January 5, 2015


Meat Puppets : How Washington bought into the anti-saturated-fat agenda. (Kukula Glastris, Jan/Feb 2015, Washington Monthly)

Last September, the Annals of Internal Medicine published a remarkable study on the comparative health benefits of low-fat versus high-carbohydrate diets. Conducted at Tulane University with funding from the National Institutes of Health, the study followed a racially diverse group of 148 men and women ranging in age from their early twenties to their mid-seventies. All were obese but otherwise in good health. Half were randomly assigned to follow a low-carbohydrate regimen, the other half a low-fat one, all with no calorie restrictions and no changes in activity levels. The low-fat group ate more grains, cereals, and starches and cut their total fat intake to less than 30 percent of their daily calories, in line with the federal government's dietary guidelines. The other group raised their total fat intake to more than 40 percent of daily calories, including getting 13 percent of their calories from saturated fat, more than double the amount recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA).

After a year, both groups had lost weight. But those on the high-fat diets had dropped three times as much. The higher-fat group had also lost weight in a healthier way, reducing body fat, whereas those on the low-fat diet lost mostly lean muscle mass. Finally, the high-fat, low-carb eaters did better at lowering their risk factors for heart disease. "In the end, people in the low-carbohydrate group saw markers of inflammation and triglycerides--a type of fat that circulates in the blood--plunge," reported the New York Times, while "[t]heir HDL, the so-called good cholesterol, rose more sharply than it did for people in the low-fat group."

These findings, needless to say, run exactly counter to the nutritional advice Americans have been given for decades--that fat, especially saturated fat, is unhealthy, a broadener of waistlines and a clogger of arteries. If it were just this one study, the findings could perhaps be dismissed. In fact, it was the latest in a long line of similar research going back years. Six months earlier, the Annals of Internal Medicine published a meta-analysis of twenty-seven clinical trials that found, according to the Boston Globe, "no difference in heart disease rates among those who had the least amount of saturated fat compared to those who consumed the most." A meta-analysis of twenty-one other studies, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2010, found "no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease."

Anybody who's been reading the papers carefully for the last decade has probably picked up on this news, which may explain the recent popularity of low-carb and "paleo" diets and the growing presence of bacon and pork belly on the menus of trendy restaurants where the educated congregate. But the news has yet to reach the average Joe. A Gallup poll last July showed that twice as many Americans are trying to avoid fats as carbs.

These folks are still following the anti-fat advice drummed into them over the years by government and medical experts, especially the AHA and the federal government's "Dietary Guidelines for Americans," jointly published every five years by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Yet instead of backing off the message about the dangers of saturated fat, the AHA has held fast to its position, and the USDA, in its most recent guidelines, lowered its recommended daily consumption of such fat.

These recommendations have led, in turn, to new regulations on school lunch programs. But parents and school lunchroom employees complain that the students won't eat the new, supposedly healthier food. Most kids, for instance, skip over the skim white milk in favor of low-fat, heavily sweetened chocolate stuff. And, as researchers at the University of Virginia have found--you guessed it--kids who drink low-fat milk are much more likely to be overweight than those who stick to whole milk.

At some point soon, the majority of Americans are going to realize that they've been had--that the dire warnings about saturated fat they've been hearing from health experts and the government, which they have dutifully been trying to work into their daily eating routines, were flat-out wrong, and may have actually been doing them harm. 

...yet don't believe it's natural for Man to eat meat?
Posted by at January 5, 2015 5:14 PM

blog comments powered by Disqus
« STANDARD TIME: | Main | ...AND CHEAPER...: »