Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic: Day and Night Different on Diet:  Which to Believe?

November 29, 2018
Category: Really Eat Right

The Mayo Clinic was once the most trusted name in American medicine. Today trusting them about diet could shorten your life by decades. State-based Action Alerts!

First, consider the Mayo Clinic’s version of the food pyramid. Fats are near the top of the pyramid, just below sweets. This is a low, indeed an anti-fat diet.

Next consider the Mayo Clinic’s overview of recent diets. For example, when they evaluate the ketogenic diet—a diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates—they argue the diet has proven benefits only for those with uncontrolled epilepsy and that the high fat content, “especially the high level of unhealthy saturated fat” combined with limits on grains, makes the diet a “concern for long-term health.” Well, yes, a very low-carb diet is very effective for seizures, but a moderately low-carb diet is good for everyone.

This bad advice from the Mayo Clinic echoes  the government’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which similarly recommended that Americans avoid fat and in particular  consume less saturated fat. The guidelines did not advise lowering carbohydrate intake, only added sugars; they recommend that half of carbs should be whole grains.

Now contrast all this with advice coming from the now equally famous Cleveland Clinic’s Functional Medicine unit, headed by Dr. Mark Hyman. Dr. Hyman points out that a diet high in sugary, starchy carbs raises insulin, spikes glucose, converts the excess carbs to fat, and leads to  obesity, type 2 diabetes, and many other chronic health conditions. At a time when 70% of Americans are overweight and half are prediabetic or have type 2 diabetes, there’s clearly a problem. What’s changed? According to Dr. Hyman, it’s the high load not just of sugar and corn syrup but also of starchy and especially refined carbs in our diet that is driving the obesity and diabetes epidemic—not the healthy fats that the government and professional organizations like the Mayo Clinic tell us to avoid. Even whole wheat bread, encouraged by the Mayo Clinic, can raise your blood sugar more than table sugar! The flour used to make it may also be rancid. So much for that health food.

The most up to date experts agree that a low carb diet is best. But what kind of low carb diet? The Cleveland Clinic points out that a high protein diet combined with carb restriction can lead to problems, including kidney failure, high cholesterol, cancer, and osteoporosis. So don’t just replace carbs with protein.

Also, be careful to avoid bad fats such as trans fats and high omega 6 vegetable oils. The latter can be pro-inflammatory and must be balanced by anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats such as fish oil.

The latest science makes clear that fat is not the enemy. Our bodies were engineered to run on it except in emergencies when carbs give us an extra energy boost.  Dr. Hyman discusses a European study that compared a low fat diet to a diet high in healthy fats—olive oil nuts, etc.— the study found that the high fat diet was associated with fewer heart attacks, less diabetes, and less obesity. He also reports that 17 meta analyses could find no link between heart disease, saturated fat, or total fat. This is just a small part of all the accumulating evidence in favor of a low carb, moderate protein, high healthy fat diet.  The Mayo Clinic’s food pyramid, with fat near the top where fewer calories should come from, has it completely backwards.

Ironically there is even a Mayo Clinic study supporting the opposite of their advice. Their study found that a diet high in saturated fat and low in starch did not have undesirable effects on cholesterol.

Dr. Hyman, along with other leading integrative doctors and our ANH Scientific Director,  Robert Verkerk, PhD, stress that food is the ultimate medicine, but most conventional doctors don’t understand this yet. The right food along with enough pure water, exercise, and sleep will greatly lengthen both your life and health span.

One of the reasons the once proud Mayo Clinic is doing so poorly here is that they seem to have turned over their diet advice to Registered Dieticians (RDs). Some RDs are honest and knowledgeable. But the RD’s national organization, AND, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, gets a substantial portion of its funding from junk food companies. The AND’s list of corporate sponsors lists giants like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Unilever, ConAgra, Kellogg, and Campbell Soup. The AND infamously partnered with Kraft Foods, the maker of single slice “cheese products,” for its “Kids Eat Right” campaign. Can we really expect RDs to give science-based advice when they’re on the take from junk food companies? When will the Mayo Clinic finally figure out that food is medicine and that it cannot be delegated to RDs?

The leading alternative to RDs includes nutrition experts such as those at the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists (BCNS). Whereas most RDs lack any graduate school training, BCNS requires a master’s degree and many of its nutrition advisors hold PhDs. BCNS also takes no money from the junk food industry.

It’s unfortunate that, in the face of strong evidence, the Mayo Clinic and others are continuing to confuse people about nutrition. Even more galling is the fact that the AND is attempting to keep other, often more qualified professionals from offering nutrition advice, as we’ve written about previously.

Action Alert! New York and New Jersey residents, oppose a bill that would exclude qualified nutrition professionals from practicing in your state. Please send your message immediately.

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2 responses to “Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic: Day and Night Different on Diet:  Which to Believe?”

  1. BChristine says:

    Interesting article. I am not surprised that mainstream Mayo clinic is following the governments “Food Pyramid”. The majority of well-known clinics – hospitals – conventional Drs. do.
    Also interesting was the difference between nutritionists – RD’s and BCNS. Lobbyists and front groups have NO BUSINESS interfering in the nutrition and overall health of people!
    Somewhat related … I just listened to a podcast last night with Dr. Roizen – chief wellness officer at Cleveland Clinic. Although I agreed with most of what he recommends for overall health and wellness; apparently he does not agree with Dr. Hyman on several points: namely coconut oil as a healthy fat source. I suppose there will always be contradictions between functional medicine Drs.; just as there are between conventional Drs.

    • cindiSue says:

      There definitely will because none of our nutrition studies are perfect (most are quite lousy in fact.) For instance, there seems to be some evidence that certain genotypes react differently to saturated fat. But that hasn’t be proven either way yet. And we are far from having controlled studies that directly compare, for example, coconut oil to grass fed beef to factory farmed beef, etc. that control for the fact that people who eat factory farmed antibiotic and hormone filled fast food hamburgers tend to be unhealthier in other ways as well, such as eating a sugary bun and plate of french fries fried in rancid fats. Most of our nutrition studies are pathetic, such as asking people once a year what they ate that year, and only showing correlation, not causation.

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