12 April 2010
Some of you may have seen the article on Slate last month called “Is the War on Fat Making Us Sicker?” I feel like I have to comment on this belatedly, because this idea has become such an important part of the way I eat.
You probably already know my answer to the question Slate posed. In fact, you might be getting sick of all my fat-lovin’.
But now it looks like the media is starting to come around to the idea that fat is not the enemy it’s been made out to be. The heart of the Slate story is this:
The foundation for the “fat is bad” mantra comes from the following logic: Since saturated fat is known to increase blood levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, and people with high LDL cholesterol are more likely to develop heart disease, saturated fat must increase heart disease risk. If A equals B and B equals C, then A must equal C.
Well, no. With this extrapolation, scientists and policymakers made a grave miscalculation: They assumed that all LDL cholesterol is the same and that all of it is bad. A spate of recent research is now overturning this fallacy and raising major questions about the wisdom of avoiding fat, especially considering that the food Americans have been replacing fat with—processed carbohydrates—could be far worse for heart health.
The article goes on to explain that study after study after study is showing that neither higher consumption of saturated fat nor high cholesterol are actually correlated with an increased risk of heart disease.
Yet — and you knew there was a “yet” — dietary guidelines in America still state that we should only consume at most 10% of our calories from saturated fat.
My question is this: If we know the anecdotal evidence (that our low-fat eating habits aren’t making us healthier or skinnier) and we know the science (see above), then why don’t the guidelines line up with the most recent science?
I don’t have a good answer for that, but I do have a guess. It’s all about politics. If you really want the full story, I recommend reading Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories. But it’s nothing new that historically, people have been rewarded for coming up with findings that support the status quo rather than challenging it. This time, it’s at the expense of our health.
I just don’t get why people are so reluctant to accept it. Even in the latest issue of Glamour, I found this:
I agree with her that trans fat is horrible, but: “Saturated fat isn’t exactly heart-healthy.” Really? I’d say at worst, it’s neutral, and at best, it’s actually good for you. It sounds like Dr. Manson is sort of hedging here. Get your facts right, doc!
I haven’t always been a saturated fat lover. If you read back to some of my earlier posts, I recommended that people limit their sat fat intake, too. But I’m not immune to new science, new research, and new guidelines. Ones that promise to make us healthier rather than sicker. Plus, let’s not forget that saturated fat is DELICIOUS. Since I’ve upped my intake (from quality meat and some dairy), I’ve lost weight, my skin is clearer and less dry, and I feel more satiated all the time.
So whomever you choose to believe about saturated fat (the government? Scientists? Journalists?), just do your homework… carefully. Your health is at stake.
Alright, I promise I’ll stop preaching fat-love now… at least for a little while!