For the past 30 years or so we have been brain-washed into believing that we should reduce the amount of fat, especially saturated fat (SFA) because this will lower the risk of developing many of the common chronic diseases including heart disease and various cancers. In fact we have been very successful in implementing the advice… between 1969 and 2000 the National Food Survey (NFS) shows that total fat consumption had fallen from 120 to 74 g/day. Over the same period the consumption of saturated fat (SFA) decreased from 56.7 to 29.2 g/day. (The NFS was discontinued in 2000) Despite this the “obesity crisis” has emerged. Over the past 15 years the incidence of diabetes has doubled. Those with diabetes are at an increased risk of heart disease, many cancers and Alzheimer’s Disease. It is evident that the projected improvements in public health have failed to materialise.
Although the mantra from the official bodies is that we must try even harder to change our diet, a re-examination of the original rationale which underpins the Healthy Eating guidelines by many independent scientists is leading to the inevitable conclusion that it is fundamentally flawed(1,2). The Total Cholesterol (TC) in the blood is not a reliable robust risk factor for heart disease (See Blog 8). There is now convincing evidence that from about age 60 years when the vast majority of deaths occur, those with the recommended TC have a much higher death rate than those whose TC is considered to be “high risk” for heart disease. The recommendation to reduce SFA is based on the “belief” that this action will help to lower TC and therefore reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Since this cannot be substantiated it follows that the case for reducing SFA is absolute bunkum. In reality SFA consists of quite a large number of individual fatty acids, each of which has its own specific characteristics with respect to the level of cholesterol. When we consider each particular saturated fatty acid it becomes clear that a number of them do actually play important roles in the body so it just does not make sense to restrict their intake. Many of them are present in human milk.
Unfortunately as the fat in the diet has fallen there has been a corresponding increase in the consumption of carbohydrates. It is becoming clear that it is this increase in the intake of carbohydrates, especially sugar, which is the primary factor responsible for many of the diseases which are diet-related. The consequences for the food manufacturing and retailing industries are absolutely mind-blowing. Despite the failure of the authorities to recognise that those who formulated the original dietary guidelines got it wrong, there is widespread awareness amongst ordinary consumers that the critical message is to reduce carbohydrates not fat. There are numerous case studies on the internet of individuals who have been able to treat diabetes successfully by this approach. A high proportion of them have been able to eliminate medication completely while most of the remainder have reduced the dosage of drugs. It is highly significant that in Sweden about one third of consumers are actively attempting to have a diet which is low in carbohydrates.
As public awareness grows and people realise that huge numbers of individuals have suffered ill-health or died as a result of the bad advice which has been promulgated by the public health professionals, there will absolute outrage at least comparable with the response to the banking scandal. While the authorities will feel the full force, the food industries will also experience much of the fallout. The natural tendency when confronted with this alternative paradigm is to hope it will all go away. So the first objective must be to face up to this issue and carefully evaluate the relevant information that is now easily available. In my opinion anyone who does this thoroughly and objectively cannot fail to be convinced .Assuming this is the case then it is essential to begin working on a strategy straight away. A critical element must be for companies to distance themselves from government policy because they are likely to feel considerable fallout from the wave of criticism directed at the authorities, especially if they have supported the official line.
On the other hand there will be enormous opportunities in the marketplace. It is evident that the market for foods regarded as healthy is changing and is likely to continue changing at an ever increasing rate. Demand for “low fat” products will go into decline and may actually be regarded as undesirable, particularly where the fat has been by replaced by sugar/carbohydrates. By contrast the emphasis is likely to shift towards “low sugar” and “low carbohydrate”.
Even more significantly, there are some products, especially those which contain animal fat and have been vilified in the past, which will experience a transformation in their perception. A good example is butter. In recent years butter was considered “bad” because it was regard as a major source of SFA. Furthermore it was indirect competition with margarine and other types of fat spreads. Those which were promoted as high in polyunsaturates were perceived as “healthy”. The collapse of the “cholesterol theory of heart disease” means that at a single stroke these justifications are totally undermined. But there is much more to it than this because a careful examination of the constituents in butter demonstrates that many of these are valuable nutrients (3). These include:
- Lecithin, which that assists in the proper assimilation and metabolism of cholesterol and other fat constituents.
- Vitamin A, vitamin E and selenium which antioxidants that protect the body against free radicals
- Short and medium chain saturated fatty acids that have strong anti-tumour properties
- Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) that is protective against cancer and heart disease
- Glycospingolipids, a unique category of fatty acids that protect against gastro-intestinal infection, especially in the very young and the elderly
- Vitamin K2 which is essential for the effective utilisation of vitamins A and D as well as calcium (Blogs 21 and 22).
For a number of these nutrients the highest levels are achieved in the milk fat of cows which have been fed on a grass-based diet (See Blog 53). Similar considerations also apply to beef and many other foods, especially those of animal origin.
For those who take the time and trouble to understand the “New Nutrition” and apply it effectively to the benefit of their customers the rewards will be substantial and long lasting.
- G Taubes (2007) “The Diet Delusion” Vermilion: London
- U Ravnskov (2009) “Fat and Cholesterol are Good for You” GB Publishing: Sweden