Yes, Saturated Fats Are Good: Undoing Decades of Government Misinformation About HealthPosted: May 13, 2014
Think a low fat diet is the key to health? Think again.
You can’t blame patients for being skeptical. After years of advocating low-fat diets, Dr. Oz recently declared that eating saturated fat might not actually be all that bad. And the month before that, the press hyped a new study that indicated there’s no good evidence that saturated fats cause heart disease. The American Heart Association, on the other hand, continues to promote low-fat diets. So what should physicians tell patients now?
Check out the book: The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet at Amazon.com
Most practicing doctors are poorly equipped to make sense of it all. (Even the doctors on the 2013 cholesterol guideline committee hired other people to read the literature for them.) What should doctors advise—stick with low fat or start cooking with lard?
In the new book, The Big Fat Surprise, science writer Nina Teicholz implies that we should do the latter. Like many people, Teicholz herself was once a disciple of low-fat diets—but after she took an assignment writing restaurant reviews, she found herself losing weight on a diet of heavy creams and fatty meats. Her curiosity was piqued, and she began a nearly decade-long critical review of the research on dietary fat. Her conclusion? Eating saturated fat can be the key to developing a healthy and lean body.
However, in order not to over-consume calories, eating more fat implies eating less carbohydrates. Indeed, these low-carb-high-fat (LCHF) diets are back in vogue with the rise of the Paleo movement—partly because people are beginning to question if increased carb intake has caused soaring obesity rates. Besides, for weight loss, low-fat diets yield only modest results and for some people don’t work at all.
That was the case for Dr. Peter Attia, who was featured on Dr. Oz’s show. Attia is a former Johns Hopkins surgeon who followed a low-fat diet and worked out several hours a day, but he was still overweight. Eventually, he developed metabolic syndrome—a condition that presages diabetes and heart disease. But he was able to lose the excess pounds and reverse his metabolic syndrome by dropping simple carbs and, in the process, eating more fat.
Dr. Attia’s story belies the popular misconception that the obese are simply lazy and gluttonous or too dumb and undisciplined to stick to a diet. Just maybe, what’s really making people fat are their hormones—in this case insulin, which, in susceptible people, spikes too high after a carbohydrate meal and locks energy into fat tissue.
This hypothesis was the work of pre-World War II German and Austrian researchers and came of age in the U.S. in the 1950s. It was given mainstream respectability in 2002 by science writer Gary Taubes in the New York Times article, “What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?” Taubes went on to write two books on the topic. While for many people Taubes’ work has helped reframe the thinking about why we get fat, some influential academicians remain unconvinced…(read more)