The Truth About Nutritionists

February 10th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, gillian mckeith, nutritionists, references | 37 Comments »

Crikey, I’ve got a column in the BMJ!

BMJ 2007;334:292 (10 February), doi:10.1136/bmj.39118.546308.59
Observations
MEDIA WATCH
Tell us the truth about nutritionists
Media nutritionism distracts us from social inequality and the real causes of ill health

They’re certainly keen to praise themselves, but if you really wanted to do some primary prevention work in the community, would you start with the media nutritionists? The answer, for reasons of increasing seriousness, is no.

Firstly, to anyone who’s interested in science, it’s simply offensive to find newspapers and television channels filled with people who adopt a cloak of scientific authority while apparently misunderstanding the most basic aspects of biology. “Dr” Gillian McKeith has a non-accredited correspondence course doctorate from the United States and a primetime show on Channel 4 television. She writes that sprouting seeds contain “all the nutritional energy necessary to make a fully grown plant” and that chlorophyll is “high in oxygen,” and she recommends that you eat “lots of dark green leaves, because they will really oxygenate your blood.”

As any 14 year old biology student could tell you, plants only make oxygen in light: it’s very dark in your bowel; and even if, to prove a point, you put a searchlight up your bottom, you probably wouldn’t absorb too much oxygen through the gut wall.

But if we excuse their silliness, do these characters improve the nation’s health? If they do, it comes at a cost: because even the most superficially plausible media nutritionists distort the scientific evidence to justify their profession. The reality is that intervention trials looking at dietary changes are hard to do. Broad brush interventions, such as eating fresh fruit and vegetables, have a reasonable evidence base, but there’s rarely any convincing data for the finicky, obsessive dietary changes detailed in the popular media.

At worst, media nutritionists will, in response to this absence of evidence, simply make it up. There are plenty of examples in the archives at my site www.badscience.net. More commonly they cherry pick the literature, selecting only favourable studies and ignoring the overall picture. But most corrosive is the way they misrepresent, from their position of dominance in the mainstream media, what scientific evidence for a clinical assertion would actually look like.

The entire field is based on a small palette of simple academic errors. Food gurus extrapolate wildly, creating hypotheses from metabolism flow charts or interesting theoretical laboratory bench data, and then using them to justify a clinical intervention. One newspaper nutritionist, in the Daily Express, tells us that turmeric is “highly protective against many forms of cancer, especially of the prostate.” But the only evidence for the link between turmeric and prostate cancer is from speculative laboratory studies of cells, usually from rats, growing (or not growing) in glass dishes. Interesting findings these may be, but they are not a sound scientific foundation for real world advice on curry.

Similarly, the media nutritionists extrapolate from observational data to giving “evidence based” interventional advice. In the Mirror recently a “registered nutritionist” wrote, “An Australian study in 2001 found that olive oil (in combination with fruit, vegetables and pulses) offered measurable protection against skin wrinkling.” But the paper she referred to (Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2001;20:71-80) was an observational study, not an intervention study. It surveyed the diets and wrinkles of people in a pool of four different groups, from different countries, with a range of lifestyles: the confounding variables are hardly tricky to spot.

Media nutritionists speak with a grain of science, but all too often it’s like the difference between astrology and astronomy. Nutrition is one of the few areas where the notion of scientific evidence for health interventions is popularly discussed: the nutritionists take this opportunity and use it to promote the public misunderstanding of science, laying fertile ground for health scares and a misled population.

But most offensive to me, as a hard working NHS doctor, is the way that media nutritionists assume the moral high ground, as if they were somehow the source of all that is right and good in the management of lifestyle risk factors for cardiovascular disease and cancer. Nutritionists trade on a peculiarly obsessive, overcomplicated, narcissistic, and—dare I say it—right wing, individualist take on the management of risk factors. But in reality the most important lifestyle risk factors for ill health are difficult and unglamorous ones, such as social inequality.

Public health interventions to address these real problems are far less lucrative and far less of a spectacle than anything a food crank or a television producer would be willing to delve into. What prime time series looks at food deserts created by drive-in supermarkets, companies with which media nutritionists so often have lucrative commercial contracts? Which television shows deal with social inequality as a driver of health inequality? Where’s the human interest in prohibiting the promotion of bad foods, using taxation to make nutrient rich foods more accessible, or maintaining a clear labelling system? Where is the spectacle in “enabling environments” that naturally promote exercise or in urban planning that prioritises cyclists, pedestrians, and public transport over the car?

Basic, uncomplicated dietary advice is effective and promotes health. Overly complicated, confusing, tinkering nutritionism is poorly evidenced, because it’s a branch of the entertainment industry—it’s there to make money, to create a new market for a new profession, to soup up a recipe show, to titillate, to distract us from social inequality and the real lifestyle causes of ill health, and to pander to our collective modern obsession with food. It tarnishes and undermines the meaningful research work of genuine academics studying nutrition.

The media are now wading into the confusion with programmes such as The Truth About Food, but their efforts are misplaced: it’s the truth about nutritionists that needs to be told.

Ben Goldacre, doctor and writer, London. ben@badscience.net

And there is doubtless some good fun cherry picking, over-extrapolation from lab data, and ad hominem attack action to come in the Rapid Responses here:

www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/334/7588/292


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37 Responses



  1. bawbag said,

    February 11, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    I see Patrick Holford has taken time out from editing his wikipedia page to make a comment, though disappointingly didn’t list nutritionist media whore as a competing interest.

    (sorry, hungover, I can only manage ad hominems today)

  2. standing_here said,

    February 11, 2007 at 5:52 pm

    From Patrick Holford’s comment:

    “These include robust in vitro evidence on human cancer cells, and animal studies, described by Goldacre as ‘ speculative laboratory studies on cells, growing (or not growing) in glass dishes’.”

    You do have to wonder what Holford thinks “in vitro” means.

  3. wewillfixit said,

    February 11, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    For some reason, I always read that as “Rabid Responses”…

  4. Kess said,

    February 11, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    I do like Holford’s dismissal of Ben as “a doctor with no apparent speciality in nutrition or research expertise”. Clearly you’re not worthy to criticize expert nutritionists such as he.

    You should be ashamed of yourself! ;)

  5. le canard noir said,

    February 11, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    I see Jerome Burne was first to pile in with a rabid response. Was this the same journalist Jerome Burne that co-wrote a book with Patrick Holford entitled “Food is Better Medicine Than Drugs”?

    No competing interest there then.

  6. imagineyoung said,

    February 11, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    Re: Holford’s Rapid response.
    Am I missing something here? He says that prostate cancer is strongly linked to dairy consumption (and let’s take his claim as accepted). He says that turmeric (or more specifically curcumin) has potentially interesting anti-cancer properties (surely debatable, but not my point here).
    Then, the zinger, he pleads for turmeric, and one of his points being that it is eaten ‘in Asian countries where prostate cancer incidence is exceedingly low’.
    Don’t you have there all the woo junk neatly summed up? Lumping ‘Asian countries’ as turmeric eating (this is news at least to Japanese, Chinese, Mongolians, Russians and a fair number more.
    Asian countries are not generally high dairy consumers, which according to him is linked to prostate cancer, so turmeric is connected in what way?
    And interesting that he doesn’t reference his claim that prostate cancer is exceedingly low in Asian countries (without even going into aging, diagnosis, other cancers …) when he is eager to reference other points in his response.
    So he’s taking one cancer that he says is linked to high dairy consumption, he then says that countries that have not got such a tradition of high dairy consumption don’t have this cancer much, and therefore that this means that it’s cool to recommend turmeric.
    As I said, am I missing something here – or is this evil, manipulative shit?

  7. crana said,

    February 12, 2007 at 12:04 am

    From the rapid responses:

    Jerome Burne: “I am the author of the recently published book “Food is better medicine than drugs” ”

    Patrick Holford: “in my book ‘ Food is better Medicines Than Drugs’ (www.foodismedicine.co.uk) I cite several hundred studies” (sweetly, he then declares no competing interest).

    ……?

  8. JohnD said,

    February 12, 2007 at 12:23 am

    What’s all this ‘ad hominem’ business?

    I was teaching ABC resus to a group of down to earth rally rescue guys the other day, and mentioned the ‘mandible’. “What’s wrong with ‘jaw bone’ ” they said, and I have to agree.

    Ban ‘ad hominem’ – personal abuse will do me, thank you very much.

    Now piss off, you pompous latinate ass.

    John

  9. crana said,

    February 12, 2007 at 12:38 am

    Oh, duh, I missed the comment above explaining they wrote it together. Still stupid though.

  10. CrunchyCapsicum said,

    February 12, 2007 at 5:13 am

    JohnD,

    I agree with the general sentiment of not using Latin when English will do, but “ad hominem” doesn’t mean the same as “personal abuse”. A better anglo-saxon translation is “playing the man instead of the ball”. For example, changing the topic away from, as it might be, the merits of popular nutritionism to the the merits of the views of Dr Ben Goldacre. Someone could do that by, perhaps, contrasting Ben’s views on nutritionism to his views on, say, religion, or football (I have no idea, by the way, what Ben’s views are on these matters). A really good ad hominem along these lines wouldn’t be abusive, and might even make some good and incisive points. But it would have nothing to do with Ben’s argument in his BMJ article, and would distract attention away from the real issues.

  11. Evil Kao Chiu said,

    February 12, 2007 at 9:11 am

    Weirdly, I always thought that nutritionists trade on a peculiarly obsessive, overcomplicated, narcissistic, and—dare I say it — liberal, anti-authoritarian take on the existence of objective facts.

  12. Stew Wilson said,

    February 12, 2007 at 10:07 am

    JohnD, CrunchyCapsicum: I always thought the best response to argumentam ad hominem was argumentam ad quidquid latinae dictum sit, altum viditur.

    (Apologies for the crap latin, I went to a comprehesive).

  13. mus said,

    February 12, 2007 at 10:28 am

    CrunchyCapsicum what you are looking for is this:

    Ad hominem vs. Ad Hominem Tu Quoque

    Note that sometimes an ad hominem might be justified, as in the case of TAPL, or when asking Nazis on their opinion about the middle east.

  14. Mojo said,

    February 12, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    imagineyoung said, (#6) “As I said, am I missing something here – or is this evil, manipulative shit?”

    A few weeks ago we discussed Holford’s use of some Pubmed search results on the forum:

    badscience.net/forum/viewtopic.php?p=25109#25109

    He appeared to be claiming that his case was supported by the number of hits found by a couple of searches on pubmed. From here: www.patrickholford.com/content.asp?id_Content=1749

    “But it got worse. The expert they used to pass judgement said that there had been only one study on IgG as a basis for allergy! That is plain deception. If you go into Medline, the on-line database of published research and put in IgG you’ll find 139,473 referenced studies. If you narrow down to IgG + food intolerance it list 85 studies.”

    Unfortunately, he had neglected to put the words “food intolerance” in quotation marks in his search, so it had found anything with the words IgG, food and intolerance anywhere in the entry, and not just ones mentioning “food intolerance”.

    As a very quick look at the results showed, most of them were completely irrelevant. the first hit, for example, was “Long-term effects of neonatal basal forebrain cholinergic lesions on radial maze learning and impulsivity in rats”. The intolerance mentioned in this one was for delay: the rats were impatient.

    Putting “food intolerance” in quotation marks brought the number of hits down to 21, but not all of these seemed to support his case. For example, the first five were:

    1. IgG-mediated food intolerance in irritable bowel syndrome: a real phenomenon or an epiphenomenom?

    2. Gastrointestinal complaints and diagnosis in children: a population-based study.

    3. Unproved diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to food allergy and intolerance.

    4. Food hypersensitivity and irritable bowel syndrome.

    5. Unreliability of IgE/IgG4 antibody testing as a diagnostic tool in food intolerance.

    It’s not just the number of hits a search gets; what the papers found actually say is kind of important.

    NB: Looking at the results of the same search again today, there is one extra result for each search, as a new article fitting the search criteria has been added to the database in the meantime.

  15. billy said,

    February 12, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    So called nutritionists gave us the sick nonsense that is dairy products.

    I don’t subscribe to quackery but the notion that dairy is a food is nonsense and quackery of the highest order.

    Animals wean their young. We did until some dipshit decided that cows milk was a good idea. If we needed milk our mothers would produce milk from birth to their death. They do not. Weaning has been outlawed.

    We get cow juice from pregnant cattle. The bull calves are discarded. The cows are in a constant state of pregnancy or nursing. A cow is “dry” when it stops producing milk and the farmer intervenes to make it pregnant or think it’s pregnant to produce milk again.

    If the dairy “industry” is not complete hokum in a bottle then I don’t know what qualifies for bad science. It is also possibly one of the worst polluters and contributor of greenhouse gasses.

    There is a middle ground somewhere between the dubious quacks on both sides. The nutrition argument is clouded by money and politics and we are not going to get much sense out of either of them because there is so much money and spin put into the argument. My bottom line is that dairy is rubbish but McKeith is still a loon.

  16. billy said,

    February 12, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    I also agree strongly that social class has more to do with a bad diet than is realised.

    Who cares if your eggs roamed free or your tenderloin chops sat on a bed of pure organic hay? People on lower incomes want lots of cheap food. Cheap food means corners are cut and things that are normally discarded end up as food.

  17. Andrew Clegg said,

    February 12, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    But billy, you’re forgetting something… Cheese is nice. Really nice.

    Andrew.

  18. Andrew Clegg said,

    February 12, 2007 at 9:19 pm

    PS … and I’m not sure why I’m bothering, but… I think if you check, you’ll probably find that dairy farming has been around since before nutritionists.

    Andrew.

  19. Dr Aust said,

    February 12, 2007 at 9:43 pm

    Heard today that we’ve just had a paper accepted for publication showing that curcumin can, under certain circumstances, activate insulin-secreting Beta-cells in a dish.

    Now I WAS thinking that this would be an interesting litte scientific curiosity, and possibly worth a small research grant…

    ….but I now realised this was misguided of me. Clearly What I SHOULD be doing is getting a mail-order Nutritionist qualification and then setting up a company to rebadge turmeric from my local cash-and-carry as:

    “InsulinogenSpice – shown by scientific evidence to work naturally with your body to enhance insulin secretion. Building on centuries of traditional wisdom, InsulinogenSpice is Recommended by Leading Scientists for maintaining a healthy metabolic status”

    Anyone fancy becoming a shareholder in this cutting edge nutritional enterprise? Unlike “Prof” Holford or “Dr” McKeith, my buddies and I actually have the odd PhD and some “research expertise”. Of course, we’d have to suspend our normal scepticism and lie through our teeth, but that seems a small price to pay for Helping The Nation To Live More Healthily [ (c) A.N.Utritionist ]

    Just think, if we re-sell enough curry powder we might get a Channel 4 series.

  20. Martin said,

    February 13, 2007 at 7:58 am

    Dr Aust,

    I’m in – how much do you want?

    What are you planning on calling your company – Cash & Curry?

    (Sorry)

  21. Neil Desperandum said,

    February 13, 2007 at 8:01 pm

    Billy,

    Most humans today don’t eat diary products beacuse most humans switch off lactase production at arpuind age 4 and would be very ill if they were to eat a lot of dairy food.

    Dairy farming started around 10,000 years ago when a mutant human dipshit found he could safely drink animal milk. You have wonder what he was thinking at the time, but he was probably staving to death – farming was pretty rubbish in those days.

    Only those minority of humans descended from the mutant dipshit are lactose tolerant as adults and can safely drink milk. These inlcude some Europeans, some Africans and some Indians.

    TAPL may look 10,000 years old, but she can’t be blamed for dairy farming.

    See [url=http://biology.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pbio.0020344]
    this link [/url]for more.

  22. billy said,

    February 13, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    Cheese can taste nice. I concede you that. You still made smarmy git comments though.

    My point is that mechanised grand scale dairy farming is quite new. Having a cow and robbing a few pints of milk after the calf is born is how it started. If the cow wasn’t pregnant we had no milk. Nowadays we have milk 24×7 by force and this is only able to happen because of Victorian era quackery that milk is in any way good for anything other than a baby cow.

    Dairy farming on any scale was impossible before Louis Pasteur and the invention of mass refrigeration. So not before 1886 could it be pasteurized and people did not have fridges to keep milk cold and from killing them until after WW2. It was possible to drink milk before then but we did not have the mass distrubution capacity until 60 years ago. Well after “nutritionists”.

    Man, get your facts right. The first quack that started to push health foods is still in business. That company is Kelloggs started by W.K. Kellogg following his quirky notions of what healthy food is. Quack. Duck. Complete hot air.

    I am not a cow last time I checked so I don’t drink or consume milk. Weaning, breast feeding and the natural cycle of a cows life has been outlawed and this has become normalised making anyone (like me) who points out the bloody obvious about cows milk as a nutter.

    I thought this was a forum on bad science. I am not being a crank but you Mr Clegg are being a smart arse. And not a very clever one either.

  23. Neil Desperandum said,

    February 13, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    Billy,

    Cows aren’t forced to produce milk all the time. They do it naturally. It’s another mutation, one that happen by chance several thousand years ago. We didn’t make that happen; we’re not that clever now and we certainly weren’t that clever thousands of years ago. Ancient humans did spot a useful mutant cow when they saw it though.

    We milk drinkers are mutant humans drinking milk from mutant cows.

    And milk was very good for early farmers. It allowed them to survive harsh times. Still does in some parts of the world.

    Compared to some of the stuff we eat, milk is quite sensible. I mean who first thought it would be a good idea to eat an egg?

    BTW sorry about the odd spelling in my previous post. The cat jumped on the mouse and I suffered a premature submission. Now I don’t say that very often.

  24. Andrew Clegg said,

    February 13, 2007 at 10:33 pm

    I’m not sure how correcting an opinionated and factually incorrect rant — on a blog devoted in a large part to the debunking of the opinionated yet factually incorrect — warrants name-calling like ‘smart-arse’ and ‘smarmy git’. Save it for the playground, son.

    Cheese is nice (as evidenced by its widespread popularity for thousands of years) and dairy farming has indeed been around for much longer than quack health gurus. See for example Copley et al., “Direct chemical evidence for widespread dairying in prehistoric Britain”. Summarised here if the chemistry’s too scary.

    Unless you think it was a conspiracy engineered by the shamans.

    Andrew.

  25. billy said,

    February 13, 2007 at 11:08 pm

    Neil,

    With the greatest respect to you you are typing horseshit. Your anthropological study of ancient farmers is also mindless fantasy.

    The notion that cows spew milk spontaniously and forever as a result of some fantastic evolution is total and utter nonsense.

    Actually it is total and utter bullshit. It is a complete fantasy to say that cows mutated so we can have obscene amounts of milk to pour on millions of cornflakes. It is man made man manipulated and a scam.

    Cows were and are bred for purpose. Yield is the only consideration when breeding dairy cattle. Dairy cattle are so badly bred they can barely walk. They produce so much milk that it distorts their frame.

    Cows are forced to produce milk. If a cow isn’t pregnant it does not produce milk. I come from a dairy producing country and I grew up around a farm. I have seen first hand what goes on and it is not pretty nor is it natural. Nor is it scientific. The “science” behind milk was and is developed after the fact. Just like cigarettes.

    Refrigeration and pastuerisation is not several thousand years old. These two technologies coupled with artificial insemination are the backbones of the modern dairy industry.

    Look very very carefully at a dairy farm and I will give you £1000 if you find a bull. There are NO bulls on dairy farms and yet the cows are all pregnant. How could this be?

    Artificial insemination. The Dairylea ad and the Ambrosia ad where you seem to get your mutant cow ideas from are F A N T A S Y.

    “Milk was good for early farmers” Name them. Show me the evidence. Where are the studies?

    “Compared to some of the stuff we eat, milk is quite sensible” What stuff? Show me the stuff you are wobbling on about. I bet that it contains milk or a milk derived ingredient.

    I concede that Mongolians drink horse milk but you don’t see them getting it delivered. Nor do they use it in the industrial quantities we do.

    Your “points” are all city based Pollyanna fantasies about how farming works.

    1. Cattle evolved to a point but commercial cattle have been bred for yield for about 200 years.
    2. Cattle are pregnant – that is why they produce milk. That is why humans make milk too. If you think that cattle changed their evolution just so that you can have a pint of milk for breakfast you are obviously unwell.
    3. There are no bulls present on dairy farms.
    4. Bull calves get the bullet or are used for veal or fattened for eating.
    5. Cattle when the get too old get the bullet and go into your beef burgers.
    6. Commercial dairy deliveries were impossible on a mass scale before the invention of the fridge in the 1930s
    7. Unpasteurised milk will kill you if left for as long as milk is left today.
    8. Milk is the basis for junk food. The fast food industry depends on the dairy industry for cheap meat.
    9. When an animal matures it is weaned. Humans have been marketed to that weaning is not a good idea. Breast feeding is also under attack from the dairy industry.
    10. The thing that makes your cheese hard Neil is the stomach of the dead bull calf. Its called the rennet.

    Your point about eggs points to a sheltered British city view of what is and isn’t sensible. Eggs are also forced out of chickens. Chickens are no more than egg making machines.

    Milk makes no sense, has no scientific merit beyond fattening calves, which doesn’t even happen in most cases.

    Neil, you haven’t a notion what you are talking about.

  26. Dr Aust said,

    February 13, 2007 at 11:50 pm

    As I understand the evidence this “lactose intolerance” thing is grossly over-sold.

    It is true that most humans do downregulate lactase after childhood. However, most humans don’t live mostly on milk after they are 1 yr old, or 2-3 yrs old at the outside.

    The evidence that a standard daily intake of dairy products- milk in a cup or three of tea or coffee, butter on bread, some cheese – is “indigestible” by low lactase people – at least in the UK – is thin to non-existent. The controlled studies that have been done show that many people who think of themselves as “intolerant to dairy” – or who are “diagnosed” as such by alt healthies – can consume sensible amounts of dairy products perfectly happily.

    As with all food “intolerances”, learned habit and the power of suggestion are a major factor behind what people think they can, or can’t eat.

  27. billy said,

    February 14, 2007 at 7:27 am

    Dr Aust.

    Yet another person with a minimal grip on reality. Forgive me please but I thought this site was called badscience.net. All I have seen so far is potted theory after potted theory with the exact unshakable notions that “nutritionists” are accused of. Study after study are quoted without reference and the amount of pooh poohing is amazing.

    What is a “sensible amount”??? Following your logic, how many grammes of cocaine is a sensible amount. How many teaspoons of rat poison (Vitamin D) should I take every morning? Is it sensible to drive at 80mph in fog?

    Where do you get this sensible measure thing?

    Dairy food is produced in a cynical, mechanised way with no regard for the animal nor the human duped into thinking it is anything other than junk food. Its bullshit to drink milk for calcium. Calcium is oversold. Milk is to healthfood as guns are to population control. Overkill and totally unnecessicary.

    Its bullshit that milk is in any way good for humans. The only humans milk is any good for is the farmers and milk distributors wallets. The rest of us are just their fools.

    I am dairy industry intolerant. I am intolerant of the industry’s lies, half truths and self serving use of scientific analysis for the sole purpose of selling more and more milk. Surely this qualifies for being bad science or has it jumped the shark and has achieved religious status and milk is now infallibile?

  28. Andrew Clegg said,

    February 14, 2007 at 7:51 am

    billy to Neil: ‘“Compared to some of the stuff we eat, milk is quite sensible” What stuff? Show me the stuff you are wobbling on about. I bet that it contains milk or a milk derived ingredient.’

    But Neil’s paragraph you were quoting from said:

    “Compared to some of the stuff we eat, milk is quite sensible. I mean who first thought it would be a good idea to eat an egg?”

    billy dude, calm down and read things properly — egg doesn’t contain milk, not the eggs round here anyway…

    If you have a real problem with dairy, show us evidence that it’s universally harmful in moderate quantities as you seem to be implying, rather than accusing everyone else of quoting “study after study” without references.

    Andrew.

  29. billy said,

    February 14, 2007 at 8:53 am

    Apologies the table got screwed up.

  30. Dr Aust said,

    February 14, 2007 at 11:32 am

    billy

    If you want the generally medically accepted facts about lactose intolerance (rather than il-informed ranting or alternative bollocks) , and a few useful references, see:

    www.patient.co.uk/showdoc/40025194/

  31. outeast said,

    February 15, 2007 at 9:47 am

    How weird. The comments threads don’t usually go like this here – or maybe I tend not to stick around long enough…

    Still, the appearance of a true eccentric makes a nice change, I suppose. Keep up the good work!

  32. Martin said,

    February 15, 2007 at 2:02 pm

    Billy,

    Can I answer your ten-points:

    1. Diary farming has been around for more than 200 years – diary farms are certainly mentioned in the Magna Carta (although I am taking someone else’s word for this – I haven’t read the Magna Carta myself) and there are references to drinking milk in the Bible (although that may be goat’s milk). Throughout dairy farming there has been selective breeding to increase milk yields. There has been similar selective breeding in other areas of farming (beef cattle, sheep, corn, carrots, apples, you name it). Some people have been worried recently about genetic modification and there have been some very silly stories about trying to breed cows which provide strawberry-flavoured milk. This is absurd.

    2. The cows are not pregnant. They are impregnanted once, and then milked continually. If the milking continues they could, in theory, continue to produce milk until they die, but in general they dry-up after a while. The ‘better breeds’ of cow last longer before drying up. The cows are then impregnated again.

    3. Actually, there are bulls on some farms, but farmers these days tend to use articifical insemination to impregnate cows. I’m not condoning this, but bulls are required somewhere to produce the semen. It’s actually some of the smaller farms which keep bulls, the farmers not being able to afford artificial insemination.

    4. Yes, bull calves tend to go for food production, not being very useful for diary farming. Some of the conditions that beef cattle are kept in are shocking.

    5. Diary cows which are too old to be commercially viable are killed, although they tend to get the ‘humane killer’ rather than a bullet. The ‘humane killer’ isn’t that humane, either. However, they tend not to go into burgers, they go into pet food, unless the abattoir is poorly run.

    6. Refrigeration has changed the diary industry massively. Milk can now be shipped over large distances in refrigerated containers, although what has generally happened is that milk distribution is still on a relatively local scale with centralised diaries taking milk from the farms back to be processed and bottled. The milk from the different farms is mixed together to remove variations, although some is kept apart, eg, ‘Jersey’ milk. The days of getting a pint of milk from your local farm are long gone.

    7. Unpasteurised milk will certainly go off if you try and keep it for the shelf-life of pasteurised milk. That’s part of the reason for pasteurising it – it kills a lot of harmful bacteria. It probably kills a lot of harmless bacteria, too.

    8. See above re: old diary cows going into burgers. Abattoirs are quite hot on this kind of thing these days. Especially after foot and mouth, and all that.

    9. I’m not sure quite what you mean by this point. In nature breast feeding only continues for a short period before the animal is weaned onto a more adult diet. Maturity (sexual maturity) happens at a completely different period in the life cycle.

    10. Yes, rennet (from the stomachs of ruminants) is what makes cheese hard. The more interesting thing is how they found this out.

    Before you berate me for being another city-based Pollyanna with potted theory after potted theory – I’m from a farming family. Farmers don’t make money on milk these days – the diary conglomerates and supermarkets have driven the price of milk so low that it’s scarcely economically viable.

    Yes, the diary industry doesn’t care overmuch for the welfare of the animal, they can’t afford to. But milk is a good source of calcium, and calcium is required in our diet (despite your protestations). If you are lactose intolerant (eg, many asians do not produce lactase, an enzyeme which breaks down lactose) then you can get calcium from seaweed, nuts, broccolli and oranges (fresh orange juice isn’t a bad source).

    Martin

  33. evidencebasedeating said,

    February 15, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    #21 Neil Desperandum

    1. You’re correct. Most humans don’t eat diary products. Paper is difficult to chew, and tastes awful because it is a virtually indigestible cellulose, which adds nothing but insoluble fibre to the diet.

    2. Only milk and yoghurt products contain lactose. Hard and soft cheeses are virtually lactose free. ‘Live’ or ‘Bio’ yoghurts contain less lactose than pasteurised or ambient products as the probiotic bacteria can use sugars as a potential energy source.

    3. As Dr Aust correctly points out – most western populations can tolerate milk lactose because we continue to include this valuable source of dietary calcium of high bioavailability, in our daily diet

    4. And its possible to ‘retrain’ your bowel to tolerate lactose by gradual re-introduction. Clinical research has established this in African-American girls at high risk of osteopenia.

    So there. If you like milk, drink it. If you don’t like milk, avoid it. And if you want to drink milk but get bloating, wind and interestingly explosive diarrhoea after consuming it, start with a teaspoon a day for a few days, gradually increasing over a period of a month or so to a cupful. Then enjoy it symptom free.

  34. jennifermcgeachie said,

    March 21, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    As a third year nutrition student on a nutrtion society accredited course, I despair about these TV nutritionists giving us a bad name. When I gradute next year with a BSc(hons) in Nutrition I will be able to become a registered nutrtionist, which none of these media nutritionsts seem to be.

    It is time for the public to be made more aware about the differences of nutrtional therapists, who are trained rather dubiolusy, to sell supplements and promote the health benefits of adrvark tooth juniper berries, and the scientific training of a proper accredited nutritionist.

    www.nutritionsociety.org/index.php?q=node/39

  35. zack200 said,

    June 26, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    I am 100% agree with Jennifer. I am a Graduate nutritionist for last 5 years. You can see my works visiting different sites or can find 100’s of articles online. I did work this company given below and tried to give or support them by giving accurate information.

    www.simplysupplements.net

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  37. Natural Wellness said,

    March 6, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    You touch on a few good points. My main issue with ‘Media Nutritionists’ and Advice from Doctors on the media is the contradictory nature. You get conflicting analysis from each side and I feel this may confuse a viewer into giving up on how to be well. Thanks for the insight.