Dismissing the podium while in a simple hospital at CFB Trenton, Dr. Barbra Allen Bradshaw said he told a crowd of nurses, doctors and dietitians that "the Canadian Food Guide makes you sick."
Eating a high-carbohydrate and low-fat diet, as suggested by state food experts, is not a healthy heart or physical method, he said. "That's bad advice."
Allen Bradshaw, pathologist from Abbotsford, B.C., is part of a group of doctors from all over the country who have carried out crusades to change the way Canadians are told to eat.
For the past two years, he and his colleague Dr. Carol Loffelmann, an anesthetist in Toronto, has spent much of their free time traveling to the country, urging Canadian colleagues and residents to eat less carbohydrates than what the government recommends and enjoy fat from sources such as steak and cheese – even if it flies in the presence of conventional wisdom.
That's all they can do while waiting to see if Health Canada will heed the message from their grassroots campaign.
Since 2016, women, who founded the Canadian Clinic for Therapeutic Nutrition, a national non-profit, have lobbied the government, with papers, Ottawa meetings and parliamentary petitions signed by nearly 5,000 Canadians, to reconsider dietary suggestions they believe Health Canada Health Canada plans to deliver the next iteration of the Food Guide, which will come out in early 2019, according to a Health Canada spokesman.
Allen Bradshaw and Loffelmann, who work at St. Hospital Michael, said some new recommendations might not be based on the latest scientific evidence that are relevant and could continue to make Canadians overweight, depend on drugs and suffer from diabetes, fatty liver disease and metabolic syndrome.
In an email to Star, Health Canada said that when this new suggestion was completed, he also renewed the evidence base with the latest nutrition science and it will also be released to the public in early 2019.
"The Food Guide has benefited from input from many stakeholders," the email said. "We consider all feedback."
While drinking coffee recently in downtown Toronto, the women, who met online, said the upcoming recommendations, which are based in part on a review of evidence released by Health Canada in 2015, would likely tell Canadians to limit additional sugar and encourage them to eat whole, not processed foods. That is a good thing, they said.
However, they say, Health Canada continues to hold strong evidence that is outdated and incomplete. For example, they say some studies show that diets are low in saturated fat, from sources such as beef and butter, associated with heart disease.
But the science jury is still considering the full impact of saturated fat on health and therefore, women say, in those cases and others, the Food Guide must remain "silent." Or, do a strict independent review of the research. .
Women's crusades began several years ago with their own calm struggle to lose weight.
After giving birth to her second child, Loffelmann obediently followed the dietary advice, informed by the Food Guide, which she learned in medical school. He ate whole grains, replaced whole wheat with white pasta, and leaned on butter. Heeding the advice of deeper guides to move more and eat less, he did high intensity exercise. But over time, his waist circumference enlarged.
On the other side of the country, Allen Bradshaw, who is on the same diet, struggles to lose weight and overcome gestational diabetes during his third pregnancy.
Independently, the two women began to look for answers that went deep into the scientific literature. What they found was that most of the Food Guide suggestions were not supported by the latest science.
So they started experimenting. Consuming opponents from state-approved advice nationally by enjoying fat-filled yogurt and throwing away bowls of rice and pasta, they both lose weight. And stop feeling hungry all the time.
The two took to the internet, sharing their success with a small group of maternal doctors throughout the country, who, to their surprise, were willing to accept. Small groups grow when women share their results. Over time, they heard from doctors in Canada who began prescribing the same type of anti-food guide diet to their patients.
"Suddenly, doctors see their patients get out of treatment, lose weight and mark their disease decreases and their disease disappears," said Allen Bradshaw.
That is a turning point for women.
Armed with a letter signed by 190 doctors, they sent it to Health Canada in 2016, saying that in more than 35 years since the government entered the country's kitchen, the population had become fat and sick.
Their letter urged bureaucrats, who at that time relied on evidence available in 2014, to consider the latest available studies. The letter added: "Stop using any language that shows that sustainable weight control can only be managed by creating a calorie deficit."
The answer is a form letter. The women answered with a more detailed version of their initial correspondence, this time citing the current relevant study and signed by 700 medical professionals including doctors, nurses and pharmacists. They received a deeper response from federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor.
It said the ministry relied on "high-quality reports with systematic reviews of the relationship between food and health" from federal agencies in the US and around the world. And it continues to monitor for more evidence.
After going back and forth, doctors were invited to Ottawa for a meeting with Health Canada.
It was a warm morning in May this year when the women, along with three other people, including Dr. Andrew Samis, a critical care doctor and stroke from Kingston, Ontario, stands outside the parliament building that houses Health Canada headquarters. They took a deep breath. Within minutes, they were excited about the meeting room.
For more than two hours, they explained their position, including, said Samis, that the science of saturated fat remained incomplete and the government had to reconsider the evidence used and how to evaluate what evidence would be used for its recommendations.
He also told bureaucrats, including Hasan Hutchinson, director general at Health Canada's Office of Policy and Nutrition Promotion, that Canadians, who are multicultural places, should be given several dietary choices, rather than one size for all. For various levels, he said, research supports five legitimate diets, including vegetable, low-fat, Mediterranean, ancestral paleo – fruits, vegetables and lots of protein – and keto, meaning low carbohydrate, high fat. Samis said, "We feel they really listen."
But shortly after the meeting, Samis heard Hutchinson on the radio enter tired old advice. "It's disappointing," he said.
The group's last attempt to persuade legislators was a parliamentary petition signed by 5,000 Canadians and submitted on September 26 in the House of Commons urging lawmakers to conduct an external review of the evidence before issuing potentially new suggestions endanger the community.
With that, the doctors were left waiting. And spread their message on webinars and big and small talks throughout the country.
At CFB Trenton, Allen Bradshaw, who spent 14 years in the Canadian army as a medical staff, drank in the atmosphere and enjoyed the nostalgia of his time in reserve, where he helped army doctors in caring for wounded soldiers. The crowd, he said, ate his anti-dietary advice, especially the decree that people should stop blaming patients who follow the Food Guide and fail to lose weight, he said. "It's not their fault."
Michele Henry is an investigative reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @michelehenry