The Ear of Grain

False Prophets of Nutrition and Quick Fixes for Obesity

Complexity makes the brain hurt. Both nutrition and obesity present challenges that resist simple answers. There is no one healthful way to eat, though many false prophets of nutrition will preach that they have the one true way. Quick fixes for obesity are rare, though many people are eager to tell us that they know the answer. So it is that we have people insisting that answers are be simple and absolute. To make matters worse, they are stirring in the coronavirus pandemic to amplify the urgency of their appeals.

Don’t Question the Zealots

Nutrition is a magnet for zealotry. Apparently the pandemic serves to amplify this impulse. All doubt was erased when we questioned the claim by Nina Teicholz recently about “a low-carb strategy for fighting the pandemic.”

Suggesting that her claims were overblown brought out a wrathful hoard of true believers in the magic of low-carb diets. They posted crude insults and trotted out tiresome suggestions that questioning low-carb dogma is tantamount to promoting smoking. “Millions of lives will be saved” if we simply accept the truth of low-carb diets.

We totally respect people who have found that a low-carb diet works well for them. That is great. But it does not mean it will work for all.

Of course, the low-carb believers are not alone in their zeal. People with extreme views about Health at Every Size® are working hard to promote the view that obesity is not a health problem and it has nothing to do with health outcomes in coronavirus infections. Also, vegan diets are having a moment, in part because of COVID-19 outbreaks at meat processing plants. Don’t try to follow the logic, because logic has nothing to do with this. It’s all about beliefs.

Quick Fixes in Obesity?

Today, The Telegraph asks if NHS-funded bariatric surgery is a “quick fix” for coronavirus. Such an absurd proposition no doubt appeals to folks who object to bariatric surgery. Of course, bariatric surgery is indeed one of the most effective options for treating obesity with some of the best long-term outcomes.

But anyone who knows anything about bariatric and metabolic surgery knows it’s not a quick fix. Having surgery is a big decision that can yield big benefits.

The article itself is rather thoughtful, perhaps prompted by the BOMSS appeal to Prime Minister Boris Johnson for better access to bariatric and metabolic surgery in the NHS. They are right, of course. As we live through a pandemic that exploits the vulnerability of people living with obesity, perhaps we will wake up and start offering better care.

We face complex problems in obesity, nutrition, and health. COVID-19 is making them seem more urgent. But the false prophets offering up quick fixes and simplistic answers should stand down. We don’t want their dogma. We want good information to inform good decisions.

For solid information on COVID-19, obesity, and nutrition, click here, here, here, here, and here.

The Ear of Grain, painting by Joan Miró / WikiArt

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


June 1, 2020

2 Responses to “False Prophets of Nutrition and Quick Fixes for Obesity”

  1. June 01, 2020 at 10:15 am, Allen Browne said:


    Thank you and hang in there. There are many standing with you and each in their way championing honesty, thoughtfulness, open mindedness, and creativity.

    In so many ways we all have so much to do – and we will.

    Go for a walk and stay safe.


  2. June 01, 2020 at 5:03 pm, Stephen Phillips said:

    Diet hucksters and ignorance have been around for a long time.