Dr Joanne McCormack
My name is Joanne McCormack and I am a freelance family doctor in Warrington and Halton, Cheshire, UK. For 23 years I worked in mainly one practice but now I work across several practices as a GP and also as the Named GP for Safeguarding Children.
As medical students we never learned much about nutrition, and were taught that a balanced diet was all anyone could do to be in good health. In 2013, I listened to a radio programme in which Dr Robert Lustig, spoke about the harm sugar did to children. Children were getting non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, by drinking too much free orange juice. They were offered free food at school, but that food wasn't really nutritious. I could see what he was talking about in my own clinic.
I began to read. What I learned changed my personal and professional view on health care. I read The Great Cholesterol Con by Dr. Malcolm Kendrick. I had known about his book, but I had been avoiding it as it seemed to be a bit anti-establishment; and what I learned surprised me.
Since then, my reading has continued into the nutritional arena. I have gradually learned about a new, different way of eating which involves eating real, nutrient dense, unprocessed food.
This is important because I have an example from my own life, of how the lack of knowledge can make people sick and unhappy. My dad died 10 years ago. He was ill for 11 years before his death, that's not how we want to be. I realise now that in his life he ate a lot of carbohydrates, and so did I. My mother was a wonderful baker, so we ate home made bread, and biscuits and cakes. I knew as a child that there must be some reason why I was so chubby. Of course now I know that reason.
This is important because I have an example from my own life, of how the lack of knowledge can make people unwell. My dad died 10 years ago. He was ill for 11 years before his death with dementia which took away his character and his ability to live independently. I see now that in his life he ate a lot of carbohydrates, which was one factor in the aetiology of his condition.
Our Medical Practice
During my time in Padgate Medical Centre, many of our patients tried to stay healthy by following a low fat diet or by using the idea of eating less, moving more or by trying to eat a balanced diet. I'm sorry to say it didn't work.
The diabetic population in our practice in Warrington rose from 1% to 4.9% over 20 years and the weight of our practice population also rose significantly in line with the rest of the country.
For this reason, a doctor colleague and I looked into more effective approaches and found out that a diverse range of respected doctors and dietitians round the world have been giving low carbohydrate dietary advice (it's actually as old as the hills) and publishing it on books and websites, often for free.
Learning from my Patients
When I first learned about very low carbohydrate diets, I was skeptical, but I have seen it work wonders with many people over the last year. Online I was especially impressed with the progress made by Jeff Cyr, a man who discovered low-carbohydrate eating for himself. His story is inspiring. Jeff has now developed his own web-site called Keto Island, here.
Feedback from patients and staff who are following his lifestyle and those of the other like-minded specialists is very good. They love the real food and it makes them feel well. It is the first way of eating where I have seen whole families lose weight, and the first one where multiple health problems improve. These common health problems include as IBS and asthma, diabetes, arthritis and allergies.
Children who are sick, or who are obese, lack sparkle. It's the same lack of sparkle you see when people have a head injury. I've seen children lose weight, and watched their sparkle return. Sadly, too many children rely on the meals served at school. Those meals lack the food density that growing children need. Because of that, even children who are not obese lose their sparkle on a poor diet.
"Protecting Children From Harm"
Our children are not safe. The general statistics are awful: 7% physically abused, 5% sexually abused, 20% witness domestic abuse, 10% are neglected in other ways.
Poor dental health is a key issue, caused by poor diet. Teeth brushing is not the problem. 35% of five year old's have tooth decay. 58% of 12 year old's have tooth decay. Tooth decay is linked with general health; for instance those with poor teeth have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
"Protecting Children From Nutritional Harm"
22% of UK children are overweight. We now see obese children who are four and five years old. 35% of teenage children are already dying of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
People don't understand what real food is. They don't know what foods contain sugar, and they don't understand that all carbohydrates quickly become glucose in the body. So a patient says: "Don't I don't eat any sugar at all!" So we list the foods for a day, an almost all of them contain sugar, and most of them are carbohydrates that convert to glucose.
Why do we eat this food? Partly because it's convenient. It's in a packet, it's easy to store, it tastes good, it's quick to serve, and it's always low cost, compared with better quality foods. If I want a quick fix for my "hunger" a biscuit is a easy way to get satisfaction. When we eat like that we become obese.
Why do we give people food as a reward? Why do we serve "kiddy food" to children? Why is a children's party the source of so many sweet and sugary foods?
What do you keep in the fridge? Have you got real foods there, because real foods might spoil. Or do you have fake foods like low-fat milk, or margarine, or potato chips, low fat ice cream, and soft drinks. Too many of us don't understand what we are doing.
Changing the Business Meeting
For instance my role in our medical practice is the management of child safety in our area. So I'm not personally treating children, I'm attending business meetings and training sessions, and public meetings. At all these functions they serve "food." Usually there's very little offered that I will eat. My practise now is to demand real food. Service staff look at me blankly wondering what I'm saying. "They say it's nothing to do with me." When I speak to the catering managers, they can usually find some real food for me. My point is: real food should always be served, and we should protest when that doesn't happen.