The Big Fat Surprise

I was not compensated for this post in any way, all opinions are my own and all quotes (unless otherwise specified) are from “The Big Fat Surprise.” You can purchase your own copy here. This link is in affiliate link, which means if you purchase through this link, you help support this site at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” – Marcus Aurelius

Originally I was not going to publish my review for this book until June, but as I started to receive questions about diet from my friends and family I realized that the low-fat dogma was still ever present. So I decided to leave Gary Taubes book Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It for next month, after all, if we do not understand that fat is fuel, then there is no use talking about the calorie myth. Another happy coincidence is that January is also National Carnivore Month, so I thought what better way to introduce Carnivore Month? Then a book that takes the guilt out of eating animal foods that have saturated fat, Nina Teicholz book The Big Fat Surprise.

As a disclaimer: I do not know Nina’s views on eating only meat. I just thought this is the perfect book to start our foundational understanding of diet. However, there are a few people out there that do endorse a carnivore lifestyle, and in the future, I will be reaching out to them to see if they can recommend any books on the topic that I can put in our book club or dedicate a post to.

As a second disclaimer: If you have not noticed, I fully agree with the arguments in this book and Nina has done some stellar research. You do not have to agree with my views or hers, and neither of us is infallible. If you feel we are wrong, find evidence to support your opinion, then try both approaches out. I tried being a vegetarian, it didn’t work for me, I feel better eating steak and butter. We are all experiments of one, test and find what works for you.

With that out of the way let’s talk about The Big Fat Surprise. The key takeaway from the book is that healthy fat is a necessary part of the human diet. These healthy fats should replace the “heart healthy grains” we have been taught to favor.

In her book, Ms. Teicholz addresses the reasons why we ended up demonizing fat and canonizing heart healthy grains. I believe she has built an airtight case that leaves no stone unturned, and she looks at the history and the science about saturated fat. In the end, she brings the key events and larger than life people that have been weaved to form a scientific narrative that is quite a page-turner.

With this review, I looking at five of the ten chapters in her book so we can start to understand how we have been led astray by the same organizations who say they have our best interest at heart when their real interest is to their flawed hypothesis.

To drive this point home here is a quote from her book:

[T]he story of nutritional science is not, as we expect, one of the sober-minded researchers moving with measured, judicious steps. It falls, instead, under the “Great Man” theory of history, whereby strong personalities steer events using their own personal charisma, intelligence, wisdom, or wits. In the history of nutrition, Ancel Keys was, by far, the Greatest Man.

  1. The Fat Paradox: Good Health on a High-Fat Diet

How crazy is that? Our nutritional guidelines have forced on us by strong-willed people instead of regulated studies. But now I am getting ahead of myself by a chapter or so. The book starts off in 1906 with an Anthropologist named Vilhjalmur Stefansson, he brought us our favorite high fat case study, the Inuit. The Inuit are a tribe of peoples from the Canadian Arctic, that consumed 70-80% of their daily calories from fat. For Six to nine months out of the year their go-to foods include Caribou eyes’, jaws, head, heart, kidney and shoulder, in that order, the leaner cuts of meat were left for the dogs. During the rest of the year, they would eat salmon or eggs as available.

I know what you are thinking ‘They could eat this way because they remained active all day, and did he even look at their risks for heart attack?!’ For the answer, let’s go back to the book, “[The Inuit] spent months in the near complete darkness of winter idly, unable to hunt, with ‘no real work’ to do, [Stefansson] observed. ‘They should have been in a wretched state. . . . But, to the contrary, they seemed to be the healthiest people I had ever lived with.’ He witnessed neither obesity nor disease.” So, not only did these people become sedentary during the colder months, but they were disease free. Heck, they only eat vegetables when they feared starvation.

The rest of the chapter mentions other cases where a high-fat diet was not the villain Key’s would later make it. The next story she mentions in Stefansson and a colleague “vowed to eat nothing but meat and water for an entire year.” After finishing the year both men felt fine and were “found to be in perfect health. Half a dozen papers published by the scientific oversight committee recorded the fact that nothing was wrong with them.” This was most likely because they chose parts of the animal that was full of fat and nutrients.

Like I have mentioned above and will mention again, this whole book goes against common wisdom, but that does not mean it is wrong, we are merely weighing the evidence to see what is true. Afterall doesn’t, “The practice of good science requires that when we observe something that doesn’t fit a hypothesis, these observations need to be reckoned with somehow.” A good scientist looks at data contrary to the hypothesis in question so they can fully understand what they are seeing. We need to try and disprove ourselves, so we improve our understanding.

  1. Why We Think Saturated Fat Is Unhealthy

Believe it or not, we did not always see fat as a bad thing, for most of human history it was seen as necessary to survival. As a society we did not come to the conclusion that eating fat made us until we were force fed the information by our Great Man. This specific great man was Ancel Key, I mentioned him before because he was a force of nature. He reminds me of Caesar (of Roman fame) because he believed in his hypothesis so much that he not only crossed the Rubicon for it, but he started fat-phobia that turned into the juggernaut of public policy it is now. Without him, we still would have ended up finding a cause for heart disease, it might not have been his diet-heart hypothesis.

The diet-heart hypothesis is that saturated fats cause heart disease, this was quickly established in the mainstream through Key’s influence on prominent institutions such as the American Heart Association (AHA), and the TIME magazine. Also in 1961, ‘…the Framingham investigators announced their first big discovery: that high total cholesterol was a reliable predictor for heart disease.’” These events lead to the widespread acceptance of the diet-heart hypothesis.

An important note is that there were critics that brought up equally valid counter-hypotheses. However, these proponents would end up just like Cassandra from the Trojan War. Able to see the faults in Key’s arguments, but their concerns fell on deaf ears. Before we get to the counterpoints, however, let’s talk about Keys and his hypothesis. Like I mentioned, he believed that saturated fat was the smoking gun for heart disease. In the 1950’s heart disease was starting to become a sword of Damocles above a nation terrified, that awaited the sudden tightening in the chest that signals a heart attack. It seemed as if no man was safe. Those who opposed this hypothesis would seem to have the curse of Cassandra. They saw the contrary evidence, and at best their concerns fell on deaf ears, at worse they were discredited ending up just like Cassandra

When a nation is terrified of a boogeyman that can attack at any time, all it takes is a self-assured individual to rise above the crowd and become deified. “Thus, when Keys first proposed his ideas about dietary fat, the backdrop was a tense and fearful nation thirsting for answers. At the time, the prevailing view held that human arteries slowly narrowed as an inevitable accompaniment of aging and that modern medicine could do little about it. Keys, by contrast, thought that heart attacks could be avoided, based on the simple logic that there had not always been such an epidemic.” This gave the American people hope that the sword could be stopped; their fate was back in their hands. He also felt, “that the US Public Health Service should expand its role beyond just containing diseases like tuberculosis to preventing diseases before they struck.”

During the first part of the twentieth-century, researchers believed that high serum cholesterol would end up clogging the arteries, which would directly lead to heart attacks. One report seemed to prove this theory, and earlier animal experiments also seemed to confirm the link between heart disease and cholesterol. This would remain the common wisdom up to today. Even though in 1992, a comprehensive analysis concluded:

That the vast majority of people will react to even a great deal of cholesterol in the diet by ratcheting down the amount of cholesterol the body itself produces. In other words, the body seeks to keep its internal conditions constant. In the same way that the body excretes sweat to lower body temperature, the process of homeostasis is constantly returning the internal conditions of the body—cholesterol levels included—to a state where all biological systems can function optimally.

This begs the question, was there an alternate view on the cause for heart disease? Yes, there was! In 1999, an Italian researcher looked at the Seven Country study numbers and found that sweets had the best correlation factor for heart disease. This was the same study Key’s would use to show saturated fat as the smoking gun for heart disease… So how are two different researchers getting two different outcomes from the same dataset? The inflammatory answer would be that one researcher, had his pride on the line if he was wrong (Ancel Keys), and the other researcher did not.

Over the years other researchers came to the same sweet conclusion and each time Keys would fire off shots. He always:

defended his Seven Countries study from the idea that sugar might explain some of the mortality differences he observed. In response to a letter by a Swedish researcher who raised the question in 1971, Keys ran some regression analyses showing that fat intake alone correlated perfectly with the variation in heart disease; sugar had no additional impact. But he did not run the reverse calculation, asking whether sugar alone had the same correlation (as Menotti [the Italian researcher] later did).”

At the end of the day, the sad truth to the matter is that, since “ ‘Sugar was never discussed properly among us [Seven Countries study research leaders],’ Menotti told me[Teicholz]. ‘We didn’t know how to treat it. We reported the facts and had some difficulty explaining our findings.’ ” This all boils down to, sugar could be the linchpin for heart disease. Which means if you take out the sugar, it may hold the sword of Damocles from slicing our collective head off. However, now that we have seen the sugar connection, what should happen to our health guidelines? Do these researchers need to acknowledge their misinterpretation of the data and allow the Cassandras to be vindicated? Sadly not yet.

  1. The Low-Fat Diet Is Introduced to America

I have said this before, but it is weird to think that a low-fat diet was not always the go-to diet for the public, in fact the low-fat message was having a low rate of governmental backing until 1961, when our favorite big man hit the influential trifecta; where he gained entry into both the American Heart Association (AHA) and National Institutes of Health (NIH), while also being on the cover of Time Magazine (which is quite the feat). During his stint in the AHA other mainstream views for Heart Disease, like Vitamin B6 deficiency, obesity, lack of exercise, high blood pressure and nervous strain, were pushed aside so that the hypothesis Keys favored would win the day. This happened despite the fact that the Keys’ Diet-Heart hypothesis had not gained any extra credibility since the AHA nutrition committee had stated, “[it] could not even reliably say whether high cholesterol in any given person would predictably lead to a heart attack, so it was too soon to be telling Americans to make any ‘drastic’ dietary changes towards this end.” The changes he left in this wake would be similar to the Augustinian changes that took place in Rome after the death of Caesar. Famously, Augustus boasted that he “found Rome a city of bricks, and [he] left it a city of marble. It could be said that Keys’ found a problematic diet full of fat and left a healthy low-fat alternative; the effects of which we are still recovering from today almost 60 years later.

In the next few paragraphs, I want to focus less on how the low-fat diet started to become dogma, and I want to focus more on early evidence that seemed to be counter to the Diet-Heart Hypothesis. After all, if outliers start to become the norm, it stands to reason that a paradigm shift needs to occur for other hypotheses’ to be tested. This again is how good science works, if your hypothesis does not hold up to testing, you need to tweak your hypothesis, not dig your heels in.

When you look at the early research on the Diet-Heart Hypothesis, you find little in the way of solid evidence. Take for example a study from the 1950’s, a decade before Keys ended up in the AHA, a researcher named, William Zukel, went to North Dakota, “to examine people who had suffered a heart attack or coronary death. During a year, his team identified 228 such cases and obtained detailed diet and lifestyle histories for 162 of them.” With a patient pool that large, one might assume that there should be some common consensus for the heart attack, the only similarity was, “heart patients were more likely to be smokers, but beyond that, Zukel could find no difference between the two groups in terms of the amount of saturated fat, unsaturated fat, or total calories consumed.” Not the smoke-and-gun one would hope to find.

Another set of findings that seemed to poke holes in the Diet-Heart Hypothesis took the form of an African tribe that lived on meat, milk, and blood. The scientist that studied these people was George v. Mann, and these people were called the Masai. Contrary to what the hypothesis said, these people were not dropping from heart attacks because of the meat, but their “total cholesterol levels were among the lowest in the world and who did not contract heart disease—nor, apparently, any other chronic diseases.” Instead of allowing the hypothesis to change and reform to this new evidence, a team of scientists was sent to Africa to look for flaws Mann obviously tried to hide. This led them to conclude that, the only plausible explanation could be, “that maybe the Masai over thousands of years had developed some gene with a freaky ability to reduce blood cholesterol. That theory was soon disproved…”

What was Keys’ reaction to all of this?:

Soon, Keys was publicly dismissing Stefansson’s work [From Chapter 1] as a venture that, like Mann’s, was exotic and irrelevant: Although “their bizarre manner of life [Inuit/Masai] excites the imagination,” especially that “popular picture of the Eskimo . . . happily gorging on blubber,” on “no grounds” was it possible to suggest that the case of the Inuit “contributes anything,” and it “certainly did not demonstrate an exception to the diet-fat coronary heart disease hypothesis.

The next major study I want to mention is the Framingham Study. This study was the first large-scale look risk factors that may be reliable in predicting heart disease, and it came away with two important repercussions that would be at odds with each other. The first came “in 1961, after six years of study, the Framingham investigators announced their first big discovery: that high total cholesterol was a reliable predictor of heart disease. This is considered one of the most significant findings in the history of heart disease research because before then, even though experts had come to assume serum cholesterol was bad, the evidence was only circumstantial.” If this information stood alone, it could prove that the sword of Damocles truly looms over us. However, you knew this was coming, “ thirty years later, in the Framingham follow-up study—when investigators had more data because a greater number of people had died—it turned out that the predictive power of total cholesterol was not nearly as strong as study leaders had originally thought.” Said another way, “Total cholesterol turned out not to be a reliable predictor of heart disease after all.” It’s a tragedy that it took thirty years to find that out, but did it talk us that long to find that out? Actually no, recall I mentioned there were two important findings that came from Framingham, “in 1960, it was very clear that saturated fat was not related to heart disease. Concerning the incidence of coronary heart disease and diet, the authors concluded, simply, ‘No relationship found.’ ” Sadly, this finding was ignored.

  1. The Flawed Science of Saturated versus Polyunsaturated Fats.

As time ticked by, it became harder and harder to speak against the low-fat dogma, despite the uncomfortable conclusion that kept persisting that “people who eat less fat, particularly less saturated fat, appear not to extend their lives by doing so. Even though their cholesterol inevitably goes down, their risk of death does not.” But, their cholesterol did go down, in recent years we explain this uncomfortable result with the hypothesis that we are not going low enough with our cholesterol recommendations.

With that line of reasoning, the government recommendations started to involve foods that lower cholesterol. What foods lower cholesterol? That’s right, polyunsaturated vegetable oils… You know the ones we are now being told to avoid, due to their unintended consequences. In liquid form they may lower cholesterol, however, they may also lead to cancer. When they are chemically changed to be hard at room temperature they “contain trans-fatty acids, which the FDA has deemed enough of a health danger to include on food labels.”

The reason man-made trans-fats are toxic is that these modified vegetable oils seem to have an unlimited number of mutations that can occur depending on the type of cooking you are doing. Since I am a bit of a nerd I think of them like the X-men character Mystique. Mystique is a mutant that can change her appearance at will, much like how trans fats are able to morph in our body causing a cascade of negative reaction that range from having an increased chance for heart disease, type-2 diabetes, which may not be as appalling as having the possibility for trans fats accumulation “in tissues all over the body: in the liver, the arteries, the fat tissue, and a good deal in the heart. Fatty acids lodged in tissue are a sign that they’re not being fully metabolized. ‘It would seem necessary’ to determine what effect trans fats have on the normal metabolic process.” Talk about the road to hell being paved with good intentions.

Trying to confirm a hypothesis against what the data say’s has been one of the government’s greatest follies. One that we still try and push. The worst thing is we stopped using oils that were not causing us harm like “lard (the fat from pigs), suet (the fat from around an animal’s kidneys), tallow (a harder fat from sheep and cattle), butter, and cream,” and we started cooking, frying and baking with “oils pressed from cottonseeds, corn, soybeans, peanuts, linseeds, and rapeseeds.” When it was shown these polyunsaturated oils lowered cholesterol, it was like Keys found the holy grail.

As the recommendations rolled out more studies were being funded, and eventually, the NIH funded the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial (MRFIT). This study lived up to its name, it “used the ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach to fighting heart disease. It was one of the biggest and most demanding medical experiments ever performed on a group of human beings… Stamler’s [the lead researcher] teams measured the cholesterol of 361,000 middle-aged American men and found twelve thousand whose cholesterol was above 290 mg/dL… most of the twelve thousand were obese, had high blood pressure, and smoked.” Of the twelve thousand men, “Half of them then received ‘multiple’ interventions: counseling to quit smoking, medication to lower high blood pressure, if necessary, and advice on how to follow a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet.” The other half of the men “were told to eat and live however they liked. Stamler followed all twelve thousand men for seven years.” If the Diet-Heart Hypothesis is as valid as Keys thought it was, this study should prove it hands down, however, when the results were announced, “in September 1982, were a disaster for the diet-heart hypothesis. Although men in the intervention group had been spectacularly successful in changing their diets, quitting smoking, and reducing their blood pressure, they died at slightly higher rates than the controls.”

That was not a typo, the men in the intervention group had died more often. So much for this diet keeping the sword of Damocles suspended. Again like so often before, instead of looking at the data and adjusting your hypothesis, these results were rationalized away, “perhaps people would need to start such interventions earlier in life or keep them up over a longer period of time to see results.” In the end, “its failure did not generate a change of course or even a serious reevaluation of the direction of heart disease research.” Instead, the Diet-Heart proponents stood their ground not willing to admit their mistake.

With that, “the normal defenses of modern science had been flattened by a perfect storm of forces gathered in postwar America. In its impressionable infancy and compelled by an urgent drive to cure heart disease, nutrition science had bowed to charismatic leaders.” The Diet-Heart hypothesis took hold of these scientists and in turn, money was given to test it. With time the US too would give into the boogeyman that is heart disease. Which caused them to turn to a flawed hypothesis that leads to them fearing, “meat, dairy, and dietary fat altogether, shifting calorie-consumption over to grains, fruits, and vegetables. Saturated animal fats would be replaced by polyunsaturated vegetable oils. It was a new, untested diet—just an idea, presented to Americans as the truth.”

  1. How Women and Children Fare on a Low-Fat Diet

In the push for a low-fat diet being the end-all-be-all for preventing heart disease, two large groups were left out of the equation, women, and children. It was never thought that these two groups would have different nutritional requirements than men, but they do. So people in the NIH thought so too or at least pushed for a better understanding of the effects of a low-fat diet.

This man is named Donald S. Fredrickson, he was a top NIH official who also went on to a leader in that governmental agency. He wrote about the topic asking the AHA guidelines, “‘Do we know enough,’ he asked, ‘to advise everyone to eat a diet which will provide more than half of the calories as carbohydrates?’” He asked this “referring to the lack of scientific evidence for the low-fat diet. It’s important to realize that in 1970 when the AHA started telling Americans to cut back on total fat, this regime had not been tested in clinical trials.” No Trial at that time had looked at lowering fat specifically, just switching saturated oil to vegetable oil. “When it came to reducing fat overall, as the AHA was now advising, the evidence was non-existent.” In fact, “trials aimed at testing the 35 percent fat limit that was already being recommended had simply not been performed. This lack of evidence had clearly not impeded the AHA from issuing its low-fat guidelines.” Instead of funding research to prove the efficacy of a low-fat diet the “country’s food production systems: development of new strains of learner livestock, low-fat dairy products and low-fat bakery goods, the promotion of margarine, the virtual elimination of egg yolks, and revisions of school lunches and food stamps, as well as meals for both the Armed Forces and veterans’ facilities.” So yet again the American people were given an untested diet was may result in negative outcomes.

The countrywide experiment was kicked off in 1977 when the Senate released a report entitled, Dietary Goals. One of the documents headlines read, “‘Benefits Would Be Shared by All,’ meaning not just middle-aged men, but women and children, too. No studies had been done on whether a low-fat diet was better—or even safe—for infants, children, adolescents, pregnant or lactating women, or the elderly, yet the Diet-Heart Hypothesis had taken hold to such a degree in the expert community that it was just considered a commonsense measure of prevention against heart disease for everyone at any stage of life over the age of two to start on this regime.”

How crazy is that? That is not even the worst part, “convinced that cholesterol was a crucial part of the heart disease puzzle, the NHLBI went so far as to propose universal umbilical cord blood screening in order to start treatment as early as possible, even at birth…. Such was the preoccupation with heart disease that researchers believed healthy children ought to start out life in a position of defense.” Luckily not all of the medical professionals agreed with this reasoning. In fast:

Quite a few experts challenged this line of thinking as it was being developed. ‘What evidence do we have that an egg yolk a day spells jeopardy for all Americans?’ asked Donald S. Fredrickson, a top NHLBI official, in the British Medical Journal in 1971. ‘What of sucklings and older infants? . . . Are we convinced of the safety of a diet containing 10 percent of polyunsaturates to the extent that we want to insist on this in baby’s formula?’ He went on to point out that the specific problem of middle-aged men ‘is not to be solved by general dietary advice’ to the entire population.

It’s bonkers to think that an untested diet was almost given to children without a second thought, by some. Did these voices keep the low-fat diet from being forced upon kids? I would like to say yes, but “the government was not impeded by this absence of evidence in issuing its dietary recommendations for children, however, and other expert groups adopted this point of view as well. The only professionals holding out against this generalized advice for all children were those entrusted with child health: the pediatricians.”

Luckily the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) refused to prescribe a low-fat diet to children. Even going so far as to voice concerns about their fear “of iron deficiency, which had not been a problem among children for decades in the United States, might rise if children started cutting back on meat. Not so many years earlier, meat, dairy, and eggs had been considered the best foods to promote growth.” Talk about the biggest case of cognitive dissonance. Yet again, instead of going back to the drawing board with the Diet-Heart Hypothesis, the government doubled down this time including women and children.

Even the pediatricians stayed firm with their recommendations, however “the pediatricians were losing the battle for public opinion. Experts had been telling Americans to reduce cholesterol and fat for so many years that parents had long since absorbed the message. Bombarded by low-fat advice, parents had swapped out whole milk for the reduced-fat variety and were restricting their children’s consumption of eggs.”

After parents changed their child’s diet, pediatricians started to note that children were not responding well a the low-fat diet. Specifically, “Lloyd Filer, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Iowa, is quoted as saying in the New York Times in 1988. Children on such diets [low-fat] had been turning up in hospitals showing ‘failure to thrive,’ he said, and when restored to higher-fat diets, ‘they gained weight and began to grow.’ Yet the concerns of pediatricians continued to be drowned out by advocacy from expert groups.”

The science did not matter because so many people believed that fat was the problem that they were unwilling to believe it could be another way. Especially since so many people felt “that the fight against plaque formation in the arteries should start as early as possible.” No matter how young the children were.

Has the pediatrician’s view of a child’s diet changed since the professor in 1988? Yes, it has. “Today, the AAP maintains its recommendations for a diet low in fat and saturated fat for all children over the age of two. School districts across the country, including those in New York City and Los Angeles, have banned whole milk and serve low-fat options whenever possible…” Even the nutritional programs like WIC have been changed to reflect this fat phobia, “the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) has slowly altered its food packages to contain fewer animal products, replaced by more and more grains. There are fewer eggs today than there were when the program started in 1972. There is now canned fish, tofu, and soy-based beverages, but no meat and all the milk for women and children above the age of two must be low-fat, 2 percent or less.”

These policy changes also hit women, even though women were not often taken into account in the early studies on a low-fat diet. Especially since “the heart disease epidemic initially affected more men than women, women were excluded from most clinical trials on heart disease.” One of the early studies that took women into consideration was the Framingham Study, in that study it showed that “women over fifty years old showed no significant correlation between total serum cholesterol and coronary mortality. Because heart disease occurs only very rarely in women under fifty, this finding meant that the great majority of American women have been needlessly cutting back on saturated fats these past few decades, since the impact on their blood cholesterol is meaningless for their coronary risk.” Instead of allowing women the keep their fat intake the same, “this important finding was omitted from the study’s conclusions when they were published in 1971. In 1992, an NHLBI expert panel reviewed all the heart disease data on women and found that total mortality was actually higher for women with low cholesterol than it was for women with high cholesterol, regardless of age.”

This means that women keeping their cholesterol low, because of the government’s guideline, could be raising their chance of heart disease. The ironic thing is that researchers had been warning that women respond differently to fat and cholesterol since the 1950’s; most prominently is that women do not start showing atherosclerotic symptoms (signs of heart disease) between ten to twenty years later than their male counterparts. I feel like a broken record when saying, that These results were also ignored… it has happened again and again when an inconvenient finding has been found for heart disease and its causes. If I was not reading the book and looking at the studies for myself, I would feel like a conspiracy theorist, but it is all sadly true.

Luckily, money was eventually given to look at the differences between cholesterol number in women and men “One of the NHLBI grants went to Robert H. Knopp, a lipid specialist at the University of Washington, who had studied the low-fat diet in men and was concerned about its effects on women.” During Knopp’s study, he followed “seven hundred Boeing employees” over the course of a year and he had them follow a diet that severely restricted saturated and total fat to 7 and 30 percent respectively. This was one of two diets developed by the “National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP), that NIH bureaucracy created solely to help Americans fight high cholesterol.”

After the year, “the results showed that their [the Boeing women] LDL-cholesterol levels dropped—theoretically a good sign—but the Boeing women also saw their HDL-cholesterol levels drop….The changes for men were not nearly so negative, but the women: they had followed the most stringent NCEP guidelines for an entire year and had apparently increased their risk of having a heart attack.”

After seeing the results of this study Knopps thought that women would be better served by a lower carbohydrate, possibly higher fat diet. “Knopp’s findings implied that women were actually betraying their health by eating a low-fat diet. And yet among the nutrition elite there was no reckoning with these disturbing implications. Most women didn’t know—and still don’t know—that a low-fat diet may possibly increase their risk for heart disease.” This is just yet another finding cast aside and reasoned away because its results are unfavorable the Diet-Heart Hypothesis.

Ironically, many people have seen first hand how wrong our nutritional guidelines are. However, we are still dutifully switching steak for chicken or tofu. Grabbing a cup of juice instead of milk. Contrary to what nutritionists say, time and time again we listened to what our food pyramids, or our MyPlate.

I have seen in with my own eyes. My mother stopped eating healthy meat and butter and changed it out for chicken and margarine. My father stopped using tropical oils in favor of canola oil, we switched out white bread for heart-healthy whole grains. With each change, they grew inches even with my father working out like a madman, and he still does. When I moved to Texas it was not much better. I’m not saying that because it has the largest rates of obesity. I am saying that because, when I moved in with my brother, I saw first hand the kind of food WIC would provide, low-fat or fat-free milk, cans of juice, whole grain bread and similarly sugar and grain filled food. During this time, I ate very similarly and I thought we were doing everything right because if I stayed away from fat I wouldn’t get fat. However, when I started gaining weight on my low-fat diet, I tried to cut back on soda and switch it out for juice and unsweet tea, when that didn’t budge my weight I tried other governmental guidance. It worked for a time, but I always gained my weight back. It wasn’t until I found podcasts and books like this one that I started to learn what I could do to start feeling healthy. That’s why I cannot recommend this book enough.

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