(Why the definition of good fats and bad needs to do a 180)
Imagine you’ve been promised a couple million dollars by a multinational junk food conglomerate if you can prove that fresh vegetables are bad for you. Let’s just say for the sake of argument that you are willing to trade in your ethical qualms for a bit of financial stability. How would you pull it off?
It’s actually a lot easier than you might think. Simply find 400 men who previously had a heart attack who smoke at least two packs a day. Get half of them to both quit smoking and stop eating vegetables. Let the other half keep smoking and continue eating vegetables as usual. In five years, your groundbreaking new study concludes that fewer men in the no-vegetable group had heart attacks than the men who kept on eating vegetables. Headline: Eating vegetables may up heart attack risk.
As you cash your check and start shopping for condos in the Bahamas, you quietly thank the statistics professor you had back in college who taught you the trick you used to muddy the facts of this study by cleverly using something called a “confounding variable,” a tactic that enabled you to produce the results your paymaster asked for.
A recent Washington Post article suggests that many doctors and researchers are pointing out that this very same tactic had been used to validate some of our most long-held and fundamental beliefs about diet and its relationship to cardiovascular health.
If you are someone with heart disease, or are at risk for heart disease or simply want to make the right nutritional choices, this should be of great interest to you. Here’s why: perhaps a dozen of the most frequently cited studies form the framework for government dietary recommendations, school lunch programs and programs that determine which foods are affordable and which are not.
One of those key studies is a 1960’s clinical trial from Oslo, Finland. The Oslo study included 412 men who’d previously had a heart attack. 206 cut out saturated fats and trans fat. The other 206 did not. Lo and behold, those who cut both saturated and trans fats experienced fewer heart attacks than those who did not—64 versus 90.
In the same way that smoking was the confounding variable in our vegetable experiment, trans fat was the confounding variable in this real world study that is the reason why millions of Americans have avoided natural, healthy fats, including coconut oil, avocado oil, and butter.
The effects of swaying the American public from the consumption of healthy, natural saturated fats were far reaching and long-lasting. By building a wall between these tasty choices and the American consumer, the officiators of the dinner table effectively painted culinary icons like Julia Child and Jaques Pepin as though they had, like Captain Owens in the Fantastic Voyage, literally entered your body to personally stucco your arterial walls with a thick layer of plaque. They also cleared from our dinner plates some of our favorite things—broccoli and cheese, garden salad with a creamy, herbed buttermilk dressing, garlic butter drizzled over steamed spinach and sour cream vegetable dips…I could go on, except I can’t—not if I’m following the rules that emerge from flawed studies like the Oslo study that tell me to avoid saturated fat at all costs. And that’s a problem. Because when you don’t allow people to have vegetables with natural fat, you’re essentially leaving them with blah tasting greens that very few people actually enjoy.
“With Enough Butter, Anything Is Good” ~ Julia Child
As a nutritional consultant, one of my greatest challenges is getting people to enjoy their veggies— note: I did not say eat vegetables; I said enjoy them. Because if you don’t enjoy vegetables, you’re not going to eat them. When I suggest to my patients they can go ahead and slather their veggies with butter or coconut or any other natural fat they enjoy, they often balk at the suggestion, because they’ve been told, repeatedly, that saturated fat’s no good. Even their own doctors have, most likely, been convinced by seminal studies, like the Oslo study, that eating saturated fat is like signing up for heart disease, and weight gain, and diabetes, and cancer, and just about every other disease you can name.
In other words, they’re confused. And that’s no accident.
If you’re confused about the constantly shifting dietary advice, one minute eggs are bad, the next they’re not, its no accident. It’s by design. And I’m here to tell you that you are not alone.
As a doctor who’s witnessed thousands of people struggle against an expanding midlife middle, I’ve been gratified that encouraging people to shed their programmed fear of eating real food and making a small change—cut out those supposedly healthy low-fat foods and instead, drink whole milk and dairy and enjoy foods like avocado, coconut and nuts—often results in a cascade of healthy metabolic shifts. This simple swap makes meals more satisfying and reduces the urge to reach for the real culprit that (almost everyone) agrees is unhealthy: junk food and sugary beverages. Not only will you find yourself looking trimmer, your risk heart attack, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s will go down.
Maybe you won’t own your own condo on the beach, but you will be on track to a lifetime of better health and owning the body of your dreams.
Related news: http://www.c-span.org/video/?328598-1/secretaries-tom-vilsack-sylvia-burwell-testimony-nutritional-guidelines