How We Were Duped Into Thinking That Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Were Bad

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How did this information slip under my radar for so long? Why isn’t it “common knowledge” to eat saturated fats and avoid polyunsaturated fats? The answer is rich and complex and for further reading I highly recommend you read everything by Gary Taubes in addition to Nourishing Traditions of course, but here it is in a nutshell. This is how we were duped into thinking that saturated fat and cholesterol were bad. 

Ancel Keys, who was a physiologist from Minnesota and famous for his development of the “K-rations” used during WWII and his human starvation studies, spoke with another physiologist from Naples, Italy who boasted that his country had a low rate of heart disease and consumed very little animal products. This cocktail conversation led Keys to form his Lipid Hypothesis.

lipid hypothesis

Lipid Hypothesis

So Ancel Keys set out to prove that there was a direct correlation between animal fat and coronary heart disease and conducted an observational study (which means that he just looked at a bunch of data). The data was all over the place for the 22 countries he originally looked at, so he did what any good scientist would do and threw out the data that didn’t match his hypothesis. The six remaining countries showed the correlation he was looking for and that is where we get the Lipid Hypothesis that has permeated our mainstream culture and forced us to believe that saturated fat and cholesterol cause heart disease.

His Seven Countries Study was even more acclaimed, but once again, he only chose the seven countries that he knew would fit his hypothesis and left out countries like France or Switzerland that have a high rate of fat consumption and a low rate of heart disease.

When institutions like the American Heart Association (AHA) put their little “heart healthy” label on things like Coco Puffs and Lucky Charms, we don’t even bat an eye!

We just blindly BELIEVE that of course these big companies are looking out for our best interests, but they are just another cog in the wheel of false information that has gotten out of control. The truth is that the AHA originally opposed Ancel Keys and all ideas that were like his. In 1957, they even wrote a 15 page paper explaining why. But then ten years later, they did a wonderfully political thing and flipped their stance. Not after any new research was uncovered, not after analyzing the reports again, but simply because Ancel Keys and one of his buddies became two-sixths of the AHA, and then BAM! suddenly they were behind his ideas 100%.

Ancel Keys Cover of Time Magazine1961

Ancel Keys Cover of Time Magazine 1961

Soon after in 1961, Ancel Keys was featured on the cover of Time magazine as the new father of dietary wisdom. The article discussed Keys’ idea of a heart-healthy diet as one in which nearly 70% of calories came from carbohydrates and just 15% from fat.  Despite the fact that there was ZERO evidence from clinical trials to back up this claim, the article only contained one short paragraph explaining that Keys’ hypothesis was

“still questioned by some researchers with conflicting ideas of what causes coronary heart disease.”

During this time, the AHA was courted by two major vegetable oil and margarine companies who helped to distribute a “risk handbook” to doctors all over the country, and the doctors in turn spread the message to all of their patients. This alliance dissolved after research showed that polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oil and margarine could cause cancer in rats. But by then, the AHA was a trusted source and now anything low in saturated fat and cholesterol could be labeled “heart healthy”.

In 1977, a Senate committee led by George McGovern published its ”Dietary Goals for the United States,” advising that Americans drastically increase their carbohydrate intake and reduce their fat consumption. Was George McGovern a scientist? No. A nutritionist? No. Making his decision based on research? No. Maybe he thought he was qualified to tell a nation what to eat because he was trying to stop the lofty problem of world hunger. Maybe he saw the cover of Time and thought, well that Ancel Keys sure is a popular fellow, I’m sure he knows what he’s talking about!

Before this, the government had never told us what to eat, but now there are a myriad of government agencies that have all bought the same pack of lies.

(Watch a short clip from the documentary Fathead summing up the McGovern Report here.)

The National Institute of Health – it has a nice ring to it, right? You would think an institute with such a fine name would have our best interests in mind right? But no. Rather than set out to conduct unbiased research in an attempt to objectively find the BEST dietary advice, they decided to find proof for what they already believed to be true. So they conducted a few small studies, including one in Framingham, Massachusetts, that they hoped would provide evidence that consuming animal fat had a direct correlation to heart disease.

Did they find the proof they were looking for? NO!!! In study after study concluded, the opposite was actually found to be true. But that didn’t stop them from somehow still using the studies to prove that there was in fact a correlation. The Framingham Heart study actually states,

“we found that the people who ate the most cholesterol, ate the most saturated fat, ate the most calories, weighed the least and were the most physically active.” (JAMA Internal Medicine)

I mean come on! What’s going on here?!?!

In her book, Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon discredits study after study that set out to prove a correlation between saturated fat, cholesterol, and heart disease. One study in particular that is most cited by the experts to justify low-fat diets and prove that animal fats cause heart disease is actually a study falsely bolstering the effects of a cholesterol lowering drug. (I’m sure the drug companies had nothing to do with this…wink!) The $150 million Lipid Research Clinics Coronary Primary Prevention Trial (LRC-CPPT), put both the control group and the test group on a low cholesterol, low saturated fat diet. One group was given a cholesterol lowering drug and the other was given a placebo.

OK, wait a minute, this sounds like a test measuring the effectiveness of a drug, not an unbiased attempt to find out the true meaning of heart disease.

Then they claimed that there was a 24% decrease in the rate of coronary heart disease in the group who took the cholesterol lowering drug even though independent researchers who tabulated the results of this study found no significant statistical difference in coronary heart disease death rates between the two groups. So how does this prove that a low fat diet is better again? Aye-ye-ye!

Even after these failed research attempts, the USDA still drafted its first official Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 1980 with recommendations that were very similar to those of McGovern’s Dietary Goals for the United States. Why? Did they just see the momentum behind these false notions, think it made sense, and chose to go with something people would simply latch onto as “common sense”? These guidelines have since been republished every five years with very little changes. After their initial publication, the facts leading up to their decision were not even questioned as every major institution latched onto them with reckless abandon.

Even such trusted names as The American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, and the Senate Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs all claimed that animal fat was linked with not only with heart disease but with various forms of cancer. Yet when researchers from the University of Maryland analyzed the data they used to make such claims, they found that vegetable fat consumption was actually correlated with high rates of cancer and animal fat was not. How can this be? Is there no one out there who will tell the emperor that he has no clothes??? Are we all such sheep that we will just believe this garbage because everyone believes it?

New Dietary Guidelines DID NOT work

New Dietary Guidelines DID NOT work

So if the government’s recommendations to cut down on fats and increase carbohydrates were in our best interests, then how come obesity rates have soared and deaths by heart disease have increased? Before the 1920s, clogged arteries and heart disease were a rarity. Since then, the proportion of traditional animal fats has declined from 83% to 62%. Butter consumption plummeted from 18 pounds per person per year to four. On the other hand, the percentage of dietary vegetable oils in the form of margarine, shortening, and refined oils increased by 400% and the consumption of sugar and processed food increased by about 60%. Hmmmmm…it makes you think doesn’t it? Could the very things that we’re eating in an attempt to “be healthy” actually be making us sick, overweight, and dead?

Ancel Keys, the McGovern report, the American Heart Association, a population concerned with global issues of famine, USDA Dietary Guidelines, the National Institute of Health and biased test results, and products designed to meet the new low-fat recommendations have all led to this horrible misconception that ALL fats are bad for us.

In conclusion, there is obviously a paradigm shift going on here. I am not the only one who thinks this way. In fact, by the time our children are grown, HOPEFULLY common knowledge will have swung the pendulum back the other way and they will think it was silly that people actually thought that eating cereal was better than eating butter, but for now, we have to be diligent in what we consume and WHY we consume it. We only get one life to live, why not make our food our medicine and make this the best life possible.