In part 1 of this series we looked at 3 common misperceptions that have lead to fats receiving a bad reputation. In this blog we look at the role that science, the media and the food industry have played in giving fats a bad reputation.
Reason 4: bad science – the seven countries study. In the 1950s, a scientist named Ancel Keys began an epidemiological study into the link between diet and heart disease1. The study took place across the seven nations covering USA, Japan and european countries. The study concluded in 1978 that saturated fats were a cause of heart disease. This went on to form the cornerstone of nutritional policy and government health recommendations. There are a couple of problems with the study:
- This was an epidemiological study – a study of patterns in defined populations. This can be useful for showing correlation but can’t show direct causation. Hence, it’s impossible to arrive at the statement ‘saturated fats cause heart disease’.
- The study left out countries, which if included would’ve influenced the conclusion. Norway which had a low incidence of heart disease and a high saturated fat intake was omitted from the study. As was Chile, which had the opposite – a high incidence of heart disease and low dietary saturated fat intake2.
There were even more criticisms on the study that I’m willing to go into on here. In summary I don’t believe this flawed study should have been used to form nutritional policy.
Reason 5: science and the media. Media reports into scientific findings can be misleading. The media, by creating a sensationalistic buzz, can warp the findings and hardwire bad messaging into readers’ minds. One article I came across was ‘WARNING: Why you SHOULDN’T do the Paleo ‘caveman’ diet’3. The paper took the findings from a study5 of a high fat diet on various health markers in rodents and sensationally extrapolated to humans. Rodent studies are important, but again like epidemiological studies aren’t conclusive. This study tested extremes:
- The study tested mice genetically engineered to be obese
- The mice were over-fed to a pre-diabetic state, before the experiment began
- The test mice were fed a low carb high fat (LCHF) diet (which still contained a lot of sugar). It lacked the nutritional density of a typical paleo diet.
Hardly a great comparison to humans on eating paleo! So, don’t jump to conclusions from news headlines.
Reason 6: the food industry. Since the 1980s, the food industry and supermarkets have been advertising and pushing low fat ‘health’ snacks5. It’s been drummed into society’s head that low fat was the way to go, even though studies show some of these products can lead to weight gain. Low fat snacks, due to their low satiation and addictive nature mean supermarkets can sell more and more. People will eat more and buy more over time, accommodated by expanding waistlines6. This creates a vicious cycle of eating more and buying more. The same can’t be said of proper food like meat and veg that satiates more and you can only eat so much of.
Enjoy your fats
There you have it, we’ve put the world to rights. Fats have a bad reputation from reasons ranging from simple common misperceptions to bad science to media hype. Don’t let all that get in the way of enjoying fats.
Until next time, keep it real!
I’d love to hear your thoughts – please leave me a comment below.
- http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/09/01/enjoy-saturated-fats-theyre-good-for-you.aspx ‘Enjoy saturated fats they’re good for you’
- https://authoritynutrition.com/modern-nutrition-policy-lies-bad-science/ ‘Modern Nutrition Policy Is Based on Bad Science’
- http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/diets/645897/paleo-diet-leads-to-weight-gain-and-health-complications ‘WARNING: Why you SHOULDN’T do the Paleo ‘caveman’ diet’
- http://www.nature.com/nutd/journal/v6/n2/full/nutd20162a.html ‘A low-carbohydrate high-fat diet increases weight gain and does not improve glucose tolerance, insulin secretion or β-cell mass in NZO mice’
- http://jhmas.oxfordjournals.org/content/63/2/139 ‘How the Ideology of Low Fat Conquered America’
- http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science/Low-fat-or-light-foods-encourage-over-eating-in-the-long-term ‘Low fat or light foods encourage over eating in the long term’