Fats are a necessary part of your diet. They play a central role in the stability of your cell walls, immune system and hormone production. Fat pads your organs and is the preferred fuel for your brain. Healthy fats are necessary for the production of over 65 different hormones working together in a complex cellular structure to control everything from brain development, fertility and maintaining healthy bones to blood sugar levels and brain function.
Have you given up on fat?
And yet, using the word ‘fat’ can make your skin crawl. In our society the word ‘fat’ is a derogatory way of referring to people who struggle with their weight. While some research is suggesting that weight is a complex function of bacterial growth, genetics, exercise and the food we eat, we’re just going to discuss the food factor.
Changes to our diet started in 1956, after Dr. Ancel Keys released his infamous Seven Countries Study and representatives of the American Heart Association went on television to recommend that people stop eating foods high in fat. In the past 50 years we’ve been indoctrinated to believe that fat will make us fat, cause heart disease, increase your blood pressure, develop plaque in your arteries and increase your risk of stroke and diabetes.
Doctors operate under pressure to conform to the recommendations of the American Medical Association, or face retribution from their peers and oversight organizations. In order to avoid problems they continue to recommend what the US government and their Medical Associations recommend: low-fat diets, high in carbohydrates and whole grains.
This is why it is so important for each of us to take responsibility for our own health and well-being by becoming informed consumers. Information gives us the opportunity to choose the type of treatment plans and lifestyle choices that best suit our own individual needs and beliefs. For instance, in early 2014 a study was released that suggested saturated fats were not as bad as doctors once declared they were. This one study received a massive amount of media attention. It created a storm of news articles and editorials from the New York Times to Time Magazine.
What Happened Next is Telling
Immediately the American Medical Association and Tufts University sent out their ambassador for the low-fat diet, Alice Lichtenstein, professor of nutritional science at Tufts University who served on the panels of the College of Cardiology and American Medical Association that wrote the recommendations for low-fat eating. At every turn Ms. Lichtenstein was present writing editorials, interviewed for articles and television news, as well as participating in panel discussions and podcasts.
The focus of the debates was around the one meta-analysis that was released and didn’t address any other published research which also supported the results of the meta-analysis. Instead, both camps appeared to identify only one controversy and one study.
In 1963 Time Magazine featured Dr. Ancel Keys, both on the cover and in a large news spread about health and wellness. In June 2014, Time Magazine finally reversed their position, publishing a cover with the bold statement: “Eat Butter; Scientists Labeled Fat the Enemy. Why We Were Wrong.”
What Appeared New, Wasn’t New
Although it appeared that this information about saturated fats was new and recently discovered, what was not general public knowledge were the multitude of articles and research also disclaiming the theory of low-fat diets to cure heart disease that have been published since the late 1950s, about the same time that Dr. Keys released his Seven Countries Study.
In 1955 President Eisenhower suffered a heart attack while in office. He was placed on a very restricted diet that was low fat and high in carbohydrates. When he first had his heart attack his cholesterol was 165 and by the time he left office it had risen to 259, on this restricted diet.
In 1955 John Gofman released his work, confirmed by John Peters at the Yale School of Medicine, which showed that high amount of carbohydrates would increase levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood and increase the risk of heart disease. Just one year later the American Heart Association had a TV fundraiser across all three major networks to urge people to eat a low-fat diet rich in “heart-healthy” margarine, corn oil, breakfast cereals and skim milk.
The type of media attention on eating a low-fat diet continued until 2014 when more research supporting the health of saturated fats and the problems with carbohydrates and sugars was “discovered.”
In 1972 Dr. Atkins released his famous Dr. Atkin’s Diet Revolution book in which he went against the accepted belief system about fats and proposed that a high fat, low carbohydrate diet would help heart disease, reduce weight, lower the risk of diabetes and improve health. This book, and others like it in the coming years, began to erode the medical community’s recommendations that people stick to their low-fat diets if they didn’t want to return to “the high rates of heart disease we had decades ago.”
Recommendations Fly in the Face of Research
This quote is from an editorial written by Alice Lichtenstein in which she warns that we should not return to eating saturated fats following the release of the meta-analysis study in early 2014. However, heart disease was the number one killer of men and women in 2014. Every 33 seconds someone died from cardiovascular disease. This is roughly the number of deaths from a September11th type tragedy happening every 30 hours, 365 days a year.
Dr. Atkin’s book sold a million copies in just 6 months. In early 1973 the American Medical Association called him a “dangerous fraud” and Dr. Atkins had to defend himself before a congressional hearing in a country where our right to free speech is defended by our military.
In 1976 the government granted the status of “generally regarded as safe” to hydrogenated soybean oil, even though they were presented with evidence that it would interfere with insulin and increase the risk of diabetes. Hydrogenated soybean oil is a trans-fat and would not be lumped into a category of “Bad Fat” until 2005.
In 1986 the Federal Drug Administration stated there was no conclusive evidence that sugar was responsible for disease and negative health conditions. However, they had not funded any studies to test that hypothesis. They recommended that Americans could eat up to TWENTY FIVE PERCENT of their calories from sugar.
The debate between eating high fat foods and low-carbohydrate diets will continue as long as food manufacturers, large business and the government wants to influence our food choices. Although many times this influence is disguised as doing what’s best, you can see that the recommendations do not take into account all of the published information available about fat, and usually serve the needs of the organizations and not of the people.
Staying informed about your health and wellness is your responsibility. What we put into our mouths is directly related to the health we experience. Without a firm grasp on what will reduce our risk and improve our health, we can easily find ourselves at the wrong end of a stethoscope.