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Why I’m Skeptical of the “New” Low Fat Recommendations

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Since the 1950’s, dietary fat has never been more popular than it has been over the past several years. Between the Kaufmann Diet, Paleo, and the ketogenic craze, Americans are happily consuming butter, heavy cream, and avocados while keeping our carbs moderate. 


However, the American Heart Association (AHA) would like for everyone to get off the butter and return to 1950’s fat recommendations. In particular, they are warning us against saturated fats, as discussed in the latest edition of Circulation.


According to their latest statement on saturated fat, they’d like us to return to margarine, corn oil, safflower oil, and soybean oil, and throw out our coconut oil, ghee, butter, and CLA-rich fat from grass-fed beef


How depressing.


I get angry about this sort of thing, and what angers me the most this time is that the AHA has provided us with no new information upon which they base these recommendations. It’s the same tired old arguments we were told in the 1950’s

Absurd “Science”

It started with Ancel Keys’ 1953 paper on atherosclerosis and continued years later with his famous Seven Countries study on different countries’ rates of heart disease in which he, at best, misinterpreted the findings. He suggested that fat intake is the cause of heart disease, and the public has never (until recently) gotten over it. 


What Keys did was analyze certain countries, and tossed away data that didn’t fit his pre-determined hypothesis about fat and heart health. It’s called cherry-picking. Even Wikipedia has a section on the Seven Countries study where they alert readers to this travesty. This is alarmingly common in science. It was originally supposed to be a 22-country study, but he omitted all countries’ data except for the seven that fit his biases.


When researchers analyzed his data years later and included all the information Keys intentionally left out, they discovered that there was NO link between dietary fat and heart disease! (To the contrary, sugary carb intake provided a more direct link. But that’s coming…)


 But the Keys study, as well as others like it, has shaped what the public health opinion has been for six decades. And the AHA has essentially just said, “That’s our story, and we’re still sticking to it.”


Was It Fat Or Sugar??

Professor John Yudkin and others have pointed out that the countries Keys chose to highlight in his study had both high fat AND high sugar consumption. This has come to be known by some as the “sugar conspiracy”. Radically reduce the high dietary sugar, and there is next to zero ill effects from high fat, (including saturated fat). As Dr. Jason Fung said when remarking on Keys’ study, “Sugar was the link.” So it wasn’t fat that caused the heart disease.


(And forgive me for being skeptical of any organization that refuses to consider sugar as being a cause of health challenges when they have soda companies as corporate sponsors.)


Is The AHA’s “Science” Very Scientific?

So bad has the low fat “science” been that author Gary Taubes, upon reviewing the data the AHA relied upon for their recommendations, said that he questions whether their researchers are “real scientists”! Independent researchers have failed to duplicate the studies or conclusions the AHA relies upon for the low-fat doctrine. 

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The AHA claims that only four studies in history meet their criteria for assessing the effects of saturated fat on heart disease. They have decided to leave out the plethora of studies that refute those four!


Among the trials, they conveniently left out include the Minnesota Coronary Survey, the Sydney Heart Study, and the largest, most costly clinical trial ever done, the Women’s Health Initiative. They all concluded the exact opposite of the AHA’s low-fat recommendations that are 60+ years old, and are based upon studies whose designs were utterly primitive compared to today’s methods. And one of the studies AHA relies upon reveals that the researchers limited sugar to about half of what the general public normally consumed back then (and now!), and their rate of heart disease was lower than the general public. But the researchers concluded that the low fat made the difference in heart disease rates, not the low sugar consumption. 


Even the AHA admits that the trials they used for their recommendations are old and that new trials need to have upwards of 30,000 participants, (which is far more people than the original studies they used!). So…if it takes 30,000 people to do a reasonable study, why are they using data from studies that had far fewer people, and far less precise methodology?

We Choices Based On Current Data Get To Make

If you’re telling us to trade butter and coconut oil in for soybean and corn oil, you should have modern, current, rigorously tested, extensive data proving it to be a good idea, and showing why all the data refuting it to be flawed. But they don’t. They just popped up and said what they’ve always said, but offering no compelling reasons for it. 


Doug Kaufmann, Gary Taubes, Dom D’agostino, Jason Fung, Thomas Seyfried, Jack Wolfson, and a slew of others who aren’t afraid of fat are making headway and declaring that the low-fat emperor has no clothes. THIS, in my opinion, is why the AHA decided to declare nothing new in their updated statement on fat. They’re losing ground and losing influence on how the general public regards their information.


We all make dietary choices. Mine will be low-carb and covered in butter.





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