Humans have been eating fat for thousands of years and we evolved into healthy humans with sophisticated brains, free of major modern-world chronic, heart and autoimmune diseases. In fact, obesity was rare and heart disease was unheard of prior to 1900s. To read the whole story of fat and how and why it changed in our diet read The Big Fat Journey. However, the break through point when fat became tabu was in 1950s. This was the time of heart disease epidemic (heart disease related death exploded between 1925-1950) and fat took the blame mostly due to the work of one man Ancel Keys and his lipid hypothesis.
It`s needless to say here that our diet massively changed in the late 1800s when we started producing convenience food (breakfast cereal was first) and dramatically increased our sugar and vegetable oils consumption. But more on this in another article.
Where did the idea that fat, especially saturated fat, is bad for us come from?
The idea was lipid hypothesis, also known as cholesterol hypothesis or diet-heart hypothesis which came into play only in 1950s that states that saturated fat raises cholesterol and raised cholesterol causes heart disease.
Before we dive into this theory; that was the biggest health mistake and scam in history of nutrition, that has changed the way we eat, that is still to this date embedded in our dietary guidelines, nutritional advice and engrained in our society, that has been making us sicker and fatter and that was never proven with a complete, scientific study; let`s summarise a few historical events which happened prior to 1950s.
We ate plenty of fat in the 1800s and prior to that, for the entire history of humanity. Fat and protein were staple foods, which provided energy and sustenance. Heart disease and diabetes were practically non-existent. It was only in 1920s and 1930s when heart disease started to rise and reached the state of epidemic in 1950s and diabetes related deaths in the US increased more than 4 times between 1900 and 1920.
What changed between 1800s and the 1900s?
- Sugar consumption doubled between 1890 and 1920
- Production of convenience food started, the first was the breakfast cereals Kellogg’s in 1906
- First soft drink and confectionery companies were formed in the early 1920s
- In the meantime, butter and animal saturated fat consumption reduced dramatically and was replaced by margarine
- And consumption of vegetable oils tripled
- By early 1950s heart disease had become a huge problem
Hmmm, could this be a sugar industry cover up to take the blame away from sugar and place it onto fat?
Now back to Lipid Hypothesis
Everyone was concerned with the growing heart disease epidemic and so a World Health organisation (WHO) hold a meeting in Geneva to discuss the crises. Ancel Keys presented his theory at this meeting but he failed to provide evidence to support it.
Although Ancel Keys is the “father “of this hypothesis it started in 1800s when German pathologist discovered plague in the arteries and found cholesterol in it. Then in 1900s another researcher fed rabbits cholesterol and found that their arteries thickened with plague providing the theory that if we eat cholesterol we will get build up of plague in our arteries. Forgetting that rabbits are vegetarians and are not design to consume fat or cholesterol. Unfortunately, if animals are fed completely unnatural food to their diet which they are not designed to consume it is a bit absurd to compare them to humans. It’s like feeding cats that are designed to eat meat, protein and fat, just like us, the rabbit food and claim that vegetables cause ill health and failure to thrive.
His colleagues laughed at him and so he than put together Seven Country Study which showed a direct correlation between saturated fat and heart disease. But it had one problem, in this study he had data available from more than 20 countries and cherry-picked only seven countries that fit his theory – Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Netherlands, Finland, USA and Japan. He also forgot to mention that these countries had also a high level of sugar. The countries where they ate plenty of saturated fat and no sugar showed very low levels of heart disease and were left out of findings. All the data analysed showed no correlation between fat consumption and heart disease.
It was criticised by many including American Heart Association (AHA). However, Keys made his way to president Eisenhower`s personal physician and soon after the president survived his first massive heart attack, he was put on a highly publicised diet that included “fake fats”. Seed oil-based health claims had just received presidential endorsement.
He also made his way to AHA and become a board member. This is when AHA changed their position recommending reducing saturated fat by limiting butter, fatty meat, egg yolks and full fat dairy and replacing them with low fat equivalents. Keys was even featured in Time magazine gaining huge acknowledgment from public. The era of low fat and demonisation of saturated fat started.
But even then, other scientists were still asking for evidence and were not convinced.
In 1972, the McGovern committee was called to decide once and for all whether to change dietary health recommendations. This committee released very first dietary guidelines in 1977. McGovern Report and subsequent dietary goals for US were heavily influenced by sugar industry blaming fat and cholesterol for heart disease. In this footage McGovern’s response to a plead for more research
“Senators don`t have the luxury of waiting until every last shred of evidence is in.”
Really?! And we though that our dietary guidelines are based on evidence! Ever since than standard dietary recommendations have encouraged a low-fat diet, replacing saturated fat and cholesterol with polyunsaturated seed oils and carbohydrates. Saturated fat became known as “artery-clogging saturated fat” even though there is no viable research to support any of Keys` claims.
Advocates of low fat were trying to prove the lipid hypothesis since that time but unsuccessfully.
One of them was Minnesota Coronary Survey that actually showed that people on a cholesterol lowering diet had a significantly greater mortality. However, the results weren`t published for 17 years. Why? We didn`t like the results – answer of Ivan Frantz Jr, the leader of the survey. (Ancel Keys was involved in this study)
Another review was conducted in early 1980s by the Surgeon General`s office in the US to examine all the available evidence and prove the cholesterol hypothesis once and for all. After 11 years they cancelled the project because they couldn’t do it. The science behind it wasn`t holding up. They could have advised us that they were wrong, right? But they didn`t.
Why they keep dead hypothesis alive?
Apart from Ancel Keys wanting to prove he was right after being publicly humiliated when first presenting his hypothesis who else would benefit from this cover up?
Now, we have tons of evidence discrediting this theory but perhaps it would be too hard to admit this huge mistake and change our entire diet. Or perhaps we just have to follow the money?
The cheap food (not for us but for food manufacturers), low in fat and cholesterol, where fat is usually replaced with sugar and carbs, has become a huge business, making a lot of money for food and drug industry. In fact, lowering cholesterol has become one of the most profitable businesses in the world.
We are told to replace saturated fat with processed vegetable oils and replace butter with margarine to prevent heart disease, but these two products increase the risk of heart disease!
We are told to reduce fat intake and consume low fat products (usually full of sugar) to lose weight and prevent heart disease, but reducing fat makes us fatter and increases heart disease risk and so does sugar!
If the low-fat movement is working why we have become more sicker and fatter, why the rates of modern degenerative diseases such as diabetes, kidney failure, hypertension, Alzheimer’s, dental decay, osteoporosis, digestive issues, autoimmune disease and other skyrocketed in the last 30 years?
It’s time to stop this craziness based on very flimsy evidence and greediness of food and drug industry. It`s time to retire our conventional heart healthy recommendations that are causing heart disease and making us fat and ill. Many well-known doctors, naturopaths, nutritionists and health professionals are now re-educating people that fat never was the issue, and is actually an essential nutrient.
I hope this article will help you to make healthier shopping choices. But most importantly motivate you to ask the right questions about the food we eat.
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