In the U.S. dietary kingdom, saturated fat is most feared – fingered as the cause of heart disease and stroke. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), they have been warning us away from saturated fat since 1957. In 1961, at the urging of AHA board members Ancel Keys and Jeremiah Stamler, the AHA officially endorsed a low fat, high carbohydrate diet and recommended that we replace saturated fat with margarine, polyunsaturated vegetable oils, and hydrogenated vegetable shortenings like Crisco.
Since then, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have spent billions of dollars reinforcing the American Heart Association’s saturated fat is bad message. For the last thirty years, USDA’s low fat Dietary Guidelines (1980 to 2010) have recommended that we limit saturated fat to less than 10 percent of calories and cholesterol to less than 300 milligrams a day – taken directly from the 1961 AHA diet.
So called nonprofit organizations like Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) joined in. In 1984, CSPI launched its anti-saturated fat attack, prompting fast food restaurants and movie theatre owners to replace the traditional more saturated fats like beef tallow and coconut oil with the new fangled AHA-endorsed hydrogenated vegetable oils – containing a high percentage of toxic trans fatty acids.
In the decades after 1980, food companies spent tens of millions advertising “low fat, low cholesterol” products – containing these same government-recommended trans-laden vegetable oils, sugar, and high fructose corn syrup. Throughout this period, the Food and Drug Administration recognized trans fatty acids, sugar and high fructose corn syrup as ‘safe’ – and the natural saturated fats in butter as ‘bad’.
It wasn’t long before the American Medical Association, America’s schools and universities, Registered Dietitians, and the major media jumped on the anti-fat bandwagon. As a result, the majority of Americans lowered their fat intake from 40 to 34 percent of calories, switched to the highly processed vegetable oils, and increased their consumption of grain and sugar by 400 calories a day.
As a result, we have become the fattest people in the world eating the least amount of saturated fat in our history. After 50 years of Egg-beaters, margarine, skinless chicken breasts, and highly processed soy and Canola oils, one third of Americans are obese; 25 percent are diabetic or pre-diabetic. Instead of going down as promised, the incidence of heart failure – the number one Medicare expenditure – as doubled since 1987 (the year statin cholesterol-lowering drugs were approved in record time).
In 2010, USDA released another version of the same low fat Dietary Guidelines first issued in 1980. If we are to reduce our spiraling out of control health care costs, our first step is to gut these low fat guidelines when they are up for revision in 2015. Please stay tuned to Diet Heart News to continue learning more about the actions we must take to end the War on Cholesterol and Saturated Fat.