The notion that saturated fat, specifically the type found in animal products, is "bad" because it raises cholesterol, "clogs" arteries and leads to obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases is not just a little off, it's flat out false.
In the 1950's, a researcher named Ancel Keys decided that our country was in the middle of an epidemic. He believed that American's were suffering from cardiovascular disease and, in his mind, the culprit was dietary fat. His developed of the "lipid hypothesis" of chronic disease and set about on a crusade to prove his notion correct.
Unfortunately, the data he collected by testing the total cholesterol of men in dozens of different countries didn't back-up his theory. Unswayed, Ancel simply removed the data that didn't fit his hypothesis, interpreted his findings as "proof" and then engaged in a marketing campaign that culminated in a Time Magazine cover story. Keys' findings were then adopted by the 1977 McGovern Commission, against the will of the commissions board of doctors and scientists, culminating in the first set of national dietary recommendations.
|The red dots indicate the data Keys used to "prove" his correlation between fat intake and mortality. The black dots reflect populations that were not considered in Keys' study and when they are incorporated, the empirical support of the fat/cholesterol hypothesis of disease falls apart. (Image from Hyperlipid)|
The McGovern Commission guidelines, which recommended limits on the consumption of meat, dairy and other sources of dietary fat and cholesterol, institutionalized Keys' cholesterol hypothesis, directed the funding of future research, and reshaped the perceptions of millions of Americans. The results, however, have been deadly.
As you can see from the below graph below, since the McGovern commission released it's findings in the mid 1970's, there has been a dramatic spike in the incidence of diabetes, heart disease and obesity in this country.
|From Gross et al 2004 (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)|
While it may be easy to point the finger at fast food companies like McDonalds, the truth of the matter is that American's really did listen to the advice that they were given and reduced their fat intake, replacing fat calories with carbohydrates.
At this point, the problem is now a matter of entrenched beliefs posing as facts. The recommendation to "reduce fat" has been repeated so many times that it is confused for an absolute truth. Doctors, Dieticians, and Nutritionists who studied in the years following the McGovern Commission were taught that fat is "bad" and now accept the notion without engaging in a critical examination of the actual scientific evidence.
The average American, believing in the infallibility of "experts" is directed to eat more "good" carbohydrates like whole grain cereals, beans, and breads. They are told to avoid "fatty" foods and to eat "lean" meat. They then buy "low-fat" high carbohydrate foods, margarine and other "low cholesterol" oils, and as many "Now with more whole grain!" items as they can. They avoid rich, satisfying foods and instead eat copious amounts of craving-inducing refined carbohydrates.
Sadly, a low-fat high carbohydrate diet, as recommended by American Heart Association, the ADA, and by so-called nutrition "experts", is precisely the kind of diet that leads to the development of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and every other form of chronic, auto-immune, and degenerative disease. An honest look at the actual scientific evidence is difficult to find and it is only through the courageous efforts by passionate informed individuals such as Gary Taubes, Tom Naughton, Sally Fallon, and Mary Enig that the truth has slowly been brought to light.
If you want to help bring the decades long war against dietary fat to an end, join our online petition. It only takes minute and the more of us who speak up, the greater the chances that we will be heard.