Discordant Dietitians

Horrible Histories

So, if you have read the previous posts in order, you may be ready to take control of your health. Maybe not. You may not be convinced that the experts are dead or you may still be sceptical of me and my posts.  In any case, you are probably wondering what the best course of action is?  How do you decide what to do to take action for your problem? Let’s look at an example so we can understand it in more detail.

My children are fans of the TV show ‘Horrible Histories‘. If you know it you will appreciate that they are fond of their alliterative titles like ‘Terrible Tudors’ or ‘Rotten Royals’.  I think that when we look back on the period from 1970 until 2020, they would say: ‘Discordant Dietitians’. Why do I say that?  Let us take a deep dive into one example where dietitians appear to be not preaching best practice.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a chronic disease.  You can read a few articles about it here.  For a woman it is heartbreaking.  Excessive weight gain, hormonal problems, difficulty conceiving and increased risk of diabetes.   I am male and therefore not a sufferer, but I note that it is related to type 2 diabetes.  You see, like type 2 diabetes, PCOS shares an underlying ‘symptom’ of Insulin Resistance which I believe is likely to be their common heritage.  I have effectively cured my type 2 diabetes by using a low carbohydrate diet.  That is why I was surprised to come across the following press release which appeared to advocate eating more carbohydrates and to avoid the low carbohydrate approach for PCOS that had worked so well for me with type 2 diabetes.

NOTE: Macrofour is in no way affiliated with the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA)

Taking on PCOS!

Now you may or may not have PCOS.  I suggest that you pretend you do so we can use this as a beginning tutorial on why and how you might take control of your health.

I also recommend that you suspend any belief that this wouldn’t apply in your country.  There are international linkages between most of the dietetics associations, and I think it would be a mistake to assume that this is a purely Australian example.

Let us say you have PCOS and take the advice of the DAA.  You go and see an APD (Registered Dietitian) and, as the press release indicates they put you on a diet inclusive of wholegrains- under the Australian Dietary Guidelines, it would be between 45% and 65% of your recommended daily energy from (wholegrain) complex carbohydrates.

I cannot preclude that it would not make you better. I note that, as a consumer, you could always ask for a money-back guarantee if you adhere to their recommended diet and your PCOS does not resolve. Good luck!

Noting that PCOS is a ‘chronic condition’ we take the ‘Macrofour approach’.  The experts are dead, and all they promise you is a future of chronic disease. So if you have faith in an APD, still see one and do what they say. Equally, if your doctor has put you on medication you would be wise to get the benefit of that and not to vary it without discussion.

Become a PCOS Expert

But the Macrofour way is to become your own expert and do your own independent research. Maybe you ‘google’ and find this academic paper:

Beyond weight loss: a review of the therapeutic uses of very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets

Finally, although we only have preliminary evidence of the positive effects of VLCKD in PCOS,77 there are clear mechanisms that are consistent with the physiological plausibility of such dietary therapy.

Let’s unpack that statement. VLCKD is a Very Low Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet.  Fancy talk for a diet that restricts carbohydrates to something less than 20 grams per day.  That compares with the approx. 300 grams per day that the DAA would have you on if you followed the US or Australian Dietary Guidelines.  From the press release, the DAA advises:

Ms Hays also advised women to ignore current health trends, such as shunning carbohydrate-rich grains …

A quick calculation shows that if the VLKCD was the solution, and you were very strict on your other carbs, that would be only one slice of bread for the day (allowing for some sundry other carbohydrates in your diet).  Enough for half a sandwich! I would suggest that you would indeed need to shun grains to try this therapeutic diet. Again I quote from the press release.

Margaret Hays said in food terms, this means women with PCOS are … missing out on a thick slice of grainy bread …

So the DAA says that with PCOS we should eat an extra slice of bread every day because a study showed that women who suffer PCOS weren’t eating enough carbohydrates.  That would not allow me to have a VLCKD.

Is a VLCKD a Solution?

Would this VLCKD work? Maybe we should look for more evidence? We notice that the paper linked to a reference number 77.  Two clicks away we can read that in that (small) study:

There were non-significant decreases in insulin, glucose, testosterone, HgbA1c (sic), triglyceride, and perceived body hair. Two women became pregnant despite previous infertility problems.

Wow!  On the surface, it appears to sound promising. There were only five women at the end of the trial, but two of those became pregnant!  That alone would make me start to wonder. You may not know the significance of the other reductions mentioned, but I think you can appreciate that a reduction in body hair is desirable for any woman- let alone one with PCOS.  Testosterone, glucose, insulin, HbA1c and triglycerides reductions- trust me- that is all good too- especially if you have PCOS! A VLCKD sounds like a ‘cure’, but it is a very small study.

Too Soon to Rejoice

So do we run off and change our diet against all the recommendations of the DAA?  Well, it looks promising, but I would suggest that there are some other things that we should check first.  Foremost among them is whether this VLCKD might be dangerous. Maybe there are some other things we could do to check before we change our whole diet and lifestyle?  After all, the DAA is a not for profit body that says it is interested in the health of Australians at least.  They should have something useful to say for your health.  Shouldn’t we be wary of going against their very clear public advice?

If the ‘experts are dead’ for PCOS can you guess what our next move might be?

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