I’ve been recently reading, “The Big Fat Surprise” by Nina Teicholz and it’s a fascinating look at the history of nutrition in this country. And why we have arrived in the current state of affairs we are in, with consistent annual increases in obesity and type II diabetes, among other diseases. It all really began with Ancel Keys. Public Health was my major in college so I love this stuff. I am intrigued with scientists and researchers from our history who have made powerful impacts on our way of life. Ancel Keys is just that person. In 1957 Ancel Keys recorded a linear correlation between dietary fat and cardiovascular disease, and presumed that to be elevated serum cholesterol. His study was called the “Seven Countries Study” and he basically collected data from 7 countries (United States, Finland, Netherlands, Italy, Greece, Former Yugoslavia, & Japan) and the results of his study showed a close correlation between fat intake and death rates from heart disease in those countries. Since his presentation of this study and his idea which he called the “diet-heart hypothesis” in New York in the 1950s, it got a lot of attention! The influence of Keys on the world of nutrition has been unmatched! However, good scientists know that correlation does not prove causation, although in the past 50 years, our entire nutrition model has been based on this hypothesis! However, the earliest studies conducted on diet and heart disease did not confirm Keys’ hypothesis. In fact many other scientists had studied other groups of people in other countries and did not have the same result. One such scientist, Gregory Mann, had a totally different experience when he studied Masai men in Africa who survived mainly on meat, blood, and milk and fat was more than 60% of their calories. Despite all of this, their blood pressure and weight were about 50% lower than men in America at that time… and it didn’t increase with age, either. And heart disease didn’t exist in those communities.
It’s so interesting to me that one man had such an ongoing influence on not only our country but many other countries in encouraging a low-fat diet, where saturated fat is bad, along with other lifestyle behaviors and contributes to the “cause” of heart disease. The question I raise is, if this were true, then why in 50 years has heart disease and obesity just continued to rise to where we have over half of our population obese or over weight? Obviously that advice didn’t help us… 50 years later we are WORSE than when we started… It’s fascinating to me that conventional medicine is still preaching this stuff… Doctors are more educated on statins and pharmaceuticals to help these people “lower” their serum cholesterol levels and blood pressure, all while advising these patients to eat less meat, less fat, and less salt. I worked in the medical industry for decades. I come from that environment, it was my schooling, and virtually all of my work experience. So, I don’t fault these doctors for what they advise people… It’s just that it’s taught in medical school and the time these guys spend on learning nutrition while they are there is very little. They are only giving out this information based on what our country has established as the “United States Dietary Guidelines” through organizations such as the American Heart Association, etc. And what is really disturbing is how big corporate food companies are now directly connected with these organizations and the financial ties to them run deep. I mean, the AHA came out with an “advisory” recently against coconut oil. Google it and read it… what’s so crazy to me is that they quoted and sited Keys’ Seven Countries Study…. I mean, really?? You guys are going to advise against something on the hypothesis of something that was published in the 1950s??? I thought the United States was a lot more forward thinking than that! And there are countless studies now that discredit that hypothesis. Saturated fat, coconut oil, is good. It’s what our ancestors SURVIVED on. My own 91 year Grandmother is still alive today because her whole life she cooked with butter (real butter), ate red meat (with potatoes, because she lives in Idaho), and drink whole milk because they owned a small dairy farm… and they fed their cows grass and hay. NOT corn, or moldy grains. Hay that my grandfather also farmed on his land. Unfortunately today, our farmlands aren’t being used by animals…. Decades ago, farmland was shared by livestock (who ranged free and ate grass) which then fertilized the soil… That soil was the best soil to plant your vegetables in! Today with the lack of livestock, our soil is too sterile… so it has to be pumped with artificial fertilizers which don’t exactly protect our plants from bugs so more chemicals get introduced to our food with pesticides, etc. And I haven’t even touched on genetically modified seeds! It’s not a pretty picture today and we can thank those big corporate companies that were built on the notion that we needed to consume 6-11 servings of grain every day… and as people got busier and fast food became more popular, in came the boxes of food which were shelf stable and convenient. Out with the traditional breakfast of bacon and eggs, and in with the Cheerios and skim milk.
Nutrition in this country has not been a pretty journey…. but this is why I feel so passionate about educating people on better food choices. Get back to the eggs and bacon for breakfast! That is your start… 🙂