The key note speakers were Sally Fallon Morel – President of the Weston Price Foundation; Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride – author of “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” (a world expert on the digestive system); Dr Barry Groves – author of Trick and Treat and Sir Julian Rose – pioneering organic farmer.
Having attended so many obesity conferences, where I am the only ‘idiot’ in the room, amongst hundreds of (overweight and obese) “Eatwell Plate Experts”, this conference was a joy to attend and quite inspirational. It was a delight to have so many like minded people in one place and, it’s difficult to describe, but there was an aura in the room of calmness and well-being. I am an analytical thinker, not a touchy/feely person, but you could not help but ‘feel’ how relaxed and warm the attendees were. There was no anger or tension (even though we’re a battling minority). Many young parents were there with babies in arms or children playing in the foyer and the young people were also calm and impeccably behaved. Probably not full of additives!
There were so many learnings, it’s difficult to know where to start, so I’ll go through my notes for each speaker and pick out the headlines:
Sally Fallon Morel: started with a great cartoon of a pyramid shaped American citizen looking at the USDA Food Pyramid (their equivalent of the Eatwell Plate) wondering how he’d ended up the shape of the diet advice! USDA stands for US Department of Agriculture – wonder why they would want people eating 6-11 servings of grains a day!
The Weston Price Foundation was founded to spread the message of Dr Weston Price (1870-1948) – a dentist who set out to understand why his patients were so sick and he travelled to ‘uncivilised’ parts of the world, only to discover that they were much healthier and actually more ‘civilised’ than his home population. “The teeth tell the tale” was his view and there were some amazing photos of how our face shape has changed, in just 3 generations of living on processed food, and why more people than ever now need braces or tooth extractions, suffer tooth decay etc.
In her presentation, Sally set out to answer the question – what were the 11 characteristics of all the healthy diets that Weston Price (and other people who have discovered ‘untouched’ cultures have found). (I’ll put a link up to a separate blog as soon as I write these 11 up.)
My top 3 learnings from Sally:
1) Young women are the key to changing future generations. We need our mothers of the future to be healthy themselves and to breastfeed healthy babies and to nourish both mother and child throughout childhood. We can reverse much of the damage that has been done if mothers and the next generation embrace real food.
2) I will be reviewing my advice on milk after hearing Sally and others yesterday. There was overwhelming evidence for consuming raw/non-pasteurised milk in preference to pasteurised milk (what we typically find). If you are currently consuming regular milk and feeling fine, don’t worry, but for people with milk/lactose intolerance, my first tip would be to try switching to non-pasteurised milk first. (I’ll update the milk blog and put a link here asap).
3) Real fat is absolutely crucial for health and man made (trans) fats simply must be banned. I knew this, but the message was stronger than even I have thought. To the extent, if you’re interested, that I am seriously considering eating meat! Having been a vegetarian for much of my 20’s and 30’s, I started eating fish again in my 30’s. The only thing stopping me eating meat is my love for animals and a ‘mental block’ on eating them, but I continually advise other people to eat meat (the most basic food that we have been consuming for the longest time in evolutionary terms) and I am getting close to the point that I need to eat it for my optimal health. I’ll let you know where I get to on this personal dilemma, but only egg yolks come close to meat in the nutrition stakes.
(Click here if you want to know more about the Western Price foundation)
Natasha Campbell-McBride is quite simply the world gut expert – bar none! She is Russian, passionate and kicked off with a quote from Hippocrates (460-370BC) “All disease begins in the gut.”
Natasha talked about the gut and its role and described it as so important; humans are “effectively the shell that hosts this microscopic world.”
My top 3 learnings from Natasha:
1) Every illness comes from what we consume and how our digestive system manages it. Why doctors don’t start every consultation with “what do you eat?” just doesn’t make sense!
2) It was wonderful to hear such an expert talk so much about Candida and gut flora and she endorsed everything in the Harcombe Diet from how Candida is caused (diet, antibiotics, other drugs, stress etc) to what will sort it (diet, supplements, address nutritional deficiencies etc) and how critical it is to overcome this condition. She also talked about Candida induced food cravings, which I have not heard anyone else talking about before and she also noted observing these in children she treats – they want processed food, not fish and vegetables.
3) There was a great harmony with Sally’s emphasis on young women – Natasha talked about how children are being born with the poor gut flora of their mothers and how this gives many children today a very poor start to their health in life. She has strong and very persuasive views on autism, attention problems and general behaviour in children – all of which clear up, or improve enormously, when they eat real food.
(Click here if you want to know more about Gut and Psychology Syndrome)
Barry Groves was next – I had no idea he is 74. He looks 60 at most! He talked about what we were designed to eat – which put a further nail in the coffin for vegetarianism. In evolutionary terms it is nigh on impossible to argue that humans should be, or have been, vegetarian. We have eaten any animal we could catch and there are still cultures today (Eskimos) that live pretty much entirely on animals.
My top 3 learnings from Barry:
1) Sometimes the most obvious statements are the most insightful: as Barry pointed out “humans are the only chronically sick animal on the planet.” The rest are eating as nature intends! I would add that any animals that humans interfere with are also made sick – feeding pets processed, sugared and/or dried food etc is giving cats and dogs diabetes, urinary tract infections and things that should be unknown to them. I have read veterinary journals about Type II Diabetes in elephants that are fed by humans. Given that we’re supposed to be the most intelligent species on the planet, when it comes to what we put in our bodies, we are by far the most stupid.
2) There was a great analysis (which I’m hoping Andrea has a photo of the slide for) about how even animals that we think live on carbs, in fact live on fat. Of 1000g of food ingested (1kg) by a gorilla, 90% is water leaving 11.8g protein, 7.7g carb and 0.5g fat (These figs may get corrected when I see the slide – I was scribbling as fast as I could). This left about 80% of the intake as fibre and the gorilla turns this into short chain fatty acids i.e. saturated fat! I never knew that!
3) There were some amazing slides at the end of Barry’s presentation showing how the size of the human brain is literally shrinking with the change in diet we have subjected the body to in the blink of an eye in terms of evolution. I would not have wanted to have been a vegan in the audience – the relative brain size of the new phenomenon of vegans was so small, compared to even veggies, let alone meat eaters, that there were gasps in the audience.
(Click here if you want to know more about Barry Groves)
Sir Julian Rose – organic farmer and campaigner for real milk finished off the day. He co-presented with Jadwiga Lopata, a Polish woman, in national costume who is leading the campaign to protect the polish countryside. Poland is one of the few remaining land areas not taken over by big food producers and Julian and Jadwiga want to keep it that way.
This was a great way to spend even a sunny spring Sunday. The only way for the human race to have a healthy future is to eat real food and there are people like us determined to spread this message. If we have to change one person at a time – let’s try!