|Last update November 11, 2021, article reviewed & updated multiple times since February 9, 2002.
What You Need to Know
In the past several articles, we have been talking about how it is that fats and cholesterol became the enemies of the table. But after going through the entire story, we can see that the science of dietary fat is much more complicated than it has been presented by The Official Opinion.
Among the issues said to be involved are the different forms of cholesterol, the levels of carbohydrates in the diet, triglyceride levels, regional diets, the increasingly widespread use of cholesterol-lowering drugs among the general population, the health effects of a diet too low in dietary fat, and the huge amounts of money available from food manufacturers for influencing what the public buys and eats.
Additionally, there are doubtlessly other factors that have not been looked at very closely, such as the likely effect of smoking on cholesterol levels.
So as we look at all we have discussed, what is our best position, relative to all that has been said? What have we learned from the information presented in the past six articles? The information you want to have about the subject can be summed up by these twelve facts:
Low Fat Controversy: How We Got Here
- Although the attack on dietary fat and cholesterol has been going on for more than 50 years, and despite the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on research trying to prove that a low-fat diet equals a healthier and longer life, there is no proof whatsoever that it is true, and there is no proof whatsoever that saturated fats increase heart attack risk.
- The low-fat dogma came about by the actions of a U. S. government committee that had been formed to develop federal food assistance programs for the needy. The committee decided on its own to take up dietary excesses because some of the members of the committee were overweight, and liked a particular diet guru’s extremely low-fat diet plan. They decided that what was appealing to them, personally, was the best thing for everyone.
- The low-fat message continues to be advocated by many doctors, nutritionists, journalists, health organizations, and consumer advocacy groups. But each must point to the others as authorities for the viewpoint since there are no scientific facts available. The biochemist who put forth the low-fat suggestion in the first place admitted there was very little evidence connecting diet to heart disease. And by 1999 even the U. S. Surgeon General’s office admitted that the science behind the low-fat opinions didn’t stand up to examination.
- There are hundreds of food science laboratories dedicated to developing and manufacturing fat-free substitutes for dietary fats. This industry has much to gain and is making huge profits from the idea that fats are bad. Consequently, it is important for members of the public to continue to ask, “Who has been doing the research? Who has been paying for the research? What research questions are being asked? What questions are not being asked? Which research is considered and which research is overlooked when making reports to the media? How much ego or prestige, and how many university positions are invested in one opinion or the other? Who benefits if consumers believe The Official Opinion?”
- Cholesterol, rather than being a curse, is a blessing. It contributes to normal function of the cells and the nerves, and it will be manufactured in our bodies if we do not eat enough of it. Cholesterol levels in the blood do not relate directly to the amount of cholesterol in food, and dietary cholesterol does not cause heart disease.
- In the presence of insulin, the liver produces an enzyme that stimulates the formation of cholesterol from the carbohydrates we eat. The amount of cholesterol produced in this way is nearly always in excess of what is needed.
- Although some dietary fats may raise certain cholesterol fractions, other fats lower them. Since the fractional parts of cholesterol (the HDLs, LDLs, and VLDLs) all perform different functions in the body, there is no insight gained from knowing total cholesterol levels.
- Much of the dogma concerning dietary fat and cholesterol came from studies done on drugs to lower cholesterol levels in men with very high risk of dying from heart disease, not from studies on dietary changes to accomplish lower cholesterol levels.
- It is becoming increasingly hard to study cholesterol because of the effects of drugs given to change cholesterol metabolism. Physicians routinely prescribe drug treatment for cholesterol based on total cholesterol levels, and the definition of who “needs” the drugs continues to expand.
- Heart disease was a relatively rare condition in the early 20th century. But, after 1945 there was a steady increase in heart disease which coincided with the rise in consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates. A low-fat diet is nearly always a high carbohydrate diet, and carbohydrates have an adverse effect on insulin levels. High insulin levels result in increased cholesterol levels and an increased risk of heart disease.
- There are fears that eating too little fat could also have harmful effects on the body such as changing the permeability of the cell membranes which alters the transportation of sugars, proteins, hormones, and disease-causing bacteria and viruses within the body in as yet unknown ways.
- The suggestion that low-fat diets are required to achieve weight loss has also been taken as gospel, largely because fat has nine calories per gram compared to four calories for carbohydrates and protein. But there is mounting evidence that low-fat diets result in weight gain.
In final summary, we can be fairly confident that low-fat diet plans are not the smartest approaches to good health.
Now we are ready to begin looking at fats and oils as foods. Next time, we will start by asking these questions: “What are fats? What are oils? How are fats and oils digested and absorbed into the body?” And then we’ll talk about how dietary fats relate to body fat.
I hope you will join me for these fascinating subjects.
The Science of Low-Carb & Keto Diets
|About Dr. Beth Gruber
Dr. Gruber is a graduate of the Southern California University of Health Sciences and has been in private chiropractic practice in Long Beach, California since 1964. She also received both a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree from California State University at Long Beach. She has written on health-related subjects for over 30 years, for several different publications. She lives in Southern California with her husband of 33 years. Both she and her husband follow and live the low-carb lifestyle full time.
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