Sarah Kalell, Health Consultant with The Natural Way Network
(Note: This article is written evaluating the current craze of High Protein Diet talk in South Africa. The information is very applicable, however some of the terms might be different.)
High Protein Diet, is there anything good about it?
There are four very good things that the current (almost evangelical?!) focus on the “Banting” diet has elicited.
First is the focus on the dangers of refined sugar and refined flour (i.e. refined carbohydrates). This is a very severe problem in this country because most of our population consume refined carbohydrates in the form of refined mealie meal and refined sugar. If you add all the anti-biotic and hormone laden chicken into the equation it is just a ticking time bomb for a massive country-wide health disaster.
The second thing is the encouragement to eat more fresh vegetables. All fresh vegetables (especially those which are grown without poisonous pesticides and herbicides) are the best nutritional and economical source of minerals, vitamins, anti-oxidants and fibre.
The third thing is the publicity surrounding the controversial subject of cholesterol and statins. Prof Noakes is absolutely correct in raising this issue because we NEED cholesterol but most people don’t need statins in order to correct any imbalance. Where the reporting of this issue appears to be lacking is the consideration that must be given to those people who have “familial hypercholesterolemia” – the inherited tendency to high cholesterol. Although dietary and lifestyle changes can be made to help most FH sufferers, sometimes natural statins (such as red yeast rice) are beneficial. Cholesterol values (particularly LDL and Lp(a)) need to be read in conjunction with other factors such as inflammation (HSCRP) and homocysteine so it is totally incorrect to say that cholesterol should be ignored. Furthermore, atherosclerotic plaque consists of oxidised LDL (the lipoprotein carrier for cholesterol) so for Professor Noakes to say “It just shows you cholesterol has nothing to do with heart disease” is not quite correct. For more information on cholesterol, click HERE.
The fourth good thing is the publicity on how Big Pharma has such a massive (and very often, adverse) influence on the medical profession. It’s a huge topic – twisted statistics, fraudulent studies, “buried” science etc. I’ve finally got around to ordering the book “Bad Pharma” by Ben Goldacre because this book apparently gives the ‘lowdown’ on this very subject and goes into great detail. Anyone who has an interest in understanding more about why natural alternatives get a bad rap might be interested in this book.
The High Protein Diet is Nothing New
All of the above information though is nothing new to enlightened nutritionists and dieticians. Neither is anything new about “Banting” although when you read further down what the REAL Banting diet is, you are going to be quite surprised!
- The truth is that if someone just cuts out refined carbohydrates from their diet, without doing anything else, most people will experience HUGE health improvements! Not only will they lose weight but they will improve digestion, remove allergies, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, normalise blood sugar and improve mood and sleep patterns.
- Just losing excess weight can reverse insulin resistance and lower blood pressure!
- If you now add to that more vegetables in the diet then this will have even more of a positive impact! Now the person has recouped the loss of minerals and vitamins that were being lost through the refined carbohydrates and ADDED more minerals and vitamins at the same time! No wonder people are feeling SO good!
With just these changes (no refined carbs and adding more vegetables) anyone is going to feel better. Weight loss, improved skin tone, more endurance, more energy, clearer eyes, better hydration, clearer thinking, improved immune system – the list goes on and on. A High Protein Diet/Banting “works” because of low calorie consumption – just like other fad diets. Anyone who has done their sums on the calorie content of the “Banting” diet will automatically realise (as with the Atkins diet and all the other low carb/high protein/high fat diets) that they are also eating far less in terms of calories, hence the weight loss (and for many people, the weight loss is also comprised of water loss).
So why all the fuss over the “Banting” diet and its “incredible” health benefits? Many people are saying “wow” at the weight loss and health improvements they have made on this “Banting” diet without really understanding what it is they have done to get these improvements. And without understanding the long-term implications, or understanding the background to where the “Banting” diet came from.
This type of diet is not new. Everything that has been said about this diet is not new. Anyone who has been studying nutrition for the past few decades will know that it is nothing new.
- We already knew (and it was published) decades ago that refined sugar and flour was bad for you, that it will raise cholesterol, promote diabetes and heart disease
- We already know that cholesterol is not the ‘bad guy’ but oxidised cholesterol is
- We already know that statins are a big scam
- We already know that we should eat natural, unprocessed foods
- We already know that we need the right type of fats and should not be scared of fat
- We already know that doctors are not taught nutrition
- We already know that the food pyramids are nothing to do with what is best for people but what is best for the food production industry
- We already know that gluten is a problem for diabetics and many other people
So where did the term “Banting” (a current term for High Protein Diet) come from?
The discovery by a public medical professional of all of the above.
Banting is absolutely not new. This type of diet has been in and out of fashion in various guises for several decades. It all started with an obese undertaker called William Banting ….
William Banting was an obese English undertaker who lived from 1796 to 1878, who undertook a change in diet at the recommendation of a friend, Dr William Harvey. The diet that he followed bears little resemblance to the “Banting” diet currently in fashion:
- Approximately 42% of the diet was alcohol (classed as a refined carbohydrate)
- Approximately 16% was bread (carbohydrate, possibly refined but unknown)
- Approximately 101g of protein
- Approximately 110g carbohydrate
- Approximately 52g of fat
Total caloric intake was approximately 2000 calories (which is roughly 500 to 700 calories less than an average man needs) but if you removed the alcohol it was approximately 1150 calories.
And, as one blogger commented “take out the alcohol and he’d starve”……
So if you take the protein as 400 calories (4 calories per gram of protein) this is 20% of daily intake. And if you remove the alcohol, then the protein intake is roughly 35%. And the carbohydrate intake was close to 60%. Although the proponents of this latest fashion are trying to say it’s low carb and not high protein, just crunch the numbers yourself and you will see that it is. The moment you get to 20% of your total daily intake as protein, it begins to be high protein. As for those carbs – 60%?! That doesn’t make it “low-carb” in my estimate.
You can see an analysis of his diet here:
And William Banting’s original “Letter of Corpulence” here:
http://www.proteinpower.com/banting/index.php – original document
From then on, there have been several variations:
1961 – Calories Don’t Count
1967 – The Quick Weight-Loss Diet
1972 – Atkins first publication
1978 – The Scarsdale Diet
1992 – Atkins “The New Diet Revolution”
Then there is the ketogenic diet – Protein Power and various other non-ketogenic diets – all based on calorie restriction and on little or no science.
Why did Professor Noakes choose “Banting”?
Before we answer that question, let’s look at some facts.
In 1985 (when Professor Noakes wrote his book “The Lore of Running”), it was already well-documented that refined carbohydrates were bad for you. In fact, in 1975 William Dufty wrote “Sugar Blues” where he wrote extensively on the detrimental aspects of refined sugar and refined carbohydrates. Dufty wrote in his Chapter “What the Specialists Say”:
“Obesity is not a disease. It is a symptom”. “Getting rid of a symptom is like turning off an alarm. It leaves the basic cause untouched”.
“Any diet or regime undertaken with any objective short of restoration of total health of your body is dangerous”.
“Any diet which lumps all carbohydrates together is dangerous. Any diet which does not consider the quality of carbohydrates and makes the crucial life-and-death distinction between natural, unrefined carbohydrates like whole grains and vegetables and man-refined carbohydrates like sugar and white flour is dangerous”.
Dufty wrote the above in 1975 and it is as true today as it was then. Dufty even explained the concept of how sugar ferments in the stomach and how refined carbohydrates are poisonous to the human body.
So why didn’t Professor Noakes understand this basic concept of nutrition in 1985 when he wrote his book “The Lore of Running”? This was TEN YEARS after Dufty published his book. He has freely admitted that he was a “bad scientist then” and that “I’m better at reading articles now”. I would suggest, though, that this is not the case because it would appear that he has not looked at the huge resource of various doctors who are reversing heart disease and diabetes on whole food, plant-based diets, including Dr Dean Ornish, Dr Gabriel Cousens and Dr Caldwell Esselstyn.
Mary-Ann Shearer wrote her first book “The Natural Way” in 1991 after a number of years of studying Natural Hygiene and referencing many sources of nutritional information, including the Institute of Life Science in Texas. She reversed her own poor health then and that of her husband and has helped thousands of people since, including me. The information she wrote in 1991 (which included advice to avoid all refined carbohydrates) is as relevant and true today as it was then.
As far as I’m aware, Mary-Ann has never had to retract any advice she has given to someone on how to improve their health.
Sadly this is not the case for Professor Noakes who has told people to “tear out” the chapter on “carbo-loading” in his book.
In 2010 Professor Noakes suffered from sleep apnoea, gastric reflux, asthma, allergic rhinitis and irritable bowel syndrome and had done so for 10 years, according to the newspaper reports. Ten years is a long time to suffer from these debilitating conditions (all of which can be caused by a diet high in refined carbohydrates) and one wonders why, as a doctor, he could not heal himself. But then as we all know, doctors are not taught anything about nutrition at medical school.
According to his own reports, the change in Prof Noakes’ approach began when he bought a book on low-carb diets (after receiving an email which attracted his attention) and then one hour after reading the book he “ate his last carb”. Somehow the warning bells are ringing loudly again here for me. One hour?! He knew he was at risk of diabetes (a potentially life-threatening condition) yet at this point he conducted no further research before changing? He is so ready to criticise others for not doing their due diligence and for not being scientific yet unless I’m reading the news reports incorrectly he didn’t look any further than the low-carb/high protein diet.
Yet he is on record as saying “science is my life blood ….. who understands the scientific method much better than 99.99% of my critics”.
In the article on 21st September 2012 in the on-line Mail & Guardian it reports that three months into his new diet he did a glucose blood test which revealed an elevated score of 5.9 and declares that his blood sugar, which he had not tested prior to the diet, must have been even higher before the radical nutritional change and that he must have been suffering from pre-diabetes, which a change in diet had cured. As M&G said “a bizarre conclusion even for those with a layman’s understanding of the scientific process”. Noakes also measured his insulin level and found it to be low, which he interpreted as a sign that his pancreas could be failing as a result of his surmised pre-diabetes.
“Not at all” said Tanya Kinvig, a Cape Town endocrinologist. “Low insulin is a normal response to a low intake of dietary carbohydrates. I would expect it on the diet he is following”. Again, Professor Noakes was proven wrong in his assumption because he has since developed full-blown Type 2 Diabetes.
More False Logic
To quote Men’s Health 17th February 2012 :
“Noakes believes there’s a reason for his pre-diabetic condition ‘If I’m carbohydrate resistant and there are 300 million people with diabetes, that means 300 million people have the same gene that makes them resistant to carbohydrates’ .”
No, it just means nearly 300 million people follow an unhealthy lifestyle, including a poor diet high in refined carbohydrates (which Noakes freely admits he did for 33 years), no exercise, high animal protein/fat consumption and/or excess weight.
I also question the term “Carbohydrate Resistant”. As far as I can gather, there is no such medical term. It should rather be termed “Insulin Resistant”. If you do an internet search on both terms you’ll see what I mean. The fact that he was pre-diabetic in 2012 but now has full-blown Type 2 Diabetes and is taking medication (Metformin) means that he has been unable to control his condition with his diet. His answer is that one cannot turn around 33 years of poor diet. However, this is again, untrue. Dr Gabriel Cousens is well-known for his work in reversing diabetes within 30 days on a raw vegan diet. Will Professor Noakes be bold enough to try this way of reversing his diabetes? Many other doctors, professionals and nutritionists, including Mary-Ann Shearer are reversing T2 diabetes and getting people off their medication using whole food, plant-based diets which are NOT high in complex carbohydrates, let alone refined carbohydrates.
Conflicting Stories and Conflicting Advice
- In the 20th March 2012 article in “Runners World”, Professor Noakes says that his diet is high protein. Yet now he is at pains to say his diet is NOT high protein. And yet he promotes Sureslim which is also high protein.
- Again in the same article, he admits that “one reason one feels so good on this eating plan may simply be because it removes the currently unrecognised toxic elements found in the highly processed foods that are commonly eaten”. Bingo!!! See the beginning of this article!!
- In 2012 he says “no portion control” yet now he advocates no more than 80g per meal of animal protein. In March 2013 (Health24) he said “In fact, my preferred choice is now to eat a “proper meal” only once every 12 to 24 hours”. Does that mean his one meal consists of no more than 80g of protein and 80g of vegetables? 160g of food per day?!
- He also said “I think fish should be the primary drive” and doesn’t “hold back on dairy”.
This is what he says he eats on an average day:
Eggs = protein
Bacon = high protein (and one of THE worst carcinogenic ‘foods’ out there, unless it is totally free range)
Sausage = protein
Cheese = protein
Yoghurt = protein
Previous night’s fat/protein meal = protein
Cheese (again) for lunch = protein
Nuts = protein
Biltong = protein
Real Meal Revolution meal = 50% protein (when you go to their web site they recommend that the plate is 50% meat (i.e. protein) and 50% non-starch veg)
Where’s the fish?!
Dietary recommendations which do not make sense
From everything I’ve read about this latest recycled fad diet (including “The Ten Commandments of Beginner Banting”), all the portions and dietary recommendations don’t make sense at all:-
- Is the focus on fish or not?
- Must I eat twice or three times a day or just once a day?
- Is it high protein or not?
- Must I limit my meat intake or not?
- If I eat 80g of meat and make that 50% then my veg intake is only 80g as well – that’s roughly the size of a large tomato. If I eat this twice or even three times a day, no wonder I’ll lose weight! My body will be starving! Unless I add loads of butter, coconut oil or other oil/fat without additional protein.
- If I only eat once a day and limit my protein intake to 80g of meat or fish, how is that going to sustain me if I abide by the 50/50 rule? And don’t snack?
- What about the different requirements between men and women?
In March 2013, Professor Noakes said :
“I do not believe I have all the answers and am continually reading the scientific literature and the internet and tweaking my diet”.
Judging by this statement, the above contradictions and his inability to control his own Diabetes, it would appear that the recycled “Banting” is somewhat deficient, and not just in healthy carbohydrates.
The big question I have is this : how does this recycled fad diet fit into creating a healthier nation? In my opinion, it is an elitist diet which only the more well-off South Africans can afford. What we should be looking at is promoting natural whole food and educating people about the dangers of refined and processed foods – and that includes commercial meat/chicken.
The Dangers of Low Carb, High Animal Fat and High Protein Diets
- If you are in the approximately 30% of the population which doesn’t have a ‘feedback’ mechanism in your liver, and if you eat more cholesterol than your body needs, your liver will not compensate and your cholesterol will rise. Most people’s livers DO compensate by reducing the amount of cholesterol it makes in response to dietary cholesterol. So this is why many studies get different results when it comes to dietary cholesterol.
- Because of ketosis, you will more than likely get bad breath (halitosis). Noakes says this is OK if you want to be healthy. I disagree. It is not natural or normal to have bad breath as this can mask other diseases which may be present, besides the fact that chronic ketosis is not a normal state for a human being. There are no examples of human cultures in chronic ketosis.
- Ketogenic diets are associated with sudden cardiac death. Current ketogenic diets are characterised by the elevation of free fatty acids. http://carbsanity.blogspot.co.uk/2010/05/sudden-cardiac-death-and-free-fatty.html
- Insufficient fibre. It is not normal to use laxatives on a healthy diet (even if it is a natural product) – as demonstrated by the fact that Noakes uses psyllium husks instead of natural vegetables or complex carbohydrates in order to move his bowels.
- For women, you may find that you will get unbalanced hormones because of the low complex, whole food carbohydrates. Even the Paleo guys concede that unrefined carbohydrates are necessary – especially for females. http://robbwolf.com/2014/02/20/females-carbohydrates-hormones/
- The danger of kidney stones, arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Even on the official Banting website, the “Banters” confirm that : “Some people on low carb diets have reported kidney stones and number of other ailments.”
- Even those who advocate high protein and high fat diets are beginning to be concerned about the lack of fibre in a low-carbers diet. Specifically the concern is that it can lead to gut dysbiosis (imbalance of gut microbes/bacteria) which can lead to increased gut permeability (leaky gut). http://humanfoodproject.com/sorry-low-carbers-your-microbiome-is-just-not-that-into-you/
- Cancer Chemotherapy produces the same results as high protein/low carb diets : suppressed appetite, decrease in food intake, weight loss, lowered cholesterol and triglycerides. Yet no-one would argue that this is healthy?
- Stalled weight loss : Initial dramatic weight loss is most often followed by a plateau as recognised by the official website where “heaps” of people have this problem.
For more information on the dangers of low-carb/high fat diets see the end of this article to read Mary-Ann Shearer’s fascinating and insightful analysis.
Who eats low carb/high fat/high protein and who is healthy with longevity?
The truth is we don’t know. No-one on this planet can tell us. There are no cultures or nations around the world who live according to the Banting ‘rules’. There are no long-term studies to determine the safety of such a diet/lifestyle. Sure, there is conjecture, short term studies and theory plus anecdotes and lots of hype. But that’s where it ends. Short-term weight loss studies count for nothing when it comes to proving long-term health.
The low-carbers like to point to the Inuits (Eskimos) and the Masai as shining examples of what lots of meat and no carbs do for you. Well, if you want to eat raw meat, have a shortened lifespan and osteoporosis then by all means emulate these people! What the low-carbers omit to tell you is that these people, although they have a high intake of animal foods and have very little heart disease and diabetes, they are also extremely active and physically fit. Their metabolism clears any excess artery clogging fats before they can do any damage. And the reason why they don’t get cancer is because they don’t live long enough to develop it.
On the other hand, there are plenty of cultures and peoples around the world who are extremely healthy on a whole food, plant based diet with little or no animal products but high in complex carbohydrates. These are real people, not theoretical or anecdotal or clinical or thumb sucking or outdated ‘research’:
The longest living – including most active people over 100 years of age – and healthiest communities in the world, like the Okinawan Japanese, the Sardinians in Italy, the Loma Linda community in Southern California and many others (see the Blue Zones) live on whole food plant based diets that are high in natural unprocessed carbohydrates such as rice, potatoes, corn, legumes, starchy and other vegetables and fresh fruit and either exclude or drastically limit animal fat and protein
- The Papua New Guinean highlanders were found to consume as much as 94.6% of energy from carbohydrates, predominantly from sweet potatoes which have a relatively high sugar content, yet diabetes, heart disease, stroke and obesity were very rare.
- The people who have the lowest life expectancy like the Inuit and Masai (40 – 60 years depending on the source), and a poor health record, are those that follow a low carb, high fat and high protein diet.
- The Arab Bedouins also traditionally consumed a very high carbohydrate, with about 750 grams of full-grain wheat per day, yet diabetes and heart disease were also very rare. Their wheat bellies were flat, not fat.
Professor Noakes said in March 2012 (Runners World) “Rice is not essential for health” I say “try telling THAT to the Chinese and Indians!”
So how should we eat?
This is what I love about The Natural Way eating lifestyle. It is not extreme. In fact, it is in agreement with much of what the low-carbers advocate:
- No refined sugar
- No refined flour
- No processed foods
- Natural food – go organic wherever possible
- Eat healthy fats – yes, we agree, fat IS good for you! But our advice is that it must be unheated plant fat with only small quantities of animal fat (but you don’t need the animal fat). We advise that you listen to your body and that you balance your Omega 3 and 6 and stick to three to four portions of plant fat a day depending upon your energy needs.
- Animal flesh – this is where we differ. We say if someone still wants to eat animal flesh then we advise that you restrict it to free-range/organic (no hormones, anti-biotics, preservatives, treatments or residual pesticides) and eat it no more than once a day and no more than three times per week. A portion of meat is the size and thickness of your palm.
- We advocate that you DO need complex carbohydrates but you don’t need large quantities. In fact, our advice is no more than a fistful of complex carbs a day.
- We also say that you don’t have to worry about eating fruit. Even if you are a diabetic you can eat the acid and sub-acid fruits (note that these are not acid-forming – all raw fruit is alkaline-forming unless cooked) and combine them with nuts to facilitate slow release of healthy carbohydrates.
The Natural Way is Safe for Everyone – no limitations, no restrictions, no exclusions
Anyone can eat The Natural Way because it is not cutting out any vital nutrients. It is not extreme. You don’t get constipated or bad breath. You don’t have to go into ketosis to lose weight. You don’t run the risk of kidney stones or inflammatory conditions. You don’t have to supplement with laxatives or psyllium husks to get your bowels moving. You don’t have to worry about osteoporosis or developing diabetes or heart disease.
It’s just a natural, whole food, plant-based dietary lifestyle with the emphasis on unprocessed foods which anyone from the poorest person to the richest person can easily follow.
I honestly believe that most people involved in nutrition are on the same page in that we WANT to get our clients healthy and keep them healthy. The fact is that people can be slim, healthy and vibrant both short-term and long-term on diets that either exclude free-range/organic animal products or include small quantities. The key is getting your food as natural and as unprocessed as possible.
We all know and appreciate that different people react differently to different risk factors. We can all cite a relative who lived to be 100 years old who smoked their entire life and drank a bottle of whisky a day! But that’s not the norm. Most people don’t get away with that type of lifestyle these days. When did you last hear of someone who passed away simply of old age? Most of the time it is cancer or heart disease or diabetic complications. So whilst we can all say “but I do this or that and I’m healthy”, the scientific analysis of one person is not science.
The current debate surrounding dietary lifestyles is great and long may it continue! The more that people educate themselves about what is right for them, the better. But the key is to look at all aspects of diet and health and that includes long-term health. Losing weight is not indicative of optimal health. Anyone who went into a concentration camp could tell you that. What is great about this debate is that it is bringing certain subjects out into the open, e.g. the dangers of refined and processed food, the statin scam, the biased and controlling medical profession and Big Pharma, and the need for food that hasn’t been drugged, doped or dosed with poison.
I would like to see more people get involved in protesting against GMO, cruel animal feedlots, battery chicken, poor/inadequate food labelling, over-regulation of complimentary medicines and supplements etc. I would like to see more people vote with their consumer power and stop buying refined foods and chemicals disguised as food. If people embraced these health issues with as much gusto as the publicity surrounding Professor Noakes we should be able to flex our consumer muscles and make changes to the quality and price of the food in our shops. I would like to see real health education programs for those who don’t have the advantage of good education and the internet. And I mean real programs that are not ‘industry sponsored’ by the producers of refined bread, soda drinks and alcohol.
One huge concern that has been overlooked is the capacity of South Africa to provide meat for a growing population. Here is an article that has nothing to do with health but more to do with feeding a population. It says that if you want to feed 40 to 50 million people, half of whom want meat, to rear that amount of beef on pasture is impossible. And when you consider that the estimated population of South Africa in 2030 is approximately 85 million, then we have a real problem on our hands. The only answer is to increase the number of CAFO – concentrated animal feeding operations – where animals are injected with growth hormones and anti-biotics. Is that really a healthy prospect?
In closing, and as I often say, don’t take my word for any of the above information – go and seek it for yourself and satisfy yourself that what you are reading is either true or that it makes sense. You and you alone are responsible for your health – not me, not your doctor, not the government, not the internet.
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