For the past 50 years, we, as a society, have been told by government and health officials that eating too much saturated fat is not good for our health. It can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol which results in an increased risk of heart disease. As a result of this advice, our society has been encouraged to move towards the “Mediterranean diet” eating more unsaturated fats, less meat and more vegetables.
Makes sense, doesn’t it?
But, what if the experts were wrong?
Yesterday on the CBC radio show “The Current”, author Nina Teicholz was interviewed about her recently published book “The Big Fat Surprise”. You can download the podcast here – http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/podcasts/current_20150126_55811.mp3
Nina has spent the past nine years researching the sage advice that too much saturated fat is bad for our diets. What she uncovered is quite startling. I was so taken by the interview that I managed to get copy of her book and began reading it last night. Even though I’m only into the fourth chapter, what I’ve read so far is very unsettling.
The major premise of the book revolves around the notion that the scientific evidence that was used to demonstrate the negative effects of saturated fat on the body is so flawed, that we should pretty much ignore what it is saying. To substantiate this, the author went back and read as many of the original scientific reports she could find. She also interviewed as many of the original scientists who began this research some fifty years ago.
One scientist, in particular, a man name Ansel Keys, played a major role in promoting the notion that too much saturated fat was dangerous. He conducted many experiments to prove his hypothesis but also discounted many other experiments by other scientists that showed differing results. However, Keys was very good at promoting his theories and eventually the American Heart Association came on board and began promoting his ideas. The AHA also received substantial funding from companies like Procter and Gamble, and Monsanto which encouraged the AHA to promote the use of vegetable oil in a healthy diet. Guess who benefitted from that?
What’s interesting about all this, is that research around diets and their effects began as early as the turn of the 20th century. A scientist spent a year living with the Inuit eating a diet of primarily animal fat, meat and eggs. The only time the Inuit ate vegetables was during a period of famine. Interestingly enough, the Inuit of the day showed no signs of heart disease, scurvy or cancer yet lived long, healthy lives. Another study around the Masai people in Africa revealed similar results. However, most of these results were discounted or ignored by Keys – along with a plethora of others.
Now, more than 60 years later since non-saturated fat diets have been promoted, research has shown that the positive effects of this type of diet do not seem to have materialized as expected. Quite the opposite has occurred- obesity rates are at an all time high, cancer rates are through the roof and heart disease does not seem to have been diminished.
Maybe our grandparents and great grandparents were right! Bacon and eggs ain’t so bad after all!
I would highly recommend you listen to the podcast and if you have a chance, read the book. It really is a “Big Fat Surprise”!