It’s been quite a week in the nutrition world and the phenomenon that is clean eating! Registered dietitians and nutritionists everywhere have been rejoicing and signing up to the Giles Yeo fan club. In BBC 2 Horizon last night (19th Jan) Dr. Yeo took on the self- proclaimed gurus of health and nutrition linked to the clean eating trend and as far as I’m concerned…won.
For a few years now I have supported the dietitian clinics at the BBC GoodFood Eatwell show giving free advice on a range of topics for individuals. This is a vibrant event bringing together enthusiasts, professionals and gurus under one roof. Little known dietitians don’t sell tickets though and so not surprisingly it has provided a stage for many of these ‘clean eating’ gurus that have featured so much in the press this week.
I’ve tutted, I’ve seethed, I’ve cried. People listen and people obey. The likes of Hemsley and Hemsley might think they’ve done no wrong but they don’t sit in my clinics.
The world of nutritional science is confusing enough as it is – there are 60,000 nutrition related research papers released a year. Interpretation of these is where the real challenge lies. In last night’s programme one of the most influential studies – The China Study – and bedtime reading for ‘Deliciously Ella’ – was dissected by Dr Yeo highlighting the challenge of confirmation bias – where you look for what you want to see, simplifying markers as indicative of one thing and one thing only and missing a lot of of steps in the middle. A bit like toddler maths – one plus one equals five Mummy, it absolutely does, I promise.
So you’ve got things getting lost in translation – literally – and then you’ve got pretty people with famous parents just making sh*t up! That is the definition of unhelpful in my opinion.
Here’s a little taster from the Hemsley sisters book (borrowed from a friend):
‘Avoid eating raw food after 4pm’
Oh dear I’m quite partial to a raw carrot whilst preparing the kids tea – gnawing down on something is very stress relieving – looks like I’ve failed there then.
‘Avoid gluten, wheat and other grains because our bodies can struggle to digest them’
This is a bit like saying ‘avoid going outside because you might get stung by a bee’ – sweeping generalisations get a lot of people in a heap of bother. If you had no reason to believe they were causing you a problem, it’s because they weren’t.
However, if you think you fall into this category and have symptoms of an unhappy digestive system when you consume wheat or gluten look out for my up and coming blog post on IBS.
‘Avoid refined sugar and instead choose natural sugars’
Ah this old chestnut – reminds me of my Great British Bake Off blog in which the sugar free week was about as sugar free as a doughnut.
Sure the small intestine is saying as it absorbs the glucose and fructose from honey – oh I’m so grateful that these simple monosaccharides came from honey and not (sharp intake of breath) a marsbar!’ ‘Oh actually wait a minute, I couldn’t care less!’
Hemsley and Hemsley claim and I quote ‘we’re not interested in making anyone feel fearful of food, scared of food, confused about food. We’re the opposite.’
Er really?? Well let me tell you – what I see right in front of me in clinic is impressionable women afraid to eat a sandwich, busy business travellers stressed and exhausted because they weren’t allowed to fuel their day on pasta and they couldn’t find any friggin’ amaranth; gym goers aiming for the perfect body comp – stuffing their muscles full of protein but then expecting it to contract and move on thin air; people failing miserably to meet their calcium requirements because achieving it through kale, sunflower seeds and almonds is frankly a lot harder when you’ve got to keep 2 children alive and maybe pay the bills; people snacking on ‘wholesome’ nuts like a famished squirrel and wondering why their weight isn’t changing. I could go on…
For many maybe they have inspired – broadened palates, encouraged diversity and interest within a diet that would otherwise be very plain and boring. But with ‘guidelines’ like this they have unfortunately done a whole lot more.