This book review appeared in The Critic Magazine written by Jamie Blackett
At last, after the blizzard of lifestyle books that the publishing industry has served up recently, full of faux environmentalism and vegan dietary choices, comes a healthy dose of common sense. It is telling that it is self-published after being rejected by several agents. For years we have been dimly aware of lone voices in the wilderness – medics like Tim Noakes, Frédéric Leroy, Paul Saladino, the pioneering ecologist Allan Savory and the greenhouse gas guru Frank Mitloehner – telling us that the received wisdom on diet in the developed world, and by extension the way we produce our food and its effects on the environment, is mostly complete bollocks. Now, finally, we have a simple guide for the layman that draws together the inconvenient facts and the unfashionable theories and explains with patient logic why we should stop accepting at face value what we are told by governments, mainstream academics and the siren voices of Big Business and start developing a healthy scepticism. Because we have been conned.
Charlie Spedding is a mild mannered grandfather who immediately strikes the reader as a grown-up who should be heeded, one with no vested interest beyond a philanthropic desire to seek after truth. (Though as reviewer I should perhaps declare my own interest as a farmer). He is a retired chemist who has spent a lifetime at the coalface of the health service dispensing advice and drugs to patients in a community pharmacy. And in his youth he was a top athlete. In the golden era of long distance runners from the North East, Durham based Spedding was up there with Brendan Foster and Steve Cram. In 1984 he won the London Marathon and an Olympic Bronze Medal. The deduction is that he might just know a tad more about nutrition than the host of writers with PhDs in the subject, particularly as – crucially – he is immune to the groupthink spawned by the peer review system and the funding of research. He says his motivation to take early retirement and write the book was triggered by a recognition that he had been a pawn of Big Pharma, selling drugs to patients who weren’t going to get better because they were being advised to eat the wrong things.
His thesis is simple and grounded in anthropology and physiology. We are omnivores who evolved by eating proteins and fats from meat, that is why we have larger brains and smaller guts than other primates. We took a wrong turning when we started making food from seeds – bread and pasta from grain, cooking oils from vegetable seeds like soya and sunflowers. Then we compounded the error when, in the seventies, under the malign influence of Big Food and influenced by dodgy science, western governments issued nutritional advice that demonised saturated fats from meat, dairy and eggs and promoted carbohydrates as healthy foods. The result has been an obesity epidemic and soaring diabetes, cancer, heart disease and dementia.
It’s a brave argument to make but Spedding doesn’t evangelise or indulge in special pleading for any particular diet. Instead he reviews the science in a way that non-scientists can understand and leaves it up to the reader to make up their mind. It is very effective; there are emperor’s clothes moments in nearly every chapter. Most compelling is the graph showing the rise in obesity, the timing of the change in dietary advice coincides exactly with the start of what we now call the obesity crisis.
Spedding says we should eat more meat and explains why we should not feel guilty about it as herbivores are not the cause of climate change that the environmentalists would have us believe. Husbands everywhere will be able to tuck into bacon and eggs and put lashings of cream and butter on their food and have a counter to their wives’ strictures– it turns out that most of us need more fat not less. And anyone contemplating taking statins to control cholesterol would be well advised to read this book first.
The conspiracies behind what historians may come to know as The Gross Dietary Error are film worthy. Spedding shines a pitiless light on the villains: Ancel Keys the man who persuaded the US government to give the bad advice, the Seventh Day Adventist John Harvey Kellogg who invented the eponymous breakfast cereals to suppress libido, and the food-tech venture capitalists of today who pay for science promoting veganism to ‘take down the meat industry’.
Doubtless the health establishment and journalists in the pay of Big Carb will queue up to denounce this book – if they can’t get away with studiously ignoring it. Loftily, and very annoyingly, ‘experts’ will quote reams of ‘research’ because these days anything can easily be refuted with ‘science’. And that in a sense is the issue. We now have a bloated university sector full of academics who will produce whatever false orthodoxy you want for a fee. The Enlightenment values of reason and empiricism are being eclipsed by Counter Enlightenment superstition and the witch hunting of heretics who dare to dissent. Before endorsing the book I asked a nutritionist friend to vet it. She said that it was what she and many of her colleagues had been saying privately for years but none of them dared say publicly for fear of losing their licences to practise. Enough said.
The prize for listening to whistle blowers like Spedding is huge. Annual NHS spending is around £134 billion in England alone. Better diets could slash that to the point where we might not need Boris’s new hospitals. Nor would we need to fret about Donald Trump increasing the costs of drugs we don’t need. And if Dominic Cummings wants to reform the civil service, Public Health England (annual budget £4.51 billion) would be a good place to start.
I can’t urge you strongly enough, BUY THIS BOOK, it may even save your life. Better still, buy two and send one to your Member of Parliament.