Bad Science: the industry of food

How come there is so much controversy on the subject of nutrition? A labyrinth of conflicting advice has been constructed around the topic with disagreement on many topics from animal based diets vs. plant based, low fat vs. high fat, low carb vs. high carb, unsaturated fat vs. saturated fat, organic vs. conventional, and so on.

Through my university degree and the early subsequent continued-education nutrition courses, I was schooled to believe that active people needed to consume high grain diets and that refined grain (generally from wheat) should be the staple of a healthy human diet. I learned the food pyramid, that fat loss was all about calories in vs. calories out, that saturated fat and cholesterol would kill us, that red meat was bad for us and vegetable oils were healthy… in other words I learnt what the food industry wanted me to learn. How is this possible? For courses to become nationally and internationally recognised they have to align with Government policy. This is not a good thing as the food industry lobbyists often dictate government policy.


Bad Science

The food industry is a multi-multi-billion-dollar industry and often a large amount of a country’s economy relies heavily on its production. The world of nutrition has some of the worst research. In nutrition we are at a point where politics and money has more influence than science does on research outcomes. A lot of scientists in the nutrition realm are not interested in finding the ‘right’ answer but just interested in being ‘right’ — looking for and representing data to support their hypotheses or idea.

Saturated fat is one of the biggest victims of bad science. In the 1950s Ancel Keys, a biochemist, published a study that compared heart disease and fat consumption in half a dozen countries — the more fat consumed the more heart disease. The trend line of Ancel’s graphs were unmistakable… there was just one small problem.

Keys left out countries that eat a lot of fat but had very little heart disease — Holland and Norway. He also left out countries where people don’t eat much fat but do have high rates of heart disease — Chile.

In fact the researcher had a lot of reliable data from 22 countries and the results where all over the place. So how did Mr. Keys make such an outstanding scientific finding? He just threw out the data that didn’t match his hypotheses and published his results. Unfortunately, this data helped the grain and vegetable oil industries… huge multibillion-dollar companies who latched onto these findings and used them to boost the use and consumption of their products.


Vested Interests

The food industry also provides grants and funding to educational institutes, effectively paying for the course. Do you think the grain industry would allow nutritional courses to teach that grains (wheat, bread, corn, cereal, pasta, etc.) drive excess insulin production, fat storage and heart disease? That grains are allergenic, immune suppressing and nutritionally inferior to plants and animals. Whole grains possibly worse due to their offensive pro-inflammatory, immune and digestive system disturbing agents. This would probably result in a loss in profit margin were people to pay attention to this information.

In fact Jared Diamond, the UCLA evolutionary biologist, alludes to the point that the change from saturated fat to processed grains is the “worst mistake in the history of the human race”. I always find it interesting that once we made the switch from saturated fats to processed grains and vegetable oils, obesity and chronic disease rates soared.

Despite its limitations, I value my university education and the early continued-education courses, as they provided me with an analytical mind and taught me to question everything. This helps me understand complex information and conflicting claims so I can make informed conclusions. I implore you all to ask questions and never take a “scientific” study as the only truth.

Phil is founder and master trainer at Body Expert Systems. Contact him on 0934 782 763, at his website or through Star Fitness (

Phil Kelly

Phil is an avid sportsman and loves most things fitness. With the final realisation that he would not be an All Black, he turned his full focus to studying the human body in regard to improving movement and posture, developing strength, function and performance, as well as scrutinising the conventional wisdom of nutrition for fat loss and performance. He loves challenging the 'norm' and is dedicated to the prosperity and health of his clients and the community. He has a mission to educate and empower people to "be all they can be" by providing accurate, research proven and industry leading information. 


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