The idea that a low-fat diet is the answer if you struggle with weight gain and/or have risk factors for heart disease is a persistent one. For the past 50 years, obesity and heart disease have steadily risen. The question is why? Are dietary fats really to blame? And if they are, which fats gave rise to these problems? It's unfortunate, but researchers have frequently failed to take into account the fact that not all fats are created equal. Some do harm, while others are vitally important for optimal health. Even more tragic, harmful and beneficial fats have been confused, leading to a situation where people are encouraged to eat the unhealthy ones and avoid the beneficial ones. In more recent years, a number of scientists have stepped forward to promote a healthier view of dietary fats. But trying to change public policy is a difficult task that often takes one or more decades.
Is saturated fat really the health hazard it’s been made out to be? Dr. Aseem Malhotra is an interventional cardiologist consultant in London, U.K., who gained quite a bit of publicity after the publication of his peer-reviewed editorial in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in 2013. In it, he seriously challenges the conventional view on saturated fats, and reviews how recent studies have failed to find any significant association between saturated fat and cardiovascular risk. In fact, Malhotra reports that two-thirds of people admitted to hospitals with acute myocardial infarction have completely normal cholesterol levels.
The number of people with type 2 diabetes equals 9.3 percent of the population of the U.S. or 29 million people. This is an increase from the 2010 estimate of 26 million people. Another 86 million people have pre-diabetes, where their blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. If those with pre-diabetes do not make changes to their diet and exercise habits, between 15 percent and 30 percent will develop diabetes within the next five years. These numbers are overwhelming when you consider the complications related to diabetes have an impact on the individual, the family and the workforce. Diabetes is a serious health condition with serious complications. Without consistent blood sugar control, excess glucose in your blood causes damage to your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, eyes, gums, teeth and neurological system. The advice to eat low-fat foods and dairy products originated as far back as the late 1950s and early 1960s. A single research study performed by an economist proposed that high-fat diets were the cause of most heart disease, stroke and high cholesterol levels. Before that study, and since, other well-designed and peer-reviewed studies have refuted that evidence.
In 2013 we reported on the research fraud regarding a scientific study that was used to support the theory that high levels of cholesterol and saturated fats were linked to an increase in heart disease. This study, the Sydney Diet Heart Study, was supposed to support the claim that dietary saturated fats led to high levels of heart disease, and that one needed to switch to polyunsaturated oils and also take cholesterol-lowering drugs to avoid these so-called dangerous levels of cholesterol. But researchers uncovered data that was not previously published which contradicted the conclusions of the study. The problem is that the science has never supported this theory, the lipid theory of heart disease. But it did create a multi-billion dollar industry for cholesterol-lowering drugs and polyunsaturated oils, the new expeller-pressed vegetable oils mainly from corn and soybeans, that only entered the food chain after World War II and the age of industrialization. The British Medical Journal published a report in 2016 showing more research fraud on another landmark study from the past that supposedly showed this link between dietary fats, cholesterol, and heart disease. This time, they examined the data from the Minnesota Coronary Experiment, carried out between 1968 and 1973. This study shows that upon re-examination of the data, including data that was previously unpublished, that not only does the data not support the lipid theory of heart disease, but it shows that taking interventions to lower one's cholesterol actually increased mortality rates.
What are the supporters of the government’s “US Dietary Guidelines for Americans” afraid of? Last week, investigative journalist and author Nina Teicholz was disinvited from participating in a panel discussion at the Consumer Federation of America’s National Food Policy Conference. Other panelists reportedly said that they would not participate with her, and got the organizers of the conference to rescind Teicholz’s invitation. Why did this happen? A few background details are necessary to explain why this episode typifies how Big Food works in sneaky ways to silence dissent from the established orthodoxy.
Saturated fats: Increase your LDL levels, but they increase the large fluffy particles that are not associated with an increased risk of heart disease, Increase your HDL levels. This more than compensates for any increase in LDL. Do NOT cause heart disease as made clear in all the above-referenced studies. Do not damage as easily as other fats because they do not have any double bonds that can be damaged through oxidation. Serve to fuel mitochondria and produce far less damaging free radicals than carbs.
For many decades, the idea that saturated fats caused heart disease reigned supreme, and diets shifted sharply away from saturated animal fats such as butter and lard, toward partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and margarine. However, as people abandoned saturated fats and replaced them with trans fats, rates of heart disease continued on a steady upward climb. And, the more aggressive the recommendations for low-fat diets, the worse this trend became. Last year, butter consumption in the US reached a 40-year peak, and the resurgence of butter has been attributed to a shift in consumer preferences away from processed foods and back toward natural foods. This is a positive trend, showing that the old myth claiming that saturated fat is bad for you is finally starting to crumble. People are also starting to recognize that refined sugar is far worse for your heart than dietary fat was, and processed low-fat foods are typically loaded with sugar. According to the film, the long held view that saturated fats and cholesterol caused heart disease came under closer scrutiny in the 1990s, when researchers like Kurt Ellison with the Boston University started taking notice of what became known as the French Paradox. The French eat a lot more fat than many other nations, yet they don't have higher rates of heart disease. For example, in the UK people on average eat 13.5 percent of their total calories as saturated fat, whereas the French eat 15.5 percent saturated fat, yet their rate of heart disease deaths is about one-third of that in the UK — just 22 heart disease deaths per 100,000 compared to 63 per 100,000 in the UK.
The researchers decided to use children who were obese and experiencing metabolic disorder (prediabetic). The study's purpose was to determine whether isocaloric (equal calorie) substitution of starch for sugar would improve metabolic parameters in 27 Latino and 16 African-American children with obesity and metabolic syndrome aged 8 through 18, with a mean age of 13. No attempt was made to change the essential dietary food habits of the children. Foods provided were purchased from nearby regular supermarkets. Their processed and junk food levels remained the same except for their sugar content. Sugar caloric intake was reduced from 28% to 10%. The missing calorie count from the decreased sugar was compensated by an equivalent amount of calories using starchy foods. The study diet contained comparable percentages of protein, fat, and carbohydrates as their reported normal diets. Chips and pizza were not excluded. They were not converted to a whole food organic diet. Foods loaded with added sugars such as high-sugar cereals, pastries and sweetened yogurt were excluded. Diastolic blood pressure, the bottom number indicating the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests, was reduced significantly, as were lactate, triglyceride, and LDL-cholesterol blood levels. Glucose tolerance and hyperinsulinemia (excess insulin) also improved significantly. These improved markers for metabolic disorder or prediabetes in such a short time with only one dietary change are very significant.
Our national government's attempts at issuing dietary guidelines are usually inappropriate and ludicrous. Unfortunately, those guidelines dictate what the average certified dietitian offers as sound dietary advice. If you've ever had to eat hospital food, you were the recipient of a dietitian's control over the hospital's kitchen. Today there are virtual food fights over different dietary approaches. It seems the advocates of each diet want to create a following and promote how their particular approach to eating assures longevity and good health. But there is no one size fits all diet. This isn't about therapeutic diets for overcoming specific diseases, especially cancer. Rather, this commentary is about assigned bureaucrats effort to decree a day to day dietary intake for maintaining one's health. A recent article decrying current national efforts at dictating dietary advice by journalist Nina Teicholz was recently published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal). Nina authored The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet. Her book received accolades from literally hundreds of Amazon reviewers and some New York based magazines. Those responses struck this author as a carnivores' chorus of affirmation with a prolonged amen.
Soybean oil is the most common oil used in the US, but this is a relatively new phenomenon. Prior to 1900, cooking was done with lard and butter, and the processed foods that are now primary sources of soybean oil (and other soy ingredients) were nonexistent. In the 1950s, saturated fats were condemned on the basis of them raising your cholesterol and causing heart disease – a theory that has since been proven wrong, but which is still lingering in medical offices and public nutrition regulations. Partially hydrogenated soybean oil was developed to replace saturated fats like butter and lard in the food supply. Not only did consumers embrace it, but food manufacturers did even more so because of its low cost, long shelf-life, and stability at room temperature. There was just one problem: partially hydrogenated oils are sources of trans fats, which are now known to cause chronic health problems such as obesity, asthma, auto-immune disease, cancer, and bone degeneration. Yet, even if you take the hydrogenation process out of the picture, soybean oil is still detrimental to your health. While trans fats are now being pulled out of processed foods due to their extreme health risks, soybean oil is still fair game… but it shouldn’t be – and here’s why.