Food Politics – Fat Reform is Healthcare Reform

Fat reform is healthcare reform. By addressing the epidemics of overweight and obesity, we can prevent and treat associated chronic diseases and save billions of dollars in healthcare expenditures. This sounds like a simple solution, but federal policy, the food industry and some of the fundamental principles of supposed healthy nutrition stand in our way.

Most of us are familiar with the traditional USDA dietary guidelines developed over past decades. Regarding nutrition and health, there are three basic principles  1- The lipid hypothesis suggests to us that eating saturated fat in our diet, raises blood cholesterol and leads to heart attack and stroke. Manufactured polyunsaturated vegetable oils and carbohydrates should be consumed instead. 2- Eat fat and get fat, implies that we should avoid caloric dense foods containing fat and consume carbohydrates and proteins instead. 3- Eat less and exercise more, a recommendation based on the first law of thermodynamics, blames behavior for obesity. One problem with this simple law, it does not explain what makes us hungry. What causes hunger and obesity is a complex derangement of various metabolic pathways leading to such conditions as Insulin and Leptin resistance.

These traditional dietary guidelines, the basis of the USDA food pyramid and now the food plate, promote a diet low in saturated fats, low in calories and relatively higher in dietary carbohydrates. This type of diet is difficult to sustain for any length of time simply because it makes us hungry. It is easy to observe that in 1980, when the federal government began publishing the official dietary guidelines, we see these epidemics of overweight and obesity mushroom. We jump to implicate these dietary guidelines as causing the obesity epidemic, but the scientific evidence (or lack of it), provides us with further insight.

In the 1950’s Ancel Keys, performed several observational studies looking at the relationship between saturated fat in the diet and heart disease. Some dispute his methods and findings, but based on these studies the lipid hypothesis was born. There have been many observational and head-to-head clinical trials since Keys work, but despite what he observed (and what most healthcare professionals still believe today), the studies continue to refute a causal relationship between saturated fat in the diet and heart disease.

In recent years there have been several dozen well done head-to-head clinical trials comparing low-carb high-fat diets to traditional low-fat low-calorie diets. In virtually all of these studies LCHF diets show a greater and sustainable weight loss and more importantly, favorable cholesterol, lipid and blood sugar profiles compared to low-fat diets. These studies demonstrate how insulin metabolism and other metabolic pathways regulate food energy. Dietary carbohydrates, rather than saturated fats, appear to be the unhealthy inflammatory fuel. We hope to see long-term head-to-head outcomes studies (with hard endpoint data like heart attack and death from heart attack) but until that time the best data at this time support low-carb diets in the overweight, obese and diabetic.

Read Dr. Gerber’s letter to the cardiologist and medical staff. Thanks to Gary Taubes for editing and proofing this letter. Also thanks to Larry Istrail who maintains a database of the scientific literature.

What is difficult for most to acknowledge is the notion that the nutritional guidelines, the basis of the low-fat and carbohydrate heavy food pyramid and now what is called My Plate, are actually causing disease rather than preventing it. The USDA, supported by the food industry, have created these nutritional guidelines, in part to promote the sale of the most abundant (and yet unhealthy) food commodities such as sugars, corn, wheat, soy legumes, starchy vegetables and industrial vegetable oil seeds. Natural dietary fats like Butter, Animal fats, Coconut oil, Olive oil and Avocado were never unhealthy.

We know that early civilizations and primal man were healthy and ate much differently, a diet based on whole and unprocessed foods such as animals including fish, seasonal nuts, roots, vegetables, fruits and natural fats. Ancestral Health teaches us about the relationship between whole foods and wellness throughout the ages.

Download the visually enhanced Fat Reform PowerPoint presentation