Butter curl on a knife

Every once in a while issues reach a tipping point. This is when conventional wisdom actually changes. The process begins when the previous conventional wisdom is overturned. It goes through stages of no questioning of the beliefs through to a few dissenting voices through to more voices and more back up. Defenders of the status quo of course, resist this. This is especially the case when there is a vested interest either monetary or reputation at stake.

And so has gone the ideas about fats in our diet.

Conventional wisdom for the last 40 years has been that fats in general and saturated fats in particular are bad. This came about because of the triumph of the views of Ancel Keys, who regarded fats as the problem, over the views of John Yudkin who regarded sugars as the problem.

Both men had their theories, but one theory became accepted “fact”. Political and industry involvement then sped things along.

To quote Milton Friedman “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results”. Public health programs have been built on the good intention of reducing heart disease, diabetes and obesity. The belief was that this would be achieved by reducing fats in the diet.

The result has been close to the exact opposite. Whilst deaths from heart disease have reduced this, it is not due to less heart attacks, but improved treatments. Obesity and diabetes have increased significantly.

A few weeks ago Time Magazine had a front cover story –“ Eat Butter “ with the subheading “Scientists labeled fat the enemy. Why they were wrong”.

Americans (and other western nations) have actually reduced their intake of saturated fats. Low fat foods have proliferated. Guess what happens when you remove fat from foods. It has to be replaced. This is done with fillers most of which are carbohydrates. In turn the foods are less “filling” to us due to the removal of fat. Hence we eat more but believe that, because it is low fat it is OK.

Last year it was conclusively shown that refined carbohydrate (sugar) consumption, not obesity, was the driver of type two diabetes. This excess sugar contributed to both weight gain and diabetes.

Essentially the public has done what health officials told them to do. The result has been arguably the opposite of what was intended. This information has been known for some time. The voices have been getting louder over the last decade. But those in officialdom have clung to their discredited beliefs. And they have had the ear of governments.

It is my hope that the Time cover story marks the tipping point. With this information widely available in the public domain more and more people can bypass “experts” and “official advice” and get the facts for themselves.

It will be asking way too much to expect an apology from the public health lobby. Perhaps they could just stop seeking to impose their wrong-headed views on the rest of us (at our own taxpayer funded expense).

Our ancestors who ate butter, eggs and red meat did not die young because of nutritionally related conditions. Today many die of nutritionally related conditions such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

The fat is bad mantra has been good for big pharma, the food industry, the medical profession and the public health brigade. It has been bad for the public. Fats in the diet are not and never were the problem. Low fat, high sugar foods are the problem.

It is time to go back to the future with our diets. 

It is time to, as Time Magazine says, to eat butter.