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Lose ‘lbs’ not ‘£s’

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. 

She claims that our advice to base meals on carbohydrates isn’t right for the sedentary lifestyles we lead today. She explains exactly how the white rice, pasta and bread we are filling up on is converted into fat around our middles, whilst providing very little in the way of nutrients. 

Well yes, if we stuff ourselves with pasta and don’t take any exercise, then of course we’ll put on weight.  Any energy that we take in – not just that from carbohydrates – will be stored as fat if we don’t burn it off. That’s why we recommend people eat less and move more. The problem is that people aren’t eating the right amount of food for how active they are.

However, I should also point out that we advise people to choose wholegrain over refined carbohydrates, because they contain more nutrients and provide a slower energy release.

Interestingly, the Mail failed to point out that Hannah Sutter, a lawyer and not a scientist by trade, has a vested interest in this subject – she has her own website selling a weight loss programme based on the theory of ketosis. This is yet another example of a fad diet that won’t lead to established healthy eating habits because it’s unrealistic and difficult to stick to for any length of time. 

Government advice to eat a healthy balanced diet based on a range of foods, in roughly the right proportions, is however realistic for the long-term.  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.


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I'm afraid i agree with Hannah 100%. Carbohydrates make us fat NOT fat. I also find it funny that in the recent decades when we ate more animal fats,we we're slimmer and suffered from less cancer and heart disease. Diabete's is a condition of too much sugar in the blood,yet the advice from Diabete's UK is to cut down on fat and eat MORE starchy sugary foods!!!! insane or what? No, just look at the healthy,slim traditional hunter gatherers on the planet who shun our 'healthy' 5 a day advice, and also at what people ate decades and centuries ago (there were no 'heart healthy' vegetable oils centuries ago,and did people drop like flies through heart disease on all that butter?) More fat less sugar is the best food for a human being. The advice to eat 'healthy' sugary bread,potatoes,cereals,pasta and fruits will make you gain weight. Vegetable oil is also a killer so do what your grandma and grandad did and eat lard,eggs,cream,cheese,meat,dripping and offal. It never did them any harm. I'd also ignore EVERYTHING the 'health' industry tells us,because it cannot (and has not) proven a direct link between animal fat and heart disease,and also cannot prove low cholesterol is healthy either. It just conviniently ignores biology and evolution.

Posted by mark cheshire on February 13, 2010 at 04:46 PM GMT #

How many kcals/day people eat is dictated by their appetites (unless they're locked-up). The fact is that people are eating too many kcals/day, resulting in obesity.

For many people, myself included, low-carbohydrate diets result in eating fewer kcals per day, despite the fact that fat contains 7-9kcals/g (depending on fatty acid chain length).

Launching an ad-hominem attack on Hannah Sutter does not help your case.

Substrate Utilisation studies show what proportion of carb/fat the body burns at different exercise intensities. I think you'll find that, for sedentary people, the middle of the bell curve is at approx 64% fat/36% carb.

Posted by Nigel Kinbrum on February 16, 2010 at 02:21 PM GMT #

The words 'people' 'glass' and 'houses' spring to mind.

It is vitally important that we understand the motives and interests of any commentator or organisation with the power to influence our behaviour. Taking the moral high ground, however, is a dangerous thing to do when there is little or no transparency in the motives and interests of one's own organisation.

The FSA has myriad commercial links and many of its experts have have very close (and questionable?) links the food processing industry.

As a public representative, surely you can only question the motives of others when you yourself can justify some of your absurd policies and demonstrate transparency?

Posted by Naomi on February 27, 2010 at 10:33 AM GMT #

Low-carb diet proves more than twice as effective at lowering blood pressure than a low-fat diet with the addition of a popular fat reducing/blocking drug.

We welcome your comments on this Mr. Wadge.

Posted by Steve Green on March 02, 2010 at 10:05 AM GMT #

Oh dear,

Andrew. This post is the reason that heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer - metabolic syndrome in general - is at epidemic levels. You are living proof of the government institution that adheres to the flawed Ancel Keys "science" in the 1950's and has stood by it since. It is a scientists responsibility to admit when they are wrong, and so far, none of you have.

The fact that you are even suggesting that "it's all okay - we say whole grains" is any kind of a solution, or indeed a counter argument is laughable.

The Daily Mail is a rag, no doubt, but the fact that this person is promoting ketogenic / lowER-carb / higher fat / whatever - means she is on the right track. The science is easy to locate and from much better qualified men than you. The proof is in trying it. If you believe that the suggestions of these diets are fads, I'm afraid you are going to be suffering from the very ills the FSA should be trying to protect us from.

I'll bring to your attention a couple of things that may interest you. Lets address the common, and ludicrous, obsession with thermodynamics.

The first article is written by Dr Robert Lustig, Professor of Clinical Paediatrics, in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, who is only interested in fat kids getting thin and normal kids not getting fat.

The second is why "A calorie is a calorie" violates the second law of thermodynamics - Nutrition Journal 2004:

The third is an 89 minute, freely available lecture on the chemical process of fructose absorption from called Sugar: The Bitter Truth. Again from Dr Lustig.

None of these papers / lectures have any purpose other than to illustrate quite how damaging the opinions of people like you, in a position of ultimate power of our recommended diet are directly attributing to the chronic illness and disease of this country.

A commentary or rebuttal would be most welcome. I have no formal qualifications, so swing hard.


Posted by Craig Zielinski on March 05, 2010 at 12:48 AM GMT #

You are probably a nice man who means well but you have no idea what you are talking about.
Still stuck in the 1970's groupthink.
You should be sacked today and sent home to eat your carbohydrate and starch, get diabetes, heart disease, cancer and dementia.
You will be remembered in the same way that the 'scientists' who recommended 'smoking in moderation' is not harmful to your health'.
Look around you Andrew, it's not working!

Posted by Fraser-Smith Neil on March 31, 2010 at 09:30 PM BST #

Doctor Wadge, you called your blog Hungry For Science. Well, after reading a bit of your blog, I'm sorry to inform you that I'm still hungry for science. Maybe it's because you provide very little science and a whole lot of authority? I don't know, I'm just trying to lose a little weight and I thought you would have something, hum, let's say, more scientific than the old Jean Mayer hypothesis. I thought you'd explain in the smallest details how the hormones and enzymes in our body put fat in fat cells, and converted glucose into glycerol, and converted fructose in fatty acids.

Listen doc, if you really want your advice to be taken seriously, you should really think of citing references at the bottom of each of your blog posts.

Posted by Martin Levac on March 31, 2010 at 11:21 PM BST #

Sorry Andrew. No one believes your unexamined conventional wisdom anymore. But thanks for playing our game.

Posted by Kathy Hix on March 31, 2010 at 11:29 PM BST #

Hi Andrew,
You seem to be a firm supporter of the 'eat less, do more' model of obesity. But this will simply make people hungry. If you exercise more (increase calories out), but keep 'calories in' at the same level, you will get hungry. If you keep exercise levels the same but eat less (reduce calories in), you will get hungry. Did you notice that? Both paths lead to increased hunger.

You cannot resist hunger for long. If the body is hungry for an extended period of time it will reduce 'calories out' (lethargy etc....), whilst compelling you to go and find food to eat. It is a vicious circle. Hunger has been perfected by evolution to MAKE YOU EAT.

Think of it this way. If I were offer you come round to my house for a meal with all the trimmings, and I told you to ‘bring your appetite’, what would you do to compel yourself to eat more?

Most of us would ‘do more’ exercise (increase 'calories out'), thus 'working up an appetite', or ‘eat less’ by skipping a meal or eating a smaller breakfast (thus reducing calories in).

So we are in an ironic position that the very thing YOU and the government are telling people to do to lose weight is exactly the same things people would do to compel themselves to eat more.

Finally, you might want to read "Good Calories, Bad Calories" (aka The Diet Delusion) by Gary Taubes. Far from being a diet book it tackles both the history and science behind modern western nutritional guidelines and the implications of it.

Posted by Asclepius on April 01, 2010 at 11:34 AM BST #

I am quoted in Hannah's book and am naturally sympathetic but:
1. You say "a healthy balanced diet" but that is what we are trying to find. What is the balance: 50 % carbs is already out of balance. 7 % saturated fat is way out of balance.
2. Whole grains have slow energy release? No grains have no energy release. Energy is what we are trying to cut down on.
3. Bottom line: Hannah's description of her legal role -- for the US -- would be more like a judge than a lawyer. The "healthy balanced diet" has dragged out the trial for forty years and still can't make a case. It blames the victim rather than taking responsibility. If you show some results by the standard diet, I am sure Hannah will reverse herself on her earlier decision.

Posted by Richard Feinman on April 01, 2010 at 12:11 PM BST #

I am 54 yrs old, an optometrist for 30 yrs. I sit down all day. I have not eaten a piece of white bread since high school. I became diabetic over the last 4-5 yrs. with sugars of 19- 1.5 years ago. I lost 25 lbs. through ketosis and have managed to keep it off by almost totally eliminating carbohydrates and ramping up my exercise program. My cholesterol came down, my blood pressure has returned to normal. It has been a major adjustment for me to reduce the carbs, but, now that I have, I see the negative influence of the food industry on my health, and will never let it happen again. I have researched this topic endlessly, and people and organizations who say the research to prove the validity and efficacy of a reduced carbohydrate diet doesn't exist, have not looked very hard. Or don't want to look, for some reason. I have no formal diet/nutrition training. I'm not selling anything on my website, where I have a collection of many websites from people who either have done the research, are reporting on it, or are living a carbohydrate restricted lifestyle. I welcome any comments also.

Posted by jim Bjork on April 01, 2010 at 12:49 PM BST #

I believe that what Hannah has a vested interest in is helping people to lead a healthier life.
"she has her own website selling a weight loss programme based on the theory of ketosis" Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all make a living doing what we are passionate about while helping people along the way?
The fact that Hannah is an educated lawyer is impressive, as lawyers are well trained to question the evidence. Being an active member of the Nutrition & Metabolism Society, Hannah has has direct access to many of the leading nutritional scientists in the world and it is from their research she bases many of the statements in her book.
I would reccommend reading Hannah's book, switching to a carbohydrate restricted lifestyle yourself, and then comment on the results.

Posted by Laurie Cagnassola on April 01, 2010 at 01:06 PM BST #

I chime in with other commenters to say I agree with Hannah. Reliance on cheap fodder (carbohydrates, including sugars and grains, whole or otherwise) is a key contributor to the obesity, diabetes and heart disease epidemics. Food manufacturers mass produce low quality foods that promote chronic illness, and health-related industries profit from the ailing population. It is time government officials made courageous decisions to side with public health over special interests.

By the way, the healthy contribution of whole grains is now called into question. Take a look at:

Posted by Ann Childers, MD on April 01, 2010 at 01:52 PM BST #

Dear Dr Wadge
Since you are so confident of the FSA guidelines on healthy eating and the eat less do more approach please do publish the evidence that supports this theory and perhaps you would be kind enough to explain to the British People why it is that not withstanding the fact that we eat less calories today than we did 10 years ago and we do more exercise today than we did 10 years ago we are much fatter and much sicker...PS the stats are in the NHS obesity report ( ie they are your stats and not mine)

Many thanks Hannah

Posted by Hannah Sutter on April 01, 2010 at 02:18 PM BST #

One would think as "Chief Scientist" you'd discuss some actual science. For instance, can you detail the metabolic pathway that turns "calories" into fat? Thanks.

Posted by Dave Dixon on April 01, 2010 at 02:48 PM BST #

A high percentage of carbohydrates means a high percentage of glucose from starch: flour food, bread, pasta and so on. This gives diabetics a high blood glucose which is harmful. The reason for accepting higher blood glucose in diabetics has been the proposed lowering of risk for cardiovascular disease by keeping the intake of saturated fats low. The hypothesis that saturated fat is harmful has now been officially been laid to rest by WHO experts. What we have left is the high blood glucose in diabetics which is harmful.
The nutritional guidelines harm diabetics. They constitute about 5 % diagnosed of the population and 5 % more undiagnosed. In the UK that should be about 6.5 mill. people.
What we have been doing over the last 30 years, since the high-carbohydrate diet became a must for diabetics, is plain quackery. We have harmed in the UK thousands of diabetics and millions worldwide with the concept “healthy eating”.
Diabetes specialist for more than 30 years.

Posted by jorgen nielsen on April 01, 2010 at 08:14 PM BST #

I don't normally respond to blogs, but the smug rejection of Hannah Sutter's article is insufferable. She acknowledges her book in the article and that she is a lawyer not a scientist.
I had all the symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Two doctors could not wait to put me on insulin. I took a third opinion and subsequently some wonderful low carb dietary advice. Fortunately I didn't go down the route the original doctors and FSA wanted me to (insulin injections and carb "control"). Consequently I am a better shape, on a diet which is along the lines that Hannah Sutter suggests.
I cannot tell you how angry the FSA's and Diabetes UK's "carb control" diet makes me feel. Just remember - one shot of insulin and the drug companies have you for life. I'm not saying that insulin is not the answer, just make sure you research all the options - there are options as described in the Mail on Sunday article and contained in the comments above. Smug rejections, as evidenced above, should cause people to want to research further as I did.

Posted by Stephen on April 02, 2010 at 01:28 PM BST #

How depressing. It would be nice if our supposed guardians of health in the UK had at least SOME idea about nutrition.

Watch this Mr Wadge - it's the rather thorough Mr Gary Taubes giving the background to the same argument.

One day the FSA will realise they're on the wrong side of the fence, and that their advice is actually harming people.

Posted by Andy Bellenie on April 02, 2010 at 05:58 PM BST #

I have struggled with my weight and health in the past, and it is only when I adopted a low-carb (high-fat) lifestyle in 2005 that I found it annoyingly easy to lose weight, improve my cholesterol, lower my triglycerides, increase my energy levels and boost my immune function. All this, regardless of how much or how little I exercise. I have done the experiment in my own body, with outstanding results. When I followed the recommended "prudent" (i.e. low-fat) diet, I was overweight, exhausted and often sick. Now, I have no trouble sticking to my "diet" of whipping cream, bacon, butter, steak, fish, chicken, Camembert, eggs, and non-starchy veggies. Every indicator that traditional doctors use to monitor my health is spectacular, all the time.

The cause of the obesity epidemic is that the commonly recommended diet triggers overeating by causing energy consumed to be stored rather than used for work because of the action of insulin (the hormone that stores fat). Eating carbohydrates causes insulin to be released from the pancreas. Eating fat does not make you fat (because there is no release of insulin). Eating carbs does.

Think of it this way: do you put petrol in your car, then drive around town trying to burn it up? Of course not! Food is the stuff that fuels our activities. If we store energy rather than making use of it, the obvious solution is to switch to better fuel.

I am not a lawyer, but a scientist (an award-winning one, in fact). I have nothing to sell, nothing to gain by sharing my experience. I simply know how angry I was when I discovered how easy it was to be healthy, and I hope that I can prevent others from going down the same road.

Posted by Adrienne Larocque on April 06, 2010 at 12:38 PM BST #

Currently studying obesity throught the Open University and studying an undergraduate course in Food and Nutrition. In a "past life" studied Biology.
I must confess the science can be bewildering. A lot of scientific data has been provided by large food companies such as Coca Cola and Kelloggs. Very difficult to get impartial scientific information.
Consumer trends show that our consumption of "fats has decreased over the past 40 years yet we are fatter than ever. A low Carbohydrate diet is effectively an "Atkin" diet. Many people report great success with this but unfortunately trials with Placebos have resulted in an even greater weight loss.
There is also the "French Paradox", whereby the French who consume far greater amounts of fat than us Brits are slimmer.
I think that the best option is to enjoy a varied diet and exercise according to your capabilities. Unfortunately "diets" lead to obesity since our bodies are like thermostats trying to return our Basal metabolic rate back to a previous equilibrium.

Posted by Annice MacLeod on April 07, 2010 at 12:44 PM BST #

Hi Dr. Andrew,

I have been eating a very high-fat diet (50% saturated fat, from coconut oil and animal fats) for 10 years--approx. 70% of cals from fat, 20% from protein. At age 49, my bodyfat is 10%. I eat as much as I want everyday, without ever thinking about calories.

In fact, any diet in which a human must watch calories is clearly NOT a natural diet. Animals in the wild do NOT watch calories--because they eat a natural diet. Humans evolved to eat a high-fat diet, high in animal proteins/fats. And were it not for the hardship of the environment, lack of trauma care, and lack of antibiotics, paleolithic humans would have a much higher average lifespan than current humans eating a diet you recommend.

No mammal eats grains in the wild -- we are not evolutionarily adapted to the inflammatory trash protein gluten, nor can any mammal properly process lectins (also inflammatory). And yet the food pyramid tells people to eat grains as the bulk of their calories.

Nicely done.

BTW, if you want to compare health stats, I welcome it, and I KNOW my stats (trigs, HDL, CR-P, etc.) will crush yours, assuming you eat the diet you recommend. Let me know if you're up to the challenge -- ya know, actually stand behind what you preach.

Scott Miller, Director
Immortality Institute

Posted by Scott Miller on April 09, 2010 at 04:44 PM BST #

All the comments are against the FSA advice. My husband died of diabetes, he followed your advice about diet. I wish I'd known then what I know now. To think we pay the wages of arrogant people like you! With the internet things are changing-we can find out the science for ourselves. Hopefully the days of these so-called experts are numbered. But I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by sydney on April 12, 2010 at 01:33 AM BST #

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