Is the “clean food fad” dangerous?

I’m really looking forward to my retreat holidays in September. Sun, fresh air, exercise, fantastic “clean” food and juices… but wait! Could I be inadvertently harming myself? According to an article published on 20th August in the Spectator, accessible here,

the “clean food fad” is dangerous. Yes, all those young, healthy looking slim women are putting themselves, and the people they encourage, at risk of deficiencies with weird food eaten in its raw state. And none of them has any nutritional qualifications whatsoever, apparently. Dietitians are appalled, it seems, and are fighting back. It even sounds like one of them is (mis)quoting one of the sections in my recent book Love Your Bones.

Evidently, supermarket shelves have become shrines to “clean eating”. Well, on the one hand that is true, with an ever-growing choice of more unusual fruit and vegetables, herbs, spices, ethnic foods etc, which I view as a very positive thing. Not these authors though, sadly. They seem to have a lot to say about the ridiculousness of drinking raw coconut water with antioxidants in it, but say nothing of the explosion in consumption of the known-to-be-harmful “energy” drinks (fizzy water, large quantities of sugar, toxic artificial sweeteners and extra caffeine anyone?) in the “dark side” of the supermarket aisles.

Why are these authors concerned about the steady trend towards extra diversity in the healthy choice option? Do they want us to be even sicker, and eat even worse food, than the majority currently do? Do they think we should be making our choices from the “crisps and packets of sweets” aisles, trolley-dashing down the “ready meal” section as a grand finale, since heaven forbid that they would want anyone to create a nutritious meal from scratch?

They move on to attack Ella Woodward, the hugely successful young woman behind Deliciously Ella, and ridicule her stance on dairy produce causing an acidic state in the body which can cause calcium leaching from the bones. They say this is news to nutritionists, but it shouldn’t be, since one of the studies quoted in Love Your Bones clearly indicates that an acidic diet based on animal products leaches alkaline minerals from the bones. Maybe they don’t like her talking about stuff that she’s not supposed to know about, since she has an Arts degree. I agree with this to a point; for example, I would not think it appropriate for anyone unqualified in surgical procedures to be advising people on whether they require one or not.

But where does the “only ever take advice from qualified people” end? Are we always best served by professional experts? By and large yes, until, it seems, we want to help the population to become healthier via dietary and lifestyle choices, and reduce our risk of chronic disease. If you leave that to the professionals, whose stances are quoted here, it appears that the British Dietetic Association is oversimplifying things by insisting that half of each meal should be carbohydrates and they don’t inherently make you fat. Haven’t they read the new research on leptin and ghrelin then, two hormones which are involved in satiety, or the lack of it? Why are they still churning out the same old outdated advice? It would be fine if it were actually helping people, but the populations of developed nations are getting fatter and sicker all the time.

Why shouldn’t this “food radicalism” be scrutinised more, to find out if there is truth and common sense in it? Why not take regular blood samples of people on such diets, and compare their health, and risk profile for degenerative disease, to those who eat in a more standard way? A positive example of this is the Adventists’ study, which indicates that when you take a population who eliminates a food group, such as initially meat, and then going further still, all dairy products, the findings are not deficiency, such as with our authors’ concern, but slashing of the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, for example. Not bad for a “food group elimination fad”. Perhaps more of us should try it.

By way of another example, cardiologists might advise that you need a triple or quadruple bypass, but you decided to go away, do your homework, totally change your diet and lifestyle and come back 6 months later with arteries that are no longer blocked. This isn’t as fantastical as it sounds; there are many documented cases of people who have done just that, under medical supervision, very successfully. I currently have a couple of clients undergoing vascular cleansing, via dietary and lifestyle changes and appropriate supplementation. I’m not a cardiologist, but the results are brilliant.

It is of course possible to get totally over-obsessed with a certain way of eating and being very uptight about it all, and the authors of this article rightly go into that in some depth. Anything that encourages disordered eating is to be avoided, of course. But to automatically ignore the movement of “clean eating” as a dangerous fad, and instead promote that old chestnut “everything in moderation” (hmmm, cocaine and heroin in moderation, anyone?), is, in my opinion, an opportunity missed.

About Max Tuck

Hippocrates Health Educator. Long term living foods vegan. Athlete, lecturer, author of four books (with the 5th coming soon) and firm advocate of healthy living.
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