A Launceston doctor is challenging Australian dietary guidelines in a new campaign targeting modern eating habits. JODIE STEPHENS reports.
AFTER two years campaigning against fructose, Gary Fettke is convinced he has found the missing puzzle piece to explain rising rates of cancer, Alzheimer's, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
The Launceston orthopaedic surgeon this week started the next step of a grassroots campaign, taking to Youtube and Facebook to promote the "nutritional model of modern disease", which he said he had developed through research with doctors and academics around the world.
Within days, it received 40,000 hits online.
Dr Fettke said he believed Australians were getting sicker from obesity and related illnesses because of dietary changes introduced about 60 years ago.
He said his research had found the combined excessive consumption of fructose, refined carbohydrate and polyunsaturated oils were to blame.
Dr Fettke said the answer was a hunter gatherer-type diet, from a time when everyone ate local, when you couldn't get a banana in Tasmania, and when people ate butter instead of margarine.
He said that in nature, fructose - which is half of sugar - was normally abundant in fruit at certain times of the year.
"(Sugar's) by-product is uric acid, which keeps making you hungry, and you keep eating as much fruit and a bit of grain on the ground until you are absolutely stuffed and you get this obesity," Dr Fettke said.
"And with mother nature, if you're an animal, the food stops and you go into winter hibernation and start burning your fat off.
"The trouble is, in Australia, Coles never shuts, you can go down there and get your sugar ongoing. So you're constantly hungry."
Dr Fettke said that while he'd been advocating against excessive consumption of sugar and polyunsaturated oils for years, recent research had uncovered the final piece in the puzzle - carbohydrate.
He said carbohydrate produced more fructose than previously thought.
"If you accept that fructose is bad for our diet ... then we need to accept that the massive consumption we have of bread, rice, pasta and carbohydrate is, in fact, almost just as bad," he said.
Dr Fettke said fructose, polyunsaturated oils and carbohydrate together caused inflammation which was "at the heart of all disease", leaving the body susceptible to other damage.
"If you accept that fructose is bad for our diet ... then we need to accept that the massive consumption we have of bread, rice, pasta and carbohydrate is, in fact, almost just as bad,"
He said the answer was to eat local, natural food.
"It's all about coming back to eating real food, which isn't processed, and eating local, so eating what you get down at the pasture-fed animals and avoiding processed food," Dr Fettke said.
The Heart Foundation's national director of cardiovascular health, Robert Greenfell, said Dr Fettke's focus on fructose and polyunsaturated oils was"not generally held by the vast majority of experts in this field".
"We would agree fructose is a concern where it has been added in excess in a number of our foods, and in particular the problem is sugar drinks, but that is more of a problem in the United States than in Australia," Dr Greenfell said.
"Polyunsaturated oils ideas have actually been refuted by numerous world studies, and again, the advice to replace saturated oils with polyunsaturated oils is one that is held by all of the reputable organisations across the world including the World Health Organisation, but also the Australian dietary guidelines.
"The problem with telling people that they should go back to saturated fats, is it depends again what their basic health's like."
Dr Greenfell said the best advice THF could give was that people consume "a healthy, varied diet that maximises the nutrient value".
Dr Fettke said he was aware his campaign may attract criticism, but he thought the evidence was "pretty compelling".
To see more of Dr Fettke's campaign, visit http://www.nofructose.com/ ?p=2233. To view The Heart Foundation's resources on healthy eating, visit http://www.heartfoundation.org.au/.