Interview for the book “Vive l’alimentation cétogène!”

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Vive_l_alimentation_ce_toge_ne__c1_largeAlix Lefief is a French journalist and author who wrote a book with Dr. Alexandra Dalu on the ketogenic diet for éditions Leduc. The book was published recently under the title “Vive l’alimentation cétogène!” and it is an excellent resource for the French speaking world wanting to learn more about this subject. Alix asked me some questions for the book which can be purchased here. Below, you can find the full interview in English.

1. What led you to your interest in the ketogenic diet?

I’ve always been very active in medical research as an effort to stay up to date with the latest and proved-effective cutting-edge treatments. It is my aim to share helpful information that will help alleviate the medical catastrophe the world is facing nowadays. In this effort, I was participating in a forum hosted by Quantum Future Group  where people from all over the world were researching scientific approaches to help people we all cared about and who were suffering from debilitating diseases. I was contributing on research based on natural ways to support the body’s capacity to heal itself. An approach that respects and enhances the body’s natural physiological pathways will facilitate healing. This is how I knew about the ketogenic diet and its potential to heal so many chronic diseases.

2. The ketogenic diet is based on a very strong case. Why is the medical world as resistant to these arguments?

I think we would not understand this paradox unless we talk about the corruption of science.

There is a solid scientific basis for the ketogenic diet. The biochemical pathways as to why the ketogenic diet is so healing and an excellent source of energy should be explained in any basic biochemical class. Nevertheless, its usefulness is missed EVEN when its science is explained in biochemistry classes. Part of the problem lies in the fact that we have a very significant influence from food industries and pharmaceutical companies in medical science today. This has lead to corruption of the medical science. Is no secret that pharmaceutical companies have their say in medical science and this has been a debate for at least over a decade when former editor-in-chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, Marcia Angell, gave a talk at Harvard’s University’s Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics on December 10, 2009. An article based on that talk was published on the Boston Review, titled “Big Pharma, Bad Medicine” where she exposes how drug companies are simply buying access to medical school faculty and to doctors in training and practice. In her words: “The boundaries between academic medicine—medical schools, teaching hospitals, and their faculty—and the pharmaceutical industry have been dissolving since the 1980s, and the important differences between their missions are becoming blurred. Medical research, education, and clinical practice have suffered as a result.

We have a similar situation when it comes to the food industry. For just one example, The New York Times has recently revealed that Coca Cola gave nearly $3 million over the past six years to the American Academy of Pediatrics. What is more, the article reports a detailed list of nearly $120 million in grants, large and small, given to medical, health and community organizations since 2010 by Coca Cola. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics received $1.7 million in Coke funding since 2010. What business does Coca Cola has in our children’s health and dietary guidelines?? This situation is completely unethical and unacceptable. It speaks of the moral bankruptcy from scientific circles.

As a consequence, medical education doesn’t emphasize the importance of how a good diet is paramount to good health. Actually, it has missed the fact that since dietary guidelines severely restricted animal fat from the population’s diet, people’s health declined. This restriction was not based in any solid scientific evidence. On the contrary, shaky epidemiological studies, which nowadays the scientific community reaffirms as questionable, were used to change the dietary guidelines of an entire population. It is increasingly accepted that the world’s dietary recommendations were changed on contradictory and unfounded epidemiological studies done by primarily American scientists on the last century. Those guidelines received solid scientific criticisms since their inception. As Nina Teicholz reports in her book “The Big Fat Surprise (2014):

“The Lancet editors sometimes mocked the American obsession. Why would Americans put up with the sacrifices of a low-fat diet? They were appalled that “some believers long past their prime were to be seen in public parks in shorts and singlets, exercising in their free time, later returning home to a meal of indescribable caloric severity [when] there is no proof that such activity offsets coronary disease.”

The Lancet also sounded a note of alarm that would soon be picked up by others: “The cure should not be worse than the disease,” wrote the editors, echoing the medical dictum, “First, do no harm.” Perhaps reducing fat in the diet might lead to some unintended consequence, such as a lack of “essential” fatty acids in the diet (these are fats that the body itself cannot make).

The Lancet was, and still is, one of the most prestigious scientific journal.

Anyone who was born after the second half of the last century came to believe in those guidelines despite their unscientific basis. We are dealing with decades of anti-fat programming and only knowledge can help us get over this unscientific myth.

3. Do you think the world is able to realize that what kills us is not fat but carbohydrates? Do you think we (the public and doctors) are ready? What would it take for there to be awareness?

Nowadays we are more ready than ever before. The research has been done and the results are in. There has been a shift in the last few years, starting with the Swedish expert committee which declared that a low carb diet is most effective for weight loss. All mainstream guidelines and health care providers should conform to those guidelines in Sweden. Likewise, I have seen similar titles in mainstream papers all across the globe. The Americans were also considering lifting up their cholesterol restriction as reported this year by The Washington Post. In some circles, the importance of fat is so well known that doctors would just look very bad in the eyes of the increasing public awareness. Not too long ago, some of the most prominent physicians declared their concerns in regards to statin drugs – lowering cholesterol drugs – in a letter written to the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence and signed by Sir Richard Thompson, President of the Royal College of Physicians among others. As Dr. John Briffa reports:

“The public is gradually wising up to the fact that statins are virtually useless for the vast majority of people who take them, and also have significant risks. You can imagine that a doctor making a case for these drugs can quite easily look ill-informed, biased or just plain stupid in the eyes of their patients.

We need all the public awareness we can gather to reverse decades of anti-animal fat programming. Talks, articles, books, documentaries have been produced. It is a concept whose time has come.

4. As a cardiac surgeon, what would you say to people who think that fat causes heart diseases?

I appeal to common sense, how it was before this myth was accepted without criticism and how it is now after decades of people following these guidelines, eating unhealthy trans fats such as margarine and hydrogenated vegetable oils. I give talks with scientific references and emphasize the need to do one’s own research and to not accept blindly anything without questioning and checking basic facts.

5. Do you think that the ketogenic diet is for everyone?

In my clinical experience everyone can try the ketogenic diet although people dealing with stealth infections by several intracellular microorganisms, fungal microorganisms or others, might not see good results with the ketogenic diet. Some microorganisms thrive on ketones as a source of energy. In general, these persons will find the ketogenic diet easy to make and will have good results only when they deal with the underlying infection. Until the stealth infection is dealt with, they will benefit from a moderate (and not too restrictive) consumption of carbohydrates from safe sources such as beet roots, sweet potatoes, carrots and vegetables.

6. What are the main precautions to take when you want to follow a ketogenic diet? The main cons-indications to the ketogenic diet?

The main precautions is to drink enough water, to supply minerals such as sodium and potassium and to not overeat protein. People are so afraid of fat that they tend to compensate the restriction of carbohydrates with the overconsumption of protein. That will not work. Those who have kidney failure should be very careful with this as they have to restrict their protein consumption and monitor their minerals through blood tests. Pregnant women and children should not restrict their need of protein though.

7. Do you think it is better to go to the ketogenic diet at once, or gradually adjust his diet?

If a person has eaten too many carbohydrates throughout their entire lifetime, it is best to gradually adjust to the diet over a period of 3-6 months. That will give more time for the body to  effect the necessary biochemical changes towards a fat burning mode. It is a lifestyle and not necessarily a “fashion diet” that is made for only a week o two.

8. When you say that there are strong links between food industry and medical science, concerning the dietary guidelines and the ignorance of the benefits of the fats, would you mean that the sugar and cereals lobbies are stronger than the lobby of fats/diaries/meat?

That is precisely the case. The food pyramid or diet pyramid is the most obvious example. It represents the optimal number of servings to be eaten each day from each of the basic food groups. The food pyramid, which the entire world refers to as the “optimal diet”, was established by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). It doesn’t come from independent research by academic scientists nor health care providers, but rather by the cereal lobby. The USDA was accountable to the US Congress, not to academic scientists. Journalist Nina Teicholz reports the research behind these dietary guidelines in her book “The Big Fat Surprise“. The public in general would be shocked to know how little scientific basis there ever was for adopting such guidelines. It was a dietary policy which was convenient to lobbies. As Nina Teicholz explains in her book:

“Despite having grown from the work of a single congressional staffer and his single academic advisor and despite the lack of endorsement from nutrition experts, these are the now most broadly recognizable food guidelines in the United States, familiar to all schoolchildren and highly influential in determining school lunches and nutrition education across the country.”

Sadly, the rest of the world followed in that line.

There is yet another example which is very well illustrated in the 2012 BBC documentary by Jacques Peretti, “The Men Who Made Us Fat“. The sugar lobby once threatened the World Health Organization of withdrawing their 406 million funding if they set a limit on sugar. As Professor Simon Capewell from the University of Liverpool puts it on the BBC documentary: “putting the food industry at the policy table is like putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank”.

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