As you prepare to get through the holidays and start thinking about your New Year’s resolutions, remember the single biggest dietary revelation of the past year.
This revelation should not have surprised you. Nor did it change any of the recommendations I have been making for years — it only reinforces them. But the news was such a major bombshell, it caused mainstream medicine “experts” to reevaluate everything they ever thought they knew about the human diet — with some major soul searching.
Yes, I’m talking about the big “secret” news about sugar.
A recent investigative report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that the sugar industry manipulated science in the 1960s to make the sweet stuff appear less harmful than it really is. This revelation again focused attention on the poor quality of the scientific evidence in the whole field of diet and nutrition, and in prevention of chronic diseases.
The build-up to this sad history actually began nearly a century ago…
Once upon a time, we ate fat
Early in the 20th century, America lived high on the hog — literally. We had made big advances by making more highly nutritious foods — such as butter, dairy and meats — more widely available to more people.
I remember my parents marveled at the availability of marbled (Grade A) beef at every supermarket wherever we lived. They had never seen riches such as that, as my father had lived through the Depression in Appalachia in the U.S. and my mother had lived through WW II in Europe.
Even during the mid-20th century, people consumed a diet consisting of about 40 percent total calories coming from fats. Many understood that processed carbs, starches and sugars caused weight gain. I’ll always remember a popular TV show of the early 1960s in which veteran actor Harry Morgan rubbed the big belly of a “happy Buddha” statue and said, “too many potatoes.”
Why is fat so important?
For starters, fat has high caloric (energy) density with nine calories per gram, compared to four calories per gram of carbs or protein. So — you get more bang for your buck in terms of energy output.
High-fat foods also satisfy the palate and keep you full longer. Biological anthropologists believe humans have a strong taste for fats because it is so important that we get enough essential fatty acids, which are rarer in Nature than carbs.
Then came the dietary disaster.
Americans drop fat in favor of sugar
In the 1970s, following the sugar industry’s manipulation of the science on sugar, the government science bureaucrats started recommending a low-fat/high-carb diet with a limit of 30 percent total calories from fats.
Some “experts” warned against eating too many foods high in cholesterol, such as dairy, fatty fish, olive oil, and nuts — all of which are actually essential for good nutrition and health. (Some “experts” amazingly still hold on to these claims.) Their misbegotten advice against dietary cholesterol also meant cutting or eliminating eggs, meats and seafood. Instead, they said to increase carb consumption up to 11 servings of grains and additional carbs like potatoes.
This huge, ill-founded, experimental government policy foisted on the American public had long-lasting and deadly consequences over the next 40 years…
Between 1970 and 2010, consumption of dietary fat fell by 25 percent. At the same time, the rates of obesity, Type II diabetes, and cardio-metabolic heart diseases increased by seven-fold. Plus, heart disease — which had actually been decreasing before the new dietary guidelines or cholesterol drugs — started going back up.
Today, many informed doctors are finally recognizing that this ill-advised reduction in fats and increase in carbs directly contributed to the growing burden of chronic disease, despite hundreds of billions spent on drugs and surgical procedures to “treat” these conditions.
But it is not just a question of eating too many processed carbs. Other research shows men and women experience big problems when they don’t get enough good dietary fats. To that end, last year, the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans essentially eliminated the upper limit for dietary fat intake (as long as you don’t get too many total calories).
The USDA’s recommendation is a start. But we need a comprehensive overhaul of the entire public health system. Significant dangers persist, since the low-fat diet remains entrenched among the public and many ninny health professionals, dieticians, and nutritionists who ought to know better by now. (Although they should really have known better all along!)
As I have always advised, eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables (including avocados), as well as organic eggs, fatty fish, meats, nuts, olive oil, and seafood. If you still hear or read some ninny “expert” braying about how many eggs you can “get away with,” or warning against foods with cholesterol and saturated fats, run (or walk deliberately) in the other direction. It will also provide some good moderate exercise, especially around the holidays.
“Lowering the Bar on the Low-Fat Diet,” JAMA 2016;316(20):2087-2088