Tag Archives: Diets and dieting

Thinking of doing a detox diet? Be warned: this is what happens to your body | Brigid Delaney

I did an extreme detox a couple of years ago and was shocked to discover how bad it made me smell. Here are some other unexpected effects

Its that time of year, where after a month or more of the party season, detox diets start appearing in magazines and on websites everywhere you look promising rapid weight loss.

But be warned: I have done it before, and I can tell you what happens to your body and its not pleasant.

A couple of years ago I went on an extreme detox. For two weeks I ate no food, just drank foul-tasting Chinese herbs (imagine the taste of old cigarette butts floating in brackish creek water), then for the following three weeks I ate only small amounts of cucumber and poached chicken.

I lost 14 kilograms, which I put back on over the following two years.

I wont be doing an extreme detox again but if youre considering it, here are some of the weird effects you can expect to experience.

You will smell

It was day four of no food when I noticed the smell. I was lying in bed with the windows open, and thought, Maaaannn, someone must have left a bag of old chicken carcasses out in the sun. Chicken carcasses and off milk. I closed the window in disgust before realising the smell was coming from me. I smelled like chicken carcasses and sour milk.

Over the following weeks, friends recoiled from me when I hugged them, and I noticed that when I cried, even my tears smelled bad.

You will be bored

Not shopping for, preparing, eating and cleaning up after a meal means that days are no longer filled with food-related tasks. Without meals, theres no marker or divider so time takes on a different dimension. Theres so much of it!

I avoided food-related socialising while detoxing, so did not spend any time in restaurants or bars. I had nothing to do during the day, which was lucky because I slept a lot (and was being paid by a magazine to write about the diet). I also had no plans at night.

I was bored. Really bored. Each day I went to the detox clinic, got weighed, had some acupuncture and a (very hard) massage. Then Id go home to just … hang. I had no energy to do anything else. When I met people on a rare outing, I was hyperactive. I was so excited to meet a friend in the park one day that I arrived an hour early.

Soon I will see her! I said, looking at my phone, In 43 minutes!

It reminded of that novel on boredom, The Pale King by David Foster Wallace: over the foothills of tedium and boredom lie bliss you just have to wait it out.

First you look bad, and then you look amazing

First, your skin goes blotchy, eyes bloodshot, hair lank, tongue coated, and of course you stink. Then one day you wake up and look in the mirror and theres no other word for how you look: AMAZING.

Years fell off my face. One day I woke up and every single wrinkle I had was gone. My nails were strong, hair shiny, the whites of my eyes luminous. Who was this person? I was afraid, though, that if I kept on not eating, Id look like an infant by Easter.

Your dreams will be particularly vivid

By day five, I felt like I was on heavy sedatives. I could barely do anything except sleep.

When awake, I spent hours staring out the window. I couldnt concentrate enough to read more than a couple of lines of my book. TV programs, even the dumb ones, were too much effort.

But, oh, my dreams! Ive never had such vivid, energetic, horrific dreams thrumming with currents of anxiety. Typically I was trying to get somewhere, running from gate lounge to gate lounge trying to board a flight for my departure to Barkly. Where is Barkly? I dont know but I had to get there.

Days four to seven are really hard

The first couple of days are fine, almost a novelty. I felt too waterlogged from the gross herbs to be properly hungry and I didnt leave the house much so was safe from temptation. There were headaches probably from caffeine withdrawals but they went away after three days.

But by day four, bad moods, boredom, hunger, lack of energy and brain fog were bumming me out. I was no longer able to think very much, about anything at all.

In the second week, things improved considerably, including memory and concentration.

You will only think of food, to the point of obsession

Food preoccupied me like never before. I spent a lot of time thinking about various meals of the past that I have enjoyed. Seeing a picture of pizza on my Twitter feed made me feel so much longing that I couldnt sleep. Its like being horny, times a thousand. I would stop outside restaurants to watch people eat. I licked food, secretly at home, then threw it in the bin. I missed chewing.

When I was out with a friend who was eating hot chips, I snatched one from his plate, licked it and felt it in my mouth, then threw it in the bin without swallowing it. He was disgusted. He also told me that my new gaunt face made me look like a PR chick.

People have strong opinions on detoxing

On day 10 I woke up with chest pains. Am I having a heart attack? I panicked. The pain subsided and I visited my GP who was surprisingly mellow about the fast. He told me that fasting had been around forever and human beings are quite good at it due to long periods of time not catching things in the wilderness. He also said that fasting is good from an ethical perspective because you get to understand what its like to go without food.

Other people thought it was dangerous, despite the fact that the current Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy did the same program (he lost 13kg). Friends couldnt fathom not eating for that long, and wondered if I might actually die from starvation.

I spoke to a professor from the nutrition school at the Queensland University of Technology who said, When you fast for more than three or four days, all you do is reduce your metabolism.

Stuff comes out of your body

This was a mystery. Why, if I was not eating anything was my body expelling so much STUFF? It was gross. What was it? Where did it come from? A Google search revealed weird pictures of things in toilet bowls that other fasters had taken. It was horrible, yet in that deprived state, strangely compelling.

You reassess food intake

When I started eating again, I was full after one bean and a tiny piece of fish. It was delicious. I did not need any more food. I thought back to all the times when I needed a snack after two or three hours. I needed it! Well, perhaps I didnt need it.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/14/thinking-of-doing-a-detox-diet-be-warned-this-is-what-happens-to-your-body

Official advice on low-fat diet and cholesterol is wrong, says health charity

Report accuses UK public health bodies of colluding with food industry and calls for overhaul of dietary guidelines

Urging people to follow low-fat diets and to lower their cholesterol is having disastrous health consequences, a health charity has warned.

In a damning report that accuses major public health bodies of colluding with the food industry, the National Obesity Forum and the Public Health Collaboration call for a major overhaul of current dietary guidelines. They say the focus on low-fat diets is failing to address Britains obesity crisis, while snacking between meals is making people fat.

Instead, they call for a return to whole foods such as meat, fish and dairy, as well as high-fat, healthy foods including avocados, arguing: Eating fat does not make you fat.

The report which has caused a huge backlash among the scientific community also argues that saturated fat does not cause heart disease while full-fat dairy, including milk, yoghurt and cheese, can actually protect the heart.

Processed foods labelled low fat, lite, low cholesterol or proven to lower cholesterol should be avoided at all costs, and people with type 2 diabetes should eat a fat-rich diet rather than one based on carbohydrates.

The report also said sugar should be avoided, people should stop counting calories and the idea that exercise could help you outrun a bad diet was a myth. Instead, a diet low in refined carbohydrates but high in healthy fats was an effective and safe approach for preventing weight gain and aiding weight loss, and cuts the risk of heart disease, it said.

The report added: Eating a diet rich in full-fat dairy such as cheese, milk and yoghurt can actually lower the chance of obesity.

The most natural and nutritious foods available meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, seeds, olive, avocados all contain saturated fat. The continued demonisation of omnipresent natural fat drives people away from highly nourishing, wholesome and health-promoting foods.

The authors of the report also argue that the science of food has also been corrupted by commercial influences.

Just as big tobacco companies bought the loyalty of scientists when a link was made between smoking and lung cancer, the influence of the food industry represents a significant threat to public health, they argued. They said the recent Eatwell Guide from Public Health England (PHE) was produced with a large number of people from the food and drink industry.

Prof David Haslam, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said: As a clinician, treating patients all day every day, I quickly realised that guidelines from on high, suggesting high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets were the universal panacea, were deeply flawed.

Current efforts have failed the proof being that obesity levels are higher than they have ever been, and show no chance of reducing despite the best efforts of government and scientists.

Dr Aseem Malhotra, consultant cardiologist and founding member of the Public Health Collaboration, a group of medics, said dietary guidelines promoting low-fat foods were perhaps the biggest mistake in modern medical history, resulting in devastating consequences for public health.

Sadly this unhelpful advice continues to be perpetuated. The current Eatwell Guide from Public Health England is in my view more like a metabolic timebomb than a dietary pattern conducive for good health. We must urgently change the message to the public to reverse obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Eat fat to get slim. Dont fear fat. Fat is your friend. Its now truly time to bring back the fat.

Prof Iain Broom, from Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, said: The continuation of a food policy recommending high-carbohydrate, low-fat, low-calorie intakes as healthy eating is fatally flawed.

Our populations for almost 40 years have been subjected to an uncontrolled global experiment that has gone drastically wrong.

But Prof John Wass, the Royal College of Physicians special adviser on obesity, said there was good evidence that saturated fat increases cholesterol.

He added: What is needed is a balanced diet, regular physical activity and a normal healthy weight. To quote selective studies risks misleading the public.

Prof Simon Capewell, from the Faculty of Public Health, said: We fully support Public Health Englands new guidance on a healthy diet. Their advice reflects evidence-based science that we can all trust. It was not influenced by industry.

By contrast, the report from the National Obesity Forum is not peer reviewed. Furthermore, it does not it indicate who wrote it or how is was funded. That is worrying.

Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said: This report is full of ideas and opinion, however it does not offer the robust and comprehensive review of evidence that would be required for the BHF, as the UKs largest heart research charity, to take it seriously.

This countrys obesity epidemic is not caused by poor dietary guidelines; it is that we are not meeting them.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said: In the face of all the evidence, calling for people to eat more fat, cut out carbs and ignore calories is irresponsible. Unlike this opinion piece, our independent experts review all the available evidence often thousands of scientific papers run full-scale consultations and go to great lengths to ensure no bias.

Prof Naveed Sattar, from the University of Glasgow, said the reports main headline simply to eat more fat is highly contentious and could have adverse public health consequences.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/may/22/official-advice-to-eat-low-fat-diet-is-wrong-says-health-charity

The fats and the furious: how the row over diet heated up

Latest battle in food wars shows how passionate debate can be and how hard it is to reach any sort of simple truth

Nutritionists and public health experts are in meltdown over a report claiming that fat is good for us. Against the conventional thinking, the National Obesity Forum and a new group calling itself the Public Health Collaboration, say eating fat, including butter, cheese and meat, will help people lose weight and combat type 2 diabetes and that the official advice is plain wrong.

A furious Public Health England has come out with all guns blazing. It says this is irresponsible and misleads the public and most of the public health establishment agrees.

It is the latest battle in the food wars and will not be the last. It may seem obvious that we are what we eat, but scientists struggle to work out exactly what that means. Sugar, by now, is well known to be the enemy of good health. Few outside of the food and soft drinks industry argue over that any more. However, the effects of fat and importantly, different kinds of fats are strongly contested. The current furore demonstrates, if nothing else, how passionate the debate over nutrition can be and how difficult it is to reach any sort of simple truth.

The new report does not have the status of a paper in a scientific journal. It is a 10-point campaigning document, drafted by a group of people from several countries whose views would be said by some to be pioneering and others to be maverick. They include Dr Robert Lustig, author of Fat Chance: The Hidden Truth About Sugar, Obesity and Disease, who has been one of the leaders of the anti-sugar movement. The paper was coordinated by cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra, who has recently parted company with the UK campaigning organisation Action on Sugar. With his father, Dr Kailash Chand, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association, and Dr David Cavan, of the International Diabetes Federation, Malhotra has founded the Public Health Collaboration, which published the report on its website.

It has also published its own rival version of Public Health Englands Eatwell plate. They look very different. A third of the official Eatwell plate is taken up with potatoes, rice, pasta and other starchy vegetables while only small segments feature dairy products and protein. The Public Health Collaboration plate is divided in half with not a potato in sight. Half is fruit and vegetables non-starchy carbohydrates while the other half is fats and proteins, including bacon, meat, eggs and cheese.

The fight over fats is about the quality and quantity of studies that have been done and their meaning. Dietary studies are hard to do because those taking part sometimes give in to temptation and eat things they are not supposed to and also have a tendency to forget what they have eaten or lie out of embarrassment. But the results of even the well-conducted studies are not always clear.

The new report claims eating fat does not make you fat, saturated fat is not bad for the heart and advice to lower cholesterol is plain wrong. The authors cite studies to back up their arguments. Cutting fat intake did not reduce heart attacks or stroke among participants in the large Womens Health Initiative study in the US or cause them to lose weight, it says. A major analysis of years of data in 2014 found cutting saturated fat did not reduce deaths, heart disease, stroke or type 2 diabetes.

But Susan Jebb, professor of diet and population health at Oxford University, was one of many saying the report cherrypicks the evidence choosing the studies that support fat against far more that do not, selecting one trial suggesting high dairy intake reduced the risk of obesity, while ignoring a systematic review and meta-analysis of 29 trials which concluded that increasing dairy did not reduce the risk of weight gain.

She also takes issue with the reports advice to throw the calorie counter out of the window. For most people in 21st-century Britain, eating freely even if only from healthy foods is unlikely to lead to spontaneous weight loss. Losing weight requires some control over total energy intake, which means limiting some foods, not eating them freely. This is why losing weight is so hard, she said.

Prof Simon Capewell, vice president for policy at the Faculty of Public Health, says the report is regrettable because it will lead to confusion and will reduce trust in food scientists and respect for Public Health Englands guidelines, which the faculty supports. Food industry marketing messages will quickly exploit the gap, he says on which the industry spends 1bn a year.

Everybody agrees that trans-fats are bad and they have been banned or phased out in many countries. Everyone agrees that olive and seed oils also fats are good. But in the middle are saturated fats, says Capewell.

In dairy milk and cheese there is still some uncertainty but they have been rehabilitated from the days when consumers were urged to avoid them. These days, the official advice is that they can be consumed in moderation.

But red and processed meats and lard are unquestionably harmful, said Capewell. There is a vast amount of science to confirm that. That is the bit that has really upset the majority of nutrition scientists.

Malhotra said the reaction was not surprising. We did say the establishment had misled us, he said. On meat, he said, they agreed with the current guidelines, which recommend no more than 1g per kilogram of a persons bodyweight per day.

Amidst all the sound and fury and the sound of slamming plates, there is a certain amount of overlap between the two sides on the importance of fruit, vegetables, fish and olive oil. And for those of us who find it hard to follow the ins and outs of nutritional science, that looks an awful lot like the Mediterranean diet.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/may/23/the-fats-and-the-furious-how-the-row-over-diet-heated-up

Want a healthier diet? Then don’t believe the hype | Erika Nicole Kendall

The discrepancy between what nutritionists say is healthy and what the general public believes comes from our susceptibility to clever marketing

Many of the discrepancies between what the public sees as healthy and how experts define it can be attributed to marketing.

Take granola and granola bars. They are made of things that we can all agree are healthy: oatmeal, nuts, fruit. And there are endless commercials to remind us of this. Think wholesome farmers standing in sunny wheat fields, or well-coiffed moms feeding their grinning toddlers. What the commercials never share with us is that the thing that makes our favorite granolas form crunchy clusters, or hold its shape in the form of big, thick, uniform bars, is sugar.

I suspect that this gap between messaging and reality is whats behind the results of a New York Times-led study this week showing that there are many foods where normal Americans and nutritionists diverge in terms of assessing how healthy they are. In surveying 672 nutritionists and 2,000 registered US voters, the polling firm Morning Consult asked the question, Is _____ healthy? and filled the blank with 100 different foods.

For certain foods the answer was obvious: kale, olive oil, almonds, carrots and apples are healthy, everyone agrees. Others were uniformly considered unhealthy, like soda, cookies, french fries and ice cream. But there were a lot of foods where opinions differed. Marketing appears to have confused things so much that theres disagreement over what it even means for a food to be healthful. Does it mean we could lose weight while eating it? Does it mean it wont give us diabetes if we consume it often? Does it mean it supplies nutrients to us in sufficient quantities?

Perhaps if we relied less on ads and more on actual information from actual experts, we would have a clearer picture.

Take SlimFast, one the most widely recognized weight loss shakes ever to hit the market. The number of Americans who believe SlimFast is healthy outnumber the experts two to one, according to the study. That might sound strange milk, water, sugar, oil and a thickening agent are the top five ingredients until you remember that SlimFasts last reported marketing budget was around $17m. Thats a lot of money, all intended to convince the buying public that being slim is the way to be healthy. (Spoiler: not necessarily.)

Also, consider frozen yogurt, the success of which has less to do with TV commercials and more to do with the number of shops selling it across the country. Marketed as a ubiquitous healthy alternative to ice cream, fro-yo shops have popped up everywhere not because theyre healthy, but because theyre cheap to open and can earn five times what it cost to produce a single serving. And why is it so cheap? Because fro-yo isnt actually frozen yogurt at all, in the traditional sense. Its often sugar, powdered milk and artificial flavoring.

Weve been allowing fluffy, sponsored media pieces and pervasive ads to dictate the public perception of healthy food for far too long. Thats why healthier dinner options, like quinoa, sushi and hummus, which lack corporate marketing machines, havent caught on nationally while winning the love of experts nationwide. Just because Good Morning America hasnt touted a foods health benefits doesnt mean its not worth adding to your repertoire.

Its time to truly develop an appreciation and a value for what food is and what it can and should do: provide us with energy, nourish our bodies to thrive, and be a healthy way to bond with our loved ones. And we need to prioritize those qualities over taking pretty packaging and slick advertising at face value, by remembering that what we see on TV is intended to sell us an image in hopes of profit, not educate us in hopes of giving us strong, healthy bodies.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jul/06/healthy-diet-nutritionists-mass-marketing-advertisements

Mediterranean diet better than statins for tackling heart disease study

Study finds people already suffering from heart problems are 37% less likely to die early if they eat a diet rich in vegetables, nuts and fish

Heart disease is better treated with a Mediterranean-style diet than cholesterol-lowering drugs, it has been claimed.

A study found those who had a diet rich in vegetables, nuts, fish and oils were a third less likely to die early, compared with those who ate larger quantities of red meat, such as beef, and butter.

Speaking at a global conference on heart disease in Rome, leading heart disease expert Prof Giovanni de Gaetano said: So far research has focused on the general population, which is mainly composed of healthy people.

What happens to people who have already suffered from cardiovascular disease? Is the Mediterranean diet optimal for them too?

The study followed 1,200 people with a history of heart attacks, strokes and blocked arteries over seven years. During that time, 208 patients died but the closer people were to an ideal Mediterranean diet the less likely they were to be among the fatalities.

The conference was told those who ate mainly along Mediterranean lines were 37% less likely to die during the study than those who were furthest from this dietary pattern, after adjusting for age, sex, class, exercise and other habits.

Previously, cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins were believed to be the most effective method of combating heart disease, the leading cause of death in the UK.

Statins, which are among the worlds besselling prescription drugs, are said to help reduce major heart problems by around 24%. They are the most widely prescribed drugs in the UK, with at least 7 million users costing the NHS 285m a year.

According to the latest figures from the British Heart Foundation, cardiovascular disease causes more than a quarter (27%) of all deaths in the UK around 155,000 deaths each year an average of 425 people each day or one death every three minutes.

Sir David Nicholson, former chief executive of the NHS, entered the debate over statins in July when he said he had stopped taking them as part of his medication for diabetes. If a lifestyle change works then why would you take the statin? The trouble is that they give you a statin straightaway, so you dont know what is working, he said.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/aug/29/mediterranean-diet-better-than-statins-for-tackling-heart-disease-study

What actually is the Mediterranean diet and does it work?

Hard to define, but famously good for us, this way of eating is far from universally followed even in the countries it came from

It is said to be better at lowering cholesterol than statins, and able to prevent dementia and heart disease, and will not make you fat. Anything that good for you might be expected to smell foul and come in a medicine bottle, but the Mediterranean diet is generally considered to be delicious, except by those who hate olive oil.

It is a potential answer to the obesity crisis crippling healthcare systems, but few understand exactly what the diet is and most of us do not follow it, including increasing numbers of people who live in the Mediterranean. The scientist Ancel Keys and the cookery writer Elizabeth David, two of the pioneers who helped open the eyes of northern Europeans to the wonders of the Mediterranean diet, must be turning in their graves.

We are constantly presented with paeans to the Mediterranean way of life and were faced with yet another this week, when a study presented at a heart disease conference in Rome claimed that those who ate a diet rich in vegetables, nuts, fish and oils were 37% less likely to die early than those who ate red meat and butter.

But ask anybody what the Mediterranean diet actually is and few will give you the same answer. It is not a weight-loss regime such as the Atkins or Dukan diets. It is actually not a prescriptive diet at all, rather a pattern of eating. In spite of the name, it has less and less in common with the way that many people in southern Europe live and eat today.

In the Greek tavernas, thronged with British holidaymakers in the summer months, the Mediterranean diet so highly regarded by health experts can turn into a lamb kebab with rice and chips, washed down with lager. Pasta, which has historically been a smaller primi (first) dish, overflows the enormous bowls in which it is served in many Italian restaurants. The French have finally lost the battle against the Big Mac.

Seafood, including octopus, is a component of the traditional Mediterranean diet, but consumption varied according to location. Photograph: Alamy

The Mediterranean diet is based on a rural life where people ate what they grew, which is fast disappearing. The UN has recognised the diet as an endangered species. In 2013, Unesco listed the Mediterranean diet as part of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity in Cyprus, Croatia, Spain, Greece, Italy, Morocco and Portugal.

Even health experts and nutritionists differ on the detail of the Mediterranean diet, but the principles are fairly clear. It is about an eating style based on large amounts of fruit and vegetables, legumes such as beans, lentils, peas and peanuts, whole grains and especially olive oil.

Fish and seafood are part of it, but their consumption varied in the past according to how close people lived to the sea. Chicken, eggs and small amounts of dairy, such as cheese and yoghurt, are there in moderation, but red meat and sweets would rarely be consumed. The diet includes a small amount of wine with meals. Pasta, bread and potatoes are variables from one region to another. It is quite a high-carbohydrate diet, which was fine when people were physically active on farms or fishing boats.

Notably, none of this comes in a box. The supermarket spaghetti bolognese does not count. The Mediterranean diet has no preservatives. It is freshly picked, plucked and cooked.

The use of olive oil is interesting, according to Tom Sanders, an emeritus professor of nutrition and dietetics at Kings College London, who has carried out studies involving Mediterranean diets. If you are trying to get people to eat a lot of vegetables and salad, its quite difficult to do without oil, he says. And if you are putting oil on top of salad, it also has a bit of a satiating effect. Aubergines or tomatoes in oil you can have enough of that quite quickly. Whereas something that youve got saturated fat in, such as cake or biscuits, its easy to knock them back and you dont realise how much is going in.

But there is more to the Mediterranean diet than the food on the plate. Unesco waxes wistfully lyrical on a whole idealised lifestyle that may appear to have little to do with the modern Mediterranean as we know it. The Mediterranean diet involves a set of skills, knowledge, rituals, symbols and traditions concerning crops, harvesting, fishing, animal husbandry, conservation, processing, cooking and particularly the sharing and consumption of food.

Eating together is the foundation of the cultural identity and continuity of communities throughout the Mediterranean basin. It is a moment of social exchange and communication, an affirmation and renewal of family, group or community identity, the citation says.

Fresh produce at a street market stall in Naples, Italy. The key element of the diet is eating a large amount of vegetables. Photograph: Alamy

The Mediterranean diet emphasises values of hospitality, neighbourliness, intercultural dialogue and creativity, and a way of life guided by respect for diversity.

Shared family meals, it is now widely understood, help people eat well and avoid excess, while the TV dinner habit is linked to obesity.

Keys, a Minnesota academic, started to investigate the health benefits of Mediterranean eating in the 1950s, after a visit to Naples. He was concerned about the large numbers of men dying from heart attacks in the US. An Italian colleague had told him that the heart attack rate among labourers in the Neapolitan area was low. It led to the Seven Countries Study, an enormous project that continues today. The first pilot studies were set up in Nicotera, a village in Calabria, southern Italy, and in six villages on Crete.

The study compared middle-aged men with different lifestyles and diet: on the US railroads, in the villages of North Karelia, Finland, where many men died as a result of heart disease, in the Netherlands, in Italian villages, but also workers on the railroads in Rome, in Crete and Corfu, in villages in Croatia, and in farming and fishing communities in Japan.

It uncovered a link between eating high levels of saturated fat, found in red meat and dairy products, and cholesterol in the blood, and heart disease. The scientists could not prove that saturated fats were the cause, but the finger of suspicion was firmly pointed, leading to changed dietary guidelines in the US and the eventual craze for low-fat everything, with the resulting rise and rise of sugar to make processed food and drinks taste better. Keys has more recently been heavily criticised for opposing John Yudkin, who argued in the 1970s that sugar, not fat, was the problem.

Nowadays, Mediterranean food is often served with chips, while in Italy, pasta has gone from being a small first course to a larger main course. Photograph: Alamy

What did not happen as a result of the study was the wholescale adoption of the Mediterranean diet, although Keys, who died aged 100 in 2004, promoted it in popular books and practised what he preached.

David, a debutante, adventurer and lover of the Mediterranean sunshine, had an influence with her articles and books, describing dishes with aubergines, courgettes and other exotica that were all but unavailable in northern Europe in the 1950s and 60s. But the era of convenience food and the sheer quantity that became available, whether in supermarkets or from takeaways, had a greater impact on working populations.

Nonetheless, Sanders says northern Europe is generally healthier than the Mediterranean regions. Things have changed.

That sort of diet was accompanied by quite a lot of physical activity. There were moderate intakes of wine, but it wasnt huge: it was about 300ml or 400ml at most a day. And these guys, particularly in Crete, which was looked at, were pretty active and were quite thin.

If you look at a follow-up of their kids, the second generation in the Seven Countries Study, they tend to be overweight and eating something quite different a lot more deep fried food. The equivalent of Colonel Sanders really. And what you are seeing in southern Europe, Greece, is one of the highest increases in rates of cardiovascular disease, so theres been a switchover.

Obesity is increasing in Greece, which topped the OECD childhood obesity league in 2014, ahead of the US, Italy and Mexico. Photograph: Alamy

If we look at life expectancy, I think its longest in Iceland. Whereas southern European countries, they still have a lot of poverty and theyre not doing so well. And theyre becoming more sedentary.

Greece topped the OECD child obesity league published in 2014, using data from 2010, with 44% of boys aged 5-17 overweight, followed by Italy on 36%. Both countries had higher rates than the US and Mexico.

Studies continue to show the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. In June, the respected Predimed study in Spain found that overweight and obese people, with heart disease and diabetes, who ate a Mediterranean-style diet high in vegetable fat, because of additional olive oil or nuts, did not gain weight, compared with people on a low-fat diet.

There is no doubt that the Mediterranean diet is good for you. But shifting the habits of nations to adopt, cook and eat it regularly in societies dominated by packaged food manufacturers is quite a task.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us