“The Obesity Epidemic is an absolutely brilliant masterpiece in the art of demolition of myth and wishful thinking-based dietary dogma. I have never seen a better dissection of the unmitigated disaster that is called ‘healthy eating’. It should be required reading not only in schools and universities that purport to teach nutrition and dietetics, but also in law libraries for the convenience of those victims of the system who will wish to sue the authorities who have caused them so much ill-health and misery by promoting such unhealthy practices because of their ignorance and arrogance.”
Barry Groves: Author of Trick and Treat: How ‘healthy eating’ is making us ill.
“Zoë Harcombe is that rare thing, someone who is knowledgeable, yet approachable, intelligent yet understanding, utterly committed to her cause, and yet endlessly compassionate. In The Obesity Epidemic she blows the lid off much of our current thinking abut food, and uses her knowledge and commitment to pack a mighty punch in her analysis of standard food beliefs. For those of us bombarded by the weight loss message of ‘eat less – do more’ this book is an opportunity to espouse a different mantra: read more – learn more. Then do it all differently.”
Julie Hurst, Director of the Work Life Balance Centre
“This is not an easy read but its message is simple and terrifying – that everything we think we know about eating right and how to control our weight is, in fact, wrong. Clearly, patiently and with detailed references to support her every argument, Zoë Harcombe explains how today’s obesity epidemic has come about – and the colossal shift in our thinking that will have to take place before we can beat it.”
Alice Hart-Davis, award-winning beauty and health writer
“The truth and nothing but the truth! Zoë is a voice of well-researched reason amongst the sea of nonsense that is regularly spouted about why so many people are overweight or obese. It’s obvious that current tactics are not working and that dramatic changes need to be made. This book should be mandatory reading for all health professionals and for anyone who needs to lose weight!”
Julia Smurthwaite, Freelance Health Writer, BA Hons (Health Promotion and Health Studies)
“How scientifically grounded are the maxims we have been taught in the last twenty years about what we should and should not eat? Are fats bad, and breakfast cereals good? Is obesity a matter of balancing calorie in for calorie out, or is something else much more important? Are the food pyramids we are teaching in schools nutritionally sound, or dooming our children to obesity?
“In her new and controversial book, Zoë Harcombe moves her Holmesian lens from her previous groundbreaking studies on dieting, to an examination of the underlying causes of the current obesity epidemic. Clue by clue, and drawing on a breath-taking range of scientific disciplines including biochemistry, physiology, archaeology, statistics, nutrition and physics, she carefully deconstructs the misleading “expert” opinions that have guided our eating habits since late seventies and early eighties. This rigorous analysis is leavened with a fresh and accessible prose style, a crusading passion for her subject, and combined with personal insights: the suffering of a diabetic brother, and her own frankly shared childhood experiences with eating disorders.
“The book describes her odyssey to track down and confront researchers, agency officials, food company representatives, (and even the first lady of the USA), in an effort to investigate the scientific basis behind those opinions and the programs formulated around them. That basis is found to be woefully lacking in almost all cases, and compromised by clear conflicts of interest in others. (The bumbling and inadequate responses of various officials to her letters of inquiry was one of the shocks of the book.) By the time she is done it is clear: citizens, patients, and consumers, have been systematically misled by governments, medical researchers, and corporations. The vast majority of nutritional advice offered to us is not substantiated or sound, and far from being the cure for the current obesity epidemic, it is actually the major cause.
“In response to this Zoë Harcombe provides a blueprint for a sweeping and revolutionary set of societal proposals for how to tackle this epidemic, some of which are bound to stimulate a considerable amount of reaction, debate, and defensiveness. But isn’t it time to try something different? At current projections 90% of children will be obese by 2050. At a societal level she calls for changes in legislation, the banning or heavy taxation of certain foodstuffs, changes in education, and restructuring the governance of food related agencies. At a personal level it is a clarion call for a renaissance in eating habits; we have lost much “ancient” wisdom in only two generations. The very health of our society depends on us relearning it, and transmitting it to our children. Real food and cod liver oil really are extremely good for you.”
Phil Read, M.A. (cantab), M.Sc.., author Games at Work
“Diets have got to be the least successful health campaign in history.
“In the last 30 years bookshelves have become stuffed with how-to guides while governments spend millions on taskforces and the media are filled with advice and warnings.
“In that time the percentage of people in the UK classified as obese has risen ten fold.
“While as a health promotion campaign it has been a disaster, as a money-making exercise it has been nothing short of genius.
“The food industry has found ever-more ingenious ways to make as cheaply as possible nutritionally-poor food and sell it as often and expensively as they can. They then flog the diet options to counter the effects. The media are able to gorge themselves on an endless supply of diet and health stories. Academics and interest groups have carved themselves corners in advising everyone on how to tackle the problem.
“Unfortunately, as Zoë Harcombe demonstrates in her clearly argued book, too many experts don’t actually have an idea of what the problem is while policy has been subverted by vested interests.
“Harcombe starts by wondering why it is that humans, whose bodies are so brilliantly evolved to regulate themselves, should suddenly be experiencing this weight crisis. It is questionable whether we’re not exercising enough when you consider how many people you know who run or play sport. It seems odd when the average daily calorie intake is lower now than a generation ago.
“In a series of rigorously sourced chapters Harcombe pulls apart many of the key tenets in the diet and nutrition industry. The science behind them is found to be contradictory and often based on repeated mantras with little idea about where they originated.
“A good example is the formula that one pound of fat contains 3,500 calories, so to lose 1lb a week you need a deficit of 500 calories. This is the diet shibboleth yet the Department of Health, one of its adherents, told Harcombe that it didn’t know the rationale behind it. The British Dietetic Association refused to tell her if it had any evidence for it.
“Harcombe painstakingly dissects obvious statements such as people are fat because they eat too much and exercise too little and demonstrates they are based on a mixture of prejudice, myth and bad science.
“Her thesis is that dietary advice changed in the late 19070s and early 1980s towards promoting starchy foods. At the same time there was an explosion in processed foods containing sugars, trans fats and other nutritionally weak but fattening ingredients.
“The final fatal element was that government action has been compromised because the food industry has far deeper pockets and helps fund both ‘independent’ groups such as the British Nutrition Foundation and the very departments supposedly regulating them.
“Harcombe calls for a diet based on real food and regulation based upon independence and science.
“There have been a number of books in recent years looking at the politics of food production and consumption. Harcombe’s is a welcome addition which adds new insight and evidence.”
Phil Chamberlain, freelance journalist
“Zoë Harcombe understands that the promotion of a natural diet which works with the body rather than against it, is essential but not sufficient to beat today’s obesity epidemic: it is also necessary to destroy the calorie and exercise theory which, backed by governments and the food industry, created the epidemic in the first place. The Obesity Epidemic does that, comprehensively and definitively.”
David Lewis, editor of Diaeta.
“Zoë Harcombe belongs to that growing band of writers who succeed in making science interesting as well as relevant. There is no doubt that the developed world is experiencing an obesity epidemic. This matters greatly as obesity leads to some of the major life threatening diseases of our time – coronary heart disease, cancer and diabetes being the most prominent. In this respect we should all be aware of the importance of evidence-based research in guiding our behaviour. This book gives a rigorous and critical analysis of that evidence to show how it has been misinterpreted and even ‘thought up’ by the food industry and others. Essentially we have been proffered advice and products based on unwarranted assumptions, both theoretical and empirical.
“Zoë uses pertinent data and insightful analysis along with humour to show that we have cast aside the most nutritious and natural foods to replace then with the less nutritious. Most importantly, she shows how our need for nutrition has been exploited by food manufacturers with official complaisance.
“The book’s message is to urge a return to the natural and normal: the consumption of real food as provided by nature and not the processed products of the food industry. It is a message that we would be wise to heed and act upon.
Dr Trefor Lewis, designer and author of ‘Intentional Neuroplasticity: the Brain Changing Programme’.
“Zoe Harcombe unravels one of the biggest paradoxes of today: why levels of obesity are rising despite the fact our supermarkets are producing more products designed to help people lose weight and boost their health. Harcombe overturns long held myths about weight gain – and shows how processed foods are at the heart of the problem. Unless the food industry takes responsibility for this the future health costs will become unsustainable; no matter how efficient our system.”
Lucy Johnston, Health Editor, Sunday Express
“Zoë Harcombe has taken a surgeon’s scalpel to the Alice In Wonderland World of obesity. For years we have been told that the answer to obesity is to eat less and exercise more. Advice that is based on no evidence whatsoever. This advice works on the strange assumption that the body is like some man-made machine. You eat more, and the body then stores it as excess weight. You exercise more, and this energy is lost, along with the weight.
“Whilst this is, partly true, it represents what I call concrete thinking, or maybe idiot thinking. The possibility that the body is capable of adapting, reacting, hoarding energy stores when starved, and shedding excess weight, is dismissed by people who honestly believe that they are using science to support their simplistic energy in = energy out argument. Zoë exposes this argument as the facile and ridiculous nonsense that it truly is. She also supports what she has to say with clear and inarguable evidence.
“By the end of this book I had been convinced, where I have never been before, that switching from a high fat to a high carbohydrate diet is the single greatest cause of the recent obesity epidemic. Ironically, carbs are the very foodstuffs that we have been instructed to eat by the new army of obesity ‘experts.’
“This book is not a simple, quick, easy read. However, if by the end of it, you have not changed the way you think about food and obesity – forever – you have clearly not understood what you have just read.”
Dr Malcolm Kendrick, Author of The Great Cholesterol Con