Dr. Zoë Harcombe, PhD
Books by Dr. Zoë Harcombe, PhD
Video Presentations of Dr. Zoë Harcombe, PhD
"Should We Be Vegan?" - Dr. Zoë Harcombe
Zoë Harcombe was the first pupil from her school to graduate from Cambridge University. While studying maths and economics at this historic institution, Zoë set out to answer the million dollar question - "Why do you overeat? When all you want is to be slim?" This became the title of Zoë's first book - published in 2004.
"Stop Counting Calories & Start Losing Weight" followed in 2008, with an accompanying recipe book and "The Obesity Epidemic: What caused it? How can we stop it?" which was published in October 2010. "The Harcombe Diet for Men" (2011) gave men the super quick read they were after and then two more books were published in 2013 - a collaboration with Hodder & Stoughton: "The 3-Step Plan" and a completely revised "Why do you overeat?"
Zoë has a PhD in public health nutrition. She struggles to find anything that is being taught in 'conventional' nutritional worlds that is true or evidence based. Hence why she spent 2008-10 writing The Obesity Epidemic - 135,000 words blowing apart: the misapplication of thermodynamics to dieting; the notion that 1lb = 3,500 calories, let alone that a deficit of 3,500 calories will lead to a weight loss of 1lb; the Seven Countries Study and the subsequent change in our diet advice, which has caused the obesity epidemic; the role of exercise in obesity and much more.
"What About Fiber?" - Dr. Zoë Harcombe
"HPCSA vs. Professor Noakes: A Bird's Eye View" - Dr. Zoë Harcombe
"Kettles, Calories & Energy Balance: What Went Wrong?" - Dr. Zoë Harcombe (PHC Conference 2018)
Filmed at the Public Health Collaboration Conference 2018 at the Royal College of General Practitioners in London.
"The Mess: The Money vs. the Evidence" - Dr. Zoë Harcombe
Zoë Harcombe, Ph.D., is an independent author, researcher, and speaker in the fields of diet, health, and nutrition. Over the years, research for her books and speaking engagements has made her an expert in the corruption and error plaguing the health sciences — a dire situation that she, like CrossFit Founder Greg Glassman, refers to as “The Mess.”
Harcombe defines “The Mess” as “the escalating disease (and) the escalating medical costs, which many people are profiting from but none are combatting effectively.” During a presentation delivered on July 31 at the 2019 CrossFit Health Conference, Harcombe outlined many factors that contribute to this growing problem — specifically, the role of dietitians and the food and beverage industry in influencing how and what we eat, accreditation that regulates who can offer dietary advice, and the disparity between what we are told to eat and what the evidence suggests we should eat.
Early in her talk, Harcombe shares her research on the dubious back-door maneuvers multibillion-dollar food companies use to promote their products, including paying for studies that tout their products’ health benefits and adding public health advisors to the payroll. She observes that the only thing that would make their marketing efforts easier would be if these paid advisors had a monopoly on doling out dietary advice — which is precisely what they have sought to do in many states in the U.S. by joining forces with the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) and the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).
Harcombe shares the story of Steve Cooksey to offer one telling example of how these organizations and others like them try to maintain a monopoly over nutrition advice. Cooksey was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, but rather than following the medical advice he received to eat a low-fat, high-carb diet, he ate the opposite way and lost 70 lb. He started a blog, sharing his story and offering free advice to others, and was promptly rebuked by the North Carolina Board of Dietetics and Nutrition, which claimed he was “practicing without a license.” CrossFit and the Institute of Justice helped Cooksey with his case, developing a defense based upon the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of speech. Cooksey won.
Nevertheless, industry-backed organizations continue to pursue sole rights to offering nutrition advice — advice that proves convenient for the companies that support the organizations financially. To demonstrate how problematic this system is, Harcombe compares the AND’s food recommendations to scientific research on nutrition.
Apart from the AND’s tendency to confuse macronutrients with food groups, Harcombe also points to its support of the overconsumption of carbohydrates. Citing a 2005 government panel on macronutrients, Harcombe notes, “The lower limit of dietary carbohydrate compatible with life apparently is zero, provided that adequate amounts of protein and fat are consumed.” “There is no essential carbohydrate,” she explains. “There are essential proteins, and there are essential fats.”
Harcombe discusses how to evaluate the credibility of a scientific paper then brings this to bear on the nutrition recommendations promoted by the Evidence for Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) and the AND. She finds their evidence entirely inadequate.
Nutrition advice provided by the AND, DGA, and CDR “is not evidence-informed, let alone evidence-based,” she argues. These credentialing organizations “need to be countered with an equal and opposite force.”
"The Game Changers: Good Story, Unconvincing Argument" - Dr. Zoë Harcombe
Zoë Harcombe, Ph.D., concedes The Game Changers tells “a good story,” but that’s as far as the 2019 documentary’s accolades should go, she suggests. In this presentation from Dec. 15, 2019, Harcombe offers an incisive and often humorous critique of the arguments the film makes in favor of a plant-based diet.
The Game Changers bases its support of plant-based eating on three common arguments, Harcombe explains:
1. It’s healthier than non-vegan diets.
2. It’s better for the animals.
3. It’s better for the planet.
Since the majority of the film is devoted to the nutrition argument, Harcombe focuses her attention there as well.
After noting that, despite the movie’s claims, there is a dearth of scientific evidence for going plant-based, Harcombe turns with wry humor to the film’s burrito experiments. The science in these and the movie’s other experiments is deeply flawed, she claims.
One experiment, which follows the Tennessee Titans as they turn to vegan eating, “is a great example that the standard American diet is rubbish,” Harcombe says. She argues any apparent benefits experienced by the athletes were probably attributable to their trading of junk food for whole foods. “Now the whole food just happens to be plant-based,” she notes, but “how good could they have been if their whole food diet had been animal-based?” she asks.
Finally, Harcombe argues the film tries to gloss over the nutritional deficiencies in a vegan diet by suggesting everyone should take supplements, not only those who have gone plant-based. But those who follow a healthy diet of whole foods that include animal products do not need supplements, she claims: “A healthy diet provides the nutrients that we need. A healthy diet does not require supplements. A vegan diet requires supplements. De facto, a vegan diet is not healthy.”