The real se­cret to Eat more suc­cess­ful slim­ming?

Pas­teurised milk, low­fat ce­real, brown sliced pan... are these sta­ples healthy or harm­ful? ‘Food doc­tor’ John McKenna tells Nikki Walsh what we re­ally need more of in our diet is fat – and lots of it

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - BODY & SOUL -

John McKenna lear nt the im­por­tance of good nu­tri­tion when he left Ire­land to study medicine in Africa as a young man. Sur­prised to find foods such as ce­re­als, fresh veg­eta­bles and fruits, chicken, beef, nuts and seeds in plen­ti­ful sup­ply, he was im­pressed by the level of health he saw, as peo­ple did not suf­fer from the sorts of de­gen­er­a­tive con­di­tions that he as­so­ci­ated with Western cul­ture.

They did, how­ever, suf­fer from dis­eases such as malaria, bil­harzia, and worm in­fes­ta­tions and it was here he learnt his first real lessons in nu­tri­tion. ‘The turn­ing point was when I saw the ef­fect of giv­ing vi­ta­min A to in­fants and young chil­dren who were born to HIV-pos­i­tive moth­ers,’ he says. ‘The in­ci­dence of the in­fec­tions dropped off markedly. One vi­ta­min had such a pro­found ef­fect on their well be­ing that my eyes were opened to the power of nu­tri­tional medicine. As time has gone on, I have been left in no doubt that nu­tri­tional medicine is the fu­ture and will re­duce the need for ex­pen­sive drugs and hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion.’

McKenna qual­i­fied as a doc­tor, and be­gan prac­tis­ing nat­u­ral medicine in his late 30s, spe­cial­is­ing in food al­ler­gies and in­tol­er­ances. He pub­lished three books: the best­selling Hard To Stom­ach — Real So­lu­tions To Your Di­ges­tive Prob­lems; Nat­u­ral Al­ter­na­tives To An­tibi­otics, and Al­ter­na­tives To Tran­quil­lis­ers. Re­turn­ing to Europe in 2002, he was shocked by the sight of Western­ers. ‘The av­er­age per­son in the street of the lo­cal town where I was liv­ing was vis­i­bly over­weight, and even the ba­bies were on the plump side.’

In su­per­mar­kets, he no­ticed that peo­ple’s trol­leys were filled with pro­cessed foods, mostly carbs, such as piz­zas, waf­fles, breads, pan­cakes and break­fast ce­re­als — all laden with sugar. It was a far cry from his own child­hood, grow­ing up out­side the vil­lage of Mul­lagh­bawn in Co. Ar­magh, where his mother, a nurse, had in­stilled in him a keen in­ter­est in nu­tri­tion, fed him sim­ple, good food from the land, and spoon­fuls of Scott’s Emul­sion and cod liver oil. ‘The diet I had grown up on and the tra­di­tional diet I ex­pe­ri­enced in dif­fer­ent parts of Africa were now re­placed with fac­tory foods. These were foods that were not de­signed by na­ture, but by food chemists. These foods were de­stroy­ing whole pop­u­la­tions.’

In Good Food: Can You Trust What You Are Eat­ing? John ex­plains how such a food rev­o­lu­tion took place, tak­ing read­ers back to key mo­ments in food man­u­fac­tur­ing, and lay­ing the blame firmly at the door of politi­cians, food com­pa­nies, and drug com­pa­nies. First up is the obe­sity cri­sis in Amer­ica in the 1970s and the early 1980s in Europe, when fats, thought to cause heart disease, were re­moved from foods, and re­placed by high- f ruc­tose corn syrup. ‘It was known in the 1950s and ’60s that fruc­tose causes obe­sity and I had learned this in col­lege in Dublin in the early 1970s,’ he writes. ‘It must have also been known to the food chemists who de­cided to re­place fat with fruc­tose. Why was such an in­ter­na­tional catas­tro­phe like this al­lowed to hap­pen?’ He ar­gues that there is no link be­tween an­i­mal fat and obe­sity, but that by the time this be­came clear, high-fruc­tose corn syrup was reap­ing huge prof­its for the food in­dus­try. This brings him to the in­tro­duc­tion of ni­tro­gen fer­tilis­ers to farm­ing. Ni­trates have been linked with cancer in al­most ev­ery or­gan in the body in a range of tests on an­i­mals. Add to this the in­tro­duc­tion of ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­ners, which cause brain tu­mours in an­i­mals, and the pro­cess­ing of milk, which stripped of its good bac­te­ria now con­tains a cock­tail of hor­mones and an­tibi­otics, and John is in lit­tle doubt that it is the tox­i­c­ity of most foods la­belled ‘healthy’ that are caus­ing our ill health.

So, what should we be eat­ing? Ac­cord­ing to John, it’s time to go back to ba­sics — fresh milk straight from the farm, or­ganic meats and line-caught fish, free-range eggs, and or­ganic fruit and veg­eta­bles. He urges us to buy di­rectly from farm­ers, grow our own veg­eta­bles, bake our own breads and make our own yo­ghurt.

For credit- crunched, time- poor par­ents, the doc­tor has this mes­sage: ‘Keep carbs to a min­i­mum. If you cut out breads, rolls, cakes, bis­cuits, waf­fles, pizza, chips, potato, rice, pasta, etc, which form the bulk of the weekly shop­ping, you will have money to spend on an­i­mal meats such as lamb’s liver, which is an ex­cel­lent food — and very cheap. An egg a day keeps in­fec­tion at bay. An­i­mal pro­tein

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