Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Another reversal of official health "wisdom"

'Grazing' used to be king, but now experts say it slows metabolism, and can cause tooth decay and diabetes

For years, nutritionists have been telling us to graze - eat little and often - to keep up our energy levels and as a tactic to avoid overeating unhealthy food.

The problem with grazing is that many people ignore the bit about eating only a little, hearing only the message to 'eat often' - the result is we've become a nation of snackers. Furthermore, we're snacking not on healthy foods, but on chocolate, crisps and other calorie-laden products.

Clearly, eating lots of junk food is not good for the waistline. But now, some experts believe that the very principle of eating between meals - whether it's healthy or junk food - is the real problem. They say snacking makes us even more hungry; it also interferes with the body's ability to burn fat, leads to obesity and type 2 diabetes, as well as tooth decay. What we should really be doing, it seems, is going back to three proper meals a day, with no snacks in between.

'For many, snacking is a major cause of weight gain,' says Professor Stephen Atkin, head of diabetes and metabolism at Hull York Medical School. Adds Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at Glasgow University: 'Snacking gives us extra calories and the fact is, extra calories make us fat.'

But not only are snacks often highly calorific; eating all day also undermines our body's ability to burn off fat. When we eat, our body releases insulin - a hormone that helps carry sugar into the cells to burn as energy. This sugar energy will keep us going for around three hours, after which our bodies will start using energy from our fat stores.

If we can hold out for four to five hours between meals, we burn more fat. 'Fat is burned as soon as your carbohydrate stores fall and you start the mobilisation of fat for energy,' explains Professor Atkin.

Snacking also means that organs such as the liver and pancreas are under greater stress, as blood sugar and fat levels stay higher throughout the day, says professor Sattar. This also increases stress on blood vessels and, perhaps, the heart. 'In my view, the ideal would be not to snack at all,' adds Professor Atkin. 'It's normal to feel hungry before a meal.'

More here

Not so NICE

The author below criticizes NICE on liberty grounds. That their "advice" (like most official wisdom) is also crassly ignorant of the best research he overlooks. See the sidebar here for much of what they ignore

In a country where the state controls healthcare to such an extent, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) really has to exist in some form. Death panels or not, without serious reforms it is necessary that someone somewhere decides which medicines can be afforded and which can’t.

However, NICE does more than this, it also makes recommendations on “how to improve people’s health and prevent illness and disease”. Much the pity. In the space of a week they have made two headline-grabbing recommendations. First was their suggestions that:

* manufacturers should stop using trans-fats

* a maximum intake should be set set for salt of 6g per day for adults by 2015 and 3g daily by 2025

* hidden saturated fat substantially reduced

* efforts be made to make unhealthy food more expensive than healthy food

* restrictions should be enforced on unhealthy food television advertisements until after 9pm

* planning restrictions should be imposed to time-limit fast-food outlets

* unhealthy food should have traffic light labelling

To top that, yesterday they suggested that all pregnant women should have their breath measured for carbon monoxide levels when booking to see a midwife. The Department of Health is keen on the idea, stating: "We welcome the publication of these new guidelines. Smoking in pregnancy is a major public health concern posing risks to both mother and baby. We want the NHS to use this guidance to develop the best possible services for pregnant women."

It is no surprise that liberty is not a factor in the proposals of a Quango, but even they have to draw a line somewhere. Clearly on this occasion they have gone too far and should have been shot down. There are clear arguments to be made on unintended consequences – whether increased food prices for the poorest or vulnerable smoking mothers avoiding health professionals for fear of condemnation – but ultimately the argument of ‘enough is enough’ needs to win through.

Utility and efficiency are not the only measures of effective policy. Like all Quangos and regulators, their remit needs to be cut down to what is purely necessary in areas that the state is near monopolistic provider and removed entirely from nannying us.


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