Tim Spector is a professor of genetic epidemiology at Kings College, London. On June 7th he featured in a BBC Horizon documentary entitled, 'Why are we getting so fat?' He has discovered that bacteria called christensenella that are present in some people's intestines stop them getting fat. To encourage the growth of these bacteria he recommended a 'Mediterranean diet' but without the pasta and pizza.
I decided to send him a complimentary copy of my book, with the following covering letter.
Dear Professor Spector,
In last Tuesday’s BBC Horizon programme you said that the production of good non-fattening microbes would be assisted by eating a wide range of food, plenty of fruit and vegetables, and a generally Mediterranean diet including full fat yogurt but without the pasta and pizza. I totally support this, but as you know it is not in accordance with current recommendations from the NHS to avoid saturated fat and to obtain most of our calories from starchy carbohydrates.
Obesity has been increasing since 1960, but according to DEFRA the average calorie intake per person in our country over this period has been decreasing (Fig.1). While reduced exercise and even central heating may partly explain this apparent anomaly, if the DEFRA surveys are trustworthy the principal explanation of the continuing increase in obesity seems to be not the quantity of food but the type of food that most of us are now eating.
When my sister and I were teenagers we stayed one summer with an Italian family who lived in the south of France. The food included artichokes, as you mentioned, and it was always laced with olive oil, which has a high saturated fat content. They ate enormous quantities, and Mrs Oneratini complained to me privately that she had to spend most of her day in the kitchen preparing food. Yet in spite of eating so much neither the parents nor their two teenage sons were overweight. French people eat more dairy fat per head than in any other industrialized nation, yet until recent years France had the second lowest rate of coronary heart disease in the industrialized world behind Japan. Nevertheless the NHS continues to tell us to drink semi-skimmed milk, eat low fat foods and obtain most of our calories from starchy carbohydrates. That is the problem!
After studying traditional healthy diets and looking at what is practical in today’s society I concluded that the calories in an ideal healthy diet should be obtained from protein, fat and carbohydrates in the ratio 25:45:30, from foods providing an overall omega6:omega3 ratio of 4:1 or less (as distinct from the 12:1 typical in current UK diets.) Accompanied by some fruit and plenty of vegetables this results in the kind of diet you recommended and which was recently recommended by the National Obesity Forum in a report which was violently opposed by much of the nutritional establishment. (http://www.nationalobesityforum.org.uk/) Other authoritative figures enthusiastically supported it, so it is evident that there is a abyss of disagreement on this extremely important subject.
The obesity problem in the West is primarily caused by a diet that our bodies have either not been designed for or else have not evolved for, depending on one’s point of view. If, in your research work, you can measurably demonstrate that the kind of diet you recommend does significantly increase the quantity of fat-limiting microbes, and that as a result a significant number of people who adopt such a diet lose more weight than a matched control group on a more typical diet with the same total calories, then you might produce the evidence that would at last change the minds of those who continue to promote an unhealthy diet for reasons that I have explained in my book, ‘Twenty-First Century Nutrition and Family Health’.
I am pleased to enclose for you a complimentary copy of my book, in the hope that it will encourage you in the excellent and vitally important work that you are doing.
Arnold V Page
Figure 1. Average daily calorie intake per person in the UK
(Source: Table 6.6 in Food Statistics Pocket Book 2015, DEFRA, based on food surveys.)
I await Professor Spector's reply, my breath bated with full fat French cheese.