Skip to comments.What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie? (Is fat good for you)
Posted on 07/11/2002 6:29:34 AM PDT by Outraged At FLA
NOTE: Article is EIGHT pages long, I am only posting the first page, feel free to add other pages as you see fit
f the members of the American medical establishment were to have a collective find-yourself-standing-naked-in-Times-Square-type nightmare, this might be it. They spend 30 years ridiculing Robert Atkins, author of the phenomenally-best-selling ''Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution'' and ''Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution,'' accusing the Manhattan doctor of quackery and fraud, only to discover that the unrepentant Atkins was right all along. Or maybe it's this: they find that their very own dietary recommendations -- eat less fat and more carbohydrates -- are the cause of the rampaging epidemic of obesity in America. Or, just possibly this: they find out both of the above are true.
When Atkins first published his ''Diet Revolution'' in 1972, Americans were just coming to terms with the proposition that fat -- particularly the saturated fat of meat and dairy products -- was the primary nutritional evil in the American diet. Atkins managed to sell millions of copies of a book promising that we would lose weight eating steak, eggs and butter to our heart's desire, because it was the carbohydrates, the pasta, rice, bagels and sugar, that caused obesity and even heart disease. Fat, he said, was harmless.
Atkins allowed his readers to eat ''truly luxurious foods without limit,'' as he put it, ''lobster with butter sauce, steak with bearnaise sauce . . . bacon cheeseburgers,'' but allowed no starches or refined carbohydrates, which means no sugars or anything made from flour. Atkins banned even fruit juices, and permitted only a modicum of vegetables, although the latter were negotiable as the diet progressed.
Atkins was by no means the first to get rich pushing a high-fat diet that restricted carbohydrates, but he popularized it to an extent that the American Medical Association considered it a potential threat to our health. The A.M.A. attacked Atkins's diet as a ''bizarre regimen'' that advocated ''an unlimited intake of saturated fats and cholesterol-rich foods,'' and Atkins even had to defend his diet in Congressional hearings.
Thirty years later, America has become weirdly polarized on the subject of weight. On the one hand, we've been told with almost religious certainty by everyone from the surgeon general on down, and we have come to believe with almost religious certainty, that obesity is caused by the excessive consumption of fat, and that if we eat less fat we will lose weight and live longer. On the other, we have the ever-resilient message of Atkins and decades' worth of best-selling diet books, including ''The Zone,'' ''Sugar Busters'' and ''Protein Power'' to name a few. All push some variation of what scientists would call the alternative hypothesis: it's not the fat that makes us fat, but the carbohydrates, and if we eat less carbohydrates we will lose weight and live longer.
The perversity of this alternative hypothesis is that it identifies the cause of obesity as precisely those refined carbohydrates at the base of the famous Food Guide Pyramid -- the pasta, rice and bread -- that we are told should be the staple of our healthy low-fat diet, and then on the sugar or corn syrup in the soft drinks, fruit juices and sports drinks that we have taken to consuming in quantity if for no other reason than that they are fat free and so appear intrinsically healthy. While the low-fat-is-good-health dogma represents reality as we have come to know it, and the government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in research trying to prove its worth, the low-carbohydrate message has been relegated to the realm of unscientific fantasy.
Over the past five years, however, there has been a subtle shift in the scientific consensus. It used to be that even considering the possibility of the alternative hypothesis, let alone researching it, was tantamount to quackery by association. Now a small but growing minority of establishment researchers have come to take seriously what the low-carb-diet doctors have been saying all along. Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, may be the most visible proponent of testing this heretic hypothesis. Willett is the de facto spokesman of the longest-running, most comprehensive diet and health studies ever performed, which have already cost upward of $100 million and include data on nearly 300,000 individuals. Those data, says Willett, clearly contradict the low-fat-is-good-health message ''and the idea that all fat is bad for you; the exclusive focus on adverse effects of fat may have contributed to the obesity epidemic.''
These researchers point out that there are plenty of reasons to suggest that the low-fat-is-good-health hypothesis has now effectively failed the test of time. In particular, that we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic that started around the early 1980's, and that this was coincident with the rise of the low-fat dogma. (Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, also rose significantly through this period.) They say that low-fat weight-loss diets have proved in clinical trials and real life to be dismal failures, and that on top of it all, the percentage of fat in the American diet has been decreasing for two decades. Our cholesterol levels have been declining, and we have been smoking less, and yet the incidence of heart disease has not declined as would be expected. ''That is very disconcerting,'' Willett says. ''It suggests that something else bad is happening.''
The science behind the alternative hypothesis can be called Endocrinology 101, which is how it's referred to by David Ludwig, a researcher at Harvard Medical School who runs the pediatric obesity clinic at Children's Hospital Boston, and who prescribes his own version of a carbohydrate-restricted diet to his patients. Endocrinology 101 requires an understanding of how carbohydrates affect insulin and blood sugar and in turn fat metabolism and appetite. This is basic endocrinology, Ludwig says, which is the study of hormones, and it is still considered radical because the low-fat dietary wisdom emerged in the 1960's from researchers almost exclusively concerned with the effect of fat on cholesterol and heart disease. At the time, Endocrinology 101 was still underdeveloped, and so it was ignored. Now that this science is becoming clear, it has to fight a quarter century of anti-fat prejudice.
I don't think fat is defacto bad for you as the paradigm says, but I do stand by what even my great grandfather used to say: "Everything in moderation".
All in all, I still believe in eating sensibly, EXERCISE!, and general healthy living will beat any vegan, or pre-processed low fat, or pill induced diet.
Perhaps science is finally starting to agree with me. :)
A better source of fats would be something like flax seed or fish oils.
Maybe I'm just a little simplistic here when I suggest we should ignore the entire carbohydrates/fat discussion. If your daily caloric intake matches the number of calories you burn every day, you won't have a problem (which is why exercise is far more important than dieting in any weight-loss program).
Did you ever notice that just about EVERY diet mentions exercise? I heard a doctor say once that you could eat big macs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as long as you exercised every day, you probably wouldn't gain weight.
That's the skinny(har har.) Folks get sucked into buying "fat free" fig newtons or "fat free" gummy bears, perhaps not understanding that calories which are not spent are stored--as FAT. Of course, some calories are better than others nutritionally. But I don't know why this requires any special science. Eat your vegetables, go easy on the starches, and get plenty of exercise. Hell, my granny coulda told me that (she did!) If some folks do well on a high meat, low carb diet, I guess that's an option. I like to eat steak from time to time. But for me what works is about 60% vegetables, 20% protein and 20% carbs. And I get a lot of my protein through soy products and fish. I save up my meat intake for the gusto--rib eye steak.
I am interested in studies dealing with cancer and heart disease. I want to learn more about this darned trans fat. That hydrogenated oil is everywhere. I am already a high risk (ex smoker, family history of heart disease and cancer, New Jersey resident, type A personality). I am trying to minimalize the risk as much as possible. If that means no more cheese crackers, so be it.
No no no no. If carbs were bad for you, the Japanese would be dropping like flies -- they have one of the highest carb diets in the world. Yet they have a higher than average life span and aren't an obese population.
Ultra-low carb diets put you into a state of ketosis in which your fat is converted into glycose. But many people on ketosis state diets just don't get enough glycose to the brain -- they think slower and are always hungry, etc.
The key is MODERATE carb intake -- not ultra low and not super high.
It's also worth noting that not only is exercise important, but exercise in the morning is crucial. Exercising in the morning tends to raise your metabolism, which means you burn more calories throughout the day when your body is "idle."