The real food guidelines


It’s a food fight.

The time has finally come where a deep and important line needs to be drawn in the sand.  No more throwing bad science and bad advice around.  Stop!

The “food pyramid” guidelines are still alive (and well?) in New Zealand (see here). They are outdated, old school and quite simply wrong. Recently they were up for review…

Unfortunately, they came back more or less the same – saturated fat and fats in general are bad for us ….blah blah blah.

So our team felt we had to put all the science out there publicly for everyone to have a look at. So here it is for your scrutiny.

MOH dietary guidelines feedback REVISED Appendix 9.5.14


This is our response to the draft nutrition guidelines.

The timing could not be better actually as tonight I go head to head with the very people who advised on these guidelines.  The 3rd Degree piece will be available here (its rightly called “Food fight” after 8.30 tonight NZ time.

Please take the time to read at least the lay summary, and even the full scientific document. I think you will be shocked just how little there is to back up the current and future nutrition guidelines.

It’s time for a full and robust scientific analysis of what we are told to eat to be presented to government health officials (who have it now), and the lay, scientific, and health communities.

We have also proposed a new set of guidelines called the Real food guidelines – real food, for real people, based on real evidence.  It’s time to get real people!  Here they are for the first time :

The real food guidelines
Real food for real people, based on real evidence

  1. Enjoy nutritious foods everyday including plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit.
  2. Buy and prepare food from whole unprocessed sources of dairy, nuts, seeds, eggs, meat, fish and poultry.
  3. Keep sugar, added sugars, and processed foods to a minimum in all foods and drinks.
  4. If you drink alcohol, keep your intake low. Don’t drink if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.
  5. Prepare, cook, and eat minimally processed traditional foods with family, friends, and your community.
  6. Discretionary calories (energy foods) should:
    a) Favour minimally refined grains and legumes, properly prepared, over refined or processed versions, and boiled or baked potatoes, kumara or taro over deep fried or processed potato fries and chips.
    b) Favour traditional oils, fats and spreads over refined and processed versions.

We welcome feedback and scrutiny of our scientific analysis. This is open source and for the people. We are constantly trying to improve our understanding of  the science of human nutrition. The evidence changes all the time. Our scientific statement is another iteration in the right direction but should by no means be where we stop.  It’s a start..

Thanks to everyone in our team who contributed (see below).  Also Dee Holdsworth-Parks for tirelessly keeping my life organised and our team working smoothly.

Dr Caryn Zinn PhD
NZ Registered Dietician. Senior lecturer Human Potential Centre, AUT University

Dr Nigel Harris PhD, BRmgmt
Senior lecturer, Human Potential Centre, AUT University

Dr Mikki Williden PhD
Registered Nutritionist, Senior lecturer Human Potential Centre, AUT University

Catherine Crofts MPS M.Phil
Research Assistant, Human Potential Centre, AUT University

Dr Simon Thornley BHB, MBChB, MPH (Hons), FAFPHM.
Professional Teaching Fellow & Research Fellow, Section of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, University of Auckland

Cliff Harvey ND
Holistic Performance Nutrition

George D. Henderson
Research Assistant, Human Potential Centre, AUT University

19 Comments on “The real food guidelines

  1. So excited about the show tonight – the more publicity this gets, the more lives that will be improved.

    The guideline response is inspired reading.

  2. Good luck for tonight’s debate. Looking forward to viewing it online as soon as it becomes available. I am reminded of what was said many years ago by some medicos I worked with ” We don’t have the monopoly on knowledge!” An encouraging point of view to hold close when being challenged by those who think that they do!

  3. The guidelines are a step in the right direction and I’m really glad you tackled low SFA, low salt and grain fibre. Looking forward to the show.

    A few comments:

    Nuts and seeds should really be placed with the grains and legumes. Generally they are the most calorie dense and least nutrient dense per calorie of the whole foods, and so are most deserving of the discretionary food label. Just as you discussed with grains, nuts and seeds are also high in phytic acid. This then leaves a whole category full of animal foods, which is important to obtain sufficient levels of nutrients that animal foods tend to be rich in and plant foods tend to be poor in.

    If you’re going to use an evolutionary basis for low carb diets you should be aware that Cordain, et al suggest hunter-gatherers obtained about 22-40% of their calories from carbs, with most of those carb calories coming from fruit and starchy vegetables. It may be helpful to provide figures like this, rather than imprecise words like ‘low’

    With the evidence against SFA: clinical trials trumps observational studies or the diet heart hypothesis (SFA >> LDL-C and LDL-C >> CVD, therefore SFA >> CVD). The clinical trials replacing SFA with PUFA are generally quite poor as the experimental group (high PUFA) almost always reduced trans fats or junk food and often there were other things such as increased fruits and vegetables, increased omega 3/fish, weight loss, etc (depending on the trial). The trials with the least confounding variables showed either no difference or harm in replacing SFA with PUFA, with the only benefit coming from a reduction in ‘probable’ + ‘possible’ events in a non-blinded trial. The Hooper, et al (the Cochrane meta-analysis) and Ramsden, et al (another meta-analysis, one you might be interested in) were aware of these differences (See Part 1-4 and the individual trials if interested)

    You can also read Chris Masterjohn’s take on the trials and some evidence he provides suggesting PUFAs may have long term adverse effects they may not show up in short term (<5 year) trials

    Also I wouldn't consider the Lyon Diet Heart Study to be a fat modification trial, but rather a lowish fat Mediterranean diet. After all, omega 6 was lower in the experimental group (3.6% vs. 5.3% of total calories)

    I agree with Murray Skeaff in that low fat diets can be healthy and that the problem is the invention of low fat (often high sugar) junk food. Although I strongly disagree with the meta-analysis he co-authored with Jody Miller regarding the fat modification trials. They included poor quality positive trials like Oslo, Finnish and STARS while ignoring negative trials like Sydney and Minnesota and misinterpreting Rose (another negative trial). As for the mention of China's increasing fat consumption and obesity, has he heard of the ecological fallacy? The ecological fallacy also applies to drawing interferences from hunter-gatherer diets, but at least with them evolutionary logic is an additional line of evidence and would suggest that we are likely to be well adapted to such diets

    • Steve, people don’t generally eat nuts and seeds in the same quantities as grains. Their history as human foods goes back further; and they don’t cause hyperinsulinaemia. Also, experimental evidence about fatty acids in isolated oils may not apply to the same fats in the context of wholefoods. And – people need a choice, not everyone who needs a LCHF diet can be convinced to eat mostly animals, Hence almonds, brazil nuts, and tahini, as well as coconut olive and avocado. Apparently the CDC says the optimal intake of linoleic acid is 13%E, which seems insane to me and in the evolutionary past would have been a most biologically implausible long-term exposure.
      Thanks for your blog which has been a most helpful resource.
      China’s increased fat consumption, like the world’s, is from vegetable oil. WHO says animal fat % has decreased everywhere in the developing world, replaced with bulk bin vege oils and refined carbs.

      • Thanks George, I agree with your comment, although you do hear of the odd person eating absurd amounts of nuts then wondering why they aren’t losing weight. My main motivation there was to improve consistency

        Grant, you and Caryn did really well on the show

  4. Congratulations to Prof Grant and Dr Caryn and the team at AUT! A well-made argument put forward tonight. And also kudos for maintaining your dignity against the breath-taking arrogance of those in the other camp. Shame there was not time for more of the science to come out, but this is just the start. Thank you so much.

  5. Great show on TV3. You came across as measured and well thought out, versus the spouting-the-same-old-retoric of the other guys. Yes, there possibly is a danger if we start to eat as much saturated fat as we have been eating sugar, but that misses the point – an over-abundance of ANY one food type is probably not good, so a broad mix of natural foods (including fat) has got to be better than the modern diet of predominantly highly-refined carbohydrates.

    And on a personal level I continue to lose weight and feel FANTASTIC on the LCHF lifestyle, so I don’t care that the established medical community is so slow to change their thinking.

    Keep up the good fight!

  6. Yes, my weight is dropping too eating the ‘new way’ As an athlete who was training for long distance events I used to get a bit perplexed as to why my body didn’t change as I thought it deserved to with all my effort! Now, with training at a low level (just starting to get back ‘into it again’ after a break ….and a break in my T9!) I am feeling great and ready to do some clothes shopping:-)

  7. Congratulations, great work! Head on! Unfortunately I cannot watch the Kiwi-Television here in Europe – but I hope it was great show.

  8. I do believe that the traditional food pyramid was sponsored by the different food industries- the sugar power lords in particular have a strong representation at the American Senate and lobby against any changes. Follow the money.

  9. Well done at the dabate guys. It’s a shame it was short, but your opposition was weak!
    I follow this international debate regularly and as a regular reader of nutrition journals I know of 2 recent large epidemiological studies that show no connection between saturated fat or cholesterol and heart disease. However I would not eat either meat or dairy in the USA or much of Europe unless it was grass fed. There is a debate that’s needed in this country regarding “feed lot” farming and the potential for an increased consumption of Omega 6 Linoleic acid, and also glyphosate from Roundup ready soy and corn (the growing of the former having recently been appoved by the Minister). There is an established link between increased PUFA consumption and heart disease, and cancer

  10. Thanks so much for getting the message out there Grant. I read your submission to the ministry of health and I do hope they take note. It was well written with excellent arguments. I think you are doing the same for NZ that Tim Noakes has done and is still doing to change the attitudes towards diet of South Africans. My husband and I have been on LCHF for two years and it has been life changing. We can never go back to the old life. I have totally stopped worrying about my health and the enjoyment I get from eating the way I do is fantastic!
    Missed your seminar earlier this year and hope that there is another one in the pipeline.

  11. Pingback: The bigger picture… | Eat...Enjoy

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