The Collapse of a $40 Million Nutrition Science Crusade

On Monday night Gary Taubes will board his second transatlantic flight in a week–from Zurich to Aspen–then eventually back to Oakland, where he calls home. The crusading science journalist best known for his beef with Big Sugar is beat after four days of nutrition conference glad-handing. But there’s no rest for the down and out. Taubes is on a desperate money-raising mission for the Nutrition Science Initiative–his nonprofit dedicated to improving the quality of nutrition research.

NuSI( pronounced new-see ) launched in September 2012 with much fanfare, including in the pages of WIRED. It rapidly created more than $ 40 million from big-name donors to facilitate expensive, high-risk studies intended to illuminate the root causes of obesity. Taubes and his cofounder, physician-researcher Peter Attia, contended that nutritional science was so inconsistent because it was so expensive to do right. With a goal of raising an additional $ 190 million, they wanted to fund science that enables you to cut the prevalence of obesity in the US by more than half–and diabetes by 75 percent–by 2025.

Rehabilitating the entire field of nutrition research was always a long shot. But six years in, NuSI is nowhere near achieving its lofty ambitions. In fact, the once-flush organization is break, president-less, and all but gone. It’s been three years since it last tweeted, two years since it’s had a real office; today NuSI consists of two part-time employees and an unpaid volunteer hanging around while Taubes tries to conjure a second act.

Because while he’s nearly out of money, Taubes is not yet out of ideas. This time, though, that might not be enough.

When Taubes and Attia first hatched their “Manhattan Project for nutrition, ” they planned to work on it nights and weekends, crowdsourcing monies from the low-carb corners of the internet. They didn’t think it would be too difficult; between a 2002 New York Times cover story titled “What If It &# x27; s All Been a Big Fat Lie ?” and his best-selling book Good Calories, Bad Calories , Taubes had become the country’s anti-sugar agitator-in-chief. Then, in 2011, Taubes received an email from a former natural gas trader named John Arnold who wanted to help.

In May 2012, just weeks after announcing his and his wife’s new charity aimed at reforming iffy areas of science, the John and Laura Arnold Foundation devoted NuSI a $4.7 million seed to be given to do nutrition research right. In 2013 they followed that up with an additional $ 35.5 million commitment over five years, inducing them NuSI’s lead funder.

At the heart of their mission was the decades-old question of whether all calories are, in fact, created equal. The mainstream view is that it’s simply an excess of calories that makes people fat–no matter whether those calories comes here a bagel or a steak or a bowl of broccoli. Taubes and Attia subscribe to a growing minority posture, dubbed the carbohydrate/ insulin or C/ I hypothesis, that argues obesity is caused by an excess of insulin driving energy into fat stores. In other terms, sugar makes people fat.

Taubes and Attia thought those questions needed a more streamlined research approach to get real answers. So they formed NuSI to funnel fund into a rigorous new situate of studies, while leaving scientists with the experimental independence that would shield their results from bias.

With the Arnold money in hand, Taubes and Attia started recruiting top researchers in 2012 to conduct four initial studies. They purposefully brought on people who disagreed with them, like Kevin Hall, a senior examiner at the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, whose mathematical models predicted that a low-carb, low-insulin diet would have only a tiny impact on calorie-burning. He would head up one of NuSI’s first studies, dubbed the Energy Balance Consortium.

The EBC’s pilot project would lock 17 overweight men inside metabolic wards for two months, feeding them precisely devised snacks and pricking and prodding to see what happened to their bodies on a low-carb diet. If it stimulated them burn calories faster, a follow-up study would do the same exams on a bigger group of people. If the effect was minimal, researchers would then test the effect of low-carb diets on hunger.

Hall was skeptical they would find anything to support the carbohydrate/ insulin hypothesis. But he was assured by the terms of the contract; NuSI would have no control over the pilot study’s design, operation, or reporting. He could build the study he wanted.

At first, things went according to plan. The EBC researchers met with NuSI quarterly to finalize the study’s design and clinical procedures. NuSI signed a consulting agreement with Dr. Jeff Volek–author of the book The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living — to create the diets and menus.

By August 2014, the EBC researchers had preliminary results on their 17 volunteers: The data showed “no significant difference” in energy expenditure. That didn’t mean it was a failure; to the researchers, they had succeeded in verifying the methodology before using it in an even bigger, longer study. “We had to work out these rather complex logistics of get common food sources distributed among many institutions, ” says Rudolph Leibel, one of the consortium scientists working on the pilot at Columbia. “It looked like something the Allies would have organized for all the landings on D-Day.”

But when Hall presented the pilot’s outcomes in person to representatives from NuSI at a meeting in Bethesda in September, they were not so rosy-eyed. NuSI wanted to see the data, and it began providing extensive critiques once they had it.

Taubes in particular had issues with many of the study’s designs, which fed participants a “standard American diet” for four weeks before switching them to an extremely low-carb, or ketogenic, regimen with the same amount of calories. It was supposed to get them to a stable weight, or energy balance, to establish a baseline before running keto. But the subjects all lost weight even before they started cutting out carbs. Taubes contended that was because the standard diet didn’t have enough refined sugary liquors to depict median American consumption.

“From my perspective, the pilot was a failure for several reasons, ” Taubes says. “First, it failed to get people in energy balance in the run-in period, and that was a necessary condition to interpret the findings.” In addition, he points out, the design didn’t include a group of non-dieters, and non-randomized trials do not allow for firm conclusions about causality, conditions that everyone in the group knew going in. In his eyes, all the pilot told them was that their method was flawed. “If this was an animal study, they’d have hurled them out, ” he says. “Euthanized them and started over.”

But NuSI had already spend$ 5 million of the Arnold’s money, and everyone was eager to get to the second phase of the study. As they worked out the details through 2015, the relationship between EBC and NuSI continued to fray. “There was not a real team, ” says Eric Ravussin, EBC’s co-principal investigator and director of Pennington’s Nutrition Obesity Research Center. “As scientists we were in agreement over the pilot results and the new protocols, but NuSI had some concerns. It eventually simply became us versus them.”

According to Hall and Ravussin, NuSI began to push back, in a way that they felt jeopardized their ability to do good science. In April, the EBC researchers sent NuSI an email requesting to re-establish their academic freedom.

Emily Waite

As 2015 turned into 2016, the relationship between the EBC researchers, NuSI, and the Arnold Foundation deteriorated even further. At the end of December, Attia quietly resigned from the organization. Sources close to him say he was unhappy being a full-time fund-raiser; he wanted to get back to research.

NuSI scrambled to fill Attia’s position as chairwoman, first with Christopher Ochner, a psychiatrist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and a few months later with Julie Eckstrand, NuSI’s then-director of clinical operations, who has since left. At the beginning of 2016, NuSI’s yearly contract with the Arnold Foundation was replaced by a series of three-month bridge contracts, with marching orders to downsize. The squad of 15 full-time employees and major contractors shrunk to a skeleton crew that could manage the three remaining studies. NuSI shuttered its San Diego headquarters and became a virtual organization.

Things came to a head at a session in January 2016. In front of John Arnold, NuSI directors Taubes and Mark Friedman openly quarreled with Hall and his colleagues about what was really necessary to run a good study. Hall had had enough. At the end of the session he stepped down from his role with the EBC, citing changing expectations about the structure and practise of the NuSI collaboration.

As the remaining researchers continued to clash with NuSI over the summer about the second phase, the pilot outcomes were finally published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in July. They received a lot of media attention, in no small part because Hall said the pilot, along with another study he’d conducted previously, “basically falsify” the theory that sugar makes people fat. By the end of the summer, the Arnold Foundation had decided not to fund the second phase of the study.

After that, NuSI stopped getting checks from the Arnolds. But the foundation didn’t stop funding research into the carbohydrate/ insulin question. That fall they opened their search to the wider world, putting out a call for proposals for “rigorous research projects that will assess the role that sugar and/ or macronutrients are participating in metabolic the replies and fat accumulation.”

The Arnold Foundation declined to respond to specific questions about how it came to end its relationship with NuSI about $14 million short part of its commitment. A spokesperson emailed the following statement: “This research was designed to answer scientific questions in the fields of nutrition and obesity. While the foundation no longer immediately supports NuSI initiatives, we continue to fund work in the field of nutrition science and remain open to further investments in this area. The NuSI project was a worthwhile effort and remains an important health-related issue for Americans today.”

It’s still too soon to assess what NuSI has added to the nutrition science canon. Outcomes from the two outstanding NuSI-backed studies are due later this year. The fourth and largest one, conducted at Stanford, randomized 600 overweight-to-obese topics into low-fat versus low-carb diets for a year and looked at whether or not their weight loss could be explained by their metabolism or their DNA. Published this February in JAMA , the study detected no differences between the two diets and no meaningful relationship between weight loss and insulin secretion. The most significant finding was that it’s hard to stick to a diet for a whole year.

Obesity docs like Yoni Freedhoff, a prof of family medicine at the University of Ottawa, aren’t astounded that NuSI hasn’t sparked an epistemological revolution. “From the outset, their approach was simply that knowledge will be enough to drive behavior, ” says Freedhoff, who has argued that efforts to prove one diet is better than another do a disservice to patients by implying there’s only one right route to lose weight. He’d love to see research dollars be spent instead on studying how to improve adherence to different eating strategies.

Taubes says the fund-raising trip to Zurich went well, though he won’t share specifics. It could just be the plane lag, or it could be the mental burden of having to sing for his supper, but Taubes audios tired. “I say this to my wife all the time:’ Maybe I’m a quack.’ All quacks are sure they’re right. Isn’t that the defining characteristic of a quack? But the fact is that we money four studies, and the three randomized trials were highly successful operationally. One of these has been published in a top journal with interesting results, and I remain hopeful that we will soon see if the last two studies will move some needles. Our sentences have gotten us this far, and despite some frustrations, these questions still seem vitally important to test.”

Taubes is optimistic that NuSI is just evolving into something a bit more humble. Between its current coffers and the agreements he’s working on, he supposes NuSI can stay afloat for several years, eventually supporting more outside research, though on a much more modest scale. He’s get ideas about instituting a scientific oversight committee to make sure everyone agrees on methods and statistical analysis from the outset.

But he’s also starting to think about how to go back to the life he had before NuSI, living conditions of a journalist. He’s get more articles and volumes he still wants to write , not exclusively about sugar. But it’s tricky. “I know I clearly have conflicts that other journalists only don’t have, and that’s a tightrope I haven’t figured out how to walk yet, ” Taubes says. “This nutrition science crusade–right or wrong–expands easily to fill all the time in my life that can be allotted to work. So I’m going to figure out how to partition time better in the future.”

In between flights and conference dinners, he’s been checking his email for notes on an upcoming article about a new kind of observational study that uses genetic variation to mimic a randomized control trial. While the story isn’t strictly are attributable to nutritional science, Taubes now has the kind of conflicts of interest that make publications wary. He’s working with a new editor and a new outlet after his old editor at Science wouldn’t touch it. Taubes founded NuSI to support objective science; now, it &# x27; s his own objectivity he has to defend.

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The sugar conspiracy | Ian Leslie

The long read: In 1972, a British scientist sounded the alarm that sugar and not fat was the greatest danger to our health. But his findings were ridiculed and his reputation ruined. How did the worlds top nutrition scientists get it so wrong for so long?

Robert Lustig is a paediatric endocrinologist at the University of California who specialises in the treatment of childhood obesity. A 90-minute talk he gave in 2009, titled Sugar: The Bitter Truth, has now been viewed more than six million times on YouTube. In it, Lustig argues forcefully that fructose, a form of sugar ubiquitous in modern diets, is a poison culpable for Americas obesity epidemic.

A year or so before the video was posted, Lustig gave a similar talk to a conference of biochemists in Adelaide, Australia. Afterwards, a scientist in the audience approached him. Surely, the man said, youve read Yudkin. Lustig shook his head. John Yudkin, said the scientist, was a British professor of nutrition who had sounded the alarm on sugar back in 1972, in a book called Pure, White, and Deadly.

If only a small fraction of what we know about the effects of sugar were to be revealed in relation to any other material used as a food additive, wrote Yudkin, that material would promptly be banned. The book did well, but Yudkin paid a high price for it. Prominent nutritionists combined with the food industry to destroy his reputation, and his career never recovered. He died, in 1995, a disappointed, largely forgotten man.

Perhaps the Australian scientist intended a friendly warning. Lustig was certainly putting his academic reputation at risk when he embarked on a high-profile campaign against sugar. But, unlike Yudkin, Lustig is backed by a prevailing wind. We read almost every week of new research into the deleterious effects of sugar on our bodies. In the US, the latest edition of the governments official dietary guidelines includes a cap on sugar consumption. In the UK, the chancellor George Osborne has announced a new tax on sugary drinks. Sugar has become dietary enemy number one.

This represents a dramatic shift in priority. For at least the last three decades, the dietary arch-villain has been saturated fat. When Yudkin was conducting his research into the effects of sugar, in the 1960s, a new nutritional orthodoxy was in the process of asserting itself. Its central tenet was that a healthy diet is a low-fat diet. Yudkin led a diminishing band of dissenters who believed that sugar, not fat, was the more likely cause of maladies such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. But by the time he wrote his book, the commanding heights of the field had been seized by proponents of the fat hypothesis. Yudkin found himself fighting a rearguard action, and he was defeated.

Not just defeated, in fact, but buried. When Lustig returned to California, he searched for Pure, White and Deadly in bookstores and online, to no avail. Eventually, he tracked down a copy after submitting a request to his university library. On reading Yudkins introduction, he felt a shock of recognition.

Holy crap, Lustig thought. This guy got there 35 years before me.

In 1980, after long consultation with some of Americas most senior nutrition scientists, the US government issued its first Dietary Guidelines. The guidelines shaped the diets of hundreds of millions of people. Doctors base their advice on them, food companies develop products to comply with them. Their influence extends beyond the US. In 1983, the UK government issued advice that closely followed the American example.

The most prominent recommendation of both governments was to cut back on saturated fats and cholesterol (this was the first time that the public had been advised to eat less of something, rather than enough of everything). Consumers dutifully obeyed. We replaced steak and sausages with pasta and rice, butter with margarine and vegetable oils, eggs with muesli, and milk with low-fat milk or orange juice. But instead of becoming healthier, we grew fatter and sicker.

Look at a graph of postwar obesity rates and it becomes clear that something changed after 1980. In the US, the line rises very gradually until, in the early 1980s, it takes off like an aeroplane. Just 12% of Americans were obese in 1950, 15% in 1980, 35% by 2000. In the UK, the line is flat for decades until the mid-1980s, at which point it also turns towards the sky. Only 6% of Britons were obese in 1980. In the next 20 years that figure more than trebled. Today, two thirds of Britons are either obese or overweight, making this the fattest country in the EU. Type 2 diabetes, closely related to obesity, has risen in tandem in both countries.

At best, we can conclude that the official guidelines did not achieve their objective; at worst, they led to a decades-long health catastrophe. Naturally, then, a search for culprits has ensued. Scientists are conventionally apolitical figures, but these days, nutrition researchers write editorials and books that resemble liberal activist tracts, fizzing with righteous denunciations of big sugar and fast food. Nobody could have predicted, it is said, how the food manufacturers would respond to the injunction against fat selling us low-fat yoghurts bulked up with sugar, and cakes infused with liver-corroding transfats.

Nutrition scientists are angry with the press for distorting their findings, politicians for failing to heed them, and the rest of us for overeating and under-exercising. In short, everyone business, media, politicians, consumers is to blame. Everyone, that is, except scientists.

But it was not impossible to foresee that the vilification of fat might be an error. Energy from food comes to us in three forms: fat, carbohydrate, and protein. Since the proportion of energy we get from protein tends to stay stable, whatever our diet, a low-fat diet effectively means a high-carbohydrate diet. The most versatile and palatable carbohydrate is sugar, which John Yudkin had already circled in red. In 1974, the UK medical journal, the Lancet, sounded a warning about the possible consequences of recommending reductions in dietary fat: The cure should not be worse than the disease.

Still, it would be reasonable to assume that Yudkin lost this argument simply because, by 1980, more evidence had accumulated against fat than against sugar.

After all, thats how science works, isnt it?

If, as seems increasingly likely, the nutritional advice on which we have relied for 40 years was profoundly flawed, this is not a mistake that can be laid at the door of corporate ogres. Nor can it be passed off as innocuous scientific error. What happened to John Yudkin belies that interpretation. It suggests instead that this is something the scientists did to themselves and, consequently, to us.

We tend to think of heretics as contrarians, individuals with a compulsion to flout conventional wisdom. But sometimes a heretic is simply a mainstream thinker who stays facing the same way while everyone around him turns 180 degrees. When, in 1957, John Yudkin first floated his hypothesis that sugar was a hazard to public health, it was taken seriously, as was its proponent. By the time Yudkin retired, 14 years later, both theory and author had been marginalised and derided. Only now is Yudkins work being returned, posthumously, to the scientific mainstream.

Illustration by Pete Gamlen

These sharp fluctuations in Yudkins stock have had little to do with the scientific method, and a lot to do with the unscientific way in which the field of nutrition has conducted itself over the years. This story, which has begun to emerge in the past decade, has been brought to public attention largely by sceptical outsiders rather than eminent nutritionists. In her painstakingly researched book, The Big Fat Surprise, the journalist Nina Teicholz traces the history of the proposition that saturated fats cause heart disease, and reveals the remarkable extent to which its progress from controversial theory to accepted truth was driven, not by new evidence, but by the influence of a few powerful personalities, one in particular.

Teicholzs book also describes how an establishment of senior nutrition scientists, at once insecure about its medical authority and vigilant for threats to it, consistently exaggerated the case for low-fat diets, while turning its guns on those who offered evidence or argument to the contrary. John Yudkin was only its first and most eminent victim.

Today, as nutritionists struggle to comprehend a health disaster they did not predict and may have precipitated, the field is undergoing a painful period of re-evaluation. It is edging away from prohibitions on cholesterol and fat, and hardening its warnings on sugar, without going so far as to perform a reverse turn. But its senior members still retain a collective instinct to malign those who challenge its tattered conventional wisdom too loudly, as Teicholz is now discovering.

To understand how we arrived at this point, we need to go back almost to the beginning of modern nutrition science. On 23 September, 1955, US President Dwight Eisenhower suffered a heart attack. Rather than pretend it hadnt happened, Eisenhower insisted on making details of his illness public. The next day, his chief physician, Dr Paul Dudley White, gave a press conference at which he instructed Americans on how to avoid heart disease: stop smoking, and cut down on fat and cholesterol. In a follow-up article, White cited the research of a nutritionist at the University of Minnesota, Ancel Keys.

Heart disease, which had been a relative rarity in the 1920s, was now felling middle-aged men at a frightening rate, and Americans were casting around for cause and cure. Ancel Keys provided an answer: the diet-heart hypothesis (for simplicitys sake, I am calling it the fat hypothesis). This is the idea, now familiar, that an excess of saturated fats in the diet, from red meat, cheese, butter, and eggs, raises cholesterol, which congeals on the inside of coronary arteries, causing them to harden and narrow, until the flow of blood is staunched and the heart seizes up.

Ancel Keys was brilliant, charismatic, and combative. A friendly colleague at the University of Minnesota described him as, direct to the point of bluntness, critical to the point of skewering; others were less charitable. He exuded conviction at a time when confidence was most welcome. The president, the physician and the scientist formed a reassuring chain of male authority, and the notion that fatty foods were unhealthy started to take hold with doctors, and the public. (Eisenhower himself cut saturated fats and cholesterol from his diet altogether, right up until his death, in 1969, from heart disease.)

Many scientists, especially British ones, remained sceptical. The most prominent doubter was John Yudkin, then the UKs leading nutritionist. When Yudkin looked at the data on heart disease, he was struck by its correlation with the consumption of sugar, not fat. He carried out a series of laboratory experiments on animals and humans, and observed, as others had before him, that sugar is processed in the liver, where it turns to fat, before entering the bloodstream.

He noted, too, that while humans have always been carnivorous, carbohydrates only became a major component of their diet 10,000 years ago, with the advent of mass agriculture. Sugar a pure carbohydrate, with all fibre and nutrition stripped out has been part of western diets for just 300 years; in evolutionary terms, it is as if we have, just this second, taken our first dose of it. Saturated fats, by contrast, are so intimately bound up with our evolution that they are abundantly present in breast milk. To Yudkins thinking, it seemed more likely to be the recent innovation, rather than the prehistoric staple, making us sick.

John Yudkin was born in 1910, in the East End of London. His parents were Russian Jews who settled in England after fleeing the pogroms of 1905. Yudkins father died when he was six, and his mother brought up her five sons in poverty. By way of a scholarship to a local grammar school in Hackney, Yudkin made it to Cambridge. He studied biochemistry and physiology, before taking up medicine. After serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the second world war, Yudkin was made a professor at Queen Elizabeth College in London, where he built a department of nutrition science with an international reputation.

Ancel Keys was intensely aware that Yudkins sugar hypothesis posed an alternative to his own. If Yudkin published a paper, Keys would excoriate it, and him. He called Yudkins theory a mountain of nonsense, and accused him of issuing propaganda for the meat and dairy industries. Yudkin and his commercial backers are not deterred by the facts, he said. They continue to sing the same discredited tune. Yudkin never responded in kind. He was a mild-mannered man, unskilled in the art of political combat.

That made him vulnerable to attack, and not just from Keys. The British Sugar Bureau dismissed Yudkins claims about sugar as emotional assertions; the World Sugar Research Organisation called his book science fiction. In his prose, Yudkin is fastidiously precise and undemonstrative, as he was in person. Only occasionally does he hint at how it must have felt to have his lifes work besmirched, as when he asks the reader, Can you wonder that one sometimes becomes quite despondent about whether it is worthwhile trying to do scientific research in matters of health?

Throughout the 1960s, Keys accumulated institutional power. He secured places for himself and his allies on the boards of the most influential bodies in American healthcare, including the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health. From these strongholds, they directed funds to like-minded researchers, and issued authoritative advice to the nation. People should know the facts, Keys told Time magazine. Then if they want to eat themselves to death, let them.

This apparent certainty was unwarranted: even some supporters of the fat hypothesis admitted that the evidence for it was still inconclusive. But Keys held a trump card. From 1958 to 1964, he and his fellow researchers gathered data on the diets, lifestyles and health of 12,770 middle-aged men, in Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Finland, Netherlands, Japan and the United States. The Seven Countries Study was finally published as a 211-page monograph in 1970. It showed a correlation between intake of saturated fats and deaths from heart disease, just as Keys had predicted. The scientific debate swung decisively behind the fat hypothesis.

Keys was the original big data guy (a contemporary remarked: Every time you question this man Keys, he says, Ive got 5,000 cases. How many do you have?). Despite its monumental stature, however, the Seven Countries Study, which was the basis for a cascade of subsequent papers by its original authors, was a rickety construction. There was no objective basis for the countries chosen by Keys, and it is hard to avoid the conclusion that he picked only those he suspected would support his hypothesis. After all, it is quite something to choose seven nations in Europe and leave out France and what was then West Germany, but then, Keys already knew that the French and Germans had relatively low rates of heart disease, despite living on a diet rich in saturated fats.

The studys biggest limitation was inherent to its method. Epidemiological research involves the collection of data on peoples behaviour and health, and a search for patterns. Originally developed to study infection, Keys and his successors adapted it to the study of chronic diseases, which, unlike most infections, take decades to develop, and are entangled with hundreds of dietary and lifestyle factors, effectively impossible to separate.

To reliably identify causes, as opposed to correlations, a higher standard of evidence is required: the controlled trial. In its simplest form: recruit a group of subjects, and assign half of them a diet for, say, 15 years. At the end of the trial, assess the health of those in the intervention group, versus the control group. This method is also problematic: it is virtually impossible to closely supervise the diets of large groups of people. But a properly conducted trial is the only way to conclude with any confidence that X is responsible for Y.

Although Keys had shown a correlation between heart disease and saturated fat, he had not excluded the possibility that heart disease was being caused by something else. Years later, the Seven Countries studys lead Italian researcher, Alessandro Menotti, went back to the data, and found that the food that correlated most closely with deaths from heart disease was not saturated fat, but sugar.

Illustration by Pete Gamlen

By then it was too late. The Seven Countries study had become canonical, and the fat hypothesis was enshrined in official advice. The congressional committee responsible for the original Dietary Guidelines was chaired by Senator George McGovern. It took most of its evidence from Americas nutritional elite: men from a handful of prestigious universities, most of whom knew or worked with each other, all of whom agreed that fat was the problem an assumption that McGovern and his fellow senators never seriously questioned. Only occasionally were they asked to reconsider. In 1973, John Yudkin was called from London to testify before the committee, and presented his alternative theory of heart disease.

A bemused McGovern asked Yudkin if he was really suggesting that a high fat intake was not a problem, and that cholesterol presented no danger.

I believe both those things, replied Yudkin.

That is exactly the opposite of what my doctor told me, said McGovern.

In a 2015 paper titled Does Science Advance One Funeral at a Time?, a team of scholars at the National Bureau of Economic Research sought an empirical basis for a remark made by the physicist Max Planck: A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

The researchers identified more than 12,000 elite scientists from different fields. The criteria for elite status included funding, number of publications, and whether they were members of the National Academies of Science or the Institute of Medicine. Searching obituaries, the team found 452 who had died before retirement. They then looked to see what happened to the fields from which these celebrated scientists had unexpectedly departed, by analysing publishing patterns.

What they found confirmed the truth of Plancks maxim. Junior researchers who had worked closely with the elite scientists, authoring papers with them, published less. At the same time, there was a marked increase in papers by newcomers to the field, who were less likely to cite the work of the deceased eminence. The articles by these newcomers were substantive and influential, attracting a high number of citations. They moved the whole field along.

A scientist is part of what the Polish philosopher of science Ludwik Fleck called a thought collective: a group of people exchanging ideas in a mutually comprehensible idiom. The group, suggested Fleck, inevitably develops a mind of its own, as the individuals in it converge on a way of communicating, thinking and feeling.

This makes scientific inquiry prone to the eternal rules of human social life: deference to the charismatic, herding towards majority opinion, punishment for deviance, and intense discomfort with admitting to error. Of course, such tendencies are precisely what the scientific method was invented to correct for, and over the long run, it does a good job of it. In the long run, however, were all dead, quite possibly sooner than we would be if we hadnt been following a diet based on poor advice.

In a series of densely argued articles and books, including Why We Get Fat (2010), the science writer Gary Taubes has assembled a critique of contemporary nutrition science, powerful enough to compel the field to listen. One of his contributions has been to uncover a body of research conducted by German and Austrian scientists before the second world war, which had been overlooked by the Americans who reinvented the field in the 1950s. The Europeans were practising physicians and experts in the metabolic system. The Americans were more likely to be epidemiologists, labouring in relative ignorance of biochemistry and endocrinology (the study of hormones). This led to some of the foundational mistakes of modern nutrition.

The rise and slow fall of cholesterols infamy is a case in point. After it was discovered inside the arteries of men who had suffered heart attacks, public health officials, advised by scientists, put eggs, whose yolks are rich in cholesterol, on the danger list. But it is a biological error to confuse what a person puts in their mouth with what it becomes after it is swallowed. The human body, far from being a passive vessel for whatever we choose to fill it with, is a busy chemical plant, transforming and redistributing the energy it receives. Its governing principle is homeostasis, or the maintenance of energy equilibrium (when exercise heats us up, sweat cools us down). Cholesterol, present in all of our cells, is created by the liver. Biochemists had long known that the more cholesterol you eat, the less your liver produces.

Unsurprisingly, then, repeated attempts to prove a correlation between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol failed. For the vast majority of people, eating two or three, or 25 eggs a day, does not significantly raise cholesterol levels. One of the most nutrient-dense, versatile and delicious foods we have was needlessly stigmatised. The health authorities have spent the last few years slowly backing away from this mistake, presumably in the hope that if no sudden movements are made, nobody will notice. In a sense, they have succeeded: a survey carried out in 2014 by Credit Suisse found that 54% of US doctors believe that dietary cholesterol raises blood cholesterol.

To his credit, Ancel Keys realised early on that dietary cholesterol was not a problem. But in order to sustain his assertion that cholesterol causes heart attacks, he needed to identify an agent that raises its levels in the blood he landed on saturated fats. In the 30 years after Eisenhowers heart attack, trial after trial failed to conclusively bear out the association he claimed to have identified in the Seven Countries study.

The nutritional establishment wasnt greatly discomfited by the absence of definitive proof, but by 1993 it found that it couldnt evade another criticism: while a low-fat diet had been recommended to women, it had never been tested on them (a fact that is astonishing only if you are not a nutrition scientist). The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute decided to go all in, commissioning the largest controlled trial of diets ever undertaken. As well as addressing the other half of the population, the Womens Health Initiative was expected to obliterate any lingering doubts about the ill-effects of fat.

It did nothing of the sort. At the end of the trial, it was found that women on the low-fat diet were no less likely than the control group to contract cancer or heart disease. This caused much consternation. The studys principal researcher, unwilling to accept the implications of his own findings, remarked: We are scratching our heads over some of these results. A consensus quickly formed that the study meticulously planned, lavishly funded, overseen by impressively credentialed researchers must have been so flawed as to be meaningless. The field moved on, or rather did not.

In 2008, researchers from Oxford University undertook a Europe-wide study of the causes of heart disease. Its data shows an inverse correlation between saturated fat and heart disease, across the continent. France, the country with the highest intake of saturated fat, has the lowest rate of heart disease; Ukraine, the country with the lowest intake of saturated fat, has the highest. When the British obesity researcher Zo Harcombe performed an analysis of the data on cholesterol levels for 192 countries around the world, she found that lower cholesterol correlated with higher rates of death from heart disease.

In the last 10 years, a theory that had somehow held up unsupported for nearly half a century has been rejected by several comprehensive evidence reviews, even as it staggers on, zombie-like, in our dietary guidelines and medical advice.

The UNs Food and Agriculture Organisation, in a 2008 analysis of all studies of the low-fat diet, found no probable or convincing evidence that a high level of dietary fat causes heart disease or cancer. Another landmark review, published in 2010, in the American Society for Nutrition, and authored by, among others, Ronald Krauss, a highly respected researcher and physician at the University of California, stated there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD [coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease].

Many nutritionists refused to accept these conclusions. The journal that published Krausss review, wary of outrage among its readers, prefaced it with a rebuttal by a former right-hand man of Ancel Keys, which implied that since Krausss findings contradicted every national and international dietary recommendation, they must be flawed. The circular logic is symptomatic of a field with an unusually high propensity for ignoring evidence that does not fit its conventional wisdom.

Gary Taubes is a physicist by background. In physics, he told me, You look for the anomalous result. Then you have something to explain. In nutrition, the game is to confirm what you and your predecessors have always believed. As one nutritionist explained to Nina Teicholz, with delicate understatement: Scientists believe that saturated fat is bad for you, and there is a good deal of reluctance toward accepting evidence to the contrary.

Illustration by Pete Gamlen

When obesity started to become recognised as a problem in western societies, it too was blamed on saturated fats. It was not difficult to persuade the public that if we eat fat, we will be fat (this is a trick of the language: we call an overweight person fat; we dont describe a person with a muscular body as proteiny). The scientific rationale was also pleasingly simple: a gramme of fat has twice as many calories as a gramme of protein or carbohydrate, and we can all grasp the idea that if a person takes in more calories than she expends in physical activity, the surplus ends up as fat.

Simple does not mean right, of course. Its difficult to square this theory with the dramatic rise in obesity since 1980, or with much other evidence. In America, average calorific intake increased by just a sixth over that period. In the UK, it actually fell. There has been no commensurate decline in physical activity, in either country in the UK, exercise levels have increased over the last 20 years. Obesity is a problem in some of the poorest parts of the world, even among communities in which food is scarce. Controlled trials have repeatedly failed to show that people lose weight on low-fat or low-calorie diets, over the long-term.

Those prewar European researchers would have regarded the idea that obesity results from excess calories as laughably simplistic. Biochemists and endocrinologists are more likely to think of obesity as a hormonal disorder, triggered by the kinds of foods we started eating a lot more of when we cut back on fat: easily digestible starches and sugars. In his new book, Always Hungry, David Ludwig, an endocrinologist and professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, calls this the Insulin-Carbohydrate model of obesity. According to this model, an excess of refined carbohydrates interferes with the self-balancing equilibrium of the metabolic system.

Far from being an inert dumping ground for excess calories, fat tissue operates as a reserve energy supply for the body. Its calories are called upon when glucose is running low that is, between meals, or during fasts and famines. Fat takes instruction from insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar. Refined carbohydrates break down at speed into glucose in the blood, prompting the pancreas to produce insulin. When insulin levels rise, fat tissue gets a signal to suck energy out of the blood, and to stop releasing it. So when insulin stays high for unnaturally long, a person gains weight, gets hungrier, and feels fatigued. Then we blame them for it. But, as Gary Taubes puts it, obese people are not fat because they are overeating and sedentary they are overeating and sedentary because they are fat, or getting fatter.

Ludwig makes clear, as Taubes does, that this is not a new theory John Yudkin would have recognised it but an old one that has been galvanised by new evidence. What he does not mention is the role that supporters of the fat hypothesis have played, historically, in demolishing the credibility of those who proposed it.

In 1972, the same year Yudkin published Pure, White and Deadly, a Cornell-trained cardiologist called Robert Atkins published Dr Atkins Diet Revolution. Their arguments shared a premise that carbohydrates are more dangerous to our health than fat though they differed in particulars. Yudkin focused on the evils of one carbohydrate in particular, and didnt explicitly recommend a high-fat diet. Atkins argued that a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet was the only viable route to weight loss.

Perhaps the most important difference between the two books was tone. Yudkins was cool, polite and reasonable, which reflected his temperament, and the fact that he saw himself as a scientist first and a clinician second. Atkins, resolutely a practitioner rather than an academic, was unbound by gentlemanly conventions. He declared himself furious that he had been duped by medical scientists. Unsurprisingly, this attack enraged the nutritional establishment, which hit back hard. Atkins was labelled a fraud, and his diet a fad. It was a successful campaign: even today, Atkinss name brings with it the odour of quackery.

A fad implies something new-fangled. But low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets had been popular for well over a century before Atkins, and were, until the 1960s, a method of weight loss endorsed by mainstream science. By the start of the 1970s, that had changed. Researchers interested in the effects of sugar and complex carbohydrates on obesity only had to look at what had happened to the most senior nutritionist in the UK to see that pursuing such a line of inquiry was a terrible career move.

John Yudkins scientific reputation had been all but sunk. He found himself uninvited from international conferences on nutrition. Research journals refused his papers. He was talked about by fellow scientists as an eccentric, a lone obsessive. Eventually, he became a scare story. Sheldon Reiser, one of the few researchers to continue working on the effects of refined carbohydrates and sugar through the 1970s, told Gary Taubes in 2011: Yudkin was so discredited. He was ridiculed in a way. And anybody else who said something bad about sucrose [sugar], theyd say, Hes just like Yudkin.

If Yudkin was ridiculed, Atkins was a hate figure. Only in the last few years has it become acceptable to study the effects of Atkins-type diets. In 2014, in a trial funded by the US National Institutes of Health, 150 men and women were assigned a diet for one year which limited either the amount of fat or carbs they could eat, but not the calories. By the end of the year, the people on the low carbohydrate, high fat diet had lost about 8lb more on average than the low-fat group. They were also more likely to lose weight from fat tissue; the low-fat group lost some weight too, but it came from the muscles. The NIH study is the latest of more than 50 similar studies, which together suggest that low-carbohydrate diets are better than low-fat diets for achieving weight loss and controlling type 2 diabetes. As a body of evidence, it is far from conclusive, but it is as consistent as any in the literature.

Illustration by Pete Gamlen

The 2015 edition of the US Dietary Guidelines (they are revised every five years) makes no reference to any of this new research, because the scientists who advised the committee the most eminent and well-connected nutritionists in the country neglected to include a discussion of it in their report. It is a gaping omission, inexplicable in scientific terms, but entirely explicable in terms of the politics of nutrition science. If you are seeking to protect your authority, why draw attention to evidence that seems to contradict the assertions on which that authority is founded? Allow a thread like that to be pulled, and a great unravelling might begin.

It may already have done. Last December, the scientists responsible for the report received a humiliating rebuke from Congress, which passed a measure proposing a review of the way the advice informing the guidelines is compiled. It referred to questions about the scientific integrity of the process. The scientists reacted angrily, accusing the politicians of being in thrall to the meat and dairy industries (given how many of the scientists depend on research funding from food and pharmaceutical companies, this might be characterised as audacious).

Some scientists agree with the politicians. David McCarron, a research associate at the Department of Nutrition at the University of California-Davis, told the Washington Post: Theres a lot of stuff in the guidelines that was right 40 years ago but that has been disproved. Unfortunately, sometimes, the scientific community doesnt like to backtrack. Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, was blunter, calling the new guidelines an evidence-free zone.

The congressional review has come about partly because of Nina Teicholz. Since her book was published, in 2014, Teicholz has become an advocate for better dietary guidelines. She is on the board of the Nutrition Coalition, a body funded by the philanthropists John and Laura Arnold, the stated purpose of which is to help ensure that nutrition policy is grounded in good science.

In September last year she wrote an article for the BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal), which makes the case for the inadequacy of the scientific advice that underpins the Dietary Guidelines. The response of the nutrition establishment was ferocious: 173 scientists some of whom were on the advisory panel, and many of whose work had been critiqued in Teicholzs book signed a letter to the BMJ, demanding it retract the piece.

Publishing a rejoinder to an article is one thing; requesting its erasure is another, conventionally reserved for cases involving fraudulent data. As a consultant oncologist for the NHS, Santhanam Sundar, pointed out in a response to the letter on the BMJ website: Scientific discussion helps to advance science. Calls for retraction, particularly from those in eminent positions, are unscientific and frankly disturbing.

The letter lists 11 errors, which on close reading turn out to range from the trivial to the entirely specious. I spoke to several of the scientists who signed the letter. They were happy to condemn the article in general terms, but when I asked them to name just one of the supposed errors in it, not one of them was able to. One admitted he had not read it. Another told me she had signed the letter because the BMJ should not have published an article that was not peer reviewed (it was peer reviewed). Meir Stampfer, a Harvard epidemiologist, asserted that Teicholzs work is riddled with errors, while declining to discuss them with me.

Reticent as they were to discuss the substance of the piece, the scientists were noticeably keener to comment on its author. I was frequently and insistently reminded that Teicholz is a journalist, and not a scientist, and that she had a book to sell, as if this settled the argument. David Katz, of Yale, one of the members of the advisory panel, and an indefatigable defender of the orthodoxies, told me that Teicholzs work reeks of conflict of interest without specifying what those conflicts were. (Dr Katz is the author of four diet books.)

Dr Katz does not pretend that his field has been right on everything he admitted to changing his own mind, for example, on dietary cholesterol. But he returned again and again to the subject of Teicholzs character. Nina is shockingly unprofessional I have been in rooms filled with the whos who of nutrition and I have never seen such unanimous revulsion as when Miss Teicholzs name comes up. She is an animal unlike anything Ive ever seen before. Despite requests, he cited no examples of her unprofessional behaviour. (The vitriol poured over Teicholz is rarely dispensed to Gary Taubes, though they make fundamentally similar arguments.)

In March this year, Teicholz was invited to participate in a panel discussion on nutrition science at the National Food Policy conference, in Washington DC, only to be promptly disinvited, after her fellow panelists made it clear that they would not share a platform with her. The organisers replaced her with the CEO of the Alliance for Potato Research and Education.

One of the scientists who called for the retractionof Nina Teicholzs BMJ article, who requested that our conversation be off the record, complained that the rise of social media has created a problem of authority for nutrition science. Any voice, however mad, can gain ground, he told me.

It is a familiar complaint. By opening the gates of publishing to all, the internet has flattened hierarchies everywhere they exist. We no longer live in a world in which elites of accredited experts are able to dominate conversations about complex or contested matters. Politicians cannot rely on the aura of office to persuade, newspapers struggle to assert the superior integrity of their stories. It is not clear that this change is, overall, a boon for the public realm. But in areas where experts have a track record of getting it wrong, it is hard to see how it could be worse. If ever there was a case that an information democracy, even a very messy one, is preferable to an information oligarchy, then the history of nutrition advice is it.

In the past, we only had two sources of nutritional authority: our doctor and government officials. It was a system that worked well as long as the doctors and officials were informed by good science. But what happens if that cannot be relied on?

The nutritional establishment has proved itself, over the years, skilled at ad hominem takedowns, but it is harder for them to do to Robert Lustig or Nina Teicholz what they once did to John Yudkin. Harder, too, to deflect or smother the charge that the promotion of low-fat diets was a 40-year fad, with disastrous outcomes, conceived of, authorised, and policed by nutritionists.

Professor John Yudkin retired from his post at Queen Elizabeth College in 1971, to write Pure, White and Deadly. The college reneged on a promise to allow him to continue to use its research facilities. It had hired a fully committed supporter of the fat hypothesis to replace him, and it was no longer deemed politic to have a prominent opponent of it on the premises. The man who had built the colleges nutrition department from scratch was forced to ask a solicitor to intervene. Eventually, a small room in a separate building was found for Yudkin.

When I asked Lustig why he was the first researcher in years to focus on the dangers of sugar, he answered: John Yudkin. They took him down so severely so severely that nobody wanted to attempt it on their own.

Ian Leslie, the author of Curious: the Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It, is a regular contributor to the Long Read. Twitter: @mrianleslie

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Diet soda may do more harm than good

( CNN) Diet soda drinkers have the same health issues as those who drink regular soda, according to a report published Wednesday.

Purdue University researchers reviewed a dozen analyzes published in the past five years that examined the relationship between eating diet soda and health outcomes for the report, published as an opinion piece in the periodical Trends in Endocrinology& Metabolism. They say they were “shocked” by the results.

‘ My life is basically over’- 14 days on a sugar-free diet

Were told that sugar is the source of all evil, but giving it up made me grumpy, skint and antisocial

Day 1: I spiralise a courgette

I wake up alarmed and dehydrated with a deep sense of dread. This is not just a hangover I have agreed to give up sugar and keep a food diary. All I can think is: Thank God Im starting today as yesterdays would have been truly embarrassing. Crisps. KFC. Vodka.

Its not my fault. I am clearly not an adult capable of make informed choices. So I resemble most overweight and overwrought people. My fat and my sluggishness are not a mystery to me: I feed and drink too much and my January was not dry.

Sugar is the source of all evil, so much so that a sugar tax is now being mooted. But how easy is it to give it up? I call a man who is going to help me, and I make a cheese omelette Im not sure what I can eat, but presume it is a low-carb diet, so this will be OK.

I arrange to meet personal trainer Nyambe Ikasaya for advice. He has and Im get technological here a lard testing machine, and Im too lardy. Also dehydrated. I explain about the vodka. He points out this is not research results of merely one nights drinking. He gives me what he calls a nutritional protocol and what I call a diet.

Things I cant have: bread, liquor, carrots really? and all fruit. I dont am worried about the fruit. He asks me what I want to achieve, and I enjoy whinging on to him.

At home, I begin reading volumes about detoxing and giving up sugar. You know how they go: three or four days in, most people feel terrible and then suddenly brilliant. This is the detox narrative. Largely, they seem to be written by 20 – or 30 -something women who apparently believe they are what they feed and who dont seem to have to feed anyone but themselves. Maybe my terrible posture is toxic, but few of these volumes speak to me at all.

Apparently I should have cleaned out my closets of all the bad food and freshly stocked them. But I havent done this because: life. I buy lots of veggies and order my teen a takeaway while I spiralise a courgette. Someone says on the news that its Blue Monday. It surely is.


Illegal foodstuffs merely a few of the banned items. Photograph by Felix Clay Photograph: Felix Clay for the Guardian

Day 2: Devoting up sugar entails giving up my social life

Im very confused about everything. Am I trying to lose weight or merely go cold turkey( apparently permissible as it is lean protein) on my sugar addiction? Or is this, in fact, the same thing? All advice on giving up sugar ends with a similar evidence: Incidentally, I lost two stone, get glowy scalp and my entire life was better. Sugar ages us as well as building us obese, they say. Willpower is no match for the food industry and we are sold more and more detoxes. Also, I am very confused about breakfast. I never ordinarily want it but have been told its better to have it than not. But not coffee. Have mushrooms get sugar in their own homes? Apparently I can have a few.

It seems to me I am doing a modified Atkins diet. Not so high in fat and dairyish, which is good as that made “i m feeling” dreadful. I have to go to a meeting so I take some smoked salmon and avocado with me to avoid an illegal sandwich. It goes to mush in my container and savours only of foil.

This diet necessitates me to scheme all my snacks. Do I severely have to read all food labels? A bit of mustard with my steak is surely not the end of the world? I cook separate dinners for myself and my family. Well why not, as I have cancelled going out. Devoting up sugar entails giving up my social life as I am not one of those people who can stand around with a glass of sparkling water feigning this is just what they have been looking forward to ALL DAY.


Sour dough Moore, breadless. Photograph by Felix Clay Photograph: Felix Clay for the Guardian

There are now vying voices in my head: This is the most self-indulgent thing you have ever done. Why are you able not look after yourself properly and should be noted that cutting down sugar builds sense health-wise?

Is sugar an actual narcotic? Does resisting it construct you morally superior? I merely dont know.

Day 3: I dont want to sit there with freak food

Been sticking with it but tonight, I have to cook dinner for family and friends. I need to be able to eat the same stuff as everyone else as I dont want to sit there with freak food. I get around this by not having rice, but inevitably I go on about it. My eldest, who is fit and health-conscious says: Mum, I have a friend doing this. It is just really boring. Explaining to other people what I can and cannot feed and how sugar is in everything is, I realise , not a dazzling topic of conversation.

Day 4: My intellect is full of information about the curing of smoked salmon

Terrible nights sleep. I feel anxious and have to go to the loo, a lot I have never drunk so much water. Eat leftover salmon for breakfast. Do some light exert: stretches, step( horror) and weights. Nyambe teaches me some stretches for my lower back ache while I spaff on about seeds.

These stretches are a revelation and Im happy to learn them. Truly helps. But my intellect is full of information about food, about sugar, and the curing of smoked salmon. My mental space is crammed, because essentially all diets construct you preoccupied with food. I want a break.

Day 5 : Its all so dull that I go to a store and try on clothes

Slept 10 hours. Guess about how much money I have already spent. Organic salmon. Steak. Sea bass. Parmesan. This is a very expensive protocol. Go to a Turkish cafe and the woman offers me hummus and all sorts, but I order an egg salad. She brings it over and says: Darling, I made it nice for you. I put pomegranate in. You know? I do know, and this is where I differ from some of the low sugar gurus. I dont decline it or scream: Get behind me, you Sugar Satan. I just think a bit of pomegranate wont kill me. Likewise, the rogue lentils that have also found their route into the salad.

In any case, its all so dull that I go to a store and try on clothes. Another unrewarding thing.

Day 6 : Meet friends in a pub and drink water. My life is basically over

What I crave is not sweetness per se, but texture: doughiness, crumbliness, softness. Meet friends in a pub and drink water. My life is basically over.


Juiced no OJ is permitted. Photograph by Felix Clay

Days 7-8 : I google the carb value of capers. FFS

Two days have blurred into one. I bump into people and talk about tomatoes. What have I become?

My personal trainer Nyambe is constantly supportive and realistic, which is great. The volumes are strict and hard to relate to. He is the opposite. I am eating a lot of eggs but have given up proper cooking altogether. Expend a fortune in the health food shop. One day I have stomach cramps. Is it because of the protocol.

My middle daughter says she is going to move back home as her flatshare situation is precarious. Dont worry, she says, I can cook for you all the time. I havent the heart to tell her this is well-nigh impossible.

One evening I google the carb value of capers. FFS. Still unsure about demonising of a whole food group. Sins, phases, values, proscribed foods. Still, I have stopped snacking and opening wine when building dinner.

Day 9 : Gin is the way forward

Fall off the wagon in a Spanish restaurant that does the most amazing gin and tonics. Choose that gin is the way forward as I genuinely dont am worried about food. Just order a courgette flower and more gin. This strikes me as a brilliant route to feed. Not the epiphany of a Gywneth, and God knows it costs a luck, but at least its not quark.

Day 10 : I have lost a couple of kilos of fat

Spectacularly hungover and I have to get weighed. I have lost a couple of kilos of fat. So, if weight loss is the measure of all things, then somethings working

Days 11 -1 2: Eat celeriac

Go to Copenhagen for the weekend. Drink wine and feed celeriac, which they seem to put in everything. But I dont go mad.

Day 13: I reach for the prosecco

Do go mad. We are burgled and penalty on the same day in Denmark.( Thats another story ). We lose our laptops and all our valuables. Fly home stressed and, once there, I reach for the prosecco. Find some horrible chocolates that no one consume at Christmas. Have an out-of-body experience as I watch myself shovelling them all in.

Day 14: I have lost more fat and strengthened muscle

Explain all this to Nyambe as I have another check in. The weekend has not ruined everything, though, as I have lost more fat and strengthened muscle. This is heartening; there is no way I can live sugar-free full-time.

Day 15: Life is too short to stuff a lentil

Reflecting back. Yes it is possible to give up sugar but, for me, it required too much planning and it is very expensive. Carbs are cheap and everywhere. Clever cooks may be able to do this on a budget, but life is too short to stuff a lentil. Such an attitude may well shorten my life. Right now I dont want to be cooking separate snacks from my family. It feels antisocial, and I dont want to stop my teen eating an entire food group. I dont guess I have ever spent so much on food just for myself.


Forget it pasta is verboten. Photograph: viennetta/ Getty Images/ iStockphoto

Looking back, perhaps I entered ketosis( where the body burns fat) after a few days. This country is described with almost religious reverence by the low-sugar/ carb crew. Surely, I had no ecstatic experience, except a flattening out of appetite. But while you might stop caring about food, being on a diet still takes up a lot of mental activity.

Do I feel better? Yes, actually, and here is the bit where Im meant to say its all down to stopping the sugar poison. But what I feel has made the difference are the stretches and bits of exercises Nyambe has taught me.

For all of my tussling, its own experience has acted as a brake on my bad habits. How long will it last? Surely, I realise we all need to eat less sugar and that even natural sugars( such as honey, agave syrup and fruit) are still, in the end, merely sugar.

But , no, I cant imagine my life becoming sugar-free its too difficult and dull. Instead I will try to cut down, without boring on. Cutting carbs/ sugar is helpful at my age, when “re going through” hormonal changes, as it levels your blood sugar spikes. Likewise losing fat and house muscle. Otherwise a lot of this is surely about calorie regulation. The weight loss bit is the sweetener of a no-sugar regime.

For this to be more achievable we need a fundamental rejigging of food pricing, or a different understanding of what percentage of our income we spend on food. Processed food are a lot of sugar, and its cheap. Carbs bulk out everything, even ourselves, in the end. Food is everyday and special, gasoline and festivity. Our skewed relationship with all of this is unhealthy. Mine is, for sure. But its not only me, is it? This is not just about my sad struggle with a courgette flower A workable, affordable diet that is not downright antisocial is now the thing I crave most of all.

Foods forbidden by the diet :

Sugar; alcohol; ready-made snacks; bread; pasta; juice; sugary drinks such as Coca-Cola; Fanta; lemonade; Pepsi; fruit, cakes, prepared meats such as ham, salami, sausages, pates; honey, canned food eg chopped tomatoes; prepared salad dressings; prepared sauces; prepared soups; jam; carrots; potatoes; sweet potatoes; peas; pastries; cereals; dried fruit; instant gravy; sauces; pies; puddings; cookies; smoothies, flavoured yoghurts.

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Official advice on low-fat diet and cholesterol is incorrect, says health charity

Report accuses UK public health bodies of colluding with food industry and calls for overhaul of dietary guidelines

Urging people to follow low-fat diets and to lower their cholesterol is having disastrous health consequences, a health charity has warned.

In a damning report that accuses major public health the organizations of colluding with the food industry, the National Obesity Forum and the Public Health Collaboration call for a major overhaul of current dietary guidelines. They say the focus on low-fat diets is failing to address Britains obesity crisis, while snacking between meals is stimulating people fat.

Instead, they call for a return to whole foods such as meat, fish and dairy, as well as high-fat, healthy foods including avocados, arguing: Eating fat does not build you fat.

The report which has caused a huge backlash among the scientific community also argues that saturated fat does not cause heart disease while full-fat dairy, including milk, yoghurt and cheese, can actually protect the heart.

Processed foods labelled low fat, lite, low cholesterol or proven to lower cholesterol avoid a situation at all costs, and people with type 2 diabetes should eat a fat-rich diet rather than one based on carbohydrates.

The report also said sugar should be avoided, people should stop counting calories and the idea that exercise could help you outrun a bad diet was a myth. Instead, a diet low in refined carbohydrates but high in healthy fats was an effective and safe approach for preventing weight gain and aiding weight loss, and cuts the risk of heart disease, it said.

The report added: Feeing a diet rich in full-fat dairy such as cheese, milk and yoghurt can actually lower the chance of obesity.

The more natural and nutritious foods available meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, seeds, olive, avocados all contain saturated fat. The continued demonisation of omnipresent natural fat drives people away from highly nourishing, wholesome and health-promoting foods.

The writers of the report also argue that the social sciences of food has furthermore been perverted by commercial influences.

Just as big tobacco companies bought the loyalty of scientists when a connect was induced between smoking and lung cancer, the influence of the food industry represents a significant threat to public health, they argued. They said the recent Eatwell Guide from Public Health England( PHE) was produced with a great number of people from the food and drink industry.

Prof David Haslam, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, told: As a clinician, treating patients all day every day, I quickly realised that guidelines from on high, suggesting high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets were the universal panacea, were deeply flawed.

Current efforts have failed the proof being that obesity levels are higher than they have ever been, and prove no chance of reducing despite the best efforts of government and scientists.

Dr Aseem Malhotra, consultant cardiologist and founding member of the Public Health Collaboration, a group of medics, told dietary guidelines promoting low-fat foods were perhaps the biggest mistake in modern medical history, resulting in devastating consequences for public health.

Sadly this unhelpful advice continues to be perpetuated. The current Eatwell Guide from Public Health England is in my view more like a metabolic timebomb than a dietary pattern conducive for good health. We must urgently change the message to the public to reverse obesity and kind 2 diabetes.

Eat fat to get slim. Dont fear fat. Fat is your friend. Its now genuinely time to bring back the fat.

Prof Iain Broom, from Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, told: The continuation of a food policy recommending high-carbohydrate, low-fat, low-calorie intakes as healthy eating is fatally flawed.

Our populations for virtually 40 years have been subjected to an uncontrolled global experiment that has run drastically wrong.

But Prof John Wass, the Royal College of Physicians special adviser on obesity, said there was good evidence that saturated fat increases cholesterol.

He added: What is required is a balanced diet, regular physical activity and a normal healthy weight. To quote selective analyzes risks misinforming the public.

Prof Simon Capewell, from the Faculty of Public Health, told: We fully support Public Health Englands new guidance on a healthy diet. Their advice reflects evidence-based science that we can all trust. It was not influenced by industry.

By contrast, research reports from the National Obesity Forum is not peer reviewed. Furthermore, it does not it indicate who wrote it or how is was funded. That is worrying.

Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation( BHF ), told: This report is full of ideas and opinion, however it does not offer the robust and comprehensive its consideration of evidence that would be required for the BHF, as the UKs largest heart research charity, to take it seriously.

This countrys obesity epidemic is not caused by poor dietary guidelines; it is that we are not session them.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, told: In the face of all the evidence, calling for people to eat more fat, cut out carbs and ignore calories is irresponsible. Unlike this opinion piece, our independent experts review all the available evidence often thousands of scientific papers operate full-scale consultations and going to see great lengths to ensure no bias.

Prof Naveed Sattar, from the University of Glasgow, said the reports main headline simply to eat more fat is highly contentious and could have adverse public health consequences.

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