I heard about the BBC documentary, “Clean Eating—The Dirty Truth” the other day and finally sat down to watch it yesterday. Really good stuff, and part of it dovetails nicely with my article in yesterday’s Seattle Times, “Avoiding gluten? Odds are you shouldn’t.”
Promise vs. Proof
In the documentary, Dr. Giles Yeo, a neuroendocrinologist and researcher at Cambridge University, investigates “the messages that the new gurus of clean are selling us.” His aim is to set “clean against science, promise against proof.” He points out that #cleaneating has more than 26 million followers on Instagram, get most clean eating claims rely on anecdotes, not evidence, even though a diet that works for one person might not work for all.
Yeo starts by looking at the social media-savvy clean eating gurus, including Ella Woodward of Deliciously Ella. (Woodward admits at the end that the clean eating movement may have gone too far: “Clean now implies dirty, and we shouldn’t have that.”). He then moves on to the pseudoscientists who fuel the gurus’ ideas.
The Pseudoscience of Clean
Yeo interviews Bill Davis of Wheat Belly fame (and gets valuable counterpoint to Davis’ ideas from gastroenterologist and gluten researcher Alessio Fasano, MD, who I quoted in a 2015 article I wrote about the gut microbiota). He also interviews Robert Young, the “creator” of the alkaline diet, who now faces prison time for practicing medicine without a license. He also interviews T. Colin Campbell, author of the China Study, a book that Woodward cites is one of her big influences.
Is the idea of clean eating all bad? Of course not, when it means eating more vegetables and cooking from scratch, and even Yeo agrees with this. But, as Woodward pointed out, clean eating has for many people become something it was never meant to be. I personally like the take of dietitian and chef Michelle Dudash, who I interviewed recently for an article I wrote for Environmental Nutrition newsletter, “A no-nonsense guide to clean eating.” I also like Terry Walters, who I interviewed for this blog waaaay back in 2012. I’ve made some delicious meals from her books.
I highly recommend watching Dr. Yeo’s documentary. It just under an hour long, and well worth your time: