Aussie dieticians backflip on nutritional guidelines

By Leith van Onselen

Back in 2016 I penned an article, “Aussie dieticians are wrong about fat”, which criticised Australian dieticians’ staunch defence of existing failed dietary guidelines that promote a high carbohydrate / low fat diet:

Since the Australian food pyramid was first introduced in 1982, it has told Australians to consume large quantities of high glycemic foods, such as breads and cereals and to minimise fat:

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This food pyramid remained largely unchanged for 33 years until the pyramid was improved in 2015 to promote the importance of unrefined carbohydrates like vegetables and lessen the importance of refined carbohydrates like breads and cereals:

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Common amongst both pyramids, however, is the recommendation to consume large quantities of carbohydrates and minimise the consumption of fats.

The problem with this recommendation is that consuming carbohydrates generally elicits a strong glycemic response (i.e. raises blood sugars quickly) whereas consuming fats elicits almost no glycemic response (i.e. keeps blood sugars stable):

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Given Type-2 diabetes is a disease of insulin resistance, why on earth would dieticians recommend eating foods that elicit the greatest blood sugar response? It makes absolutely no sense…

It’s time for the Dietitians Association of Australia to get with the program and update its thinking on diabetes, saturated fat, and heart disease.

I have also frequently attacked the Australian dietary guidelines for denigrating the consumption of natural saturated fats while largely exonerating the consumption of sugar.

Throughout these articles I have been attacked for peddling ‘snake oil’ and have been told not to steer out of my lane.

Vindication has arrived, however, with the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) largely reversing its position. From

…these carbohydrate-rich foods cause major fluctuations in blood glucose levels for people with diabetes. Patients are told to manage the flux of glucose in the blood by using medications like insulin, which come with significant side effects.

A more practical approach is to limit the amount of carbs consumed in the diet and therefore reduce the dependence on high-dose medications. Unfortunately, this commonsense approach runs counter to the advice from many “dietary experts” who claim low-carb diets are a “fad”.

The reasons for maintaining this unscientific view have much to do with protecting financial relationships…

In a surprising move, however, the DAA has just announced that it will be ceasing its corporate relationships with food manufacturing and food industry associations by December 31, 2018…

After what seemed to be uncompromising resistance to the latest scientific evidence, Diabetes Australia has issued a new position statement about ‘Low Carb Diets’ for people with diabetes:

“There is reliable evidence that lower carb eating can be safe and useful in lowering average blood glucose levels in the short term (up to 6 months). It can also help reduce body weight and help manage heart disease risk factors such as raised cholesterol and raised blood pressure,” wrote Diabetes Australia.

The statement from Diabetes Australia even suggests that low carb diets may assist people with managing Type-1 diabetes.

As noted in the article, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) has also dropped its vexatious sanctioning of orthopaedic surgeon and low cab advocate, Dr Gary Fetke, as well as issued him an apology.

Hopefully, this represents the beginning of a new era of Australian dietary guidelines based on science, evidence and natural foods, not financial arrangements with Big Food and Sugar.

As an aside, if you want a clear explanation of the genesis of Australia’s dietary guidelines (which were passed down from the US), make sure that you watch the below presentation by Dr Zoe Harcombe, who wrote her entire Cambridge PhD thesis on the topic:

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Leith van Onselen


  1. A stark warning to treat anything the ‘experts’ (including academics) say with extreme caution.

    Of course, a ‘balanced diet’ and common sense as an approach doesn’t sit comfortably with all those who need to sell dieting books and secret fat fighting formulas.

    Not to mention ‘supplements’, of course, which is another multi-billion dollar rort.

    • yes

      quite bizarre that the editors of this website can’t appreciate the same possibility for AGW

      • The debate on AGW is ‘closed’! Michael Crichton opines: “Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled …”

        I’ve lost count of the number of times a broadly accepted stance on a particular subject has ultimately been refuted, which is why I remain open-minded at all times.

      • Yes, the consensus opinion on MMR vaccines is reason for suspicion in itself. This whole vaccination fad started with smallpox vaccines, but virtually nobody ever gets vaccinated against smallpox any more, a clear sign of cracks in the consensus.

      • Smallpox was, fortunately, declared eradicated about 30 years ago. From memory a very small occurrence showed up a couple of years ago but was quickly stomped on.

      • Ino I accept both AGW and immunisation for the moment, even though I am not expert enough to have a truly informed opinion on either (no one here is)

        But I also accept the possibility that current opinions might be wrong

        Don’t you?

        One thing I will say is that I become extremely suspicious any time dissent is viciously crushed
        This, to me, indicates fascism and is not historically behaviour associated with people claiming to be scientists . More the behaviour of religious or fanatical people

        You are paradoxically strengthening the position and persuasiveness of the Denialists

  2. This is a long read, but a good one. It explains how food lobbying works in the USA, and how lobbyists and the big food and agricultural industry set up the food pyramid to sell carbohydrates, which are their main product.

    Why can’t American farmers, who enjoy huge government subsidies, stand up to the processed food lobby?

    Part of the answer lies in the economics of the food industry: the profit margins and scale of processed food makers gives them a heft that growers of healthy foods can’t match.

    But it is also because “Big Ag” is not in the healthy food business. American farms with lobbying power don’t grow brussel sprouts; they grow grains used to make the high fructose corn syrup in Coke, the starches in processed foods, and the oil in deep fryers.

  3. From the MW article: “In a surprising move, however, the DAA has just announced that it will be ceasing its corporate relationships with food manufacturing and food industry associations by December 31, 2018.”

    S/he who pays the piper calls the tune, the carb-sugar industrial complex has had a stranglehold on dietary science for decades. Government and media have been complicit.

  4. interested partyMEMBER

    The problem with peoples diets……
    It’s an easy fix.
    Grow your own….eat ‘in season’…..lower your footprint….enjoy a meaningful life.
    or the alternative…….outsource everything, and trust the system. Sure, the marketing and labelling system is flawed in a big way but the whole problem starts inside your front door. Between your ears…actually.
    Oh, and by the way…did you know that if you don’t grow your own, and you ship it in, you are complicit in the strip mining of nutrients off farmland and adding to the financial stress of the farmer…via increasing input costs like fert, cides, etc… thereby guaranteeing lower quality produce each and every crop. Increases the events of salinity in soil, medical problems from increased chemical application to the crop, the cost of living, and more. I cannot see any upside in all of this.

    City living…..oh, the vibrancy.

    • but but but but… we’re all coders nao, man! I can’t grow my hipster coffee in my tiny-house? *head explodes whilst body continues to float in the air hands still scrolling the facebook page*

      • interested partyMEMBER

        It depends on the situation. Soil pH plays a massive part regarding heavy metal mobilisation. If an issue…..wicking beds….compost ( berkley method ) job mostly done.
        The problem is between the ears for most. and the solution is ridiculously simple.

    • ip, very off topic – do you have any experience in using or making a shoulder yoke?

      Our largish house block is very rocky (say, fist to bar fridge size) and very steep (anything with a wheel is useless) and we need to shift soil and rock from different sources to other spots.
      e.g. I’m excavations under the split-level for a workshop, extracted soil up to the top for garden beds (soil is surprisingly friable, no tests yet though) rocks to go for paths and edging in various places.

      Using builders buckets at the moment, size is good but a bit of a drag. – hence the yoke idea. I may have to experiment with different styles and materials.

      • interested partyMEMBER

        Rage, hard yakka eh?

        Ok…..yep, I think I can help. I am a chippie by trade but no longer wave a nailgun around.
        I would suggest getting yourself a drawknife and/or a spokeshave to shape some timber to suit your profile. If you have a planer you might get away with that. I suggest using pine for a trial / template and once you are satisfied with the comfort get something like tassie oak for the strength. Clean grain, no knots. Bunnings stock it in suitable sizes. I would go with 70 x 45 and shape from that. Notch the top face at the ends to take the bucket handles and maybe sling the buckets off some rope ( or some bent up booker rod/round bar ) to save the knees… will work it out.
        On the drawknife / spokeshave …….if you don’t have access to these I can recommend Chris at
        The round sole spokeshave will be best for your job like a Stanley #63. Great toys. The drawknife just needs to be 8 inch with a good blade…no chips……and good handles. Plenty on the site to choose from….and some are really old but still good. Keep them sharp. A flat surface and 600G wet and dry sandpaper will get you out of trouble if you have no stones or sharpening system. No grinders…they stuff up the steel ( heat ) if you don’t know what you are doing…
        Shape the timber with the grain…don’t try to cut against it. Just clamp the timber to a bench or something to shape it.
        Maybe some aircon pipe lagging for comfort at the shoulder points…..(.black tubular foam.)

        Let us know how you get on.
        disclaimer… I have bought from that site once and am happy with the service. ….recommended because of that. He wraps blades for posting well.

      • interested partyMEMBER

        Thinking on this, I would go with just the spokeshave. Unless you have a thing for old tools…….well…then by all means, help yourself.

      • ip, thanks so much for your thoughtful and detailed responses. Hard yakka it is, by necessity and choice – I’ve never been to a gym and get exercise with productive tasks like this.

        Your recommendations are much in line with my thinking – pine prototype, notches, slings – but had not thought of a more suitable tool other than a plane which I have. I think we have a spokeshave in the family somewhere, I’ll be in Townsville next week and will look through my father’s collection (this is sad, he would have loved to contribute to this, could turn his hand to anything) or possibly one in the relos old farm shed near Tolga, but no time for that this trip.

        Tool Exchange is wonderful, thank you, will keep in mind. So good to see tools that are decades old and still useful.

      • interested partyMEMBER

        More than happy to help. Glad you found the info useful.
        I will say that I don’t envy you….but I have done my share of damn hard days.

  5. Complex carbs make the healthiest diet:
    Researchers discover optimal diet to boost life-extending hormone

    Previous studies have shown that FGF21 plays a role in curbing appetite, moderating metabolism, improving the immune system and extending lifespan. It is also currently being used as a therapeutic target for diabetes, though little is known about how this hormone is triggered and released in the body.

    Now researchers from the Charles Perkins Centre have found that diets high in carbohydrate and low in protein are the best for boosting levels of FGF21 in mice.

    “Despite the popularity of high protein ‘Paleo’ diets, our research suggests the exact opposite may be best for us as we age – that a low protein, high carbohydrate diet was the most beneficial for latelife health and longevity,” said lead author Dr Samantha Solon-Biet

    • I disagree. Low protein/fat high carb is highly inflammatory if your gut bacteria and brush border is not entirely healthy. Partially digested food could enter the body through a permeable gut and undigested complex carbs end up sitting in the intestine to ferment causing gas. This then leads to autoimmune diseases which have exploded in western society. The reason high carb vegan diets work in poorer asia is because they also consume a LOT of fermented food too along with only unrefined grains.

      • The key is soluble fibre. I swear by it. You can buy it online (see “inulin” on eBay) or simply grow Jerusalem Artichokes, which are full of inulin, in your own garden. Soluble fibre maintains a healthy microbiome.

      • Please do not confuse vegan and vegetarian. Vegetarian is an established pattern and can maintain a fairly good set of health outcomes (unless you are really poor). Vegan is a consumerist western fad that raises precancerous changes in the gut but is stimulating a whole new range of factory food.
        Vegan eliminates a whole.class of fermented foods like cheese or yoghurt.

      • The Traveling Wilbur

        You’re both right. High carb, minimal protein, some greens (of the salad variety), and VINEGAR is what keeps this mouse happy and uninflammed (finally).

        After looking into why that works found​ out that one Voltaren every second day will do for your gut and bowels what a week’s worth of salad will. And it’s what the base of vinegar and Voltaren are (same family) that’s impt., Not that one is an ‘anti-inflammatory’.

        Still have to run and watch the diet generally though. It’s great, but not magic. No more ear infections though. Couldn’t be happier.

    • FiftiesFibroShack

      You’ve got to be careful reading too much into animal studies.

      Genes play a large roll too. For some folks the diet you describe could be excellent, others could struggle. The same goes for high fat diets etc. Basically, metabolic health will suffer if you eat in excess and don’t exercise – regardless of the macro breakdown.

  6. In reply to R2M – What type of carbs though? Resistant starch sounds like it might be beneficial but loading up on sugar and bread probably not.

  7. Lol I heard recently that the FDA was banning transfats. I still can’t believe it’s not butter.