Dietary Fat Is No Longer The Bad Guy, Or Why Does Anyone Listen to The Experts?

How’s this for the headline of a recent front page article in the Washington Post: “A thinning case that fat causes heart ills”? And, this is followed-up the very next day with “Congress questions the science behind dietary guidelines.” It seems to me that the government is finally beginning to walk back the disastrous low-fat dietary recommendations, that originated officially with the McGovern Committee (1977), but also bear the handiwork of physiologist/nutritionist Ancel Keys and rabid anti-fat nutritionist D. Mark Hegsted.

Keys is celebrated for his Seven Countries study, which purported to show that saturated fat consumption was a big risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD), but is also less famous for the fact that he threw out non-conforming data from 15 other countries. Keys’ miserable work was criticized at the time it was released, and consistently afterward, yet was embraced with much alacrity for decades. Now that even the elites are finally going public about questioning his theories—and what they have wrought—one may ask how his ideas persisted for as long as they did.

Consider the particular era when he began to publicize his so-called results. This was the “Super-America” of the 1950s, ebullient with pride in winning the war—and that was accomplished with the essential help of Science. Why, nuclear power would render electrical utility rate-meters obsolete; customers would merely pay a flat monthly fee. A vaccine was being introduced to eradicate the scourge of polio (1954), and the discovery of the double helical structure of DNA (1953) somehow meant that a cancer cure would be shortly forthcoming.

Ring out the old, ring in the new! Foolish grandpa and grandma ate those terrible high-fat comfort foods, and…they died. Let’s get modern. Heck, a substantial number of 1950s women eschewed the primitive custom of breastfeeding, for the modern improvement of infant formula. Many of these same women also got modern by taking up cigarette smoking, and by faithfully listening to Benjy Spock about how to raise their kids. The Greatest Generation, indeed.

Keys’ legacy is also obfuscated in that he was touting the low-fat hypothesis well before the Seven Countries Study, launched in 1956, with a Six Country study from 1953. His defenders take ample advantage of conflating his 1940s low-fat theories, and his two similarly-named studies. Ironically, Keys was the first to show that dietary cholesterol did not affect serum cholesterol, but on this matter, no one listened.

In his book The Great Cholesterol Con: The Truth About What Really Causes Heart Disease and How to Avoid It, Scottish physician and well-known medical skeptic Malcolm Kendrick did his own 14-Country Study. He looked first at the seven countries with the lowest consumption of saturated fat (Georgia, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Croatia, Macedonia, and the Ukraine), and compared this to their rate of CHD. He then took the seven countries with the highest consumption of saturated fat (Austria, Finland, Belgium, Iceland, Netherlands, Switzerland, and France) and compared this to their rate of heart disease. (All figures were from the World Health Organization, 1998)

The data clearly showed that every single one of the seven countries with the lowest consumption of saturated fat had significantly higher heart disease than every single one of the countries with the highest consumption of saturated fat.

During the recent congressional hearings, Rep. Collin C. Peterson (D-MN) unloaded on the clueless phonies behind the dietary guidelines:

“My concern is we have these guidelines that have pushed people away from eggs and butter and milk and so forth and then they come back and say, ‘Well, we’re wrong.’ You know? Why are we going off on these tangents if we have a [scientific] process that is so heavily vetted? I want you to understand, from my constituents, most of them don’t believe this stuff anymore. You have lost your credibility with a lot of people. They are just flat out ignoring this stuff, and so that’s why I say I wonder why we are doing this.”

Kendrick’s book includes a wonderful quote from 16th century philosopher Michel de Montaigne: “I prefer the company of peasants because they have not been educated sufficiently to reason incorrectly.” Nowadays, you get grant money to reason incorrectly, as long as it’s politically correct.

By the way, even as a kid, I never understood that “Now that we know the structure of DNA, we will cure cancer” thing. Guess I’m still a peasant.


6 responses to “Dietary Fat Is No Longer The Bad Guy, Or Why Does Anyone Listen to The Experts?

  1. I’m still waiting for the study on the ill effects of constant fear mongering.
    (And subsequent calls for a ban.)

    • @Pat–
      The plain fact is that American public health is being destroyed every single day by the experts. Shall we count it up?

      Diet/fat/cholesterol theory of CHD

      The invention of “type 2” diabetes

      The proliferation of dangerous and mostly useless psych meds

      The suppression of immuno-therapeutic treatment for Autism

      The continuing advocacy of frequent mammograms, despite overwhelming evidence that they are no better than breast self-exam.

      The craven acceptance of “alternative life styles,” despite significant health issues.

  2. I do not know Michael, what is right and what is wrong. Dietry fats do play some role in heart attacks. However, I think that all the information is confusing.

    With regard to eggs, I do not eat them, not because of what anyone has said but because they make me vomit. Yes, I can give you some stories and my poor son was responsible for an oven door smashing!! That being said, I do think that the way eggs are cooked is a factor. Fried eggs are the worst way to enjoy an egg. However, there is no reason why a person cannot enjoy the other ways that eggs are cooked. One more story, I remember, not so clearly these days, that a woman known to my mother ended up having her bowel obstructed because of her consumption of eggs.

    With regard to heart attacks, I do not understand about blockages etc. Yet I do know that my slim and tall grandmother died of a heart attack. Her death certificate said she had artherosclerosis. In my grandmother’s era (and my mother’s) it was common to use lard for cooking and even have toast with dripping. This was not very healthy in my opinion.

    Keeping to the subject of dietry fats, I am currently waiting to have my gallbladder removed. if i have fatty food I react (Big Time). For me, the strict diet that I am on probably until the operation means that I have very little in the way of dietary fats. So far I have lost somewhere between 10 and 15 kilos since last summer. During summer I have a tendency to retain fluid and that causes my weight to increase.

  3. @Aussie–
    I didn’t put this in the article, because it was already long, but the AMA objected to the McGovern guidelines because they left no room for individual circumstances.

    Some people do have problems with fats, for example. And MANY people (more than 50%) have some problem with too many carbs–per Diane Kress and several other authorities.

    • A big tick from me Michael. There is always a need for individual circumstances.
      I have been learning about the carbs and their role in making us fat… or rather how we eat foods with too much carbs and do not do enough exercise to wear them off.

      I have been on a meal replacement diet which means I have not been having the kind of food I would normally consume. The reduction in carbs has been making a very big difference and I am ready to have what is going to be major surgery (not just the removal of my gallbladder).

      Too many carbs in the system can cause a lot of issues including leading to diabetes 2 because the pancreas cannot cope.

  4. Reblogged this on Petrossa's Blog and commented:
    Fat is not bad, just too much or to little of anything is. Problem is what is the ‘norm’ gets dictated by fashion, trendy ‘health’ articles which seem to be the guidelines by which for example Michelle Obama’s food program has been assembled. ‘Facts? I need no stinkin facts!’

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