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Government’s “Dietary fat guidelines have no evidence base”

Government’s “Dietary fat guidelines have no evidence base”

Incidents of obesity and diabetes explode after low-fat guidelines were implemented.

The theory of “consensus science reliability” seems to have taken another hit, as a new report has been released that asserts government-based dietary fat guidelines “have no evidence base”.

Publishing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Dr Zoë Harcombe of the Institute of Clinical Exercise and Health Science of the University of the West of Scotland researched both the origins and the results of following the dietary fat guidelines that have prevailed in the US and the United Kingdom for almost 40 years. The evidence provides no support for the assertion that low-fat diets are healthier, especially as the incidences of obesity and diabetes have escalated dramatically during the same four decades of the guidelines’ implementation.

Until the introduction of dietary guidelines in 1977, the view of Tanner, from the Practice of Medicine, prevailed “Farinaceous and vegetable foods are fattening, and saccharine matters are especially so” …. In 1960, 13.3% of US adults were obese; 44.8% were overweight. By 2007, 34.7% of US adults were obese; 67.7% were overweight.68 In the UK, in 1972, 2.7% of men and 2.7% of women were obese and 23.0% of men and 13.9% of women were overweight. By 1999, obesity rates had risen to 22.6% of men and 25.8% of women, while 49.2% of men and 36.3% of women were overweight.69 (Health was devolved in the UK in 1999 to the regions of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and thus UK statistics terminated).

The diabetes rate was 2.4% in 1976 in the USA. The introduction to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans reported that 24 million Americans, almost 11% of the adult population, were diabetic and 78 million Americans, 35% of the adults, were pre-diabetic.71 This has recently been updated to 29 million diabetics and 86 million pre-diabetics. A recent review in the Lancet estimated that the lifetime risk for developing diabetes was 40.2% for American men and 39.6% for women. There were 800 000 people with diabetes in the UK in 1980, from a population of 56 million—an incident rate of 1.42%. The diabetes rate in the UK in 2015 was 6.1%.75 The incident rate of diabetes, both in the USA and the UK, has increased more than fourfold since the dietary fat guidelines were introduced.

Harcombe, who is a noted obesity researcher, takes a look at the obesity epidenic and its relationship to dietary guidelines in the following video:

Her research assessed the “science” used as the basis for the guidelines, and found it questionable. For example, the actual look at the control trials tying coronary heart disease to saturated fat consumption was not statistically significant for most studies; those promoting this guideline merely focused on one report. Additionally, she highlights a 2015 report that analyzed data collected between 1974 to 2000 and concludes dietary carbohydrate restriction should be the first approach in diabetes management.

What suggestion does Harcombe offer based on her assessment? In a nutshell: Ignore the consensus science.

It seems simple and obvious to suggest that populations should return to eating the natural, unprocessed food that was consumed before obesity and diabetes reached epidemic proportions; yet this is considered heresy by public health advisors. Clarification of the distinction between processed food and saturated fat could provide opportunity for agreement that processed food is unhealthy, while saturated fat is a natural part of most natural foods. It is worth noting that every food that contains fat contains all three fats: saturated; monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.65 The notion that saturated fat is harmful and unsaturated fat is healthful is illogical given their coexistence in foods required for human survival.

It appears many healthcare professionals are already offering new recommendations:

Diet experts say there’s a good reason to put some fat back in our diets.

“Higher fat intake gives us a greater sense of fullness and you can cut down on consumption of starches and sweets,” Dr. Louis Aronne, Weill Cornell Medicine said.

…In fact, there are large studies that show people who ate diets very, very high in good fats — olive oil and nuts — actually lost weight, and reduced their risk for heart attack and stroke.

The critical factor is what you combine those good fats with.

“The lethal combo is fat plus carbs. So you can have protein and carbs, you can have protein and fat, but you can’t have fat and carbs,” Dr. Aronne said.

The more processed those carbs are — white flour, white pasta, sugar, etc. — the worse the combination for your heart and waist.

First, the case against eggs was cracked. Recently, salt has been shown to lower blood pressure. Based on the new report, I am having steak and eggs for breakfast tomorrow!

The next time the government offers a guideline to follow, it may be prudent to do the opposite.


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IncidentsIncidence of obesity and diabetes explode after low-fat guidelines were implemented.

Here’s the story I always tell the young(er) folks: In the 80s and 90s if you ordered a plate of bacon and eggs, people pretty much assumed that didn’t care about your health and maybe didn’t even have anything to live for. So people had a muffin for breakfast,a veggieburger for lunch, and then by the time they got home, were so hungry and tired they just ordered a large pepperoni pizza and ate it in front of the TV.

My brother (a gastric bypass surgeon) told me it is all about caloric intake. I took his words at face value and cut calories. Going through the super market is shocking. EVERY SINGLE high calorie item that I found contained two things, simple carbs and fat (saturated or not). I found a four pack of average sized cookies and looked at the back for caloric information. 4000 Holy fuck I don’t need all of these calories. Four cookies contained double your caloric needs for the day. 4. Needless to say that made an impression. Restrict your calories if you want to live. Otherwise … well … go figure.

    jhkrischel in reply to Shane. | May 24, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    Calories don’t drive fat accumulation, insulin does.

    Insulin is driven by blood sugar levels.

    Blood sugar levels are driven by carbohydrate intake.

    There are good calories, and there are bad calories. Choose the right ones.

Nobody has mentioned Gary Taubes, yet.

    tarheelkate in reply to snopercod. | May 23, 2017 at 8:39 pm

    Gary Taubes, “Why We Get Fat.” I read it, changed my diet accordingly, lost 20 pounds, and lost my status as “pre-diabetic.” I don’t count calories. I don’t buy any “low fat” products, and in fact, I buy very few processed foods at all any more. I count carbs, and eat a whole lot less of them than I used to. My doctor says my cholesterol is “awesome.”

      Sanddog in reply to tarheelkate. | May 23, 2017 at 11:04 pm

      When Good Calories, Bad Calories was released, I bought half a dozen copies and gave them to family members.

        snopercod in reply to Sanddog. | May 24, 2017 at 6:57 am

        That was a nice gesture, but I’ll bet that none of your family members actually read the book. Human nature…

          jhkrischel in reply to snopercod. | May 24, 2017 at 1:21 pm

          One of my son’s hyper-liberal friends actually got a copy of Taubes’ book, and gave it to his parents – they happened to know Taubes from his previous work on cold fusion, and were willing to give it a chance. As with others, they enjoyed massive health benefits once they understood the root causes as described by Taubes.

          Now, not everyone is going to read it, but I figure even if this guy ends up being the only one out of a hundred that I gave the book to that made a difference, then I did something good.

    Neo in reply to snopercod. | May 24, 2017 at 1:11 am

    Diet and Fat: A Severe Case of Mistaken Consensus

    In 1988, the surgeon general, C. Everett Koop, proclaimed ice cream to a be public-health menace right up there with cigarettes. Alluding to his office’s famous 1964 report on the perils of smoking, Dr. Koop announced that the American diet was a problem of “comparable” magnitude, chiefly because of the high-fat foods that were causing coronary heart disease and other deadly ailments.

    He introduced his report with these words: “The depth of the science base underlying its findings is even more impressive than that for tobacco and health in 1964.”

    That was a ludicrous statement, as Gary Taubes demonstrates in his new book meticulously debunking diet myths, “Good Calories, Bad Calories” (Knopf, 2007). The notion that fatty foods shorten your life began as a hypothesis based on dubious assumptions and data; when scientists tried to confirm it they failed repeatedly. The evidence against Häagen-Dazs was nothing like the evidence against Marlboros.

Ten years ago I proved this in Fed court using the government’s white paper and actually looking up the references. Not only is diet bogus, but cholesterol has nothing to do with any disease state.

If any lawyer wants to make a bunch of money, file a class action against the AHA.

Eat stuff.

Drink stuff.

Even smoke good cigars.

Die happy.

Given that the large majority of people were not following government guidelines on diet, in fact for many it was the fashion to do the opposite, I would consider any correlation between government recommendations of diet and actually obesity rates sparse data of eating and behavior.

At the same time came a new invention, the video game. Whose popularity just exploded. Along with increases in entertainment sources, cable TV, VCRs which further took away from time spent on some sort of physical activity.

Oh yeah, and also the fact that very few people are going hungry these days. The correlation there suggests that not being hungry leads to obesity.

    david7134 in reply to RodFC. | May 23, 2017 at 10:12 pm

    The facts are that you are almost forced into low fat diets. Also, you can follow this around the world and see obesity rise as government’s advocate for low fat.

LI is straying perilously close to Glenn Reynolds territory here.

A few announcements of sales on exercise machines at Amazon and a couple of glowing panegyrics to nanotachnology and it will be déjà vu all over again.

The real outrage isn’t that government adopted a bogus study as gospel. The real outrage is that they didn’t fix the problem after the popularization of the Atkins diet (and other Paleo diets) proved to an informed layman that at minimum the study was misleading for a significant percentage of the population.

“The next time the government offers a guideline to follow, it may be prudent to do the opposite.”

As I have been preaching for 40 years…

    snopercod in reply to Barry. | May 24, 2017 at 7:02 am

    I do that with speed limits.

      nordic_prince in reply to snopercod. | May 24, 2017 at 11:32 am

      I maintain that many (most?) speed limits are set by a consortium of grannies, who evidently think that “speed” is the problem, rather than ignorant and unskilled drivers who don’t know what the heck they’re doing.

Ignore the consensus science.

And that’s exactly what I did 17 years ago when I knocked the majority of carbs out of my diet. I recently had eye surgery and when asked, reported that I had no health issues and was on no prescription medications. I was told this was highly unusual for anyone over the age of 40. It shouldn’t be.

    gwsjr425 in reply to Sanddog. | May 24, 2017 at 7:20 am

    52 yo here that doesn’t even take aspirin. Oh an what really pisses people my age off….I have a full head of hair that contains not a single gray strand. And no…id don’t dye it.

The next time the government offers a guideline to follow, it may be prudent to

…take it with a healthy dose of salt.

I taught toxicology for a few decades. One lecture I had was one where I spent half an hour talking about how “science” told us high salt intake was bad for you and all the bad things it did. The second half hour I showed my students how “scientific studies” had shown salt to be harmless. I then gave them a reference list to show them the articles from which the data and conclusions were drawn and the lists arguing either side were identical.
The point I was making was that people often over interpret the data on diet and similar actions in an effort to make a name for themselves. This is why neither myself nor my students are ever surprised when new dietary guidelines come out telling us now that eggs are no longer bad…..

amatuerwrangler | May 24, 2017 at 6:32 am

Why do I see this leading us into a discussion of weather and climate?

Ketogenic Diet. Look it up. It works and is based on a low carb – moderate protein – high fat diet. Have seen people loose 100+ pounds on their own. Have seen people who went off blood pressure and other meds on it. All this despite a doctor telling them that this diet would kill them while ignoring the weight that would surely kill them. This is a perfect example of why we should not have government running healthcare in this country. I am even willing to bet that somewhere someone in the government knew that many of the health guideline they push are made up.

Based on recent reading of the average eating habits, I echo the comment above about following the guidelines being a bigger problem than the guidelines. OTOH, government guidelines are dubious thanks in part to the influence by the various food producer lobbies. The documentary Plant Pure Nation shows that influence in action and shows that the lobbies work at both state and national levels.

As a side note, the documentary also recommends an all plant diet. I switched to that diet 6 months ago and due to some bloodwork that would have had my insurance force me on to Lipitor. While I never felt bad, by the numbers (BP, weight, cholesterol), I’m healthier than I have been in 40 years. The switch may sound radical, but it’s the easiest switch for the biggest health improvement that I’ve experienced.

I like the idea of conservatives being thinner and healthier because they reject government dietary guidelines.

selfhelpforbastards | May 24, 2017 at 10:55 am

I lost 100 lbs with a ketogenic diet (ie low carb and high fat) a few years ago and have kept it off. Cutting out carbs is the single best thing you can do for your health (even if you don’t have weight to lose).

Joseph Farnsworth | May 24, 2017 at 11:00 am

Both “incidents” and “incidence” are poor choices in this article’s context. Per Wikipeida:
Incidence should not be confused with prevalence, which is the proportion of cases in the population at a given time rather than rate of occurrence of new cases. Thus, incidence conveys information about the risk of contracting the disease, whereas prevalence indicates how widespread the disease is.
Incidence (epidemiology) – Wikipedia

nordic_prince | May 24, 2017 at 11:43 am

The dirty little secret about “low fat” foodstuffs (emphasis on “stuffs” and not so much on “food”) is that reducing fat has the natural effect of reducing flavor. (This is no doubt the reason why so many “diet foods” taste like cardboard.) Consequently, “low fat” foodstuffs contain inordinate amounts of sugar to compensate for the bland taste.

The average American merely equates “low fat” with “healthy,” and think they can snack on this stuff and do their heart some good…then several years later, they get a checkup and the doctor informs them that they’re (pre-)diabetic. Gee, I wonder why? You don’t suppose it could have anything to do with diet-induced insulin resistance, could it….?

    Yep. And the fat helps you feel fuller after eating, so you tend to eat less as a consequence. Sugar, while it adds flavor, also adds a LOT of empty calories.

    Plus, sugar in all its forms is cheap, so the food processing companies would rather use it to add flavor than, say, using real butter. Ditto for salt; it’s cheap, too.

    So you get all these cheaply-processed foods packed full of sugar (and its proxies, e.g. corn syrup, fructose, etc.) and salt, which have a lot of calories but don’t make you feel full, so you eat (and buy) more of it. And the cycle continues.

    Follow the money; it makes more sense when you understand who stands to gain and how. (See my comment below.)

Here’s the story I heard.

40 years ago, the studies on diet as it relates to health and well-being first came out, and the FDA saw a need to release its set of dietary guidelines. However, the studies themselves were inconclusive (at best), suggesting several possible dietary restrictions, but lacking the definitive evidence to endorse any of them. But the FDA decided to roll forward and advocate for either a diet low in fat or a diet low in sugar and processed foods.

But which one?

Naturally, the representatives of the food processing companies, seeing the threat to their bottom lines, came out and lobbied — HARD — against the low-sugar and low-processed-food options.

OTOH, representatives of the “fatty-food lobby” were … noticeably absent, because there is no such industry.

And so the dietary guidelines as originally released by the FDA four decades ago were more a product of special-interest politics than sound science.

Call me cynical if you like, but this makes more sense to me than any other explanation of why the FDA would write regulations based on inconclusive science. “Follow the money”, as it were.

    jafa in reply to Archer. | May 24, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    This becomes more noteworthy when you consider that ingredients to that junk food receive federal subsidies.

    We might as well have gov’t messing with healthcare, since they are helping us get sick.

      Yep. Those subsidies make sugar and its proxies (especially corn syrup) cheap compared to traditional fatty ingredients, like butter or lard. Of course the food processing industry would rather use sugar to add flavor!