Australian of the Year ophthalmologist blasts flawed Dietary Guidelines

James Nason, 08/02/2021

WHEN your mission in life is to protect and save people’s sight, it is impossible to find the words to describe how it feels to have to remove a patient’s eye, especially when they have been needlessly blinded by a preventable man-made dietary disease such as Type 2 Diabetes.

Opthamologist Dr James Muecke addressing the National Press Club in Australia in December 2020. Image: ABC television.

This is how 2020 Australian of the Year and eye surgeon Dr James Muecke introduced a presentation to the National Press Club in Canberra late last year, in which he set his own sights on what he describes as Australia’s flawed, biased and unscientific Australian Dietary Guidelines.

Dr Muecke says 40 years of misguided ‘healthy eating’ advice have led to a dietary disaster in Australia and an explosion in rates of chronic disease including diabetes, now leading the cause of blindness in this country.

Type 2 diabetes is a preventable disease. So why would anyone knowingly put themselves at risk of such a devastating illness, he asked?

Because, in his view, most people are not aware that the diet they have been consuming for the past 40 years may be causing them harm – a diet that they have been told to consume, a diet shaped by Australia’s official Dietary Guidelines (ADGs)

The ADGs tell Australians to eat less saturated fat, “yet there is no evidence to suggest the natural saturated fat in our diet is linked to cardiovascular disease”, he said.

“Indeed, such fats are critical to our health, to our survival.”

Such fats are critical to our health, to our survival

Discouraging consumption of foods containing natural saturated fats has led to the production of thousands of low fat products, many of which are highly processed and loaded with sugar and refined carbohydrates to enhance the flavour lost by removing fat.

While the guidelines state the link between dietary saturated fat and cardiovascular disease is “well established”, Dr Muecke contends there is “no evidence whatsoever” to link whole fat dairy, unprocessed red meat and eggs with heart attack, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes.

“Foods that have been demonised by our guidelines since their inception,” he said.

“This lack of evidence was well known in 2009 when the last review commenced, (but) this critical piece of evidence was seemingly ignored.

“Instead of promoting healthy saturated fats the guidelines encouraged the eating of unhealthy polyunsaturated oils, and this in turn has led to the boom in the production and consumption of margarines and seed oils, industrially produced fats which have been linked to cardiovascular disease,” he said.

In a 30 minute address to the National Press Club, Dr Muecke said the ADGs were flawed, biased at critical multiple levels, conflicted by industry funding, and borne out of weak and unreliable epidemiological data that was “certainly not as robust as we have been led to believe”.

ADGs ‘very powerful’

The 226-page document sits quietly and unceremoniously on the Federal Department of Health website but is “very powerful”.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines can be viewed at the Federal Department of Health website at this link

It determines what is eaten in our schools, hospitals, prisons, defence forces, in childcare and aged care facilities, and helps inform our army of health care professionals, health educators, Government policy makers and the food industry.

In effect the ADGs have “been shaping what Australians should eat for the past four decades”.

“The ADGs state that they’re intended for the average healthy person,” Dr Muecke said.

“However when over two thirds of Aussie adults and one third of Aussie kids are overweight and obese, the average Aussie is anything but healthy.”

Explaining why he believes the ADGs are compromised, Dr Muecke said the review of the literature underpinning the guidelines at their last iteration in 2013 was tendered by the NHMRC to the Dietary Association of Australia, which he said was heavily conflicted by funding from the “ultra-processed foods industry” at the time it was awarded the tender.

Critical research questions that guided the literature review were biased and appeared to have been written by the DAA to manipulate an intended outcome, he said.

The effect of this was to “sway the literature search away from the health benefits of red meat and towards the health benefits of grain based foods”.

Supermarket shelves and checkouts were now loaded with “diabolical foods” packed with nutrient deficient, energy dense calories. Ultra-processed foods now constituted half our current diet, Dr Muecke said.

“For the first time in our history we are overfed but undernourished.”

Type 2 diabetes is reversible with diet

Furthermore, Dr Muecke added that Type 2 diabetes was not only a preventable disease, but a reversible disease.

He said there were three proven methods for putting type 2 diabetes into remission, including with a low carbohydrate diet, yet there is no mention of the potential for remission on the website of Diabetes Australia, the peak body for patients with diabetes in Australia.

This was despite there now being over 100 controlled clinical trials to support the fact that a very low calorie diet or low carbohydrate diet works to either prevent Type 2 diabetes or to put it into remission.

“Why is remission not an objective of our national approach to this disease?,” he asked.

“Should this critical information not be shouted from the roof tops?”

Should this critical information not be shouted from the rood tops?

He said the current medical model also favoured giving “deadly drugs” to patients with Type 2 diabetes.

“Among the list of corporate partners of Diabetes Australia, the majority are pharmaceutical companies who have a vested interest in keeping people medicated with Type 2 diabetes, who perhaps don’t like the idea of dietary solutions that aren’t making them profits.”

Dr Muecke said he has met with the keeper of the ADGs, the Federal Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to discuss his concerns, but the organisation disagreed with his view that the guidelines held any bias. He said also brought his concerns to the attention of Health Minister Greg Hunt but despite initial interest no follow up action has eventuated.

Best advice: eat a balanced diet

Asked by a journalist at the National Press Club lunch for his advice to families on what they should be eating, Dr Muecke advised a balanced diet of animal and plant based foods.

“As humans we evolved to eat meat, we evolved as omnivores, and so I think a diet that comes from varied sources gives us the most nutrient rich diet we can enjoy.

“To have this balance of plant based foods and animal based foods is critical to our health and survival and ultimately to our enjoyment as well.”

ADGs currently under review, new version due 2024

The first iteration of the ADGs was published in 1982. The guidelines are updated every 10 years.

The current version, which is the fourth update, was published in 2013.

In November last year the NHMRC announced it was embarking on the latest review process and sought expressions for an expert committee to review and update the Guidelines, with the fifth iteration currently scheduled for release by early 2024.

The NHMRC said the Australian Dietary Guidelines use the best available scientific evidence to provide information on the types and amounts of foods, food groups and dietary patterns that aim to promote health and wellbeing, reduce the risk of diet-related conditions and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

ADGs: More information on the ADG review process is available on the NHMRC website.

Full address: To view Dr Muecke’s full address to the National Press Club in Canberra visit the ABC iview website here

Related article: Australian Dietary Guidelines: what they say about red meat



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  1. Marlene, 26/04/2022

    My younger sister is in a nursing home and has a level of dementia. She is also diabetic and has a toe removed.
    She loves the food – 5 meals a day (including morning and afternoon tea and supper).
    After reading some of your articles I checked the weekly menu – carbs dominated. I realise this is but one issue with aged care and nursing homes. I’m told they can’t improve the quality of the food as they only get $8 per day funding for meals.
    What is the answer?

  2. john rowe, 11/05/2021

    so frustrating to know my endocrinologist prescribes Deadly Drugs (and I take them ) instead of reinforcing the comments and advice you offer here. It would be really valuable for all Type 2 sufferers if you could name those drugs .
    But I suspect you would be shouted down by the vested interests.

  3. Ray Cooper, 13/02/2021

    When I was first diagnosed type 2. My dietician told me I had to consume a certain amount of carbs per day. I could not get my head around the concept of eating foods that were slowly killing me so I went low carb. My diet is high in fat and my condition is so well managed I am only required to get 6 monthly bloods. All levels are in the healthy range. My only disappointment is that I still need medication to keep blood sugar low.

  4. Grant Bilyard, 12/02/2021

    We have to do our own research I’m afraid. Politicians and democracy follow the public. They do not provide leadership. They will only do something if they can see that it gets them a vote.
    I agree with Dr Muecke, his style of diet made me healthier 8 years ago.

  5. Gavin Wall, 12/02/2021

    In support of Dr Muecke’s position on dietary guidlines I strongly suggest reading Nina Teicholz book, “The Big Fat Surprise”. Nina spent about 9 years researching this book, she presents the facts about fat and debunks the myths about the low fat diet.

  6. Rick Britton, 11/02/2021

    7 Days without Beef makes one weak 😎🇦🇺

  7. Jacqueline Curley, 11/02/2021

    So, the science says DIABETES and Blindness caused by diabetes can be controlled and possibly reversed by a low carb diet which includes eating saturated animal fats. There is now no scientific link between saturated animal fats and heart disease. The thirty year government eating dietary guidelines are promoting the complete opposite although the scientific information has been there since 2009. The bureaucracy peddling this information needs to be rooted out and this critical information shouted from the rooftops.

  8. Mary Drake, 11/02/2021

    I don’t think it’s necessary to eat beef. Plenty of our ancestors didn’t and didn’t develop Type II Diabetes. But eating a wide variety of non processed foods IS critical. And so is telling consumers they can reverse poor health and avoid horrendous outcomes simply by changing their diet.

  9. Peter Dunn, 09/02/2021

    Well said Dr Muecke. If only some of the editors in our mainstream media would investigate and report this type of material instead of continually inventing political controversy which they then misleadingly call ‘news’.

  10. Paul+D.+Butler, 08/02/2021

    Eat Beef – Stay Healthy – don’t let flawed government guidelines influence your good nutrition.

  11. Greg Brown, 08/02/2021

    A great presentation articulating what some of us have been quite firmly told for some time . The inertia in getting this message into main stream is obviously not improving the health of generations people

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