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Modern Diet and Lifestyle Diseases

Written by Dr Estrelita van Rensburg

Eat Well Plate

Source: Public Health England in association with the Welsh Government, Food Standards Scotland and the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland

What Happens when Politicians get involved?

In 1977, the US Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, led by Senator George McGovern, comprising of lawyers and journalists (spearheaded by Nick Mottern, a vegetarian), recommended that the ideal diet should be comprised of the following: fat reduced to 30% of calories with saturated fat capped at 10%; and an increase in carbohydrates to between 55 – 60 % of calories.

The recommendations were adopted against opposition and the Senate report concluded “We cannot afford to wait the ultimate proof before correcting the trends we believe to be detrimental.”

The “Eatwell Guide” was subsequently adopted in the UK in 1983 (https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-eatwell-guide/). The proportional amount of the three macronutrients (fat, protein and carbohydrates) can be seen below.

Eat Well Plate

Source: Public Health England in association with the Welsh Government, Food Standards Scotland and the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland

Macronutrients

  • Protein 19%
  • Fat (low) 16%
  • Carbs 65%

How did our diet change?

These new dietary guidelines implemented in the Western world in the 1970s and 1980s, were a dramatic departure from the traditional diet composition which our ancestors followed. The amount of fats was slashed because they were believed to contribute to heart disease (fat consumed was mandated to be of the low-fat variety), while the amount of carbohydrates was greatly increased.

In the decades since the implementation for the new guidelines, the world has seen an exploitation of lifestyle diseases – obesity, diabetes and dementia, and in spite of this the nutritional guidance imposed by governments and medical/nutritional institutions have not changed!

Obesity increase since implementation of Western dietary guidelines

Projected Global Diabetes Increase


https://diabetesatlas.org/data/en/world/

The Dementia Epidemic


https://www.dementiastatistics.org/statistics-about-dementia/prevalence/

From these statistics, we can see that the Western dietary guidelines have led to an absolute explosion in lifestyle diseases. The loss of a historical perspective about our food traditions is probably the reason why our nutrition policies have gone so far astray. As adults, the lives of our ancestors were free of the chronic diseases of obesity, diabetes and dementia.

Scientists link many diseases to our modern Western diet

For more information on this see our blog Carbs – The real Culprit?