Low Fat Myth


The LOW FAT DIET myth of the past IS bad for your health

Dr. Chrystyne Olivieri                                                                                                         May 2017

         I have recently been reading some very interesting stuff about how the "low fat diet" which has been promoted first by the American Heart Association (AHA) in the 1950's and then adopted dopted by the U.S.D.A. Dietary Guidelines for Americans adopted in 1980 was essentially based on very bad science and poorly conducted research. I recently came across some amazing research by people like Chris Masterjohn, PhD, a lipidologist and Nina Teicholz. Chris has written many articles, published many scientific studies and has a website (www.cholesterol-and-health.com). He has articulated in his articles how the low fat myth has essentially ruined the health of Americans. And Nina has written a wonderful book "The Big Fat Surprise" which is chock full of citations from research studies both promoting and contradicting fat as a cause of heart disease.  Of course, this controversy has been a boon to the medical community which includes the pharmaceutical industry which has made millions - no, billions of dollars on the backs of unsuspecting Americans, who just want to have optimal health. 

         Every time I see another patient who has elevated blood glucose, pre-diabetes, or a new diabetic, I am floored when they tell me that they believe they eat a very healthy diet. 

They say:

         "My diet consists of oatmeal in the morning (and I only eat the good kind - Irish steel cut oats - and some fruit). Then for a snack I have a yogurt (something like Activia or Light n'Fit). For lunch they only eat healthy, like Subway, a grilled chicken wrap, or perhaps a Grilled chicken Caesar Salad, with homemade croutons and diet Coke or diet Snapple. They eat a piece of fruit or "fat-free" pretzels as an afternoon snack - then for dinner, they often eat fish, like Talapia (a farm raised fish), then with a baked sweet potato and a salad (with bottled salad dressing). Snacking in the evening in front of the television usually consists of a treat like microwave popcorn or a bowl of commercially made ice cream." 

         And they wonder why they need to see me. They believe the lab must have made a mistake in processing their blood work. Oh, yea, and their scale at home is probably too old to be reliable. Not to mention that the clothing manufacturers are cutting clothing smaller now-a-days.

         First of all, there are no mistakes, other than that Americans believe the USDA dietary guidelines are created in their best interest and that the AHA wants to promote healthy dietary guidelines based on real scientific study results that produce healthier outcomes (I don't think so!).

        Many of the foods that many Americans eat today do not even closely resemble what humans have eaten for centuries. Foods of the 20th and 21st century are largely a result of the "industrial" and "fast-food" revolutions that have occurred perhaps without you noticing. This is a truncated timeline of what the last 150 years looks like. See if you see the patterns:

  • Late 1860's -      The Industrial Revolution starts "industrializing" our food supply. Prior to this time frame, all the cattle raised in the U.S. were "grass-fed" on a pasture, as well as other livestock. Cattle were given 4-5 years to mature and when they were brought to slaughter, they were essentially healthy with natural development of muscle to fat ratio. The meat was high in omega-3 fatty acids and rather nutritious as the animals were fed a natural diet deemed by nature. Once large corporations became the norm, they needed to maximize profits and this meant speeding up the process. Animals were kept within confined areas, not allowed to roam (avoiding a loss of some livestock due to predators, injuries or even poachers) and this meant they needed to be fed. They were provided with grains which makes any animal develop a lot of fat (as well as humans). It was then deemed necessary to give them steroids (growth hormones) so they would develop more muscle mass. Keeping animals in confined areas spreads infection so they were given daily antibiotics in their feed. This lowered the quality of the meat substantially. Currently, a cattle may be brought to slaughter in only 14 months. This is also true of other livestock including poultry.

  • Early 1900's -      Along with the development of "industrialized" foods came large factories to produce other foods stuffs. The National Biscuit Corporation (NABISCO) was one of the first to make processed foods. People loved these "easy" and "convenient" foods. Unfortunately,      America's health was beginning to change as our "farm" foods were replaced with "factory" foods. This was also the introduction of "industrial" oils into our food supply. Prior to this time, vegetable, soybean, corn and other vegetable oils were unknown in food. These oils were used in factories as lubricants. For millennia  the only fats used in the food supply were solid, saturated fats like butter, lard and tallow. Tropical oils like coconut and palm oils were also staples within the warm regions for just as long. It is when these "healthy - for literally millions of years - fats" were replaced with vegetable oils that America started seeing heart disease. This was rather uncommon in the western world prior to this time.​

  • 1900 - 1960's -      Early research was conducted on the natural, indigenous human cultures on      the planet, like the Masai in Kenya as well as the Inuit from Greenland and the Canadian Arctic. These cultures ate very little carbohydrates, if any. The research was published but mainly ignored by the scientific community of this time. That is because there was a movement occurring      that wanted to establish a way to abolish heart disease, which was rapidly      becoming problematic. And this movement was lead by a very charismatic and politically connected Ancel B. Keys. He was a biologist and a physiologist and he set out to study what dietary component was associated with heart disease. He first studied cholesterol, but that did not correlate well with heart disease as cholesterol levels are NOT associated with heart      disease. In fact, it is now know that the more foods high in cholesterol you eat, the lower your serum cholesterol. So he then changed his focus to fat, specifically saturated fat, and there he found what he was looking for: that a diet high in saturated fats raised LDL cholesterol. This is true, but of course, we now know that this doesn't matter at all as cholesterol levels have little to do with your risk of a heart attack. What is closely correlated with the development of cardiovascular disease is OXIDIZED LDL, which is found in people who eat a high glycemic index carbohydrate diet, lead sedentary lifestyles, and have high triglycerides and low HDLs. Oxidized LDL molecules are small and dense, not large and buoyant. Yes, in this case, size matters.

  • 1956 - Dr. Keys released his "7 Countries Study" - an epidemiological study looking at tens of thousands of people throughout 7 different countries which help proved his "diet-heart hypothesis" that a diet high in saturated fats is directly linked to the development of heart disease. Of course, he excluded the other "15" countries (there were 22 countries looked out in total) because they did not fit his hypothesis. And much of his information gathering was done during the spring. And what happens in many countries in spring??? Lent: when many people give up certain foods like those high in fat. So for these reasons (and many more I cannot go      into in this paper), Keys main study on which the USDA, AHA and American Diabetes Association (ADA) guidelines are all based, have not deviated much in over 60 years. However, because of this one poorly conducted, and misinterpreted study, Keys received international recognition in his fight against heart disease. But what about all the conflicting studies of      human cultures eating solid, saturated animal fats for several hundred thousand years? Oh, he just steam rolled over them as quacks with little relevance to the many Americans suffering from heart disease! And he laughed all the way to the bank.

  • 1957 - Pete Ahrens, a lipidologist who consistently challenged Keys theory, but did not carry      the political or charismatic clout, suggested that heart disease may be related to carbohydrates, like cereals, grains, flour and sugar. He actually correctly predicted that a low fat diet would increase consumption of these foods, sending heart disease, obesity and diabetes into the stratosphere! Was he was right? Ya think???

  • 1972 -      Dr. Robert Atkins, cardiologist from NYC wrote "Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution". He really was not wrong. He just had really bad timing. In the middle of the low fat diet craze, he was a  voice of reason, however people were already biased against saturated fats. His diet plan is not far from the Paleo diet, however Paleo focuses more on avoiding "processed foods" and eating "healthy animal products" rather than "mainly animal products".

  • 1980 - The first adoption of the "diet-heart hypothesis" by the U.S. government and the "Dietary Guidelines for Americans" was born. It has been re-released every 5 years since then, however they have never been modified to reflect what a healthy human being SHOULD REALLY eat. It was initially the "Food Pyramid" with grains and starches recommended to be 50-60% of the American diet (really????, yes sir), which is now in 2010, the "My Plate" method which now reduces this to 25%. Well what I want to know is - what changed? Human physiology? or that government bureaucracy is terrified of what is has been recommending and is trying to do "collateral damage control" by changing it's recommendations slowly. Well, how about      eliminating grains and sugars to almost 0% of your diet? How many millions of Americans have suffered or died of cardiovascular related illnesses because of our government's recommendations? And how many millions more will suffer as their medical provider continues to regurgitate this rhetoric?

  • 1985 - Dr.'s Eaton and Konner release their research study on what a healthy human diet      should consist of in 1985. They essentially created the "Paleo Diet" as they needed to go back to the Paleolithic era (10,000 years ago) to find when humans were at their optimal health. This is prior to the advent of agriculture (the first crops were the grains Emmer and Einkorn wheats - virtually unknown today), and prior to animal domestication. Eaton and Konner and every Paleo diet researcher since them have focused on the amazing health enjoyed by the homo      sapiens of the Paleolithic era. They were at least as tall as modern humans however they had bodies similar to today's "super athletes". And although they did not live very long due to the harsh conditions under which they lived, we know through studying their contemporary      counterparts that they could have lived well into their 60-80 years that we live today! And without the help of modern medicines.  In fact, it is largely due to modern medicine that we live as long as we do today. The average life expectancy of 1900 was a mere 48 years for a man, and is now approximately 80 years old, depending on where you live. Of course, we can      have outstanding nutrition (if you eat Paleo, of course) and we have warm houses to protect us from harsh environments, but the "chronic" stress we live with every day is a far cry from what our DNA is designed to handle. Our ancestors evolved to handle "acute" stress, like running away from a bear, not the daily stress of going to a job we hate or things like traffic. And the pharmaceutical industry just loves this, evidenced by the plethora of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications available by simply "asking your doctor".

  • 1990's -      Many new researchers such as Ronald Krauss have emerged on the scene, trying to convince the public it is alright to eat a healthy diet designed by nature for human beings, through well controlled research studies. The fight is not yet over as the public is not yet convinced in resuming saturated animal fats. This is mainly due to the fact that society is strongly influenced by two things: the media and the medical community. And when your medical provider continues to spew "misinformation" because so many simply do not keep up with the newest research, and the media is totally at the mercy of sponsors (you know, the guys with the money who pay with advertising dollars), how can you get the real information about your health? Enter: your paleo practitioner!

  • 2002 - Dr. Loren Cordain, PhD. writes "The Paleo Diet" book and is esteemed to be the "Founder of the Paleo Movement". His clinical research predates his book by many years and has been heavily cited by many other researchers, myself included. Since then, there have been many, many other researchers and authors that promote the Paleo diet with their magazines, articles, cook books, research results and conventions. Keep your eyes open and never stop      learning how to be healthy!