Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tackling diabetes the Ontario way

According to Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health:
Fat is not the problem. If Americans could eliminate sugary beverages, potatoes, white bread, pasta, white rice and sugary snacks, we would wipe out almost all the problems we have with weight and diabetes and other metabolic diseases.
Eat Right Ontario is a government-sponsored nutritional site that doesn't want to agree with Dr. Willett.  I cringe when I think how much money was thrown at this initiative, supposedly designed to provide residents with information on healthy eating.

Contrary to its promise, the site left me with more questions than answers, and I could write a treatise on the inaccuracies I found in the copy.  The closest it gets to telling people about staying away from sugar is some deeply buried advice to avoid foods with lots of added sugars.

Other than that, it contains the standard line that it's ok to eat sugar and baked goods but to limit saturated fats.  It parrots the message on the Canadian Sugar Institute's website, that sugar doesn't cause diabetes.  Chemically speaking, this is quite possibly technically correct;  after all, it's not as if it's a germ that you can catch a disease from in the way you can contract cholera from bad water.

I was very disappointed to see that the Canadian Sugar Institute, which doesn't have one bad word to say about sugar, is listed in the resource links, but there is not one link to even some of the research that shows that it is sugar and refined carbohydrates and not saturated fats that are the cause of our nutritional problems, and the success of low carbohydrate plans for bringing people back to health.

EatRightOntario invites visitors to call their free hotline, which I did.  I asked the friendly registered dietician a number of questions about why they don't take a stronger stand against sugar and carbohydrates.  She clearly had a tight script;  she told me there is insufficient evidence that low-carb diets are safe.  She also told me the site was aimed at people with only a basic level of nutritional knowledge.

It's too bad that a decision was made somewhere along the line that Ontario's residents don't need to be told the real causes of their health problems and what to do about them.  Are we too stupid?  If most of us aren't interested in delving any deeper (and that may be the case), I would suggest very strongly that the real facts need to be spelled out more clearly to avoid confusion and misunderstanding.

Believe me, many of my husband's patients are very confused and unhappy with their chronic metabolic problems, which they are unable to reverse, in spite of being in the care of registered dieticians and following their prescribed eating plans.

Our government needs to draw on information from nutritional experts who are not afraid to talk about the real causes of obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic diseases, not lobbying organizations representing one-sided industrial interests.

Like Dr. Willett, whom I quoted above.  Wouldn't his message be more useful to see on Eat Right Ontario?

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