know that makes me a hypocrite, but considering I'm selfish and only really care about me and my family, my care factor is, y'know.... 

It took me maybe 15 minutes to find them all and they seem rather adamant that your internal organs think you're a c*nt if you feed them lots of sugar. 

I am Jack's complete lack of surprise. I am Jack's pancreas...and I'm bloody pissed off!*

Fung et al, 2009
Sharma et al, 2008 
Welsh et al, 2011
Cavalot et al, 2011
Kay-Tee Khaw et al, 2004
This is a new one, but I figure they'll ignore it too - Yang et al, 2014

*that will probably make sense if you've seen Fight Club at least 15 times like i have.