Sweden is on top of things. The good thing about being a small and open society is that when things start moving, they move fast. Many who have been convinced about the mistakes in the Nordic dietary recommendations might feel that change is not coming fast enough. Still, we do not know when the paradigm shift will happen, but that it will happen that is already a fact. It is a remarkable battle that is going on over who is right and who is wrong and since Sweden has some of the lead figures in this debate, and a very active (cyber) society, it is also showing the way. The Food Revolution is already a fact. How it will play out in the state dietary recommendations and the acknowledgement from the current cholesterol-frightened experts is something that only time will tell.
I have been amused by following the storm that arose last week after the letter to the editor in one of Sweden's biggest newspapers, Dagens Nyheter. Original text to be found here: De populära fettdieterna är ett hot mot folkhälsan. Five professors of medicine and nutrition warned the Swedes of the dangers of eating a low carb and high fat diet: strokes and heart disease. This because according to the article, there have lately been an increase in the statistics of these diseases, particularly in young women and men age 35-44 years old. The professors go on making fat into the devil and explaining that red meat and fat, combined with sitting still and not getting enough exercise will basically eventually kill a big bunch of Swedes. They demonize the Low Carb High Fat Movement for spreading non-scientifically based information and that the effects can now be seen in an increased consumption of butter, sour cream and red meat. This while the consumption of sugar and salt continues on the rise.
It didn't take long for the LCHF-gang to react. Andreas Eenfeldt, author of the book "Food Revolution" (available in Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian and German) is quick to dismantle the arguments by showing the same statistics from a different light: how Swedes since 1995 have actually been suffering less from heart diseases and strokes. He then points to scientific studies that show the detrimental effects of a diet based on low fat products. What then follows is a war over who has the juiciest piece on the "fat war" in media. Eenfeldt himself is invited to a tv channel to explain his points. The other experts, those who wrote the original piece in the newspaper do not participate in person. Instead one of them goes to another tv channel to give her opinion on the dangers of the fat diet. The evening press paints big first page headline news on how the fat diet is dividing the Swedish people. And all the LCHF-bloggers mark their stand on their own pages. And there are some very balanced (in favor of fat) texts published on DN debatt webpages from other experts (Sugar is the villain, Saturated fat is neutral for the brain,There are many types of fat), who have taken the time to read all new scientific studies on the connection fat- hear disease: the verdict is clear: it is not the fat, it is the low fat/high sugar/high carb intake that is problematic. Still media continues being obsessed with finding the victims of this new dangerous trend of eating saturated fats.
What is my take on all this? First of all, I find it utterly exciting that in a matter of days, the Swedish media has made a storm out of the fat debate. And although the intentions once again were to demonize the dangerous fat diet, the effects seem to (once again) be the opposite. Dr Eenfeldt's blog reaches an all time high in daily visitors, the success stories of those who have been able to turn around their paved road to destruction through a dietary change is made visible through these blogs, and the very important debate on what is actually wrong with the current state dietary recommendations gets attention both on the prominent pages of newspapers but also out on blogs (this one piece is particularly amusing: Professor Hellenius is worried). We have to remember that the change is coming from below, through the told experience of those who have seen their lives turn around just by changing their diet towards eating more REAL FOOD and that is why the blogs play a very important part in this 'war'. I prefer referring to real food rather than LCHF because LCHF is a polemic wording. It has created a lot of association to bacon at butter, to cream and cheese, as if that was all that people on this diet ate. I'd say this picture of LCHF is mostly due to the demonization in the press...there is always a picture of bacon and egg when the demonization starts. But really, what most people do when they start eating this kind of diet is that they turn away from processed crap, including fat free sugary yogurts and industrial processed margarine and instead they start paying attention to that what they actually put in their mouth is real food and not any industrial made mimics.
So what started as yet another demonization of real food has in just a few days unfolded into a very good debate over what is real food, and who is to gain and loose from eating/supporting this kind of lifestyle. It has also brought up the false assumptions embedded in the fear for cholesterol (if you didn't know, cholesterol is not bad for you, it is your friend!). And so my take on this big Fat War in Sweden is that we are one step closer to a real paradigm shift.
So that is Sweden, and I live in Finland. What's the deal? Well, if the Swedes manage to overthrow all these faulty assumptions and really get their message through to those who can do anything about the state dietary recommendations, then I believe it will not take long before we here in Finland will see some radical changes as well. I mean, if the Swedes can be healthy on real food, why shouldn't we? Although I started off saying that change is coming fast in Sweden, I still feel it is not coming fast enough. My children go to daycare everyday and are served low-fat (including margarine) food every day. The food they are served are based on the state dietary recommendations, and although this municipality has decreased the use of sugar in daycare food, it is still alarming that the milk and the bread spread are highly processed and lack all the important nutrients that a child needs. The same goes for hospitals and senior homes. They are all bound to the state dietary recommendation. Not to speak of our state budget on health care. How much couldn't be saved if the people were given the right kind of advice on what to eat? Heaven forbid, they could be off (state subsidized!) medication and not be in need of so many doctor's appointments anymore. I mean, if this country is really struggling with its state finances, and if it really wants to continue to pretend to care for its citizens under the banner of a "welfare society" - well wouldn't these state dietary recommendations be the first ones that we need to fix.
Quick fix - direct results!
Oh I forgot, we also have to defend the right of the prestigious experts that ones made up the cholesterol myth, we have to defend the right of the pharmaceutical companies and the processed food industry, we have to defend the right (to work) for the state nutritionists, even the right of the garment industry. Because once people starting real food all these people and institutions will suffer. The old professors will lose their prestige. The pharmaceutical companies will lose many highly profitable products. The food industry will lose many market shares as people turn to eat veggies and unprocessed food. The nutritionist services will not be needed anymore as people will start understanding what is real food and what is fake. And the garment industry, particularly the big-size-producers will lose out once people stop yoyo-dieting and not need to buy new clothing every time they gain/lose 10 kg. All this, together with a lot more, is what is preventing us from having real food at the table! But the fat war in Sweden is leading the way! So keep on fighting, the change is coming!