What I wrote to the FT on ‘Gut Instinct’

The article Gut Instinct in Saturday’s FT on 7th January describes the detox diet at Grayshott Spa that eliminates sugar, dairy, wheat, caffeine and alcohol. Developing the long-term habit of cutting out sugar and refined carbohydrates has to be praised. But I am concerned about the central recommendations to eat “lots of good-quality animal protein and fat”.

The benefits that people feel after following this diet for several weeks, may well be attributed to what they are NOT eating and drinking, namely alcohol, caffeine and refined carbohydrates and all the processed foods that this usually includes, and less likely, in my opinion, than from eating more meat and dairy. By quitting sugar, dairy, wheat, caffeine and alcohol, in itself, most people would feel greatly better.

Eating more meat and dairy will increase overall acidity in the body, and hence, inflammation in the body, more joint issues, even more heart disease, over a longer period of time. I question whether these improvements would be sustainable. Even the meat-eating Paleo movement has over the last decade shifted the recommended balance over to more vegetables and fruit and less meat.plant-based diet

The idea of increasing fat consumption has been doubted by many nutritionists for a good reason. This increases the burden on the liver, and further compounds the problem when antioxidant intake is low due to eating less fruit and vegetable. Dietary saturated versus unsaturated fats can be debated till the cows come home! But the article does not mention the health problems connected to heating fats. Frying, roasting and grilling meat all cause the production of AGE’s (advanced glycation end products) which contribute to chronic inflammation and aging. Foods with the highest AGE’s are meat, butter and processed cream cheese. Added to this all fats, even the more stable saturated ones, are damaged by heat, and cause the production of harmful free radicals.

While the article mentions the French having a lower rate of heart disease even though their diet is higher in saturated fats, the author fails to include that the French paradox is a complex subject. A key point in an article in Heart journal says “The French paradox suggest that the promotion of primary prevention, based on an optimal diet rich in fruit and vegetables, regular physical exercise, and life without smoking, is worthwhile”. It does not say a diet rich in meat and dairy is worthwhile.

Added to this, from an environmental perspective I personally cannot recommend an increase in meat and dairy, when animal agriculture and meat consumption are significant contributors to global warming.

I prefer to follow the advice of foodie journalist and author, Michael Pollan “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”.



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