Why low-fat is not the answer
During the 1980’s, Americans were told by doctors, nutritionists, and the government to consume less fat in order to be healthy. Over the next 30 years Americans became much fatter and much sicker. What happened?
When Americans went low-fat, it meant higher carbs, which equals higher sugar. Low-fat often means less meat and butter in place of things like pasta, rice, vegetable oils, transfats, and margarine. We now know that it is sugar that is much more problematic. Sugar is converted to fat in the liver and enters the bloodstream, where it is responsible for many of the problems fat was villainized for.
Regarding processed food, low-fat means that the product will contain more sugar, processed salt, vegetable oil, and/or transfats in its place. All of which pose health problems. Most people who go low-this or low-that go from one processed product to a low-something processed product. This is not helpful. Instead, we must opt out of processed products completely, and switch to real, whole foods.
In addition to this, there is in fact absolutely no scientific evidence for a low-fat diet. The argument of low-fat was brought forth by Ancel Keys, who hypothesized that cholesterol and saturated fat cause heart disease. His “Seven Countries” study, which became the backbone of the low-fat argument, was fundamentally flawed. Study after study has shown that dietary cholesterol does not increase blood cholesterol, and that saturated fat intake does not cause a greater risk for heart disease. The theme of nutrition science has been that scientists and nutritionists already believed that fat caused disease, and they have been reluctant to accept any evidence to the contrary, until now. Unfortunately, on average, doctors obtain a mere 4-16 hours of nutrition education in their 4+ years of medical school. Because of this, many doctors still believe that dietary cholesterol raises blood cholesterol and causes heart disease, while the important functions of cholesterol in our body are forgotten. Cholesterol is actually found in all of our cells and is vital to us. It is the building block of our hormones. It has been very hard for doctors, nutritionists, and scientists to be open minded and consider that fat is not the problem.
Bottom line, nutrition science is extremely difficult to study. It is almost impossible to follow the scientific method and golden standards for studies. It is so tied into politics and money, that it is hard to get the truth. What we can learn from our low-fat mishap is that we have had devastating health results from villainizing one nutrient in particular. So while sugar is certainly a culprit, we must be open minded and look at all aspects of nutrition, and not get caught up in being low-this or low-that. In the words of Michael Pollan, just “eat real food, mostly vegetables, not too much”. The 5 Seasons Diet focuses on just that, real food that nourishes your mind, body, and spirit.
Tristan Faville, MScN