Westerners have been getting fatter and fatter at alarming rates since the 80s. Now Chinese and Indians are rapidly catching up.
Now it seems, we have been unfairly blaming fat for the obesity epidemic, but it has been carbohydrates all along.
Thirty years ago, America declared war against fat. The inaugural edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published in 1980 and subsequently updated every five years, advised people to steer clear of “too much fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol,” because of purported ties between fat intake and heart disease. The message has remained essentially the same ever since, with current guidelines recommending that Americans consume less than 10 percent of their daily calories from saturated fat.
But heart disease continues to devastate the country, and, as you may have noticed, we certainly haven’t gotten any thinner. Ultimately, that’s because fat should never have been our enemy. The big question is whether the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, due out at the end of the year, will finally announce retreat.
The foundation for the “fat is bad” mantra comes from the following logic: Since saturated fat is known to increase blood levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, and people with high LDL cholesterol are more likely to develop heart disease, saturated fat must increase heart disease risk. If A equals B and B equals C, then A must equal C.
Well, no. With this extrapolation, scientists and policymakers made a grave miscalculation: They assumed that all LDL cholesterol is the same and that all of it is bad. A spate of recent research is now overturning this fallacy and raising major questions about the wisdom of avoiding fat, especially considering that the food Americans have been replacing fat with—processed carbohydrates—could be far worse for heart health. “
Scientific America also picked up on this theme recently.
Eat less saturated fat: that has been the take-home message from the U.S. government for the past 30 years. But while Americans have dutifully reduced the percentage of daily calories from saturated fat since 1970, the obesity rate during that time has more than doubled, diabetes has tripled, and heart disease is still the country’s biggest killer. Now a spate of new research, including a meta-analysis of nearly two dozen studies, suggests a reason why: investigators may have picked the wrong culprit. Processed carbohydrates, which many Americans eat today in place of fat, may increase the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease more than fat does—a finding that has serious implications for new dietary guidelines expected this year.
In March the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a meta-analysis—which combines data from several studies—that compared the reported daily food intake of nearly 350,000 people against their risk of developing cardiovascular disease over a period of five to 23 years. The analysis, overseen by Ronald M. Krauss, director of atherosclerosis research at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, found no association between the amount of saturated fat consumed and the risk of heart disease.”
This is a staggering finding.
Its not that saturated fats are good, but its likely that carbohydrates are significantly worse, especially high GI refined carbohydrates.
“If you reduce saturated fat and replace it with high glycemic-index carbohydrates, you may not only not get benefits—you might actually produce harm,” Ludwig argues. The next time you eat a piece of buttered toast, he says, consider that “butter is actually the more healthful component.”