While we face the amplifying affects of COVID-19 on our innate health, with a greatly strained NHS, official health bodies do anything but provide the information we need for optimal health. However, independent organisation Public Health Collaboration have published a guide to healthy eating, which addresses the incorrect advice given by Public Health England.
Before the pandemic, The NHS vitamins and minerals pages clearly stated that we do not get enough sunlight in the UK between October and March to make vitamin D. However, it did not mention the relationship between diet and absorbing fat soluble vitamins.
Public Health Collaboration have released a counter-argument to official diet advice distributed by the NHS, The Eatwell Guide. Americans have a similar travesty of truth called MyPlate. It is industry funded and therefore biased towards consumerism and away from natural health.
Nutrition plays a very important part in our innate health as does physical activity.
For decades, weight loss information has misled people about what it means to be fit and healthy, by providing incorrect information about how our bodies respond to food.
We might respond in our own unique way but we are also the same species. What is missing in the information we are provided is context. I will provide what I have discovered:
Calories: As Gary Taubes illustrated in Good Calories, Bad Calories, not all calories are made equal. For example, you could eat a nutrient rich food with few calories but alternatively, some foods contain many calories but few vitamins or minerals. We need enough and not too many calories each day to maintain our weight. However, reducing calories to lose weight slows the metabolism down, which leads to regaining the weight when the restricted diet ends.
Meals versus snacks: Perhaps eating a small quantity to top up energy if it flags ought to be called topups instead of snacks. Snacks suggest grazing, which anyone might start doing if they find themselves working from home and able to raid the fridge whenever they want. It is also easy to start punctuating the day with snacks when you first stop smoking, as that sporadic pause yearns to be filled by a short activity requiring no concentration, to allow the brain to process. A sudden change in the daily routine to a 3 set tennis match or 5 mile run would likely to require an energy top up to supplement your regular meals. Grazing in front of the TV would provide an unused energy surplus, which would pile on the pounds.
Balanced and varied: Of course this is never defined. In fact it is contradicted. The Eatwell Guide suggests basing every meal on a starchy carbohydrate. A balanced meal would contain a good ratio of health fats, protein and fibre carbohydrates. That provides every nutrient, macro and micro. Hearth Nutrition suggests creating meals by checking off all micronutrients we need each day, which in itself would result in a balanced and varied meal. Think of food cultures from around the world: French cuisine involves many small courses. Meze, Thali and Tapas involve small plates including peas, beans, lentils, rice, meat, fish and vegetables. Countries, which traditionally have not had access to the food available today all year round would have pioneered dishes, which provided nutrition, such as coleslaw or sauerkraut.
Genetic Variation: In northern European countries, we would need more fat to absorb fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin D, which we only get enough sunlight to make in the summer months in the UK. Therefore, we would require more fat in our diet to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K from our food. Meanwhile, people from sunny countries, where exotic fruits grow in abundance, would have naturally been outside in the sunshine much more than those in colder, northern climes, and would use the fast-release energy from fruit much more quickly going about their day. None the less, active people still need protein to maintain their physical and mental health, so living on exotic fruits is probably not sensible for any humans.
Eating Disorders: It has been known for a while that disrupted eating can lead to vitamin deficiencies. This might mean that supplements are required to get your daily nutrition, but a nutritious diet, which provides all the essential micronutrients to provide optimal mental and physical health is a good way to start. Then DNA wellbeing tests, hair samples and using nutriition facts and an elimination process to get the nutrition you can, through food first and supplement to fill any gaps would provide you with a strong foundation for health.
My question on Independent SAGE is the last one here, on vitamin D deficiency in UK.
Up to the start of covid-19 spreading around the UK, the NHS website provided information about vitamins and minerals, including how human bodies used each micronutrient, the amount required, whether we stored it or not, natural sources – either diet or sunlight for vitamin D – and recommended daily amount (RDA) for dietary supplements.
I spent a weekend copying this information into a spreadsheet with each micronutrient on a row with food and other sources as well as the RDA for a supplement. At the bottom I could make a shopping list to get maximum nutrition from food. I then worked out gaps in my diet and bought the supplements I required.
A deep dive into nutrition would reveal more information, such as the relationship between fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and fatty acids, amino acids and minerals they contain. To get a nutritious diet this information would be helpful but is difficult to cross reference, when official diet advice is subjective and lacks context.
There are also dynamics to consider, which are the result of lifestyle on health, recovery and protection against hospitalisation or death from a virus. Smoking can reduce vitamin D in the system. Alcohol reduces B12 and drinking too much can lead to a B12 deficiency. Carbohydrate density can lead to bloating, inflammation, high blood sugar, water retention and be an anti-nutrient and block absorption of essential micronutrients. Food intolerance also creates responses, depending on how much the body does not want a certain food, for example tomatos, potatos, peppers and tobacco are all from the nightshade family and soy can be an anti-nutrient if not prepared properly.
There could be a variety of causes of current ailments, particularly long COVID and ongoing conditions such as Fibro Myalgia, Endometriosis, Cystic Fibrosis, ME, Type 2 Diabetes, Obesity, Rheumatoid Arthritus, Arthritis, Dementia, Alzeimers and also the depreciated health aspects experienced by people with autism and a wealth of other common non-communicable diseases. Nutrition is no cure and research is biased in favour of medicine that seeks to test nutrition as a treatment to discredit it. What nutrition does do, however, is give our bodies and minds the best chance at fighting whatever affliction we develop.
Healthcare today seems more like sickcare and focuses on cure rather than prevention. The Independent SAGE meeting on 6th March mentioned that the government have spent 96% of funding on pharmaceuticals and every other aspect, including prevention accounts for 4% of the government’s budget. See this information on Medical News Today about vitamin E deficiency and diseases, which shows how: “Vitamin E deficiency can also result from diseases that severely reduce the absorption of fat”.
There is a lack of finance invested into researching how nutrition and tackling malnutrition with a healthy diet keeps us healthy and reduces non-communicable diseases as well hospitalisation and death from viruses. However, Hearth is based on the information provided on the NHS website on vitamins and minerals, cross referenced with Public Health Collaboration, John Yudkin, Gary Taubes, Dr Zoe Harcombe, Dr Andrew Jenkinson, Tim Spector, Harvard Health and Medical News Today.
Please see my nutrition and food spreadsheet here (Google Sheets).