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Friday, August 27, 2010

The Skinny on Low Fat Nonsense!

I stayed away from fats for years, believing that butter, avocados, nuts, olive oil were too fattening. What a new day this is for me doing Phase 3 maintenance (no sugar or starches), eating 1500-1800 calories and including good fats! Butter, avocados, coconut oil, macadamia nuts…..what a change for me. For many years I was duped into believing that to lose weight I needed to consume reduced fat foods. For a while, I chose very low-fat foods but doing so did not reduce the fat on my body!

Now I carefully read labels, avoiding sugar, starch, and low fat! And finding foods that are not reduced fat is much trickier than I had expected. The food industry believes they are doing us (the consumer) a service by providing us with low-fat food….and often they reduce the fat and add corn syrup (yuck!).

Today, for instance, shopping at my friendly Trader Joe’s, I wanted to get some plain organic yogurt. I picked up one container, it was low fat; then another, and it was nonfat. Isn’t it strange that we (as a nation) are consuming more and more low fat and no fat products, yet we are getting fatter and fatter? These fat free products have not eliminated the obesity epidemic; in fact, these products are probably adding rather than subtracting weight to our bodies. And people are fooled into believing they are choosing healthy foods because they are labeled reduced fat! Now they even have fat fat Oreos and Pringles! Healthy? Ha, give me a break!

Several years ago Gary Taubes wrote an eye-opening article for the New York Times -- “What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?” (Thank you HcgDieters@yahoogroups.com, for mentioning this!) Although the article is 8 years old, it is fascinating reading and quite pertinent and gives the history of our low-fat diet mentality. I agree with the author that it is carbohydrates that make us fat (especially the starches that most people think they must include in every meal according to our silly food pyramid!).

You can read the entire article at http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/07/magazine/what-if-it-s-all-been-a-big-fat-lie.html

                    Here are some excerpts:

What's forgotten in the current controversy is that the low-fat dogma itself is only about 25 years old. Until the late 70's, the accepted wisdom was that fat and protein protected against overeating by making you sated, and that carbohydrates made you fat. In ''The Physiology of Taste,'' for instance, an 1825 discourse considered among the most famous books ever written about food, the French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin says that he could easily identify the causes of obesity after 30 years of listening to one ''stout party'' after another proclaiming the joys of bread, rice and (from a ''particularly stout party'') potatoes. Brillat-Savarin described the roots of obesity as a natural predisposition conjuncted with the ''floury and feculent substances which man makes the prime ingredients of his daily nourishment.'' He added that the effects of this fecula -- i.e., ''potatoes, grain or any kind of flour'' -- were seen sooner when sugar was added to the diet....

By the 70's, you could still find articles in the journals describing high rates of obesity in Africa and the Caribbean where diets contained almost exclusively carbohydrates. 
The common thinking, wrote a former director of the Nutrition Division of the United Nations, was that the ideal diet, one that prevented obesity, snacking and excessive sugar consumption, was a diet ''with plenty of eggs, beef, mutton, chicken, butter and well-cooked vegetables.'' This was the identical prescription Brillat-Savarin put forth in 1825.

It was Ancel Keys, paradoxically, who introduced the low-fat-is-good-health dogma in the 50's with his theory that dietary fat raises cholesterol levels and gives you heart disease. Over the next two decades, however, the scientific evidence supporting this theory remained stubbornly ambiguous. The case was eventually settled not by new science but by politics. It began in January 1977, when a Senate committee led by George McGovern published its ''Dietary Goals for the United States,'' advising that Americans significantly curb their fat intake to abate an epidemic of ''killer diseases'' supposedly sweeping the country. It peaked in late 1984, when the National Institutes of Health officially recommended that all Americans over the age of 2 eat less fat. By that time, fat had become ''this greasy killer'' in the memorable words of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and the model American breakfast of eggs and bacon was well on its way to becoming a bowl of Special K with low-fat milk, a glass of orange juice and toast, hold the butter -- a dubious feast of refined carbohydrates....

Phil Handler, then president of the National Academy of Sciences, testified in Congress to the same effect in 1980. ''What right,'' Handler asked, ''has the federal government to propose that the American people conduct a vast nutritional experiment, with themselves as subjects, on the strength of so very little evidence that it will do them any good?''

Nonetheless, once the N.I.H. signed off on the low-fat doctrine, societal forces took over. The food industry quickly began producing thousands of reduced-fat food products to meet the new recommendations. Fat was removed from foods like cookies, chips and yogurt. The problem was, it had to be replaced with something as tasty and pleasurable to the palate, which meant some form of sugar, often high-fructose corn syrup. Meanwhile, an entire industry emerged to create fat substitutes, of which Procter & Gamble's olestra was first. And because these reduced-fat meats, cheeses, snacks and cookies had to compete with a few hundred thousand other food products marketed in America, the industry dedicated considerable advertising effort to reinforcing the less-fat-is-good-health message. Helping the cause was what Walter Willett calls the ''huge forces'' of dietitians, health organizations, consumer groups, health reporters and even cookbook writers, all well-intended missionaries of healthful eating….

After 20 years steeped in a low-fat paradigm, I find it hard to see the nutritional world any other way. I have learned that low-fat diets fail in clinical trials and in real life, and they certainly have failed in my life. I have read the papers suggesting that 20 years of low-fat recommendations have not managed to lower the incidence of heart disease in this country, and may have led instead to the steep increase in obesity and Type 2 diabetes…. 

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