I know you get a million newsletters with scary headlines like "The Doctors' Report They Don't Want You to See" and other garbage like that, but today I'm going to tell you about a real health report, one that got exactly zero media attention, which is why I'm pretty sure you haven't seen or heard of it.
It's called "The Bellagio Report on Healthy Agriculture, Healthy Nutrition, Healthy People" and it was published recently here. You can also download it free of charge from that link.
The Bellagio report was the outgrowth of a meeting that took place at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in Italy in late 2012. The meeting was sponsored by the Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health in Washington, DC, the Rockefeller Foundation, Green Templeton College of the University of Oxford, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and many others.
The meeting was, as they called it, "science-based but policy oriented." Nineteen participants, including distinguished doctors, nutritionists, agriculturists, economics, policy experts, representatives of industry and other luminaries gathered to put together a series of recommendations on what governments and people could do to better improve the health of the world and to stem the tide of obesity and associated diseases.
Interested in what they came up with?
I thought you might be.
First let me tell you one word that did not get mentioned at all in the entire report: cholesterol. And saturated fat got almost no attention.
But the report was not short on recommendations nor on conclusions.
What Did the Committee Say?
Basically, the committee said, in no uncertain or wishy-washy terms, that we have a huge problem and its name is sugar. And they affirmed -- in tones worthy of an outraged senator -- that a calorie is not just a calorie, and that fructose has some very specific, peculiar effects that other calories do not have.
For example: Fructose creates insulin resistance, raises triglycerides (and the risk for heart disease), causes fatty liver disease, may contribute to cancer, and -- pay attention now, because they actually said this -- it has a "dependence producing effect" making it "hard for people to reduce or eliminate it from their diet."
I call that scientific talk for "addictive."
They also said that sugar consumption -- especially in the form of soft drinks -- poses a major and insidious health threat, especially to children, adding, "The health threat is comparable to that from cigarette smoking."
Now if that were all they said, I would say bring out the castenettes and kazoos and let's rejoice. But they did even better.
They also said that the imbalance between omega-6 and omega-3 is one of the greatest health challenges of our time and that we better get it right or all hell is gonna break loose.
Not only did they get the two big things right on the money -- sugar/fructose, omega-6:omega-3 balance -- but they did it without a trace of the usual claptrap about avoiding saturated fat and cholesterol and eating more "healthy" vegetable fats. In fact, eating more vegetable fat (corn oil, canola, safflower, soybean, etc) would directly contradict their advice, since the report warned of the dangers of out-of-control omega-6 consumption coupled with miserly portions of omega-3s. (Basically, the way most of America eats.)
The main source of omega-6s in our diet?
You guessed it -- vegetable oils.
Now, you could probably say, Dr. Jonny, you're just characterizing this report, you're exaggerating, this is just what you want to hear.
Well, it is what I want to hear from our health experts, but I'll let you be the judge about what they actually said. Here are words and recommendations taken directly from the report, which you can download yourself here.
- "The report concludes that sugar consumption, especially in the form of high energy fructose in soft drinks, poses a major and insidious health threat, especially in children."
- "Most diets, although with regional differences, are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids and too high in omega-6 fatty acids."
- "Modern diets can contain as much as fifty to a hundred times more omega-6 than omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. The evidence that this imbalance contributes to disease is now convincing."
- "The dietary intake of vegetable oils high in omega-6 fatty acids increases the risk for cardiovascular disease."
I love this one:
- "There is increasing evidence from experimental and clinical studies that intake of added sugars not only increases the well-known risk of caries, but also risk of cardiovascular disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, obesity, diabetes, and possibly even cancer. "
In the next quote, they start by making note of the fact that some "authorities" -- largely funded by the food industry -- try to argue that the only thing "bad" about sugar is just empty calories.
Hogwash, said the committee.
While some authorities, primarily those funded by the food industry, have argued that the high amounts of added sugars in food and beverages may contribute to health risks solely as a consequence of their caloric content, there is also mounting evidence that fructose may have a specific ability to cause fatty liver (which can progress to cirrhosis of the liver), high triglycerides in blood (which can contribute to cardiovascular disease), insulin resistance (leading to Type 2 diabetes) and increased appetite (which obviously can lead to obesity).
Kinda makes you want to yell in your best Oprah voice: "Wake up, people!"
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