The updated Canada Food Guide, slated for 2018, should reflect the latest dietary science, even if it goes against what people have been taught for decades.
A significant number of Canadian physicians are frustrated with the Ministry of Health. Canada's government is in the process of revising its national dietary guidelines for the first time in a decade, and a group of more than 715 physicians and allied health professionals worry that the new guidelines will not reflect the latest dietary science. Previously, the guidelines were based on the low-fat, high-carbohydrate model that has dominated nutritional advice for the past 50 years but has since been shown to be deeply flawed; however, it appears the government believes otherwise, stating that its two-year review of scientific evidence found "the scientific basis for the 2007 guide is generally consistent with the latest evidence on nutrition and health."
The group has sent multiple letters to the Ministry since late 2016, when the update was first announced, and has received only a single response that failed to address concerns about the inadequacies of the current food guide and the so-called evidence base.
This is concerning because, as Dr. David Harper writes in an opinion piece for the Vancouver Sun, the new food guide will have a profound effect on the health of Canadians -- and never before have the stakes been so high.
The current state of public health in Canada is abhorrent, similar to that of the United States, and Harper, along with the signees of the letters to the Ministry of Health, believes this is due in large part to following guidelines based on obsolete study models and erroneous conclusions.
"The results are clear: more than 50 percent of us are now overweight or obese, insulin resistant, and inflamed; the rates of diabetes are skyrocketing; and cancer and cardiovascular disease are the most common killers. Roughly 70 per cent of chronic disease is caused, directly or indirectly, by what I call the axis of illness: inflammation, obesity, and insulin resistance — three factors that work synergistically over time to worsen health outcomes."
Harper writes that there are at least 2,600 family physicians in Canada who are currently reversing the effects of chronic disease using diet, primarily the ketogenic diet, which goes against conventional nutritional advice by recommending high-fat, low-carb intake. He cites one particularly successful experiment:
"A 2017 low-carbohydrate diet study conducted at Indiana University and published in the journal JMIR Diabetes, involving 262 adults with Type II diabetes, found that 87 per cent of the subjects were able to reduce or eliminate their need for medication to manage their disease. And this happened within a matter of weeks, sometimes even days."
For Health Canada to ignore such results is irresponsible, Harper argues, but also reveals the food industry's insidious influence on shaping national guidelines. This is the same problem seen in the United States, when its revised 2015 Dietary Guidelines failed to take environmental concerns into consideration because the meat lobby is so powerful.
What the Canadian doctors want to see is fairly straightforward:
- An end to the idea that a low-fat diet is healthy and that there should be caps on saturated fat
- Guidelines created without influence from the food industry
- An emphasis on nutrients coming from real foods, not artificially fortified grains
- Promotion of low-carb diets as at least one effective intervention for people struggling with obesity, heart disease, and diabetes
- Cease the advice to replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated, refined vegetable oils
- Stop steering people away from nutritious whole foods, such as whole-fat dairy and regular red meat (obviously this has ethical and climate implications that would need to be weighed by individuals)
- A cap on added sugar, in accordance with the updated WHO guidelines, ideally no greater than 5% of total calories
Perhaps most importantly, the new Canadian Dietary Guidelines should:
"Be based on a complete, comprehensive review of the most rigorous data available. In the absence of randomized clinical controlled trial data, rely on large epidemiologic studies with major clinical outcomes (avoid relying on surrogate endpoint studies), but accept that the level of evidence is less robust. If such data is not available, the Guidelines should remain silent."
While the original Open Letter sent by the physicians to Health Canada is no longer available for signing, there is a Change.org petition that anyone can sign. You can find it here.