Has Low Fat Failed the Test of Time?

| June 14, 2013
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The Dietary Guidelines are the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy…”

Since 1980, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) have recommended a high carbohydrate, anti-fat diet. According to the Secretary of Agriculture, “Our Dietary Guidelines provide a way for the government to speak with one voice on nutrition and promoting good health.” For 30 years, the one unbending message has been:  Fear fat; eat up to 65 percent of calories as carbohydrate.

Federal nutrition policy has been an uncritical emphasis on carbohydrates and an explicit warning against consuming what they refer to as disease-promoting dietary fat – especially “bad saturated fat.”

Age 2 and older:  Limit saturated fat to fewer than 10 percent of calories – fewer than 7 percent if diabetic or at risk of heart disease. (Now 25 percent of the population)

Told to skimp on fat, we’ve loaded up on sugar, fruit, cereals and grains – the old Pyramid’s 6-11 servings a day. And while cereals, grains, and fruits raise blood sugar – filling up MyPlate – our traditional, savory fat-containing-foods do not raise blood sugar – the marker for diabetes.

Though eaten for centuries, we are told to avoid or limit coconut oil, butter, eggs, and red meat – any animal or tropical food containing the dreaded Saturates. But successive guideline committees got it wrong; in lipid science, saturated means chemically stable – nothing else. By definition, saturated fats are heat-stable and resist oxidation – not a ‘bad’ thing.

Also, there are many different saturated fats (different chain lengths). As an example, saturated stearic acid in beef and chocolate promotes HDL, so called “good cholesterol.” This puts downward pressure on triglycerides – unwanted blood fats measured in blood work as TG. You want your HDL over 60 and TG under 100, but most people won’t reach those numbers on a high carbohydrate diet.

It doesn’t take a wizard to know that obesity, type II diabetes, and Metabolic Syndrome (diabetes-related heart disease), all began to increase after 1980 – and especially after 1990. According to a recent published report, type II diabetes is at an all time high in New York City – and throughout the nation.

Diabetes-related deaths hit record levels in New York

NEW YORK — Diabetes-related deaths hit record levels in New York City in 2011, with Type 2 diabetes surging along with an epidemic of obesity, the city’s health department reported Monday …

“Since 1990, the proportion of all New York City deaths related to diabetes nearly doubled, from 6.0 percent in 1990 to 10.8 percent in 2011.”

“The trend in New York City exemplifies a nationwide problem. The number of adult diabetes sufferers has taken off in the United States since 1995, with a 50% increase in 42 states and a 100% increase in the remaining 18, US statistics show.”

2010 Dietary Guidelines

Five years ago during the first meeting of the 2010 DGAC, the Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer referred to diabetes as a “dangerous runaway train.” He urged the 2010 DGAC to address the crises head on – if only for the sake of our children. Next, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, testified:

“Compared to 25 years ago, as the Secretary mentioned, there are roughly now three times as many overweight children. There is something particularly troubling about so many young Americans being overweight, but the problem is, by no means, limited to children …”

In spite of the Day One Secretarial rhetoric, the final 2010 Dietary Guidelines only offered up five more years of “low fat business as usual.” According to the current 2010 Dietary Guidelines, it’s okay to consume up to 25 percent of calories as sugar – the testimony of Professor Joann Slavin, Carbohydrate Chair, 2010 DGAC.

During Meeting One, Day 2, October 31, 2008, Professor Slavin testified that a calorie of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is no different than a calorie of avocado:  “a calorie is a calorie is a calorie.” Slavin testified, “There was no reason to single out high fructose corn syrup as a ‘bad’ carbohydrate.” After all,

“a calorie is a calorie is a calorie …”

If “a calorie is a calorie is a calorie” continues to be the “party line,” the 2015 Dietary Guidelines will continue promoting widespread, expensive obesity, type II diabetes, kidney and heart failure, and a wide range of ever-increasing chronic degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Now that “low fat equals good health” is entering its fourth decade – and the current guidelines must be revised – isn’t it time to ask, “Has low fat failed the test of time?” Yes, says award-winning science writer Gary Taubes. After five years of research (Good Calories, Bad Calories), Taubes says:

“The official low fat diet has had serious unintended consequences.”




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Category: Dietary Guidelines

Comments (18)

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  1. Sonia says:

    Horrific, shocking, where will it end? Luckily I’m now out of the danger area for diabetes having lost 14kg through a low carb eating. I now find I don’t crave food, don’t get hungry and feel heaps better. I will eat low carb for life.

  2. Dave Horne says:

    I’ve written essentially the following several times on FaceBook.

    I’m 63 and have wanted to lose just 10 pounds\4.5 kg for the last 20 years and really couldn’t manage to accomplish that.

    Last year I stumbled upon a YouTube talk by Gary Taubes entitled Why We Get Fat. There are several versions of that talk that he gives and one version was 70 minutes long. Towards the end of that talk he spends five or ten minutes on how we burn and store fat at the cellular level. It was only then that I understood what I was doing wrong.

    To burn your own fat reserves requires a ‘negative stimulus of an insulin deficiency’. In other words, you must do everything you can not to raise your blood sugar level which in turn would then increase your insulin level. I learned that insulin was a fat storing and fat blocking hormone. I learned that starchy foods like bread, potatoes, pasta, and rice are quickly converted to sugar in the blood. I also learned that juices have more sugar than soda and are to be avoided.

    Once I understood that, I lost 25 pounds\11 kg in about three months and have easily kept them off for going on nine or ten months. This is effortless.

    We’ve been given bad though possibly well intentioned information over the years.

    There are several ways to look at this way of eating as being the Atkins low carbohydrate approach, or a low glycemic index diet, a Paleolithic diet, or simply eating real foods and avoiding starchy foods.

    I remember when I went to have my blood checked after I had lost those 25 pounds and I picked up the results at my doctor’s office. I spoke with the doctor’s assistant and told her how I had lost the weight. I told her of all the butter and meat, fish, and poultry I eat and she warned me that fat was bad for me. I simply waved the test results in her face. All my blood levels were excellent, those levels had improved by my following this high fat\low carbohydrate diet. The proof is in the blood test results.

    It is taking some time to get the word out about this way of eating, but it really comes down to just eating real, unprocessed foods (and avoiding starchy foods). It really couldn’t be easier … and I’m never hungry.

    Just passing this on. Dave Horne – The Netherlands

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  4. Larry says:

    Dave, I couldn’t agree more. My story is much the same except that I lost 85 pounds and have been eating this way for 3 years and have maintained my same weight over that time. My doctor still can’t believe my cholesterol and blood sugar numbers eating that way I do. I’m almost 60 years old and haven’t felt this good since I was a teenager. Thank God for Mark Sisson and his book, The Primal Blueprint.

  5. Crystal Rosenbrook says:

    A must-read for anyone who wants to understand how optimum health can be obtained through diet: http://www.westonaprice.org/basics/principles-of-healthy-diets/pdf.

  6. James says:

    Great Article – Exposing some of the common myths about “fat” – Well Written

  7. Naiem says:

    It’s quiet depressing to see how people buy into the low-fat hoax. Supermarket shelves are full of products that says 97% fat free! But is packed with sugar and terrible carbohydrates. It’s even worse when you see the weightwatcher products which are low in fat and high in carbs and sugar!

  8. Brenda says:

    We CAN influence the Committee. We can leave comments here: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2015/comments/, telling them what we have learned about what makes a truly healthy diet. We can tell them how our lives have been improved by including saturated fats and limiting carbs. (Dave Horne – June 16 – your story would be great, especially with a copy of your blood test results!) We can relate to them the independent research that shows saturated fats are beneficial and that carbohydrates contribute to inflammation and disease. If we want the guidelines to change, we get involved and get the Committee informed!

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