Saturated fat and cholesterol have been wrongfully vilified as the culprits of heart disease for more than six decades. Meanwhile, research has repeatedly identified refined carbs, sugar and trans fats found in processed foods as the real enemy. The first scientific evidence linking trans fats to heart disease while exonerating saturated fats was published in 1957 by the late Fred Kummerow, biochemist and author of “Cholesterol Is Not the Culprit: A Guide to Preventing Heart Disease.”
Unfortunately, Kummerow’s science was overshadowed by Ancel Keys’ Seven Countries Study, which linked saturated fat intake with heart disease. The rest, as they say, is history. Later reanalysis revealed cherry-picked data was responsible for creating Keys’ link, but by then the saturated fat myth was already firmly entrenched.
Keys’ biased research launched the low-fat myth and reshaped the food industry for decades to come. As saturated fat and cholesterol were shunned, the food industry switched to using trans fats (found in margarine, vegetable shortening and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils) and sugar instead.
“Keys’ biased research launched the low-fat myth and reshaped the food industry for decades to come. As saturated fat and cholesterol were shunned, the food industry switched to using trans fats (found in margarine, vegetable shortening and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils) and sugar instead.”
The Big Fat Surprise
Investigative journalist Nina Teicholz was one of the first major investigative journalists to break the story on the dangers of trans fats in a 2004 Gourmet magazine article.4 In the video above, Joe Rogan interviews Teicholz on her 2014 book, “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet,” which grew out of that initial exposé.
In it, not only does she dismantle the belief that saturated fat and cholesterol make you fat and cause disease, she also reveals that while the dangers of trans fats are now becoming widely recognized, the recommended replacement — vegetable oils — may actually be even more harmful. She also delves into the politics and shady underbelly of nutritional science, revealing how the food industry has manipulated the scientific discussion and built a largely false foundation for the nutritional recommendations we’re given.
Corruption is not the sole problem, though. Teicholz notes there is a very strong tendency to “fall in love” with your own ideas and beliefs, and this is as true for scientists as it is for regular people. And, when you strongly believe something to be true, you will tend to find the evidence you’re looking for and ignore anything that refutes it. So, it’s really a human psychology problem.
Scientists are not supposed to fall into this all-too-human trap. “They’re taught to distrust their beliefs [and] shoot down their own hypothesis,” Teicholz says, “but in the case of nutrition science, that didn’t happen … They cherry-picked the evidence and completely ignored and actively suppressed, even, anything that contradicted their ideas.” This certainly included Keys, who was passionately wed to his hypothesis that saturated fat caused heart disease.
Busting the Low-Fat Myth
Teicholz points out the fact that saturated fat has been a healthy human staple for thousands of years, and how the low-fat craze has resulted in massive sugar consumption that has increased inflammation and disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) started encouraging Americans to limit dietary fat, particularly animal fats, to reduce their risk of heart disease in 1961, and maintains this position to this day.