American Heart Association’s “Fat and Cholesterol Counter” (1991)

  • 1963 – “Every woman knows that carbohydrates are fattening, this is a piece of common knowledge, which few nutritionists would dispute.”
  • 1994 – “… obesity may be regarded as a carbohydrate-deficiency syndrome and that an increase in dietary carbohydrate content at the expense of fat is the appropriate dietary part of a therapeutical strategy.”*

My mother was about to throw out an old booklet from the American Heart Association (AHA), “Fat and Cholesterol Counter”, one of several publications they put out around that time. It was published in 1991, the year I started high school. Unsurprisingly, it blames everything on sodium, calories, cholesterol, and, of course, saturated fat.

Even hydrogenated fat gets blamed on saturated fat, since the hydrogenation process turns some small portion of it saturated, which ignores the heavy damage and inflammatory response caused by the oxidization process (both in the industrial processing and in cooking). Not to mention those hydrogenated fats as industrial seed oils are filled with omega-6 fatty acids, the main reason they are so inflammatory. Saturated fat, on the other hand, is not inflammatory at all. This obsession with saturated fat is so strange. It never made any sense from a scientific perspective. When the obesity epidemic began and all that went with it, the consumption of saturated fat by Americans had been steadily dropping for decades, ever since the invention of industrial seed oils in the late 1800s and the fear about meat caused by Upton Sinclair’s muckraking journalism, The Jungle, about the meatpacking industry.

The amount of saturated fat and red meat has declined over the past century, to be replaced with those industrial seed oils and lean white meat, along with fruits and vegetables — all of which have been increasing.** Chicken, in particular, replaced beef and what stands out about chicken is that, like those industrial seed oils, it is high in the inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. How could saturated fat be causing the greater rates of heart disease and such when people were eating less of it. This scapegoating wasn’t only unscientific but blatantly irrational. All of this info was known way back when Ancel Keys went on his anti-fat crusade (The Creed of Ancel Keys). It wasn’t a secret. And it required cherrypicked data and convoluted rationalizations to explain away.

Worse than removing saturated fat when it’s not a health risk is the fact that it is actually an essential nutrient for health: “How much total saturated do we need? During the 1970s, researchers from Canada found that animals fed rapeseed oil and canola oil developed heart lesions. This problem was corrected when they added saturated fat to the animals diets. On the basis of this and other research, they ultimately determined that the diet should contain at least 25 percent of fat as saturated fat. Among the food fats that they tested, the one found to have the best proportion of saturated fat was lard, the very fat we are told to avoid under all circumstances!” (Millie Barnes, The Importance of Saturated Fats for Biological Functions).

It is specifically lard that has been most removed from the diet, and this is significant as lard was a central to the American diet until this past century: “Pre-1936 shortening is comprised mainly of lard while afterward, partially hydrogenated oils came to be the major ingredient” (Nina Teicholz, The Big Fat Surprise, p. 95); “Americans in the nineteenth century ate four to five times more butter than we do today, and at least six times more lard” (p. 126). And what about the Mediterranean people who supposedly are so healthy because of their love of olive oil? “Indeed, in historical accounts going back to antiquity, the fat more commonly used in cooking in the Mediterranean, among peasants and the elite alike, was lard.” (p. 217).

Jason Prall notes that long-lived populations ate “lots of meat” and specifically, “They all ate pig. I think pork was the was the only common animal that we saw in the places that we went” (Longevity Diet & Lifestyle Caught On Camera w/ Jason Prall). The infamous long-lived Okinawans also partake in everything from pigs, such that their entire culture and religion was centered around pigs (Blue Zones Dietary Myth). Lard, in case you didn’t know, comes from pigs. Pork and lard is found in so many diets for the simple reason pigs can live in diverse environments, from mountainous forests to tangled swamps to open fields, and they are a food source available year round.

Another thing that has gone hand in hand with loss of healthy, nutrient-dense saturated fat in the American diet is a loss of nutrition in general. It’s not only that plant foods have less minerals and vitamins because of depleted soil and because they are picked when not ripe in order to ship them long distances. The same is true of animal foods, since the animals are being fed the same crappy plant foods as us humans. But at the very least, even factory-farmed animals have far more bioavailable nutrient-density than plant foods from industrial agriculture. If we ate more fatty meat, saturated fat or otherwise, we’d be getting far more fat-soluble vitamins. But when looking at all animal foods, in particular from pasture-raised and wild-caught sources, there is no mineral or vitamin that can’t be obtained at required levels. The same can’t be said for plant foods on a vegan diet.

Back in 1991, the AHA was recommending the inclusion of lots of bread, rolls, crackers, and pasta (“made with low-fat milk and fats or oils low in saturated fatty acids” and “without eggs”); rice, beans, and peas; sugary fruits and starchy vegetables (including juices) — and deserts were fine as well. At most, eat 3 or 4 eggs a week and, as expected, optimally avoid the egg yolks where all the nutrition is located (not only fat-soluble vitamins, but also choline and cholesterol and much else; by the way, your brain health is dependent on high levels of dietary cholesterol, such that statins in blocking cholesterol cause neurocognitive decline). As long as there were little if any saturated fat and fat in general was limited, buckets of starchy carbs and sugar was considered by the AHA to be part of a healthy and balanced diet. That is sad.

This interested me because of the year. This was as I was entering young adulthood and so I was becoming more aware of the larger world. I remember the heavy-handed propaganda preaching that fiber is good and fat is evil, as if the war on obesity was a holy crusade that demanded black-and-white thinking, all subtleties and complexities must be denied in adherence to the moralistic dogma against the sins of gluttony and sloth — it was literally a evangelistic medical gospel (see Belinda Fettke’s research on the Seventh Day Adventists: Thou Shalt not discuss Nutrition ‘Science’ without understanding its driving force). In our declining public health, we were a fallen people who required a dietary clergy for our salvation. Millennia of traditional dietary wisdom and knowledge was thrown out the window as if it was worthless or maybe even dangerous.

I do remember my mother buying high-fiber cereals and “whole wheat” commercial breads (not actually whole wheat as it is simply denatured refined flour with fiber added back in). And along with this, skim or 1% fat dairy foods, especially milk, was included with every major meal and often snacks. I had sugary and starchy cereal with skim milk (and/or milk with sugary Instant Breakfast) every morning and a glass of skim milk for every dinner, maybe sometimes milk for lunch. Cheese was a regular part of the diet as well, such as with pizza eaten multiple times week or any meal with pasta, and heck cheese was a great snack all by itself, but also good combined with crackers and one could pretend to be healthy if one used Triscuits. Those were the days when I might devour a whole block of cheese, probably low-fat, in a single sitting — I was probably craving fat-soluble vitamins. Still, most of my diet was most starches and sugar, as that was my addiction. The fiber was an afterthought to market junk food as health food.

It now makes sense. When I was a kid in the 1980s, my mother says the doctor understood that whole fat milk was important for growing bodies. So that is what he recommended. But I guess the anti-fat agenda had fully taken over by the 1990s. The AHA booklet from 1991 was by then recommending “skim or 1% milk and low-fat cheeses” for all ages, including babies and children, pregnant and lactating women. Talk about a recipe for health disaster. No wonder metabolic syndrome exploded and neurocognitive health fell like a train going over a collapsed bridge. It was so predictable, as the failure of this diet was understood by many going back to earlier in the century (e.g., Weston A. Price; see my post Health From Generation To Generation).

The health recommendations did get worse over time, but to be fair it started much earlier. They had been discouraging breastfeeding for a while. Traditionally, babies were breastfed for the first couple of years or so. By the time modern America came around, experts were suggesting a short period of breast milk or even entirely using scientifically-designed formulas. My mother only breastfed me for 5-6 months and then put me on cows milk — of course, pasteurized and homogenized milk from grain-fed and factory-farmed cows. When the dairy caused diarrhea, the doctor suggested soy milk. After a while, my mother put me on dairy again, but diarrhea persisted and so for preschool she put me back on soy milk again. I was drinking soy milk off and on for many years during the most important stage of development. Holy fuck! That had to have done serious damage to my developing body, in particular my brain. Then I went from that to skim milk during another important time of development, as I hit puberty and went through growth spurts.

Early on in elementary school, I had delayed reading and a diagnosis of learning disability, seemingly along with something along the lines of either Asperger’s or specific language impairment, although undiagnosed. I definitely had social and behavioral issues, in that I didn’t understand people well when I was younger. Then entering adulthood, I was diagnosed with depression and something like a “thought disorder” or something (I forget the exact diagnosis I got while in a psychiatric ward after a suicide attempt). No doubt the latter was already present in my early neurocogntive problems, as I obviously was severely depressed at least as early as 7th grade. A malnourished diet of lots of carbs and little fat was the most probable cause for all of these problems.

Thanks, American Heart Association! Thanks for doing so much harm my health and making my life miserable for decades, not to mention nearly killing me through depression so severe I attempted suicide, and then decades of depressive struggle that followed. That isn’t even to mention the sugar and carb addiction that plagued me for so long. Now multiply my experience by that of at least hundreds of millions of other Americans, and even greater number of people from elsewhere as their governments followed the example of the United States, across the past few generations. Great job, AHA. And much appreciation for the helping hand of the USDA and various medical institutions in enforcing this anti-scientific dogma.

Let me be clear about one thing. I don’t blame my mother, as she was doing the best she could with the advice given to her by doctors and corporate media, along with the propaganda literature from respected sources such as the AHA. Nor do I blame any other average Americans as individuals, although I won’t hold back on placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of demagogues like Ancel Keys. As Gary Taubes and Nina Teicholz have made so clear, this was an agenda of power, not science. With the help of government and media, the actual scientific debate was silenced and disappeared from public view (Eliminating Dietary Dissent). The consensus in favor of a high-carb, low-fat diet didn’t emerge through rational discourse and evidence-based medicine —  it was artificially constructed and enforced.

Have we learned our lesson? Apparently not. We still see this tactic of technocratic authoritarianism, such as with corporate-funded push behind EAT-Lancet (Dietary Dictocrats of EAT-Lancet). Why do we tolerate this agenda-driven exploitation of public trust and harm to public health?

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 * First quote: Passmore, R., and Y. E. Swindelis. 1963. “Observations on the Respiratory Quotients and Weight Gain of Man After Eating Large Quantities of Carbohydrates.” British Journal of Nutrition. 17. 331-39.
Second quote: Astrup, A., B. Baemann, N. . Christenson, and S. Toubre. 1994. “Failure to Increase Lipid Oxidtion in Response to Increasing Dietary Fat Content in Formerly Obese Women.” American Journal of Physiology. April, 266 (4, pt. 1) E592-99.
Both quotes are from a talk given by Peter Ballerstedt, “AHS17 What if It’s ALL Been a Big Fat Lie?,” available on the Ancestry Foundation Youtube page.

(It appears that evidence-based factual reality literally changes over time. I assume this relativity of ideological realism has something to do with quantum physics. It’s the only possible explanation. I’m feeling a bit snarky, in case you didn’t notice.)

** Americans, in the prior centuries, ate few plant foods at all because they were so difficult and time-consuming to grow. There was no way to control for pests and wild animals that often would devour and destroy a garden or a crop. It was too much investment for too little reward, not to mention extremely unreliable as a food source and so risky to survival for those with a subsistence lifestyle. Until modern farming methods, especially with 20th century industrialization of agriculture, most Americans primarily ate animal foods with tons of fat, mostly butter, cream and lard, along with a wide variety of wild-caught animal foods.

This is discussed by Nina Teicholz in The Big Fat Surprise: “Early-American settlers were “indifferent” farmers, according to many accounts. They were fairly lazy in their efforts at both animal husbandry and agriculture, with “the grain fields, the meadows, the forests, the cattle, etc, treated with equal carelessness,” as one eighteenth-century Swedish visitor described. And there was little point in farming since meat was so readily available.” (see more in my post Malnourished Americans). That puts the conventional dietary debate in an entirely different context. Teicholz adroitly dismantles the claim that fatty animal foods have increased in the American diet.

Teicholz goes on to state that, “So it seems fair to say that at the height of the meat-and-butter-gorging eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, heart disease did not rage as it did by the 1930s. Ironically—or perhaps tellingly—the heart disease “epidemic” began after a period of exceptionally reduced meat eating.” It was the discovery of seed oils that originally were an industrial byproduct, combined with Upton Sinclair’s muckraking journalism about the meatpacking industry (The Jungle), that caused meat and animal fats to quickly fall out as the foundation of the American diet. Saturated fat, in particular, had been in decline for decades prior to the epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Ancel Keys knew this data, which is why he had to throw out some of his data to make it fit his preconceived conclusions in promoting his preferred dietary ideology.

If we were honestly wanting to find the real culprit to blame, we would look to the dramatic rise of vegetable oils, white flour, and sugar in the 20th century diet. It began much earlier with the grain surpluses and cheap wheat, especially in England during the 1800s, but in the United States it became most noticeable in the first half century following that period. The agenda of Keys and the AHA simply made a bad situation worse, albeit much much worse.

Slow, Quiet, and Reluctant Changes to Official Dietary Guidelines

by Fred Provenza
pp. 236-237

In 2015, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) issued a report with a striking recommendation: Eliminate dietary cholesterol as a nutrient of concern. This change astonished the public but is consistent with scientific evidence reporting no appreciable relationship between dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol or clinical cardiovascular events in general populations. A less obvious change was the absence of an upper limit on total fat consumption. With this report, the DGAC reversed nearly four decades of nutrition policy that placed priority on reducing cholesterol and total fat consumption throughout the population. As with other scientific fields from physics to clinical medicine, scientists contend understanding of nutrition has advanced in recent decades.

Yet, despite the apparent increase in understanding obesity and diet-related diseases continue to rise. In 1960, fewer than 13 percent of Americans were obese, and fewer than 1,100 scientific articles were published on obesity and diabetes. Today, 49 percent of Americans are obese and the United States ranks number one among thirty-five nations in childhood obesity. In 2013, 44,000 scientific articles were published on these topics. In total, over 600,000 articles have been published alleging to provide worthwhile information on diet-related disorders.

The Government’s Bad Diet Advice
by Nina Teicholz

FOR two generations, Americans ate fewer eggs and other animal products because policy makers told them that fat and cholesterol were bad for their health. Now both dogmas have been debunked in quick succession.

First, last fall, experts on the committee that develops the country’s dietary guidelines acknowledged that they had ditched the low-fat diet. On Thursday, that committee’s report was released, with an even bigger change: It lifted the longstanding caps on dietary cholesterol, saying there was “no appreciable relationship” between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol. Americans, it seems, had needlessly been avoiding egg yolks, liver and shellfish for decades. The new guidelines, the first to be issued in five years, will influence everything from school lunches to doctors’ dieting advice. […]

In 2013, government advice to reduce salt intake (which remains in the current report) was contradicted by an authoritative Institute of Medicine study. And several recent meta-analyses have cast serious doubt on whether saturated fats are linked to heart disease, as the dietary guidelines continue to assert.

Uncertain science should no longer guide our nutrition policy. Indeed, cutting fat and cholesterol, as Americans have conscientiously done, may have even worsened our health. In clearing our plates of meat and eggs (fat and protein), we ate more grains, pasta and starchy vegetables (carbohydrates). Over the past 50 years, we cut fat intake by 25 percent and increased carbohydrates by more than 30 percent, according to a new analysis of government data. Yet recent science has increasingly shown that a high-carb diet rich in sugar and refined grains increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease — much more so than a diet high in fat and cholesterol.

My Beef With The AHA’s Saturated Fat Recommendations
by Larry Husten

Reading the new AHA paper I was struck by its extreme self-confidence, paralleled by its unwillingness to acknowledge the disastrous consequences of the last time the AHA pushed back against dietary fat and cholesterol. The result, as we all should know by now, was to unwittingly help unleash or at least contribute to the obesity and diabetes epidemics, as saturated fat and dietary cholesterol were replaced by carbs, often refined carbs, and sugar. Notably, the AHA took a long time to change its guidelines, and when it did those efforts were far less aggressive and received far less publicity than the original campaigns.

Now the memory of that catastrophe is fading, at least in some people who would rather forget it. In an article in Medscape one nutrition expert, defending the new AHA paper, offered the following quote: “But the AHA has always taken the stance that saturated fat is bad and that we should be eating more plant oils, and this view is endorsed by the vast majority of nutritionists who are scientifically qualified. [emphasis added]” He’s already forgotten that, in fact, in its earlier campaign the AHA did not explain that saturated fat should not be replaced with carbs, or even sugar.

Government revises Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Go ahead and have some eggs
by Peter Whoriskey

The federal government on Thursday told Americans not to worry so much about cholesterol in their diets, that lots of coffee is fine and that skipping breakfast is no longer considered a health hazard.

The recommendations were part of a new “Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” the influential nutrition advice book that, updated every five years, expresses official thinking about what constitutes a nutritious meal.

In what may be the most striking change, the new version drops the strict limit on dietary cholesterol, stepping back from one of most prominent public health messages since the ’60s.

But there were several other notable changes. Salt limits were eased, if only slightly, for many people. Coffee won official approval for the first time, with the book saying that as many as five eight-ounce cups a day is fine. And apparently, skipping breakfast is no longer considered a health hazard: While the old version of Dietary Guidelines informed readers that “not eating breakfast has been associated with excess body weight,” the new version is silent on the topic. […]

Nevertheless, the new version seems inconsistent in places, or torn between new science and past recommendations.

For example, the new document dropped the warning about dietary cholesterol from its key recommendations and the document no longer calls for people to limit their cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams per day. This change was recommended by its own expert committee, which found that cholesterol is no longer “a nutrient of concern.”

But elsewhere in the report, the guidelines cite a 16-year-old report from the Institute of Medicine and advises people to “eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible while consuming a healthy eating pattern.”

Similarly, the report calls for people to limit the amount of saturated fat in their diet to 10 percent of their calories, and accordingly to choose milk and other dairy products that are no-fat or low-fat. But newer research, also cited by the guidelines, shows that merely reducing consumption of saturated fats may offer no benefit if people merely replace those saturated fats with carbohydrates, as they often do. […]

For all the debate, whether the guidelines have made American healthier is also a matter of debate. Critics have faulted the guidelines for failing to prevent the nation’s epidemic of obesity, and say major changes are necessary in the advice given.

“Given the same advice, it’s not clear why we should expect different outcomes, especially when consumption data shows that over the past decades, Americans have, in fact, followed USDA advice,” said Nina Teicholz, the author of Big Fat Surprise and a board member at the Nutrition Coalition, a new group, funded by Houston-based philanthropists Laura and John D. Arnold, lobbying for changes to the way the government develops dietary advice.

American Heart Association doubles down on outmoded saturated fat
by Dr. Ronald Hoffman

Are you suffering from health news whiplash? It seems lately that all the news has been about the how saturated fats have been exonerated—studies show that meat and high fat dairy contribute negligibly or not at all to the risk of heart disease.

In the face of all this new evidence, I’ve railed against the American Heart Association’s obdurate refusal to acknowledge that they were wrong. They continue to maintain, on their website and through their public pronouncements, that consumers should curtail their consumption of saturated fats and substitute instead polyunsaturated oils—corn, soy, and safflower.

A recent National Institutes of Health reviewshattered that premise: It showed that by swapping dietary saturated fats with vegetable oils, subjects indeed lowered their cholesterol. But that cholesterol reduction didn’t translate into protection against atherosclerosis, heart attacks or death from all causes.

But last week, to my astonishment, the American Heart Association reiterated its position: Its “Presidential Advisory on Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease” states “Lower intake of saturated fat and coupled with higher intake of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat is associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease and of other major causes of death and all-cause mortality.” The magnitude of this protective effect is estimated to be a whopping 30%, comparable to the use of statin drugs [irony intended!].

This is reminiscent of the way a religious orthodoxy, whose authority might be threatened with facts that undermine its cherished dogma, would fight back with renewed vigor: Science declares, “The earth is round.” Counter this heresy by delivering a pronouncement that, indeed, the earth is flat. Order it proclaimed from every pulpit.

The Big Fat Surprise
by Nina Teicholz
pp. 184-185

Taken together, these trials have shown that the low-fat diet has at best proved ineffective against disease and at worst aggravated the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. The standard, AHA-prescribed low-fat diet has consistently failed to produce better results for health than diets higher in fat.

A review in 2008 of all studies of the low-fat diet by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization concluded that there is “no probable or convincing evidence” that a high level of fat in the diet causes heart disease or cancer. And in 2013 in Sweden, an expert health advisory group, after spending two years reviewing 16,000 studies, concluded that a diet low in fat was an ineffective strategy for tackling either obesity or diabetes. Therefore, the inescapable conclusion from numerous trials on this diet, altogether costing more than a billion dollars, can only be that this regime, which became our national diet before being properly tested, has almost certainly been a terrible mistake for American public health.

“It is increasingly recognized that the low-fat campaign has been based on little scientific evidence and may have caused unintended health consequences,” wrote Frank Hu, a nutrition professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, in 2001. With this growing pile of evidence on the table, health authorities clearly see the need to update their advice. Yet they are understandably reluctant to reverse course too loudly on fifty years of nutrition recommendations, and this hesitance has led to a certain vagueness on the subject. The USDA and AHA have both quietly eliminated any specific percent fat targets from their most recent lists of dietary guidelines. Those 30–35 percent fat targets that we’ve abided by for decades? They’re now gone. And so is, actually, any discussion of the topic in their reports. How much fat should we be eating? These groups now don’t say, and this silence on the issue—it must be said—does not seem like the clear, confident leadership from our authorities that we might like to see on the subject of how we should eat to fight the major diseases of our time.

Of course many of us who’ve been paying attention to the science have been welcoming fat back into our diets for some time already. We’ve given up spraying with Pam, stopped poaching, and started using salad dressings again. And if there’s a silver lining to those low-fat years, it’s this: we learned that fat is the soul of flavor. Food is tasteless and cooking nearly impossible without fat. Fat is essential in the kitchen to produce crispness and to thicken sauces. It is crucial in conveying flavors. It makes baked goods flaky, moist, and light. And fat has many other, essential functions in cooking and baking. To satisfy all these compelling needs, nutrition experts coming out of the low- to nonfat 1980s and looking for a solution found one apparently perfect candidate: olive oil. And that is one of the reasons why, in the early 1990s, the “Mediterranean Diet” entered the picture.

pp. 339-342

Americans have dutifully followed official dietary advice to restrict fat and animal products for more than sixty years now, ever since the AHA first recommended this diet in 1961 as the best way to avoid heart disease and obesity. Nineteen years later, in 1980, the USDA guidelines joined in. Since then, the government’s own data shows that Americans have reduced their consumption of saturated fat by 11 percent and overall fat by 5 percent. XXXIV Red meat consumption has steadily declined, replaced by chicken. According to a USDA report, Americans also complied with official advice to lower the dietary cholesterol found abundantly in egg yolks and shellfish, even though the cholesterol in food has long been known to have little impact on serum cholesterol (as discussed in Chapter 2). XXXV The original rationale for cutting back on fat was to lower serum cholesterol, and Americans have successfully done that, too. Since 1978, total cholesterol levels among US adults have fallen from an average of 213 mg/dL down to 203 mg/dL. The portion of Americans with “high” cholesterol (over 240 mg/dL) has dropped from 26 percent to 19 percent. Moreover, most of that drop has been due to declines in LDL-cholesterol, the target most emphasized by officials for the past thirty years. In 1952, when Ancel Keys first started arguing for the reduced-fat diet, he predicted that if “mankind stopped eating eggs, dairy products, meats and all visible fats,” heart disease would “become very rare.” This has certainly not been the case.

Indeed, during these years, and despite or perhaps because of these efforts, Americans have experienced skyrocketing epidemics of obesity and diabetes, and the CDC estimates that 75 million Americans now have metabolic syndrome, a disorder of fat metabolism that, if anything, is ameliorated by eating more saturated fat to raise HDL-cholesterol. And although deaths from heart disease have gone down since the 1960s, no doubt due to improved medical treatment, it’s not clear that the actual occurrence of heart disease has declined much during that time.

Authorities are naturally reluctant to take responsibility for this outcome. The same recent USDA report that documents the public’s success in adhering to its dietary guidelines nevertheless places the onus of blame for obesity and disease squarely on American children and adults, “very few” of whom “currently follow the US Dietary Guidelines”—an unsubstantiated assertion that is repeated throughout the report.

The dietary recommendations now offered by the USDA and AHA for solving the nation’s health problems are basically: stay the course. Both groups have backed off their limits on fat slightly. The most recent set of AHA dietary guidelines shifts its dietary fat recommendation from a limit of 30 percent of calories to a range of between 25 percent and 35 percent, arguably a meaningless change to most people. And the USDA’s latest Dietary Guidelines, published in 2010, scrapped any specific percentile targets for the three main macronutrient groups, protein, fat, and carbohydrates, altogether. XXXVI Yet the prohibitions against saturated fats remain strong, and the USDA report continues to take the stance that “healthy diets are high in carbohydrates.”

Meanwhile, the same biases that have sustained the diet-heart hypothesis for so many decades remain, and those biases continue to steer the nutrition conversation every step of the way. So, in 2006, when the Women’s Health Initiative reported that a low-fat diet made no difference to disease or obesity, the WHI investigators, as well as officials at the AHA and NHLBI, issued press releases stating that this half-a-billion-dollar study had not been conducted well enough to make any conclusions about changing our diets. In 2010, when Krauss’s metanalysis came out with good news about saturated fats, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition minimized its impact by publishing the critical editorial by Jerry Stamler as an “introduction” to Krauss’s work. And inconvenient findings, such as those by Volek and Westman, continue to be ignored, reasoned away, or misinterpreted by the great majority of nutrition experts.

Moreover, the alliance between the media and the nutrition mainstream endures. Mark Bittman, a food columnist at the New York Times , is perhaps the most prominent example of a voice in the media encouraging a diet based on fruits and vegetables while minimizing meat, a mantle he inherited from Jane Brody. Journalists and nutrition authorities also continue to dovetail in amplifying any study finding that appears to condemn either red meat or saturated fat. XXXVII And the public gets the message. Americans continue to avoid all fats: the market for “fat replacers,” the foodlike substances substituting for fats in processed foods, was, in 2012, still growing at nearly 6 percent per year, with the most common fat replacers being carbohydrate-based. XXXVIII

If, in recommending that Americans avoid meat, cheese, milk, cream, butter, eggs, and the rest, it turns out that nutrition experts made a mistake, it will have been a monumental one. Measured just by death and disease, and not including the millions of lives derailed by excess weight and obesity, it’s very possible that the course of nutrition advice over the past sixty years has taken an unparalleled toll on human history. It now appears that since 1961, the entire American population has, indeed, been subjected to a mass experiment, and the results have clearly been a failure. Every reliable indicator of good health is worsened by a low-fat diet. Whereas diets high in fat have been shown, again and again, in a large body of clinical trials, to lead to improved measures for heart disease, blood pressure, and diabetes, and are better for weight loss. Moreover, it’s clear that the original case against saturated fats was based on faulty evidence and has, over the last decade, fallen apart. Despite more than two billion dollars in public money spent trying to prove that lowering saturated fat will prevent heart attacks, the diet-heart hypothesis has not held up.

In the end, what we believe to be true—our conventional wisdom—is really nothing more than sixty years of misconceived nutrition research. Before 1961, there were our ancestors, with their recipes. And before them, there were their ancestors, with their hunting bows or traps or livestock—but like lost languages, lost skills, and lost songs, it takes only a few generations to forget.

* * *

For more info, see:

Official Guidelines For Low-Carb Diet