Can 'experts' be trusted?

Can ‘experts’ be trusted?

I promised myself I wouldn’t do another post about sugar for a while (I’m sure you all know how against it I am by now!) but something happened this week that really irritated me.

This week Sunrise (the Australian version of the Today Show) did a five-part series on why sugar is bad for you led by David Gillespie, author of Sweet Poison. I have previously talked about the book here and am lucky enough to talk to David via Twitter on a regular basis.Β I thought it was great that David and Sunrise were working together to promote something which had the potential to change millions of viewers’ lives.

What I did not expect was a negative backlash, and certainly not from nutritionists. They claimed that sugar isn’t scientifically addictive (despite countless personal testimonials)Β and that it’s too extremist to cut out all sugar for the rest of your life – apparently sugar should be enjoyed in moderation as it’s unhealthy to deny yourself sweet treats. Sorry but knowing what I do about the harmful effects of sugar, I do not view it as “denying” myself anything but bad health!

I read the negative response from the nutritionist community as just further evidence of people refusing to admit that they have been following the wrong approach while continuing to make excuses for bad behaviour.

The largest criticism was that David is not a nutritionist. He is a lawyer, yes, but one that spent years researching sugar, fat and body responses to write two very successful books. I didn’t realise it took a tertiary-qualified expert to read the nutritional information on a bottle of barbecue sauce and realise that something which is more than 50 per cent sugar is bad for you…

David has already changed so many people’s lives and will continue to do so, as his advice is spot on and has produced numerous success stories. He isn’t promoting a fad diet or a dangerous activity; he’s simply pointing out how a dangerous toxin affects the body. It’s hardly something to be condemned over.

During all this I found myself pulled into a Twitter argument, as I often am. I agreed with David that it’s too dangerous to enjoy sugar “in moderation”, especially because the definition of moderation is so subjective. When you have sugar in moderation, does that mean you’re taking the health problems it brings in moderation too?

It was then a nutritionist (and a “Health At Every Size” advocate, might I add, although I won’t get into my thoughts on that movement here!) argued you can’t say sugar causes diabetes. Sure, not every single person who ever eats a piece of chocolate will get diabetes, but there isΒ really strong evidence of insulin resistance being negatively affected in a remarkably short period of time following exposure to sugar. She then said people should choose to eat whatever made them most happy: if that involved cake then so be it!

I should add that David was retweeting any negative comments that came through – he was not afraid of being criticised and, like me, he was probably thinking how idiotic these people’s arguments were!

The whole experience just reconfirmed for me why I never take everything nutritionists say as gospel.Β To make things even worse, coconut oil has received a terrible bashing in the Australian media this week. Miranda Kerr recently revealed the secret to her health and physique is having four tablespoons of coconut oil a day. Personally, I think coconut oil is the best type of oil you can have and I have it two or three times a day. Even though it contains a large amount of saturated fat, it’s different (and better!) than what you find in animal sources. Its benefits include weight loss, reduced cravings, and improved digestion and muscle growth.

But every single follow-up discussion featuring nutritionists I’ve seen or read has completely flamed Miranda and coconut oil. They say the fat level is unhealthy and contains too many calories. Such nonsense continues to spread a fear of fat among most of the population, while failing to discriminate between healthy and bad fats.

The most recent interview I read actually said that instead of having four tablespoons of coconut oil a day you should have a bar of chocolate – it provides slightly fewer calories and you will gain more enjoyment from it! Um…WTF. It really irritates me how clueless some people are!

Until recently I used to share an office with three nutritionists who prepared diet plans for hospital patients. It was terrible to see the food they were giving sick people (lots of carbs and little protein or vegetables), and they actually couldn’t tell me whether oatmeal was a source of carbohydrates!

By no means am I bagging all nutritionists – I have actually considered going back to university to study nutrition. I do not have any formal qualification in nutrition or exercise, and yet I feel my years of reading about and practicing clean eating and training make me better educated than others who have. I really believe you do not need a degree to know what is good and bad for your body.

Do you trust nutritionists? Who do you listen to for advice?

(PS. Part one of the Sunrise segment can be viewed here.)

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