When Galileo Galilei proposed that the earth revolved around the sun (heliocentrism), he was investigated by the Roman Inquisition, which concluded that heliocentrism was “foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it contradicted in many places the sense of Holy Scripture”.
He was tried, found “vehemently suspect of heresy” forced to recant and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. Of course, he was right and centuries later, was pardoned by the church.
Fast-forward to today’s more secular world where of course reason and evidence trumps ideology. This would mean that new findings, which challenge the current worldview are considered and when shown to be correct, acted on. Surely those who discover truth would not be treated as heretics?
Surely those in medicine are followers of science and thus ever questioning of their current beliefs.
Sadly, this is not necessarily the case.
There is a startling graph on page 328 of Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz, which shows the percentage of obese people in the USA between 1971 and 2006 (an Australian graph would look similar). There is an inflection point where the graph changes from a flat line to an incline. This inflection point is the first introduction of low fat dietary guidelines in the USA.
One of the arguments put by those in public health, for the increase in rates of obesity and (type two diabetes), is that the public, do not follow the guidelines. Sales figures for vegetables, red meat, grain products, vegetable oils and full fat dairy show the exact opposite. The public has adopted a low saturated fat diet over the last 40 years – to their detriment.
There has been a growing view over the last decade that this advice was not based on science. A 2014 paper in the JAMA stated “Reducing total fat (replacing total fat with overall carbohydrates) does not lower cardiovascular disease risk. …” In 2015 the BMJ published something more damning – “Dietary recommendations were introduced for 220 million US and 56 million citizens in the UK in 1983, in the absence of supporting evidence from randomised control trials”.
Rep Andy Harris M.D. wrote on The Hill; “…the lack of sound science has led to a number of dietary tenets that are not just mistaken, but even harmful – as a number of recent studies suggest”.
Harris quotes the example of the increase in obesity and type two diabetes since 1980; the year low fat dietary guidelines were introduced. He notes the “ …recommendation to eat “healthy whole grains” turns out not to be supported by any strong science, according to a recent study by the Cochrane Collaboration, a group specializing in scientific literature reviews. Looking at all the data from clinical trials, which is the most rigorous data available, the study concluded that there is “insufficient evidence” to show that whole grains reduced blood pressure or had any cardiovascular benefit”.
With the release of the PURE (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology) study, it is now case closed. This massive prospective trial of over 135,000 people in 18 countries has shown that there is no association between fats in the diet and any adverse health outcome. It found that a low fat (high carb) diet was associated with higher rates of illness and mortality. Furthermore, it found there is no basis for current fruit and vegetable intake recommendations (think five and two) either.
The conclusion as published in The Lancet states “High carbohydrate intake was associated with higher risk of total mortality, whereas total fat and individual types of fat were related to lower total mortality. Total fat and types of fat were not associated with cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction, or cardiovascular disease mortality, whereas saturated fat had an inverse association with stroke. Global dietary guidelines should be reconsidered in light of these findings”.
It is saying that current dietary advice is wrong and calling for changes. The response from assorted health groups worldwide has varied from silence to attempts to dismiss the findings. In a textbook example of the pot calling the kettle black, dieticians and others complained that the study was observational. It was, making it the same as every other nutritional study including Ancel Keyes’ seven-nation study, which set us down the cholesterol and saturated fat phobia path.
The reason why public health, (most) dieticians and health departments will not accept they are wrong is something we can speculate on. It could be egos. It might be reputation. Some suggest that dollars are a factor. You can form your own view.
Here is the bottom line. A low-fat diet (high in refined carbohydrates, such as grains has been now repeatedly shown to not be a healthy diet. Fats in the diet are not a problem.
The simplest eating guide is to eat like our ancestors did. They ate foods which till recently had been growing or moving. They ate foods which if not frozen would go off in a short space of time. They did not eat food with lots of numbers on the labels. In fact, they did not eat foods with labels. They drank mainly water.
This is not difficult. It is not new. Until self-appointed experts pushed us down the wrong path we were doing fine. The low-fat diet will come to be seen as the worst fad diet in human history. For now, the vested interests continue to resist and seek to strike at heretics.
Galileo was convicted in 1633 and officially pardoned over 350 years later. How long will it take for apologies to those who have been persecuted (and this has happened in Australia) for being right about fats in the diet? Time will tell.
Continue to watch this space. The low-fat empire is crumbling.
This article first appeared on WA Today
Dr Joe Kosterich MBBS is an author, speaker, media presenter and health industry consultant, who wants you to be healthy and get the most out of life. Dr Joe also gives practical, motivational health talks for the general public and organisations where he is known as “An independent doctor who talks about health”. His latest book “60 minutes to Better Health” is available on Amazon.