Posts Tagged ‘Niamh O’Connor’

It’s not Rocket Science!

April 23, 2012

The diet experts

The intense media coverage of healthy eating and weight management issues every January is enough to bring up my Christmas dinner!

None of the radio programmes or print media pieces that I’ve listened to so far this have been written by or presented by qualified dietitians! I’ve had to listen to umpteen so called experts over the past few weeks and I’ve about had my fill at this stage. Even Operation Transformation on RTE has crossed the proverbial line by introducing their weight loss expert as a dietitian! It only took me a mere 5 years in TCD to achieve this, yet she can seemingly be bestowed this new professional title by an over enthusiastic script writer. A bit Irish for my liking I’m afraid. One swift message to RTE via Twitter led to a fast correction of that experts’ introduction from week 2 and beyond!

As with most of my colleagues on the Island of Ireland, we have given so much time (unpaid!) over the years to such interviews, and the seemingly astute interviewer always ends up summarising the topic of weight management and healthy eating as one of the following pearls of wisdom…..!

1. It’s not rocket science!
2. It’s all just common sense!
3. Everything in moderation!

Indeed I’d have to commend any journalist for figuring out that there is indeed no relationship between nutritional science and rocket science (or aeronautical engineering), except perhaps a ‘Mars’ bar being the exceptional link between the two topics!

Neither can nutritional science be pawned off as just ‘All Common sense’! If it were just all common sense we wouldn’t have such a significant decline in the health of the nation, particularly in relation to the obesity epidemic in adults (67%) and obesity in children (up to 33%), and an impending diabetes epidemic which will certainly cripple an already overstretched health service.

And as for the ‘Everything in Moderation’ approach! This has got to be most people’s favourite phrase, because there are absolutely no scientific parameters whatsoever to be achieved (eg 5 portions of fruit & vegetables every day) or to be avoided or to be limited (e.g. sodium & saturated fat) or indeed to be accurately measured (eg cholesterol), ever!

It’s like the Xbox Kinect 360 which my kids got from Santa – YOU are the Controller!

What may seem moderate to you in relation to one food or another may be extremely excessive as far as the scientific facts are concerned. So no, my dear friend, the ‘Everything in Moderation’ approach is not a good one to follow in order to achieve lasting health or wellness, or prevention of chronic diseases.

I have never known any other subject to cause so much discussion and confusion amongst adults, children, patients and health professionals, family friends and work colleagues than diet & nutrition. No one seems to agree on anything! Everyone has their own expertise to add to the argument, and everyone is confident that their opinion is based on fact! One obvious reason for this might come from the fact that in Ireland we obtain our nutritional information from a range of unusual and potentially unreliable sources – such as radio, print media (usually written by journalists), the internet (scary place to learn about your health), family (usually female members who are authoritarian in their approach to their knowledge of the subject matter and will not be argued with… see next paragraph on Married Milk!), friends, food writers, food retailers…

then add the magic ingredient – Advertising!

For every euro that the World Health Organisation spends on promoting healthy eating, €500 is spent by the world’s biggest fast food & beverage companies (sending out pretty much the opposite messages!), and the most worrying statistic is that 75% of such advertisements are aimed at our children.

Married Milk

Married Milk !!

I wonder how many gentlemen reading this blog are familiar with the product that I like to call “Married milk”?….. Let me explain…. Well it’s more of a rhetorical question really. How many men used to drink regular full-fat ‘normal’ whole milk until they moved in with a significant other (female for the purposes of this example) and all of a sudden skimmed milk takes up permanent residence in the fridge without their prior knowledge, consent or any form of discussion regarding their personal preference? Full fat milk, which seems to give rise to endless scare mongering by slimming clubs, is only 3.5% fat anyway, so is naturally a very low-fat food, and need not be banned from your life, married or not!

Misinterpreting food labels is another common denominator, particularly among females again (sorry ladies!). I generally recommend that people avoid reading labels unless they are 100% sure of how to interpret what they are reading, otherwise what’s the point? Food labelling is governed by strict legislation but we are still being bombarded by mis-leading and confusing health claims. E.g. If a biscuit is labelled 85% fat free, some of us automatically put it in the basket, but in actual fact it contains 15% fat which is NOT a low fat food at all. Similarly Olive oil is seen as low fat food, but it is 100% pure fat and we continue to use it liberally in cooking!

The argument about the different types of fat in such products a different discussion, as the main priority is to reduce the total amount of fat in our diet, which remains well above recommended levels. A food which is seen as an enemy (such as full fat milk) is only 3.5% fat yet the media & non-qualified ‘nutrition advisors’ often encourage us to avoid these foods when trying to lose weight. Research clearly shows that people on a weight reducing diet who consume 3 servings of dairy products per day will lose more weight per week than those slimmers who avoid dairy products, even if they all consume the same number of calories per week!

Even after a few simple examples, are you still confident that you are correctly interpreting food labels? Are you confident that it’s not rocket science, that it’s still all just common sense, or that everything in moderation is the key to healthy eating?

To know about nutrition ask a REAL dietitian!

To find one, check out

Rant over….for now !