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Several decades ago the modern world went crazy with its dietary habits. People were told to stop eating fats because they led to weight gain and heart disease. The government was behind this advice as well as the American Heart Association, hospitals, manufacturers of cholesterol-lowering drugs, food manufacturers, dairies and doctors.
Here we are thirty years later and obesity and heart disease rates have gone up instead of down. Now some (not enough) researchers are saying the low-fat idea was a big mistake.
In typical fashion, the Mayo Clinic makes this statement on its website: "[T]here is a dark side to fat. The concern with some types of dietary fat (and their cousin cholesterol) is that they are thought to play a role in cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Dietary fat also may have a role in other diseases, including obesity and cancer."
Is this true, or is it simply an assumption that has been proven wrong? Or is it the kind of misinformation you'd expect from drug companies that manufacture cholesterol-lowering drugs and food giants who make billions selling low-fat, non-fat processed cereal, yogurt, drinks, pizzas, cookies and ice cream?
We need fats in our diets. It's a matter of biology
Fats are essential to human health. The Weston A Price Foundation tells us, "Fats from animal and vegetable sources provide a concentrated source of energy in the diet; they also provide the building blocks for cell membranes and a variety of hormones and hormone-like substances. Fats as part of a meal slow down absorption so that we can go longer without feeling hungry. In addition, they act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Dietary fats are needed for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, for mineral absorption and for a host of other processes." (westonaprice.org)
So how can we eat fat and avoid fat at the same time? Food manufacturers came up with the idea of altering fats. And this has led to all sorts of health problems, an outcome not altogether unexpected when scientists try to improve on nature. The worst of the creations was trans fats, which are now even recognized by the mainstream medical profession as unhealthful.
Our diets are not natural
Most diets today are not natural. They contain mostly cooked, processed, artificial and altered substances. And far too many refined sugars. Can anything but sickness be expected when ideal diets contain anything but whole, unaltered, unsprayed vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and meats? Of course not. If you believe the cereal ads you'll think the stuff in the box with the cute cartoon character is real food. It's not. It's dead and bad even if the American Heart Association endorses it, and even though it contains zero fat and a plethora of isolated laboratory-made vitamins.
Low-fat, fake-fat is good for food manufacturers only
Public relations has much to do with every movement — whether buying more economical cars, recycling or switching over to a low-fat diet. When it comes to the topic of health, a steady stream of information (even if not particularly accurate) makes for big profits. A population that's scared out of its wits over eating fat will fill their shopping carts with low-fat yogurt, skim milk and tubs of margarine. But statistics show that this has had no role in lowering heart disease, preventing diabetes or reducing weight.
What's good for business can be bad for health.
Gary Taubes stirs the fat
If you haven't read Gary Taubes' books, now is the time. His thorough research and logical thinking defies the idea that fats are bad for your health or that they are as evil as they've been made out to be. His book Good Calories, Bad Calories is a lesson on how carbohydrates are behind many of our modern diseases. And his book Why We Get Fat and What to do About It takes the issue a step further, positing the idea that good science has been ignored and we've been heading down the wrong road by vilifying dietary fats and claiming they are behind obesity.
I asked Gary for his opinion on a few key points in this discussion. Here's our exchange:
Vic: Even doctors with a more moderate view of fats still tell people to avoid saturated fats. Is this advice founded in science?
Gary: Well, it's founded in bad science, as I've described in my books and articles on this. The most compelling research arguing against it are the randomized controlled trials that compare Atkins-like, high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets to effectively any other diet -- whether the AHA [American Heart Association] step-one, low-fat, calorie-restricted diet or a very low fat Ornish diet or a Mediterranean diet. In these experiments, the high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet invariably leads to at least as much weight loss -- despite the fact that the subjects on these diets can consume as many calories as they want -- and an overall improvement in heart disease risk factors.