The Big Fat Lie: how we’ve been misled and misfed*
FAT. It's amazing how such a small word can create so much fear and trepidation in so many people. A major staple in the diet of our early ancestors (who thrived on a high-fat, low-carb diet), fat is now seen as the dietary villain responsible for unwanted weight gain, cholesterol build-up and deadly heart attacks. We've been warned to eat less fat; we're told to take cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins—now known to carry serious health risks of their own), and supermarkets are full of low-fat and fat-free products. Yet there's more heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and cancer than ever before.
Although we're beginning to understand its benefits, we're still being misinformed about fat—and many other foods.
Although we're beginning to understand the benefits of healthy saturated fats such as coconut oil, we're still being grossly misinformed about fat—and many other foods. Many of us have relied on mainstream medicine for advice, despite the fact that most doctors have minimal nutritional training and do not keep up with scientific research. As a result, they often take us even further down the rabbit hole of ill-health by prescribing drugs instead of life-saving fats and foods. Their ignorance, plus our own lack of awareness about what our bodies need, has created a cruel irony. Fueled by our unfounded fear of fats, there's now a booming market for low-fat, fat-free and refined foods that are compounding the very problems they were meant to resolve.
The truth is that fat is good, as long as it's good fat. It's the refined carbohydrates and polyunsaturated oils that are creating many of the health challenges we face. Studies now confirm that we need more saturated fat and fewer refined carbohydrates for good health. But don't just take my word for it. Many progressive doctors and medical researchers are aware of the big fat lies we've been told for decades, and they're setting the record straight. Cholesterol is not the problem. The true cause of heart disease is our low-fat, high-carb diet, and saturated fats such as coconut oil are actually very good for us, boosting cardiovascular health and protecting us from degenerative disease.
Debunking the cholesterol myth
Dr Dwight Lundell, MD (an American heart surgeon with 25 years' experience who has performed over 5,000 open-heart surgeries) took a brave stand in 2012 by admitting online that he was wrong about cholesterol causing heart disease (see http://sott.net/en242516). Like most doctors, he firmly believed—and told his patients—that heart disease was the direct result of high cholesterol, and that a low-fat diet and statins were the best ways to avoid it. But now he knows better.
There is no scientific evidence that saturated fat alone causes #heartdisease.
Forget what's been drummed into your head for decades, says Lindell, because there is no scientific evidence that saturated fat alone causes heart disease. Mainstream medicine made a terrible mistake, he says, when it advised people to avoid saturated fat, in favour of polyunsaturated vegetable oils (such as soy, sunflower, corn, canola and grape seed oils), which contain high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, now known to cause inflammation in the body. "The cholesterol theory led to the no-fat, low-fat recommendations that, in turn, created the very foods now causing an epidemic of inflammation." And inflammation is now considered to be a leading cause of disease, promoting obesity, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, chronic pain, bronchitis, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, infections and heart disease, as well as accelerating the signs of aging.
The skinny on the fattening oils
Oils such as soy, sunflower, safflower, corn, canola and grape seed oils are now known to:
- hinder thyroid function and metabolism, causing weight gain
- readily oxidize, causing free-radical damage
- promote or even cause diabetes, by interfering with insulin levels
- accelerate aging
- deplete vitamin E and other antioxidant reserves in the body.
A superfood saturated fat
Dr Bruce Fife (nutritionist, naturopathic doctor and author of The Coconut Oil Miracle) reports that many researchers now consider coconut oil to be the healthiest oil on earth. A dietary staple in many tropical countries, where it's highly prized for its numerous health-enhancing, disease-preventing properties, coconut oil is known to:
- boost digestion, energy and mental clarity
- strengthen the immune system
- improve thyroid function
- help regulate metabolism and blood sugar
- promote weight loss and youthfulness
- protect against heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and other diseases
- fight infection, viruses, fungi and parasites
- have anti-aging antioxidant properties
- alleviate insomnia
- promote kidney and bladder health
- reduce epileptic seizures in children.
#Coconutoil is truly one of nature's most remarkable health tonics.
"Coconut oil is truly one of nature's most remarkable health tonics," says Fife, and using this oil for cooking could be one of the healthiest things you could ever do. It has a high 'smoke point', which means that it doesn't easily oxidize or become a source of unhealthy free radicals, even when used for frying and baking. Polyunsaturated vegetable oils, on the other hand, oxidize at relatively low temperatures, and it's largely these oxidized polyunsaturated fats that cause inflammation (together with refined carbohydrates). When you also consider the fact that the liver makes 90% of the body's cholesterol itself (sometimes even converting the carbohydrate in fruits, vegetables and grains, to make it), the whole saturated-fat-artery-clogging theory makes no sense at all.
Natural animal fats and cholestorol-rich foods do not cause #heartdisease; they prevent it!
Still not convinced? According to bestselling author, neurosurgeon and nutritionist, Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, animal fat was, for millennia, considered a sacred food reserved for the most important members of the tribe or family—their leaders, warriors going into battle, couples trying to conceive, growing children, wise elders, and those recovering from illness. "This ancient wisdom was passed [down] through generations, until the last few decades, when the infamous diet–heart hypothesis was born," she says. "More than fifty years have passed since then, and the science has spoken: the diet–heart hypothesis is false! Natural animal fats and cholesterol-rich foods do not cause heart disease; they prevent it!"
In her latest book, Put your Heart in your Mouth: what really causes heart disease and what we can do to prevent and even reverse it, Campbell-McBride explains how we've been subjected to anti-fat and anti-cholesterol propaganda for decades, with catastrophic results for our hearts and overall health. If natural fat and cholesterol-rich foods did, in fact, cause heart disease, she says, the rates of this disease would have fallen by now, given all the statins and low-fat foods we've been consuming. Instead, they're increasing. It's like the Emperor's New Clothes syndrome, says Campbell-McBride, and it's time for this anti-fat fiction to be exposed for what it is.
Yet another advocate of a fat-rich diet is award-winning neurologist Dr David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain: the surprising truth about wheat, carbs and sugar—your brain's silent killers, which brings other dimensions to the fat debate. Perlmutter believes in empowering people with information so they can protect and enhance their own health, and his books contain facts that will forever change the way you think about fat—and food, in general.
Cholesterol could save your life…
In Grain Brain, Perlmutter shares his decades of experience resolving all kinds of neurological and other diseases through a gluten-free, low-carb, fat-rich diet. Exposing grains and refined carbohydrates as unworthy usurpers of the leading role that should be played by fat (especially coconut oil), he explains how they trigger inflammation in the body. Documenting the many health benefits of cholesterol, he emphasizes the brain's dependence on this vital form of fat, and the fact that many diseases are alleviated by cholesterol, and many conditions caused by a deficiency. Even in the case of the devastating motor-neuron disease known as ALS (or Lou Gehrig's disease), those with higher cholesterol levels tend to live longer.
Cholesterol is the brain's favourite food and a critical nutrient for #brainhealth
Based on his own findings, and on the numerous medical/scientific studies referenced in his book, Perlmutter presents the following conclusions:
- Cholesterol is the brain's favourite food and a critical nutrient for brain health.
- Every cell in the body requires saturated fat.
- Low cholesterol increases the risk of dementia, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and other neurological problems.
- Higher cholesterol levels have been scientifically shown to boost intelligence.
- More than 50% of those hospitalized for heart attacks have 'normal' cholesterol.
- Statins increase the risk of heart disease and reduce libido, among other things.
- We need good saturated fat for healthy brains, hearts and hormones.
- Grass-fed beef contains beneficial anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
- Inflammation is the cornerstone of all degenerative conditions/brain disorders.
- Gluten, grains, refined carbohydrates and sugars trigger inflammation.
- Gluten causes inflammation, even in those without gluten intolerance.
Ironically, as early as 1995, cholesterol was already known to not be a problem. By then, studies had confirmed that there was no correlation whatsoever between cholesterol and heart disease, yet nothing changed on the supermarket shelves or in the ads promoting low-fat/fat-free foods. The reason? An entire industry had been built around these foods, and manufacturers (such as those producing soybean oil, and breakfast cereals loaded with refined starches and sugars) were making far too much money to be put off by concerns for people's health. Consequently, as pointed out by Dr George Mann, Professor of Biochemistry & Medicine, and author of Coronary Heart Disease: the dietary sense and nonsense: "The public is being deceived by the greatest health scam of the century."
It will take time for the latest scientific and medical wisdom to turn the tide of confusion and fear about fat. But this emerging knowledge is, according to Lundell, leading to a paradigm shift in how heart disease and other chronic ailments will be treated. If so, perhaps all those low-fat lies and fat-free falsities will finally be put to rest.
Olga Sheean is an empowerment coach, relationship therapist, holistic healthcare practitioner and the author of The Alphabet of Powerful Existence. She's based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. www.olgasheean.com
* First published in Health Action magazine, winter 2015-16 edition (www.hans.org).
Recommended further reading:
- Grain Brain: the surprising truth about wheat, carbs and sugar—your brain's silent killers, by Dr David Perlmutter, MD (drperlmutter.com).
- The Coconut Oil Miracle, by Dr Bruce Fife, CN, ND (coconutresearchcenter.org).
- Put your Heart in your Mouth: what really causes heart disease and what we can do to prevent and even reverse it, by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD (doctor-natasha.com).
- Coronary Heart Disease: the dietary sense and nonsense, by Dr George V. Mann, Janus Publishing.
- The World's Biggest Fad Diet, by Dean Esmay (survivediabetes.com/lowfat.html)
- The Physician's Concise Guide to the Cholesterol Myth, by the CIIMS (www.cambridgemedscience.org/reports/CholMythCamb.pdf).