A Radical Change, That Was Based On NO Scientific Basis
In 1977, the U.S. released the first national dietary guidelines to urge Americans to cut back on fat intake.1 This was a radical change in the prevailing diet at the time. These new guidelines suggested that Americans eat a diet high in grains and low in fat. Along with most animal fats being replaced with processed vegetable oils. According to research by Zoe Harcombe, Ph.D., published in the journal Open Heart.2 In which, Dr. Harcombe and his colleagues examined the evidence from randomized controlled trials, the gold standard of scientific research, that was available to U.S. and U.K. regulatory committees at the time. The evidence revealed that these recommendations to cut reduce overall fat consumption to 30% or less of total energy intake and limit saturated fat consumption to just 10%. Never had any scientific basis. For as noted in Open Heart, “Recommendations were made for 276 million people following secondary studies of 2467 males, which reported identical all-cause mortality. RCT evidence did not support the introduction of dietary fat guidelines.”
So, Where Did These Recommendations Come From?
The more appropriate answer is not where the recommendations can from, but is rather who influenced these recommendations. And that who would be an American physiology professor known as Dr. Ancel Keys. In 1951, Keys went to Europe in search of the root of Heart Disease. He had heard that Naples, Italy, had a low rate of cardiovascular disease, so he went to observe the eating habits of Neapolitans. He noticed that Neapolitans dined primarily on pasta and plain pizza, accompanied by vegetables drizzles with olive oil, cheese, fruit for dessert, plenty of wine, and very little meat. By a less than rigorous scientific approach Keys deduced that avoiding meat, thus the saturated fat found in meat, resulted in lower incidence of heart attacks. Somehow the prevalence of cheese in the diet (also a source of saturated fat) escaped his notice, but as we will see he proved himself skilled at ignoring evidence that didn’t confirm his “research.”
Compelling but Biased Evidence
After Italy, Keys continued looking for evidence that a diet high in saturated fat was associated with a high rate of cardiovascular disease. He compiled data from six countries with high rates of heart disease and diets typically high in saturated fats.3 The evidence seemed compelling enough, for example. Men in America who ate a diet high in saturated fat died from cardiovascular disease at a much higher rate than men in Japan, who ate little saturated fat. But, and it’s a big but, the evidence was skewed. Key neglected other facts, such as that Japanese also ate far less sugar and processed foods. Keys also didn’t include countries that didn’t fit the mold, such as France, where consumption of saturated fat was high and cardiovascular deaths were low. Still his “biased” research was supported and his ideas gained traction.
Keys Influence, Influenced the American Heart Association
Keys used his connections and influence to join the nutrition committee of the American Heart Association (AHA). The AHA, based on Key’s input, issued a report in 1961 that recommended patients with a high risk of heart disease to cut down on saturated fat.4 In 1970, Keys went on to publish the Seven countries study,5 which elaborated on his original research of six countries. This study has now been cited in over a million other studies. Even though Keys’s scientific research never proved causation, only association, between saturated fat and heart disease. Keys also selected and excluded countries based on his desired outcome and sugar was not considered as a possible contributor to coronary heart disease.
Supposedly “Healthy” USDA Dietary Guidlines
Ever since Ancel Keys began the shift to a low-fat diet in the 1950s, Americans started reducing their intake of animal fats. Many more Americans joined this shift following the introduction of the USDA Dietary Guidelines in 1980 and the retooling of the food industry to produce low-fat foods ensued. This replaced healthy saturated fats like butter and lard with harmful Trans-fats such as industrially processed vegetable oils. Yet despite out adherence to these supposedly “healthy” guidelines the health of the US population has declined tremendously.
Evidence These Guidelines Weren’t so “Healthy”
In 1978, 5.19 million Americans had been diagnosed with diabetes. By 2013, it was 22.3 million more than quadruple the number of people diagnosed 35 years ago.6 The National Health and Nutrition Examination survey showed that, from 1976 to 1980, 16.4% of adults were obese or extremely obese. The recent percentage from the Journal of American Medical Association, has grown to more than 45.6%.7 Heart disease is associated with obesity. While the death rate from heart disease has declined since its peak in the 1950s, mostly due to advances in medical treatment not improvements in health. Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in America and the prevalence of Heart disease is still high and continues to rise. In 2010, approximately 36.9% (over 1/3rd) of Americans were living with some form of cardiovascular disease. A study published in Circulation, projects that by 2030, over 40% of the U.S. population will be living with cardiovascular disease.8
Too Much Confusion
There is too much confusion over saturated fats, about whether they are healthy or not, to cover in a single post. And while I have written about them before, I want to extensively go over all the lies behind the saturated fat myth and truth behind why they are healthy for us. So, this will need to be a two part (or longer) post. But before I end this article I want to ask you something. If, as we have been told, heart disease results from the consumption of saturated fats, which the prevalence of has increased. One would expect to find a corresponding increase in animal fat in the American Diet, right?
Fact of the week
As of 2017, the estimated number of new cases of cancer is 492 people out of every 100,000.9
This is a statistically significant increase from 1975, when the rate of new cancer diagnoses was roughly 400 people out of every 100,000.10 Or, otherwise seen as a 23% increase from 1975. Seeing how being obese, or extremely obese, gives people an increased risk of developing cancer. Is it any wonder why these cancer numbers have increased with the rising tides of the obesity epidemic plaguing the U.S. and other countries?