We have been misled about fats and our diet

The above article was one of the most read long articles published by the Guardian in 2016.

If you have ever been conscious of what you eat, or tried to lose weight or reduce the fats in your diet, or if you have a New Year’s resolution that involves diet, then this article is a must-read.

Notwithstanding that we have replaced steak and sausages with pasta and rice, butter with margarine and vegetable oils, eggs with muesli, and milk with low fat milk and fruit juice the western world is growing fatter and more unhealthy.

You will learn:

  1. In 1955, President Eisenhower suffered a heart attack. He insisted on making the details of his illness public. At that time research suggested that to cut down heart disease the American public needed to quit smoking and reduce fats in their diet.
  2. The call to reduce fats in our diet became an inviolable dogma that dominated nutritional studies for the next 50 years.
  3. The key proponent of the “fat hypothesis” was Ancel Keys, nutritionist at the University of Minnesota. Keys was articulate, charismatic but highly combative. He mowed down opposition to the fat hypothesis, showing little mercy to opponents or any appreciation or respect towards contradictory research.
  4. In 1957, John Yudkin of Cambridge floated the view that the chief contributor to weight gain and obesity was not so much fats but sugar and other carbohydrates. In 1972, Yudkin published Pure, White and Deadly.
  5. Prominent nutritionists combined with the food industry would not brook any challenge to the orthodoxy. They set about destroying Yudkin’s reputation and his career never recovered. His book disappeared from academic circles.
  6. In 1970, the famous Seven Countries Study was published that confirmed the fat hypothesis. Over six years, Keys and fellow researchers gathered data on diet and lifestyles from Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Finland, Netherlands, Japan and the US.
  7. In selecting the countries for the Study, Keys left out France and West Germany. Both countries with diets rich in saturated fats but low rates of heart disease.
  8. Subsequent analysis of the Study, using modern methods suggests that the data demonstrated a closer link between heart disease and sugar intake than saturated fat.
  9. In 1980, the US government established its first Dietary Guidelines. The Guidelines shaped the diets of millions of consumers. It became the basis of medical advice to patients with weight and obesity issues. Its principal recommendation was to reduce fats in our diets.
  10. Looking at the data since the post war era, it is clear something changed after 1980. Just 12% of Americans were obese in the 1950s, 15% in 1980, but in 2000, that figure rose to 35%! Similar statistics are found in Great Britain. Similar trends are found in the increase in diabetes and heart disease. Even if the data was adjusted to take into account improved and better data collection methods in 2000 compared to the 1950s, the trend is unmistakeable.
  11. How can more knowledge result in poorer health?
  12. In 1972, a Cornell trained cardiologist. Robert Atkins published his diet based on the premise that carbohydrates are more dangerous than fats. Atkins was decried by the nutrition establishment and his diet described as a fad.
  13. Endocrinologists have known for quite some time that blood sugar is regulated by insulin. Carbohydrates break down into glucose in the blood, prompting the production of insulin. When insulin levels rise, fat tissue gets a signal to suck out energy from the blood and store it as fat. So when insulin levels remain high over a protracted period we gain weight, stay hungry and develop fatigue.
  14. Otherwise cholesterol is regulated by the liver. The more cholesterol you ingest (ie saturated fats) the less. cholesterol that is produced by the liver. It is self regulating. The science suggests that sugar intake is likely robe a greater contributor to weight gain than saturated fats.
  15. Eisenhower cut saturated fats from his diet but died of heart disease in 1969.

Highly recommended reading. An insight into how the so called scientific community can act in an unscientific manner when the orthodoxy is challenged.