The New EAT Lancet Diet – healthy & sustainable for whom?

A new report released on January 16, 2019 by the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet and Health sets out what it calls a “healthy and sustainable diet” [1] for the whole world.

The EAT-Lancet report proposes what it calls the “Planetary Health Diet“; a largely plant-based diet which aims to address the simultaneous global problems of malnutrition (under-nutrition) and over-nutrition; specifically that “over 820 million people continue to go hungry every day, 150 million children suffer from long-term hunger that impairs their growth and development, and 50 million children are acutely hungry due to insufficient access to food” and that at the same time “over 2 billion adults are overweight and obese”[2].

The “Planetary Health Diet” intends address both under-nutrition and over-nutrition simultaneously by promoting a 2500 kcal per day diet that focuses on high consumption of carbohydrate-based grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes (pulses and lentils) — while significantly limiting meat and dairy. This sounds a lot like the proposed draft of the new Canada Food Guide (which you can read more about here).

The Planetary Health Diet

The Planetary Health Diet – aka the EAT-Lancet Diet [4]
Here is the food per day that can be eaten per adult on the “Planetary Health Diet“;

  1. Nuts: 50 g (1 -3/4 ounces) /day
  2. Legumes (pulses, lentils, beans): 75 g (2-1/2 oz) /day
  3. Fish: 28 g (less than an ounce) / day
  4. Eggs: 13 g / day (~ 1 egg per week)
  5. Meat: 14 g (1/2 an ounce) / day / Chicken: 29 g (1 ounce) / day
  6. Carbohydrate: whole grain bread and rice, 232 g carbohydrate per day and 50 g / day of starchy vegetables like potato and yam
  7. Dairy: 250 g (the equivalent of one 8 oz. glass of milk)
  8. Vegetables: 300 g (10.5 ounces) of non-starchy vegetables and 200 g (almost 1/2 a pound) of fruit per day
  9. Other: 31 g of sugar (1 ounce), ~50 g cooking oil
On this diet, you can have twice the amount of sugar as meat or egg, and the same amount of sugar as poultry and fish.

While is is understandable how the above diet may address the problems of under-nutrition in much of the world’s population, what about the effect of such a diet on the average American or Canadian — when 1 in 3 Americans[5] and 1 in 4 Canadians is overweight or obese[6]?

Vast Majority (88%) of Americans are Metabolically Unhealthy

A study published in November 2018 in Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders reported that 88% of Americans are already metabolically unhealthy[3]. That is, only 12% have metabolic health defined as have levels of metabolic markers “consistent with a high level of health and low risk of impending cardiometabolic disease“.

Metabolic Health is defined as [3];

  1. Waist Circumference: < 102 cm (40 inches) for men and 88 cm (34.5 inches) in women
  2. Systolic Blood Pressure: < 120 mmHG
  3. Diastolic Blood Pressure: < 80 mmHG
  4. Glucose: < 5.5 mmol/L (100 mg/dL)
  5. HbA1c: < 5.7%
  6. Triglycerides: < 1.7 mmol/l (< 150 mg/dL)
  7. HDL cholesterol: ≥ 1.00 mmol/L (≥40 mg/dL) in men and ≥ 1.30 mmol/L (50 mg/dl) in women

When looking at only 3 of the above 7 factors (waist circumference, blood glucose levels and blood pressure) more than <50% of Americans were considered metabolically unhealthy [3].

Given the slightly lower rates of obesity in Canada[6] as in the United States[5], presumably there is a slightly lower percentage of Canadians who are metabolically unhealthy, but the similarity of our diets may make that difference insignificant. As well, it was not only those who were overweight or obese who were metabolically unhealthy;

“Even when WC (waist circumference) was excluded from the definition, only one-third of the normal weight adults enjoyed optimal metabolic health.”

For the 12% of people who are metabolically healthy, a plant-based low glycemic index diet is not problematic, but it's a concern to recommend to the other 88% to eat that way — especially if they are insulin resistant or have Type 2 Diabetes.

Is the “Planetary Health Diet” an advisable diet for the average American or Canadian adult who is already metabolically unhealthy? To answer this question, let’s look closer at the macronutrient and micronutrient content of this diet.

Below is the “healthy reference diet” from page 5 of the report [7], which is based on an average intake of 2500 kcal per day;

Table 1 – Healthy reference diet, with possible ranges, for an intake of 2500 kcal/day (from Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems)

Nutritional Deficiency of the Eat-Lancet Diet

Dr. Zoe Harcombe a UK based nutrition with a PhD in public health nutrition analyzed the above “Healthy Reference Diet” from Table 1 of the Eat-Lancet report using the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) all-food database and found that in terms of macronutrients, it had [8];

Protein: 90 g (14% of daily calories)
Fat: 100 g (35% of daily calories)
Carbohydrate: 329 g (51% of daily calories)

Dr. Harcombe also reported that in terms of micronutrients, the diet was deficient in retinol (providing only 17% of the recommended amount), Vitamin D (providing only 5% of the recommended amount), Sodium (providing only 22% of the recommended amount), Potassium (providing only 67% of the recommended amount), Calcium (providing only 55% of the recommended amount), Iron  (providing only 88% of the recommended amount, but mostly as much lower bio-available non-heme iron, from plant-based sources), as well as inadequate amounts of Vitamin K (as the most bio-available comes from animal-based sources).

High Carbohydrate Content

The “Planetary Health Diet” contains on average approximately 329 g of carbohydrate per day which is of significant concern — especially in light of the extremely high rates of overweight and obesity in both the United States and Canada, as well as the metabolic diseases that go along with those, including Type 2 Diabetes (T2D), cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and abnormal triglycerides.

Since 1977, Canada Food Guide has recommended that Canadians consume 55-60% of daily calories as carbohydrate and the Dietary Goals for the United States recommending that carbohydrates are 55-60% of daily calories and in 2015, Canada Food Guide increased the amount of daily carbohydrate intake to 45-65% of daily calories as carbohydrate.

What has happened to the rates of overweight and obesity, as well as diabetes from 1977 until the present?

In the early 1970s, only ~8% of men and ~12% of women in Canada were obese and now almost 22% of men and 19% of women are obese. As mentioned above, 1 in 4 in Canada is obese and 1 in 3 in the US is and with those, Type 2 Diabetes as well as the metabolic diseases mentioned above.

Final Thoughts…

The Dietary Guidelines of both Canada and the US have spent the last 40 years promoting a high carbohydrate diet that has provided adults with between 300 g and 400 g of carbohydrate per day (based on a 2500 kcal / day diet).

EAT-Lancet’s “Planetary Health Diet” may seem to be good for the planet, and for those facing under-nutrition in many parts of the world, but with 88% of Americans already metabolically unhealthy (and presumably the majority of Canadians as well), this diet which provides 300 g of carbohydrate per day is going to do nothing to address the high rates of overweight and obesity and metabolic disease that is rampant in North America.

If you would like to learn more about eating a lower carbohydrate diet for weight loss or for putting the symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes and associated metabolic diseases into remission, please send me a note using the Contact Me form.

To your good health!

Joy

You can follow me at:

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Copyright ©2019 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.

LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without the knowledge of your physician and regular monitoring by your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing anything  you have read or heard in our content.

References

  1. The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet and Health,  https://eatforum.org/eat-lancet-commission/
  2. The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet and Health – EAT-Lancet Commission Brief for Healthcare Professionals,  https://eatforum.org/lancet-commission/healthcare-professionals/
  3. Araújo J, Cai J, Stevens J. Prevalence of Optimal Metabolic Health in American Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2009–2016. Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders Vol 20, No. 20, pg 1-7, DOI: 10.1089/met.2018.0105
  4. BBC News, A bit of Meat, a lot of veg – the flexitarian diet to feed 10 billion, James Gallagher, 17 January 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/health-46865204
  5. State of Obesity, Adult Obesity in the United States, https://stateofobesity.org/adult-obesity/
  6. Statistics Canada, Health at a Glance, Adjusting the scales: Obesity in the Canadian population after correcting for respondent bias,  https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-624-x/2014001/article/11922-eng.htm
  7. Willet W, Rockstrom J, Loken B, et al, Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems, The Lancet Commissions, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/ S0140-6736(18)31788-4
  8. Harcombe Z, The EAT Lancet diet is Nutritionally Deficient,  http://www.zoeharcombe.com/2019/01/the-eat-lancet-diet-is-nutritionally-deficient/

Background to the New Canada Food Guide Draft

This article is to provide background information to the article posted yesterday (available here) about the proposed changes to the new Canada's Food Guide.

As I thought yesterday, I can confirm now that the source of the draft version of the new Canada’s Food Guide was from the Earnscliffe Strategy Group’s report titled “Healthy Eating Strategy – Dietary Guidance Transformation – Focus Groups on Healthy Eating Messages, Visuals and Brands Research Report which was released on October 31 2018.

Health Canada has confirmed that the draft of the new food guide is not the final version.

Media stories about the new guide first began last week (January 4, 2019) after a draft of the new food guide was referred to by the French media outlet LaPresse in their article titled “Les produits laitiers largement écartés du nouveau Guide alimentaire” (translation: “Milk products are largely removed from the new Food Guide”).

English language media stories cited in the article I posted yesterday also relied on the Earncliffe report.

According to this report, Health Canada is planning to release a Canada’s Food Guide (CFG) “suite of products” to meet the needs of a variety of audiences.  The “look and feel” of the final concept will be applied across the suite of products (pg. 1 Healthy Eating Strategy – Dietary Guidance Transformation – Focus Groups on Healthy Eating Messages, Visuals and Brands – Final Report).

This past June, Ann Ellis who is Manager of Dietary Guidance Manager at Health Canada spoke at the Dietitians of Canada conference on Vancouver Island and shared the specific “suite of products” that will be rolled out.

For the general public the focus of the new guide will be on “how to eat” (eating with others, taking meals to school or work, food shopping) rather than on “what to eat“. Guidance with regards to the types of foods and number of servings will be provided to healthcare professionals such as Dietitians rather than to the general public.

The first set of resources that were supposed to be released this past fall but will probably be release in early 2019 will be;

  1. Canada’s Dietary Guidelines for Health Professionals and Policy Makers: A report providing Health Canada’s policy on healthy eating. This report will form the foundation for Canada’s Food Guide tools and resources
  2. Canada’s Food Guide Healthy Eating Principles: Communicating Canada’s Dietary Guidelines in plain language
  3. Canada’s Food Guide Graphic: Expressing the Healthy Eating Principles through visuals and words
  4. Canada’s Food Guide Interactive Tool:  An interactive online tool providing custom information for different life stages, in different settings
  5. Canada’s Food Guide Web Resources: Mobile-responsive healthy eating information (fact sheets, videos, recipes) to help Canadians apply Canada’s Dietary Guidelines

The second set of resources that were to be released in the spring of 2019 but will probably be pushed back to the summer are;

  1. Canada’s Healthy Eating Pattern for Health Professionals and Policy Makers:  A report providing guidance on amounts and types of foods as well as life stage guidance
  2. Enhancements to Canada’s Food Guide: Interactive Tool and Canada’s Food Guide (Web Resources): Enhancements and additional content to Canada’s web application on an ongoing basis

As far as “timelines” for release of the new Canada Food Guide, the following was available from the Health Canada website;

Key dates

The revision of Canada’s food guide will be completed in phases.

In early 2019, we will release:

  • Part 1 of the new dietary guidance policy report for health professionals and policy makers, which will consist of general healthy eating recommendations
  • supporting key messages and resources for Canadians

Later in 2019, we will release:

  • Part 2 of the new dietary guidance policy report, which will consist of healthy eating patterns (recommended amounts and types of foods)
  • additional resources for Canadians
It is very good news that healthy eating patterns with recommended amounts and types of foods will be released to health care professionals, but why not to the general public?

Phase 1 of market research was targeted to five different audiences and focused on a variety of healthy eating topics. The five different audiences included;

  1. adults experienced in food preparation
  2. adults with minimal experience in food preparation
  3. seniors responsible for food preparation
  4. parents of children who are responsible for grocery shopping and food preparation
  5. youth aged 16 to 18

Market research included a series of 10 focus groups that were held in English in Ottawa (March 20 and 21) and in French in Quebec City (March 21 and 22).

Phase 2 of market research was to test the visual elements for the new Canada’s Food Guide to assess:

  • effective use of text and graphics/images
  • credibility, relevancy and perceived value to the audience
  • acceptance
  • appeal, usefulness and appropriateness
  • relevance and engagement
  • memorability (eye-catching and general visual appeal)

Audiences for Phase 2 included:

  • those at risk of marginal health literacy
  • those with adequate health literacy
  • primary level teachers
  • community level educators
  • registered dietitians working in public health or community nutrition
  • registered dietitians working in clinical/private practice/media/bloggers
  • registered nurses working in public or community health.

In addition, 10 focus groups were conducted with members of the general public in five Canadian cities:

  • Toronto, ON (June 5, 2018)
  • Quebec City, QC (June 6, 2018, in French)
  • Calgary, AB (June 7, 2018)
  • Whitehorse, YK (June 11, 2018)
  • St. John’s, NL (June 14, 2018).

Fifteen (15) mini-groups were conducted with health professionals and educators in 3 Canadian cities:

  • Toronto, ON (June 4, 2018)
  • Calgary, AB (June 6, 2018)
  • Quebec City, QC (June 18, 2018, in French)

The following note appeared in the introduction to the Earnscliffe report;

“It is important to note that qualitative research is a form of scientific, social, policy and public opinion research. Focus group research is not designed to help a group reach a consensus or to make decisions, but rather to elicit the full range of ideas, attitudes, experiences and opinions of a selected sample of participants on a defined topic. Because of the small numbers involved the participants cannot be expected to be thoroughly representative in a statistical sense of the larger population from which they are drawn and findings cannot reliably be generalized beyond their number.”

The following topics on “how to eat” were explored for each of the following audiences during Phase 1:

Adults experienced in food preparation
 Healthy eating at work
 Grocery shopping
 Eating on the go

Adults with minimal experience in food preparation
 Healthy eating at home
 Beginner cook
 Celebrations

Seniors responsible for food preparation
 Building healthy meals & snacks
 Eating on a budget
 Healthy eating for seniors

Youth
 Eating on the go
 Building healthy meals & snacks
 Eating out

Parents responsible for food preparation
 Planning & preparing healthy food with the family
 Packing healthy lunches
 Eating out

It does not appear that any of the focus groups were consulted about the decision to eliminate the Meat and Alternatives and Milk and Alternatives food groups. The senior’s focus group was consulted about the “justification” for particular messages related to these. “Non-meat protein options” and “healthy fats” were considered “new information for which they would like to understand the justification” therefore “providing a rationale was felt to be useful“.

Regarding these “justifications“;

“the placement of the justification seemed to be pertinent.

For example, participants reacted favourably to the statement, “Eggs are a very convenient and versatile protein food. Prepare them poached, scrambled or made into an omelette with your favourite chopped vegetables.” because the justification (that eggs are convenient and versatile) was provided at the outset.

By way of contrast, reactions to “Eat meatless meals more often! Instead of meat have baked beans, lentil chilli or an egg sandwich. They cost less!” were less favourable because the justification was provided at the end (they cost less).

Some argued that as a result, this statement came across more as a directive to avoid something they enjoy (eating meat).

(pg. 18 Healthy Eating Strategy – Dietary Guidance Transformation – Focus Groups on Healthy Eating Messages, Visuals and Brands – Final Report).


Topics that were explored for each audience (teachers, dietitians, nurses and people with literacy issues) during Phase 2 included:

  • reactions to the draft look-and-feel elements
  • reactions to the draft visual elements

Two drafts of the new Canada’s Food Guide appeared in the report under the section of “visual elements“;

“At-a-glance” Visual Concept A

“At-a-glance” Visual Concept B

Participant’s feedback on these visual elements are worth noting;

When asked, some could delineate that because vegetables/fruits occupied a larger space visually, or in the example of Visual Concept B that vegetables/fruits were displayed at the top, that most of the food they should consume should come from this category. Others (but not many) inferred from the messaging, “plenty of vegetables and fruit”, that much of what they eat in a day should be vegetables/fruit.

However, all of this was not obvious and most indicated that they would have preferred a more direct reference to either specific proportions or, at a minimum, an image of a plate or a pyramid, in which the appropriate proportions of vegetables/fruits, grains, and protein were illustrated.

(pg. 34 Healthy Eating Strategy – Dietary Guidance Transformation – Focus Groups on Healthy Eating Messages, Visuals and Brands – Final Report).

It would seem that the draft guide’s focus on “how to eat” left focus group participants wanting more direction on “what to eat” which is primarily what Canadian’s look to the Canada Food Guide for. They wanted to know specific proportions of vegetables and fruit, grains and protein to eat and as a bare minimum wanted an image of a plate or a pyramid in which the appropriate proportions were illustrated.

Some final (personal) thoughts…

As mentioned yesterday, I believe that the role of a national food guide is to enable a country’s population to eat as optimally as possible and without providing guidance as to how much food and how often it should be eaten, the public will be left wanting.

It is clear from the reaction of the senior’s group that they wanted to know why they should eat less meat and less saturated fat and as I expressed yesterday, I believe that before Canadians are discouraged from eating meat and milk that the government should provide current, scientific evidence that eating saturated fat contributes to cardiovascular disease. The public doesn’t need nicer worded “justifications”, but the evidence related to limit saturated fat and to what degree.

To your good health!

Joy

You can follow me at:

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Copyright ©2019 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.

LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without the knowledge of your physician and regular monitoring by your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing anything  you have read or heard in our content.

New Canada Food Guide Drops Meat and Milk Groups

According to an article published in the Globe and Mail yesterday, the new Canada’s Food Guide will have only 3 Food Groups; (1) Vegetables and Fruit (2) Whole Grains and (3) Protein Foods — and will have dropped the Meat and Alternatives and Milk and Alternatives food groups, along with dropping the recommendation for adults and children to consume 2-3 servings of meat and alternatives and milk and alternatives daily[1].

This draft of the new Food Guide does not recommend a specific amount of protein foods be consumed each day.

According to the article;

The proposed changes are consistent with Health Canada’s previous statements on its intentions; “the majority of Canadians don’t eat enough vegetables, fruits and whole grains.”[1]

The draft of the new Canada Food Guide shows the 3 new food groups and under the heading Protein Foods are images of tofu, red beans & chickpeas, peanut butter, milk, fish and a pork chop, under Whole Grains are images of rice, bread, quinoa and pasta and under Vegetables and Fruit which is the largest of the 3 food groups are a variety of fresh, frozen and canned produce.

The articles published in both the Globe and Mail[1] and on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)’s website[2] state the same things, as do other media outlets and may have been based on the Earnscliffe Strategy Groups report titled “Healthy Eating Strategy – Dietary Guidance Transformation – Focus Groups on Healthy Eating Messages, Visuals and Brands Research Report, Prepared for: Health Canada” which contained the following images:

from “Healthy Eating Strategy – Dietary Guidance Transformation – Focus Groups on Healthy Eating Messages, Visuals and Brands Research Report, Earnscliffe Strategy Group
from “Healthy Eating Strategy – Dietary Guidance Transformation – Focus Groups on Healthy Eating Messages, Visuals and Brands Research Report, Earnscliffe Strategy Group

The proposed new Canada Food Guide should come as no surprise given that the Government of Canada has had posted on its website since 2017 Health Canada’s ‘Guiding Principles, Recommendations and Considerations’ which include Guiding Principle 1;

Regular intake of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and protein-rich foods*especially plant-based sources of protein

Inclusion of foods that contain mostly unsaturated fat, instead of foods that contain mostly of saturated fat

*Protein-rich foods include: legumes (such as beans), nuts and seeds, soy products (including fortified soy beverage), eggs, fish and other seafood, poultry, lean red meats (including game meats such as moose, deer and caribou), lower fat milk and yogurt, cheeses lower in sodium and fat.

Nutritious foods that contain fat such as homogenized (3.25% M.F.) milk should not be restricted for young children.

The CBC article stated that Dr. Jennifer Taylor, Professor of Foods and Nutrition at the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) and who is one of the experts that was consulted on the new guide said;

 “The new guidelines are evidence-based and relevant.”

and added that

“Any government in any developed country has a responsibility to have some good advice for their citizens.”

The question is, is the de-emphasis on the consumption of meat and milk in order to limit saturated fat based on current evidence? More on this below.

Meat and dairy products have been a major part of the diet of populations around the world for millennia and these are high quality proteins which have high bioavailability to the human body and are unequaled in plant-based proteins. Of course, individuals who choose to be vegetarian or vegan for religious or ethical reasons should be free to choose non-animal based protein foods consistent with their beliefs, however it is my opinion that the role of a country’s food guide is to encourage optimal dietary intake in all of its population.

"Bioavailability" has to do with how much of the nutrients in a given food are available for usage by the human body.  In the case of protein, bioavailability  has to do with the type and relative amounts of amino acids present in a protein*. Anti-nutrients such as phytates, oxylates and lectins which are present in plant-based protein sources interfere with the availability of nutrients in those foods. *Animal proteins (1) contain all of the essential amino acids in sufficient quantities and (2) do not contain anti-nutrients (as plant-based proteins do).

High bioavailability proteins are optimal for the body’s of growing children and youth and to preserve the lean muscle tissue and function in aging adults and a pork chop and red beans or chickpeas are not biologically equivalent in terms of the essential amino acids they provide. I believe, that as in the past the Canadian population should be encouraged to consume both Meats and Alternatives whenever possible.

Professor Taylor said that “not everyone follows the Food Guide strictly” however hospitals, long term care facilities, daycare centers, some  schools, as well as prisons are required by their provincial licenses to provide food that meets Canada’s Food Guide. Will there be a different food guide for institutions with a requirement to provide a specific amount of high bioavailable protein daily? I certainly hope so as the young, the infirm, the institutionalized and the aged are amongst the most vulnerable in our society.

In light of this draft of the new food guide, here are some questions that I believe we, as a society must address;

Do we really NOT want to encourage parents to provide children and youth to be with a specific amount of high bioavailable protein daily?

Do we NOT want to encourage pre-teens and teenagers to eat the most bioavailable protein available to support optimal growth?

Do we NOT want to encourage seniors to consume a specific amount of high quality, bioavailable protein every day to reduce their risk for sarcopenia (muscle wasting)?


The new Canada Food Guide’s shift away from regular consumption of meat and dairy is based a perceived need to avoid foods that contain saturated fat — seeing it as a negative component of the diet. Yes, saturated fat is known to raise LDL-cholesterol however such a finding is meaningless unless it is specified which type of LDL-cholesterol goes up. There are small, dense LDL cholesterol which easily penetrates the artery wall and which are associated with heart disease [4,5,6,7] and large, fluffy LDL cholesterol which are not [8,9].

Eight recent meta-analysis and systemic reviews which reviewed evidence from randomized control trials (RCT) that had been conducted between 2009-2017 did not find an association between saturated fat intake and the risk of heart disease [10-17] and the results of the largest and most global epidemiological study published in December 2017 in The Lancet [18] found that those who ate the largest amount of saturated fats had significantly reduced rates of mortality and that low consumption (6-7% of calories) of saturated fat was associated with increased risk of stroke.

As Canadians we must ask where is the current evidence that eating foods with saturated fat is dangerous to health?

I believe that Health Canada needs to provide this evidence — evidence which is not based on proxy measurements that saturated fat raises total LDL cholesterol. There needs to be a clear differentiation between small, dense LDL cholesterol (which are associated with cardiovascular risk) and large, fluffy LDL cholesterol (which are not).

I believe that it is inadequate for Canadians to not be encouraged to eat meat and milk without the government providing current, scientific evidence that eating saturated fat raises small, dense LDL and/or leads to cardiovascular disease. Where is this evidence?

Finally, Canada is in the midst of an obesity and diabetes epidemic. According to Statistics Canada, one in four Canadian adults were overweight or obese in 2011-2012 [19]. That’s about 6.3 million people and that number is continuing to increase. In 1980, only 15% of Canadian school-aged children were overweight or obese. This number has more than doubled to 31% in 2011 [20] and 12% met the criteria for obesity [21,22,23].

How will Canada’s overweight and obesity crisis be addressed by a new Canada Food Guide that de-emphasizes regular consumption of milk and animal proteins which increase satiety (feeling of fullness) while encouraging Canadian children, youth and adults to eat more vegetables, fruit and whole grains?

I believe Canadians deserve these answers before Canada’s Food Guide is changed.

The Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion is the federal department that is responsible for developing and promoting dietary guidance, including Canada's Food Guide. If you have concerns about the proposed changes to Canada Food Guide, they can be reached by email at nutrition@hc-sc.gc.ca.

To your good health!

Joy

UPDATE (January 10, 2019) This new article summarizes the report on which the media stories about the new Canada Food Guide draft are based and includes very interesting focus group reactions.

You can follow me at:

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Copyright ©2019 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.

LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without the knowledge of your physician and regular monitoring by your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing anything  you have read or heard in our content.

References

  1. The Globe and Mail, Ann Hui, Canada’s Food Guide poised to shift focus from meat, dairy to vegetables, protein, published January 8, 2019, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-new-draft-of-canadian-nutrition-guide-drops-to-three-food-groups/
  2. CBC News,  New food guide will shift recommended diet from meat, dairy to fruits, veggies says expert, published January 8, 2019, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-canada-food-guide-jennifer-taylor-1.4970072
  3. Government of Canada, Guiding Principles, Recommendations and Considerations, https://www.foodguideconsultation.ca/guiding-principles-detailed
  4. Tribble DL, Holl LG, Wood PD, et al. Variations in oxidative susceptibility among six low density lipoprotein subfractions of differing density and particle size. Atherosclerosis 1992;93:189–99
  5. Gardner CD, Fortmann SP, Krauss RM, Association of Small Low-Density Lipoprotein Particles With the Incidence of Coronary Artery Disease in Men and Women, JAMA. 1996;276(11):875-881
  6. Lamarche B, Tchernof A, Moorjani S, et al, Small, Dense Low-Density Lipoprotein Particles as a Predictor of the Risk of Ischemic Heart Disease in Men, 
  7. Packard C, Caslake M, Shepherd J. The role of small, dense low density lipoprotein (LDL): a new look, Int J of Cardiology,  Volume 74, Supplement 1, 30 June 2000, Pages S17-S22
  8. Genest JJ, Blijlevens E, McNamara JR, Low density lipoprotein particle size and coronary artery disease, Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 1992;12:187-195
  9. Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q, Hu FB, Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 91, Issue 3, 1 March 2010, Pages 502–509
  10. Skeaff CM, PhD, Professor, Dept. of Human Nutrition, the University of Otago, Miller J. Dietary Fat and Coronary Heart Disease: Summary of Evidence From Prospective Cohort and Randomised Controlled Trials, Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2009;55(1-3):173-201
  11. Hooper L, Summerbell CD, Thompson R, Reduced or modified dietary fat for preventing cardiovascular disease, 2012 Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 May 16;(5)
  12. Chowdhury R, Warnakula S, Kunutsor S et al, Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids with Coronary Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis, Ann Intern Med. 2014 Mar 18;160(6):398-406
  13. Schwingshackl L, Hoffmann G Dietary fatty acids in the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease: a systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression BMJ Open 2014;4
  14. Hooper L, Martin N, Abdelhamid A et al, Reduction in saturated fat intake for cardiovascular disease, Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Jun 10;(6)
  15. Harcombe Z, Baker JS, Davies B, Evidence from prospective cohort studies does not support current dietary fat guidelines: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Br J Sports Med. 2017 Dec;51(24):1743-1749
  16. Ramsden CE, Zamora D, Majchrzak-Hong S, et al, Re-evaluation of the traditional diet-heart hypothesis: analysis of recovered data from Minnesota Coronary Experiment (1968-73), BMJ 2016; 353
  17. Hamley S, The effect of replacing saturated fat with mostly n-6 polyunsaturated fat on coronary heart disease: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials, Nutrition Journal 2017 16:30
  18. Dehghan M, Mente A, Zhang X et al, The PURE Study – Associations of fats and carbohydrate intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality in 18 countries from five continents (PURE): a prospective cohort study. Lancet. 2017 Nov 4;390(10107):2050-2062
  19. Statistic Canada, Adjusting the scales: Obesity in the Canadian population after correcting for respondent bias, Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-624. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-624-x/2014001/article/11922-eng.htm
  20. Overweight and obesity in children and adolescents: Results from the 2009 to 2011, Canadian Health Measures Survey [homepage on the Internet]. [Cited 2016 Nov 28]. Available from: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2012003/article/11706-eng.htm
  21. Twells, LK, Midodzi W, et al. Current and predicted prevalence of obesity in Canada: a trend analysis. CMAJ Open. Mar 3, 2014. Vol 2 (1), E18-E26.
  22. Diabetes: Canada at The Tipping Point [homepage on the Internet]. [Cited 2016 Nov 28]. Available from: https://www.diabetes.ca/CDA/media/documents/publications-and-newsletters/advocacy-reports/canada-at-the-tipping-point-english.pdf
  23. Janseen, Ian. The public health burden of obesity in Canada. Canadian Journal of Diabetes. Apr 2013. Vol 37 (2), 90-96.

The Mediterranean Diet

Most people have heard that a “Mediterranean Diet” is healthy, but what is it?

According to the 2018 Clinical Practice Guidelines from Diabetes Canada;

A “Mediterranean diet” primarily refers to a plant-based diet first described in the 1960s. General features include a high consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, cereals and whole grains; moderate-to-high consumption of olive oil (as the principal source of fat); low to moderate consumption of dairy products, fish and poultry; and low consumption of red meat, as well as low to moderate consumption of wine, mainly during meals”

There are many countries that border on the Mediterranean Sea and the traditional diets of these regions vary considerably! Countries such as Greece and Turkey have a long-standing tradition of a meat-rich diet, and countries such as France and Spain are known for their high saturated fat intake, which begs the question “what is the Mediterranean Diet” and “which country in the Mediterranean is it from” and “what time period is it from“?

Countries of the Mediterranean

Countries of the Mediterranean

Mediterranean countries include Albania, Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Israel, Lebanon, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Monaco, Montenegro, Slovenia, Spain, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey and each country traditionally had it’s own diet. That is, there isn’t a single “Mediterranean Diet” but Mediterranean Diets.

The “Mediterranean Diet” referred to in the literature and in common speech refers to what was eaten in Southern Italy in the 1960s when Ancel Keys conducted his Six Country Study (1953) and later his Seven Countries Study (1970). These studies allegedly demonstrated that there was an association between dietary fat as a percentage of daily calories and death from degenerative heart disease but as will be elaborated on below, this is largely because some of the data available at the time was ignored by Ancel Keys’.

The definition of a “Mediterranean Diet” according to the Clinical Practice Guidelines is tied to Keys’ definition;

“Ecologic evidence suggesting beneficial health effects of the Mediterranean diet has emerged from the classic studies of
Keys.” [2]

The Data Ancel Keys Ignored

In 1953, Ancel Keys published the results of his “Six Countries Study“[3], where he said that he demonstrated that there was a direct association between dietary fat as a percentage of daily calories and death from degenerative heart disease (see figure below).

Looking at the diagram from Keys’ study above, it looks like a clear linear relationship however, four years later in 1957 Yerushalamy et al published a paper with data from 22 countries[4], which showed a much weaker relationship between dietary fat and death by coronary heart disease than Keys’s Six Countries Study data [3].

As can be seen from this diagram from the Yerushalamy et al study, no clear linear relationship exists. Data points are quite a bit more scattered;

In spite of the publication of Yerushalamy et al’s data in 1957,  in 1970 Keys went on to conduct his Seven Countries Study which he concluded showed an associative relationship between increased dietary saturated fat and coronary heart disease but he failed to include data from countries such as France, in which the relationship did not hold. 

In Keys’ paper published in 1989[5] he found that the average consumption of animal foods (with the exception of fish) was positively associated with 25 year coronary heart disease deaths rates and the average intake of saturated fat was supposedly strongly related to 10 and 25 year coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality rates.

The problem is that Keys published his Seven Country Study 32 years after Yerushalamy et al’s 1957 paper which showed a significantly weaker relationship but Key’s (1) failed to mention the Yerushalamy study and  (2) failed to study countries such as France and Spain that had known high intakes of saturated fat, yet low coronary heart disease rates.

The “French Paradox” Ignored

France is known for the “French paradox” (a term which came about in the 1980s) because of the country’s relatively low incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD) while having a diet relatively rich in saturated fat. According to a 2004 paper about the French Paradox [6], there was diet and disease data available from the French population that was carried out in 1986–87 and which demonstrated that the saturated fat intake of the French was 15% of the total energy intake, yet such a high consumption of saturated fatty acids was not associated with high coronary heart disease incidence[6]. According to the same paper about the French Paradox, high saturated fat intake combined with low coronary heart disease rates were also observed in other Mediterranean countries such as Spain [6].  Nevertheless, Keys published his 1989 study[5] ignoring the French dietary and disease data that was available 2-3 years earlier (from 1986-1987) [6], as well as ignoring Yerushalamy et al‘s data from 1957Was this deliberate oversight on Ancel Keys’ part or simply poor research practices?

As a result of Keys omission and the wide publication of his Seven Country Study results, the so-called “Mediterranean Diet” has become synonymous with the diet of Southern Italy in the 1960’s; a diet that is no longer eaten by children and youth there, according to the World Health Organization (WHO):

“In Cyprus, a phenomenal 43% of boys and girls aged nine are either overweight or obese. Greece, Spain and Italy also have rates of over 40%. The Mediterranean countries which gave their name to the famous diet that is supposed to be the healthiest in the world have children with Europe’s biggest weight problem.[7]”

Some Final Thoughts…

There never really was a “Mediterranean Diet” and the diets of Mediterranean countries in the 1960s varied considerably when it came to intake of red meat, cheese and saturated fat. The so-called “Mediterranean diet” is simply what people in Southern Italy ate in the 1960’s.

That said, for those who are metabolically healthy (that is, not having insulin resistance or Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol) eating what has become known as “the Mediterranean Diet” of whole, plant-based foods including vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, modest amounts of whole grains and fruit and moderate-to-high consumption of olive oil, as well as the inclusion of full-fat cheese and meat, fish and poultry is certainly a healthy choice and offers lots of variety!

Even for those that are metabolically compromised (already insulin resistance or have Type 2 Diabetes) the same style of eating can be adapted to limit quickly metabolized carbohydrate, while still enjoying all the other foods that comprise a traditional “Mediterranean Diet”.

Would you like to know more?

Please send me a note using the Contact Me form above and I’ll be happy to reply.

To your good health!

Joy

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References

  1. Sievenpiper JL, Chan CB, Dwortatzek PD, Freeze C et al, Nutrition Therapy – 2018 Clinical Practice Guidelines, Canadian Journal of Diabetes 42 (2018) S64–S79 http://guidelines.diabetes.ca/docs/CPG-2018-full-EN.pdf
  2. Trichopoulou A, Costacou T, Bamia C et al, Adherence to a Mediterranean Diet and Survival in a Greek Population, N Engl J Med 2003;348:2599-608.
  3. Keys, A. Atherosclerosis: a problem in newer public health. J. Mt. Sinai Hosp. N. Y.20, 118–139 (1953).
  4. Yerushalmy J, Hilleboe HE. Fat in the diet and mortality from heart disease. A methodologic note. NY State J Med 1957;57:2343–54
  5. Kromhout D, Keys A, Aravanis C, Buzina R et al, Food consumption patterns in the 1960s in seven countries. Am J Clin Nutr. 1989 May; 49(5):889-94.
  6. Ferrières J. The French paradox: lessons for other countries. Heart. 2004;90(1):107-111.
  7. Boseley, Sarah, The Guardian, Thur May 24, 2018, ‘The Mediterranean diet is gone’: regions children are fattest in Europe.  https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/may/24/the-mediterranean-diet-is-gone-regions-children-are-fattest-in-europe