“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
- Zoë Harcombe on the Mess: The Money vs. the Evidence
- Why do you Overeat? When all you want is to be slim
- Seven Countries Study
- Keys Six Countries Graph
- Harcombe Z, Baker JS, Cooper SM, et al. Evidence from randomised controlled trials did not support the introduction of dietary fat guidelines in 1977 and 1983: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Open Heart 2015.
- Harcombe Z, Baker JS, DiNicolantonio JJ, et al. Evidence from randomised controlled trials does not support current dietary fat guidelines: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Open Heart 2016.
- Harcombe Z, Baker JS, Davies B. Evidence from prospective cohort studies did not support the introduction of dietary fat guidelines in 1977 and 1983: a systematic review. Br J Sports Med 2016.
- Harcombe Z, Baker J, Davies B. Evidence from prospective cohort studies does not support current dietary fat guidelines: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med 2016.
- London Transport Worker’s Study
- Corn Oil in Treatment of Ischaemic Heart Disease
- The MRC-ILA Heart Study
- The Oslo Diet-Heart Study
- Sydney Diet Heart Study
- Other studies referenced by Dr. Harcombe
- Tim Noakes on trial
- Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q, Hu FB, Krauss RM. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. The American journal of clinical nutrition 2010
- Chowdhury R, Warnakula S, Kunutsor S, et al. Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids With Coronary Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Ann. Intern. Med. 2014
- Schwingshackl L, Hoffmann G. Dietary fatty acids in the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease: a systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression. BMJ Open 2014
- Hooper L, Martin N, Abdelhamid A, Davey Smith G. Reduction in saturated fat intake for cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015
- Harcombe Z. Dietary fat guidelines have no evidence base: where next for public health nutritional advice? Br J Sports Med. 2016
- The Minnesota Starvation Experiment
- The McGovern Report
- The McGovern Report as shown in Fat Head movie
- The Harcombe Diet: Stop Counting Calories & Start Losing Weight
- The Weston A. Price Foundation
- Homo Carnivorus – What we are Designed to Eat, Barry Groves
- Sally Fallon Morell
- Ruminants to the Rescue, Allan Savory
- EAT-Lancet score and major health outcomes
- Quantum of Solace, James Bond
- The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, Michael Pollan
- What About Fiber?, Zoë Harcombe
- Diet and Reinfarction Trial (DART)
- Zoë’s work to change the US Dietary Guidelines
- The Nutrition Coalition
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
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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.