Two Good Reads on Fats

Transfats and the Chemistry of Evil– I love this research getting out in the public eye so people can make smarter, healthier, better informed choices.

The questionable link between saturated fat and heart disease: are butter, cheese, and steak actually bad for you?

The new study’s conclusion shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with modern nutritional science, however. The fact is, there has never been solid evidence for the idea that these fats cause disease. We only believe this to be the case because nutrition policy has been derailed over the past half-century by a mixture of personal ambition, bad science, politics and bias.

I maliciously love research like this getting out into the public eye so much these days for one very shallow reason: because I was called ignorant and uninformed back in the day when I had this argument with a relative who shall remain nameless some 20 years or more ago.  Every time I read another study validating the healthy option of butter over the poison of margarine, I have an internal giggle of schadenfreude (yes, I do hold petty grudges, why?).

Some of my relatives had discovered that I did not buy margarine, that we only had butter in the house and they narked on me (yes, I am that old) to other relatives and they collectively tsked tsked over my irresponsible dietary ways (My dad had a stroke at 48 years of age, and all his many aunts and uncles died of diabetes or heart disease by the time they were fifty, so we’re all walking time bombs, like everybody else) (Yes, I use too many parentheses, why?).

So. Anyway.  One of the relatives on the end of the gossip line called me to task, in loving, concerned, because I care fashion, and I said “Butter is actually good for you.  It’s all that margarine the rest of you eat that’s gonna kill you in the end.”  There was eye rolling and the ignorant word was lobbed out there along with the ‘fad’ accusation.

Which…. that’s really funny if you think about it.  Butter’s been around for millenia.  Margarine was the new kid on the block, and the alleged research about how unhealthy butter supposedly is was even newer.  Fad?

The studies that were used to support the low-fat/non-fat, pro-margarine lifestyle were seriously flawed, but that didn’t matter.  It was the consensus:

 Too much institutional energy and research money had already been spent trying to prove Dr. Keys’s hypothesis. A bias in its favor had grown so strong that the idea just started to seem like common sense. As Harvard nutrition professor Mark Hegsted said in 1977, after successfully persuading the U.S. Senate to recommend Dr. Keys’s diet for the entire nation, the question wasn’t whether Americans should change their diets, but why not? Important benefits could be expected, he argued. And the risks? “None can be identified,” he said.


Tell me what other science issue that reminds you of.

In fact, even back then, other scientists were warning about the diet’s potential unintended consequences. Today, we are dealing with the reality that these have come to pass…..

The problem is that carbohydrates break down into glucose, which causes the body to release insulin—a hormone that is fantastically efficient at storing fat. Meanwhile, fructose, the main sugar in fruit, causes the liver to generate triglycerides and other lipids in the blood that are altogether bad news. Excessive carbohydrates lead not only to obesity but also, over time, to Type 2 diabetes and, very likely, heart disease.

The real surprise is that, according to the best science to date, people put themselves at higher risk for these conditions no matter what kind of carbohydrates they eat. Yes, even unrefined carbs. Too much whole-grain oatmeal for breakfast and whole-grain pasta for dinner, with fruit snacks in between, add up to a less healthy diet than one of eggs and bacon, followed by fish. The reality is that fat doesn’t make you fat or diabetic. Scientific investigations going back to the 1950s suggest that actually, carbs do.

The health problems connected with the massive shift from animal fats to vegetable oils are serious, and sometimes bizarre.  More cancer, more gallstones, and also more accidents and violent deaths (they now think this is because of the alterations in brain chemistry when our brains are denied healthy animal based fats).

It’s in vogue to blame big business for everything, but you cannot ignore the fact that it was big government that issued most of the anti-fat warnings and supported the seriously bad science.

Seeing the U.S. population grow sicker and fatter while adhering to official dietary guidelines has put nutrition authorities in an awkward position. Recently, the response of many researchers has been to blame “Big Food” for bombarding Americans with sugar-laden products. No doubt these are bad for us, but it is also fair to say that the food industry has simply been responding to the dietary guidelines issued by the AHA and USDA, which have encouraged high-carbohydrate diets and until quite recently said next to nothing about the need to limit sugar.

Indeed, up until 1999, the AHA was still advising Americans to reach for “soft drinks,” and in 2001, the group was still recommending snacks of “gum-drops” and “hard candies made primarily with sugar” to avoid fatty foods.

I still can’t get our local grocery store to carry whole milk yogurt- it’s all non-fat or low fat. I have to special order it via our co-op or drive to town 40 miles away – where it’s also not available in every store.

We’ve been seriously brainwashed for a very long time.

Of special interest to me is what the article had to say about the difference between men and women and how they handle cholesterol, yet all the studies pretty much tossed out the data they had for women and recommendations are based entirely on men and how they process cholesterol. Low cholesterol levels are bad for women. Seriously, read it all. Have your kids read it. Pass it on to your relatives.

The author of the above article is publishing a book that will be out in mid-May. You can pre-order it at Amazon: The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet One of the blurbs at Amazon says:
A page-turner story of science gone wrong: what Gary Taubes did in Good Calories, Bad Calories for debunking the connection between fat consumption and obesity, Nina Teicholz now does in Big Fat Surprise for the purported connection between fat and heart disease. Misstep by misstep, blunder by blunder, Ms. Teicholz recounts the statistical cherry-picking, political finagling, and pseudoscientific bullying that brought us to yet another of the biggest mistakes in health and nutrition, the low-fat and low-saturated fat myth for heart health. (William Davis, MD, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Bac)

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  1. B. Durbin
    Posted May 6, 2014 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    I can occasionally get whole-milk yogurt, but honestly, it’s simpler to buy a low-fat one as a starter and make my own. There are crock pot methods for those that don’t have a yogurt maker; it’s basically keeping the milk at a consistent low temperature for twelve hours or so. The bonus is that homemade yogurt does not have any added sugars until you drop them in, so it’s nice and tangy. (The only yogurt I’ve found that tastes similar is Nancy’s, which doesn’t add sugar to its plain yogurt at all.)

    I grew up with parents who lightly sneered at the faddishness of dietary advice*, and formed the conviction that most food should be with “real” ingredients, because otherwise, why bother? I also get a little happy when I hear these concepts validated.

    *We did eat a lot of salad, because my dad had a garden full of wonderful things. I never understood why kids weren’t supposed to like vegetables until I was an adult and exposed to what most kids had. Canned peas, yuck.

    • Headmistress, zookeeper
      Posted May 6, 2014 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      you don’t need the crockpot, either. when I made yogurt I used a heating pad or left it in the oven overnight.

  2. Lady M
    Posted May 6, 2014 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    I am sooooo thankful that this is finally getting out there. I am quite tired of being told that the best butter for me is a butter/olive oil spread. Uhm, we like butter just like it is. Always have. I despise the taste of margarine (and always have).

    Currently, one of our local store chains has butter on sale for $1.99/lb. This is the time of year that I go in (repeatedly) to get my limit of 3 lbs per purchase and freeze it. At the grocery store, butter is well over $3 and name brand is over $4/lb right now. And that is just the regular butter, not the organic butter (I am hard pushed to pay $6-8/lb for organic butter & such – my budget cannot take that.) Oh, and you already know this, but I like my parentheses as well…. 😉

    • B. Durbin
      Posted May 7, 2014 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      We get our butter at Costco, mostly, because it’s less than $2.50/lb. Then we take out one pound and freeze the rest because butter freezes well.

      • Headmistress, zookeeper
        Posted May 7, 2014 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        The sav-a-lot grocery store in town usually has it for 1.99 a pound, and we do the same- buy tons of it and freeze it.

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