Some time ago one of my blogs focused on the thoughts of Dr Andrew Wadge – Chief Scientist at the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK. The blog specifically focused on his broadside at ‘detox’ regimes. I can understand that someone may be a bit sceptical of such regimes. However, if Dr Wadge wishes to express his withering attitude to such regimes, bearing in mind he is the CHIEF SCIENTIST (emphasis mine) at the FSA, would it be too much for him to use some actual science making his case? In reality, he uses none – not one study or citation. Nothing.
Earlier this week, I came across another of Dr Wadge’s blogs. It concerns a piece that appeared in the Daily Mail. The piece was an extract of a book entitled Big Fat Lies by Hannah Sutter. I know Hannah and like her. She started a company (Go Lower) that makes low carbohydrate foods. I’m generally supportive of low-carb eating, and am broadly supportive of Hannah’s work. I have not read Hannah’s book, but I did read the extract of it in the Daily Mail. You can read this piece here.
Dr Wadge’s blog post starts with this sentence
“Despite the absurdity of Hannah Sutter’s proclamation in Saturday’s Daily Mail that government advice to ‘exercise more and eat fewer calories’ is making people fat, I felt I had to respond.”
In his response, Dr Wadge invokes the calorie principle. He trots out the usual concept that weight control is all about calories in and calories out. Yet, in the Daily Mail piece, Hannah Sutter claims that we’re eating less and exercising more and actually getting fatter. She might be right. She might be wrong. According to Dr Wadge’s theorising, though, she must be wrong. And yet, he does not provide a single scientific study or piece of research that disproves Hannah Sutter’s assertion.
Central to Hannah Sutter’s argument is that carbohydrate is a major driver of obesity, because of its influence on the ‘fat-making’ hormone insulin. Dr Wadge does not engage at all with this key concept.
Hannah Sutter also takes a swipe at the oft-quoted idea that exercise promotes weight loss. For the most part, aerobic exercise is quite ineffective in this regard, and I think she’s right to point it out. You can read more about this here. Again, Dr Wadge does not engage with this from a scientific perspective.
What he does do, though, is draw our attention to the fact that Hannah Sutter owns a “website selling a weight loss programme”. This is a conflict of interest, I suppose. But such a conflict is most relevant if Hannah Sutter’s ideas can be demonstrated to be false. As yet, Dr Wadge seems unable to do this in any meaningful way.
It seems somewhat ironic to me that he appears to discredit Hannah Sutter by pointing out that she is a “lawyer and not a scientist”. But it’s clear from the extract that Sutter’s book refers copiously to the science. Dr Wadge does not. At all. Since when did scientists get a ‘free pass’ – a right to say what they like without validation just because they are a scientist?
The comments that come after this blog post are generally sharply critical of Dr Wadge and generally point to science which, again, Dr Wadge steadfastly refuses to engage in.
The fact is, there is a plausible way in which the advice that people should be eating less and exercising more might be fuelling the burgeoning rates of obesity. Eating less calories for a lot of people translates into ‘eat less fat’. Why? Well, because we’re constantly reminded that a gram of fat contains about twice as many calories as carbohydrate or protein. But a low-fat, high-carb diet (as encouraged by the FSA and most health professionals) tends, as Hannah Sutter points out, to disrupt blood sugar levels. The resultant surges of insulin are fat-making in the body. Plus, disruption in blood sugar can lead to blood sugar lows which cause us to be hungry – especially for carbohydrate (as so the cycle can repeat). Plus, carbohydrate foods, compared to those rich in protein, sate the appetite less overall. In short, encouraging people to eat a few calories and emphasise carbohydrates can drive people to overeating the very foods that are most fat-making in the body.
And what of exercise? Well, as I detail here, the calorie burn during exercise is generally quite modest. Plus, when people exercise more, they can find it quite difficult not to eat more as a result. A look at the evidences supports Sutter’s stance that conventional advice just doesn’t work.
Dr Wadge’s opinion appears to be that the failure of the advice stems from individuals not following that advice. His blog ends with this sentence:
“I’m surprised that Ms Sutter didn’t consider that perhaps it’s the people who aren’t following government advice are ones who are getting fatter.”
I wonder if Dr Wadge has ever considered the fact that its the advice and theories on which governement advice is based that might be flawed?
Dr Wadge has exposed himself here as he did before regarding detox regimes. So great appears to be his bias that he feels it unnecessary to engage with actual science to make his point. I notice that Dr Wadge’s blog goes under the name “hungry for science”. Yes, quite.
For more details on Hannah Sutter’s book see here.
Dr Briffa’s new book – Waist Disposal – the Ultimate Fat Loss Manual for Men – is now available. To learn more about the book click here.
To buy Waist Disposal from amazon.co.uk click here.