Ep 123 – Zoë Harcombe on Dissecting Nutrition Research and Dietary Guidelines

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“For me it’s so easy, it’s just so easy.  So, if we could put aside the conflicts, would we all be able to agree that we should eat real food and not processed food?  Surely, that is a starting point that we could all agree on.  And it’s actually where carnivores and vegans should be on the same plate.  So, please guys, can we agree, we know… horribly conflicted in the US, with the dieticians in bed with half the fake food companies in the world, it’s the same in the UK, it’s absolutely the same in Australia although they’re trying to clean it up a bit…  So, that is getting in the way of what should be just such an easy first principle.  Eat. Real. Food.” – Zoë Harcombe

Zoë Harcombe, Ph.D., is a researcher, author, blogger, and speaker in the fields of nutrition and health.  Her particular area of expertise is public health dietary guidelines, especially dietary fat, nutrition and obesity. She has a BA in Economics and an MA in Mathematics from Cambridge University, and she earned her PhD in Public Health Nutrition from the University of the West of Scotland.

Zoë is well known for her thorough examination of nutrition research studies and journal articles, and she advocates for the public to be educated in evidence-based dietary advice.  After many years as a vegetarian, Zoë herself now follows a low carb, high fat diet and believes that eating real food, including animal protein, is the key to long term health.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Zoë at the 2019 CrossFit Health Conference where she was presenting on the corruption plaguing current nutrition advice.  We covered a wide range of topics including what prompted her to leave a successful human resources career to pursue her Ph.D. in public health nutrition, and how, as she completed her thesis, she learned that much of current public health dietary advice is not evidence-based.  We also talked about what she believes research shows to be the best diet, why there is so much misinformation regarding nutrition out there, and what listeners can do to influence change in the current dietary guidelines.

In this episode we discuss:

  • Zoë’s background and how her brother’s diabetes spurred an interest in nutrition
  • Her interest in studying eating disorders while at University of Cambridge
  • What her experience of writing a book was like while working another job
  • Why she decided to leave a successful human resources career and return to school for her Ph.D.
  • The research she pursued as part of her Ph.D.
  • Why Zoë believes the current dietary fat guidelines were released in spite of lack of significant research findings
  • What Zoë thinks the research is telling us about which is the best possible diet to follow
  • The nutrients we need to survive
  • Her take on the fat-carb combo, and how that makes our appetite insatiable
  • Why she was initially vegetarian, how she made the transition to eating meat, and how she reconciled the change with her ethics
  • The changes Zoë noticed when she began eating meat
  • How eating meat benefits the planet by improving topsoil
  • The addictive nature of carbohydrates
  • Vegetables and fiber: how the evidence for 5 a day isn’t as strong as we think
  • The difference in fiber in vegetables versus whole grains
  • Zoë’s process for dissecting research studies
  • How she advises the layperson to analyze articles they are reading, and what red flags they should be looking for
  • Why Zoë believes revising the current dietary guidelines is so important, and what she’s doing to create change
  • What listeners can do to influence change in the current dietary guidelines
  • Three things Zoë does on a regular basis that have the biggest positive impact on her health
  • One thing she struggles to implement that could have a big impact on her health
  • What a healthy life looks like to Zoë

You can follow Zoë on her blog, her YouTube channel, her podcast, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Related Episodes:

Ep 35 – Coach Greg Glassman on CrossFit, Chronic Disease, and the “5 Buckets of Death”
Ep 71 – The Sugar Free Revolution with Karen Thomson
Ep 80 – Greg Glassman on Networking CrossFit Physicians and Fighting Chronic Disease
Ep 93 – Debunking Nutrition Myths with Gary Taubes
Ep 118 – The State of CrossFit with Coach Greg Glassman

If you like this episode, please subscribe to Pursuing Health on iTunes and give it a rating. I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below and on social media using the hashtag #PursuingHealth. I look forward to bringing you future episodes with inspiring individuals and ideas about health every other Tuesday.

Disclaimer: This podcast is meant to share the experiences of various individuals. It does not provide medical advice, and it is not a substitute for advice from your physician or health care professional.

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