We’ve been told that red meat causes cancer and that saturated fats cause heart disease & diabetes, but is that actually true? It appears there is a strong well-funded initiative to turn populations away from traditional diets which have been around for thousands of years, organisations such as The True Health Initiative led By Dr David katz and films such as Forks over Knives and ‘What The Health’ have created quite a ground swell of belief that a plant-based diet is the healthiest way to eat, but is it?
Investigative journalist Nina Teicholz in this video reveals the unthinkable: that everything we thought we knew about dietary fats and red meat is wrong. She documents how the past sixty years of low-fat nutrition advice has amounted to a vast uncontrolled experiment on the entire population, with disastrous consequences for our health.
For decades, we have been told that the best possible diet involves cutting back on fat, especially saturated fat, and that if we are not getting healthier or thinner it must be because we are not trying hard enough. But what if the low-fat diet is itself the problem? What if those exact foods we’ve been denying ourselves — the creamy cheeses, the sizzling steaks — are themselves the key to reversing the epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease?
Nina does not argue that a high-fat, low-carb diet is the right diet for everyone. It reviews the science showing that this diet is highly effective for people with metabolic diseases–obesity, diabetes, heart disease. Nina was a low-fat eating “near vegetarian” for about 20 years: she ate no red meat, no eggs, no butter, no full-fat dairy, little cheese, mostly plants with small amounts of chicken and fish and virtually no junk food (Also known as the USDA-recommended diet). On this diet, throughout her young adulthood, she was about 15 lbs heavier than she is today, as a middle-aged woman .
Where do the health guidlines on meats and fats come from?
Ancel Keys was a scientist who in 1955 created the ‘Fat hypothesis'(in response to the then President Eisenhower having heart disease). This is the idea, now familiar, that an excess of saturated fats in the diet, from red meat, cheese, butter, and eggs, raises cholesterol, which congeals on the inside of coronary arteries, causing them to harden and narrow, until the flow of blood is staunched and the heart seizes up. It has since been found that he had clearly manipulated the data to support his hypothesis when compiling health statistics from many countries where he left out countries that didn’t fit his thesis.
Many scientists, especially British ones, remained sceptical. The most prominent doubter was John Yudkin, then the UK’s leading nutritionist. When Yudkin looked at the data on heart disease, he was struck by its correlation with the consumption of sugar, not fat. He carried out a series of laboratory experiments on animals and humans, and observed, as others had before him, that sugar is processed in the liver, where it turns to fat, before entering the bloodstream.
He noted, too, that while humans have always been carnivorous, carbohydrates only became a major component of their diet 10,000 years ago, with the advent of mass agriculture. Sugar – a pure carbohydrate, with all fibre and nutrition stripped out – has been part of western diets for just 300 years; in evolutionary terms, it is as if we have, just this second, taken our first dose of it. Saturated fats, by contrast, are so intimately bound up with our evolution that they are abundantly present in breast milk. To Yudkin’s thinking, it seemed more likely to be the recent innovation, rather than the prehistoric staple, making us sick. (continued below*)
“In my experience, being vegetarian/vegan is akin to religion. It is a belief system in itself – it is not the logical outcome of studying nutritional science.” ~ Dr Zoë Harcombe
The esteem with which the Keys Seven Countries Study is held by vegans/vegetarians has its roots in a long standing nutritional error, which prevails today. Keys used the terms ‘animal fat’ and ‘saturated fat’ interchangeably, as if they were the same. It was not until c. 1956 that Keys started to be accurate in his terminology (source). Animal fats do not equal saturated fats any more than plant fats equal unsaturated fats. All foods that contain fat – from animal and plant sources – contain all three fats: saturated; monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Gram for gram, olive oil contains seven times the saturated fat of a typical sirloin steak.
The single greatest food source of saturated fat is the coconut – perfectly vegan. Meat, fish, eggs and lard all contain more unsaturated than saturated fat. The attack on saturated fat, falsely deemed synonymous with animal fat, is ignorant and unhelpful in the advancement of the “minimally processed” beliefs that vegans, vegetarians and omnivores can share. The primary sources of saturated fat are documented in the US as pizza, desserts, candy, potato chips, pasta, tortillas, burritos, tacos, hot dogs and other processed foods. ~ Dr Zoe Harcombe
Similarly in the UK, bread, cakes, buns, pastries, biscuits, cereals, confectionery and other processed foods are the primary sources of saturated fat. I thus proposed a way forward in this paper (Ref 4) that real food proponents should unite in our opposition to processed food, but stop demonising saturated fat (where found naturally in foods of animal, or plant, origin) in the name of processed food.
Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet
Our bodies make 2000 mg of Cholesterol a day, why would that be if it was so bad? Cholesterol is the raw material the body needs to make all of our hormones, bile, Vitamin D, cell membranes & brain tissues. Cholesterol makes Adrenalin which is often depleted in cancer cases due to stress, Progesterone too which opposes estrogen, also found to be useful in cancer. Good sources of Cholesterol are grass-fed dairy (kerrygold), Ghee, Hard Cheese, Feta (Goat) and Free Range Egg Yolks, but need to be taken as part of a low carbohydrate diet (very low grain & starch), such as LCHF, Banting, Ketogenic or Paleo.
Dr Berg Explains The Cholesterol Myth
Ancel Keys was intensely aware that Yudkin’s sugar hypothesis posed an alternative to his own. If Yudkin published a paper, Keys would excoriate it, and him. He called Yudkin’s theory “a mountain of nonsense”, and accused him of issuing “propaganda” for the meat and dairy industries. “Yudkin and his commercial backers are not deterred by the facts,” he said. “They continue to sing the same discredited tune.” Yudkin never responded in kind. He was a mild-mannered man, unskilled in the art of political combat.
Despite its monumental stature, however, the Ancel Key’s Seven Countries Study, which was the basis for a cascade of subsequent papers by its original authors, was a rickety construction. There was no objective basis for the countries chosen by Keys, and it is hard to avoid the conclusion that he picked only those he suspected would support his hypothesis. After all, it is quite something to choose seven nations in Europe and leave out France and what was then West Germany, but then, Keys already knew that the French and Germans had relatively low rates of heart disease, despite living on a diet rich in saturated fats.
The study’s biggest limitation was inherent to its method. Epidemiological research involves the collection of data on people’s behaviour and health, and a search for patterns. Originally developed to study infection, Keys and his successors adapted it to the study of chronic diseases, which, unlike most infections, take decades to develop, and are entangled with hundreds of dietary and lifestyle factors, effectively impossible to separate.
Although Keys had shown a correlation between heart disease and saturated fat, he had not excluded the possibility that heart disease was being caused by something else. Years later, the Seven Countries study’s lead Italian researcher, Alessandro Menotti, went back to the data, and found that the food that correlated most closely with deaths from heart disease was not saturated fat, but sugar.
Unsurprisingly, then, repeated attempts to prove a correlation between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol failed. For the vast majority of people, eating two or three, or 25 eggs a day, does not significantly raise cholesterol levels. One of the most nutrient-dense, versatile and delicious foods we have was needlessly stigmatised. The health authorities have spent the last few years slowly backing away from this mistake, presumably in the hope that if no sudden movements are made, nobody will notice. In a sense, they have succeeded: a survey carried out in 2014 by Credit Suisse found that 54% of US doctors believe that dietary cholesterol raises blood cholesterol.
To his credit, Ancel Keys realised early on that dietary cholesterol was not a problem. But in order to sustain his assertion that cholesterol causes heart attacks, he needed to identify an agent that raises its levels in the blood – he landed on saturated fats. In the 30 years after Eisenhower’s heart attack, trial after trial failed to conclusively bear out the association he claimed to have identified in the Seven Countries study.
International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC Panel)
On 26 October 2015, IARC reported that consumption of processed meat (such as bacon, ham, hot dogs, sausages) was a Group 1 carcinogen, and that red meat was a Group 2A carcinogen (“probably carcinogenic to humans”). The IARC panel appears to be comprised of people with an anti-meat stance and cherry pick data which supports this and misses out stacks of information which prove the opposite view. This is the same panel which lists Aloe Vera Extract and herb Gingko Biloba as Carcinogens.
IARC has continued to apply its classification system largely as if the last half-century of scientific research hadn’t happened, completely ignoring issues of dose and exposure that are fundamental to risk assessment as it has been practiced around the world for several decades. The result is an unhelpful, even absurdist, scheme, in which chemicals with orders of magnitude differences in cancer potency are placed in the same group.
The IARC monograph program is a historical artifact that no longer serves the function for which it was established. It must be reformed to be brought into the 21st century – or it should be abolished.
The objective of the IARC monograph (“IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans”) process has not changed fundamentally since the first one was published 45 years ago and represents a scientific viewpoint that is now decades out of date. Science has progressed dramatically in the last half century, but the IARC cancer classification system remains frozen in time, sometimes producing results that have little scientific rationale, defy common sense and can have disruptive practical consequences.
THE DISPUTED SCIENCE ON SATURATED FATS
Funders of High Carb Diets Funded by Corporate Interest
Ref 1. Keys A. The diet and the development of coronary heart disease. J. Chronic Dis. 1956.
Ref 2. United States Department of Agriculture ARS. Oil, olive, salad or cooking, 2013.
Ref 3. United States Department of Agriculture ARS. Beef, bottom sirloin, tri-tip, separable lean only, trimmed to 0? fat, choice, raw [URMIS #2244], 2013.
Ref 4. Harcombe Z. Dietary fat guidelines have no evidence base: where next for public health nutritional advice? Br. J. Sports Med. 2016.
Ref 5. Keys A. Atherosclerosis: a problem in newer public health. J. Mt. Sinai Hosp. N. Y. 1953.
Ref 6. Keys A. Coronary heart disease in seven countries I. The study program and objectives. Circulation 1970.
Ref 7. Yerushalmy J, Hilleboe HE. Fat in the diet and mortality from heart disease; a methodologic note. N. Y. State J. Med. 1957.
Ref 8. Blackburn H. On the trail of heart attacks in seven countries. University of Minnesota, 1995.
Ref 9. Kromhout D, Menotti A, Blackburn H. The Seven Countries Study: A scientific adventure in cardiovascular disease epidemiology. The Netherlands: Brouwer Offset bv, Utrecht, The Netherlands, 1993.
Ref 10. Keys A. Seven countries: a multivariate analysis of death and coronary heart disease: Harvard University Press, 1980.
Ref 11. Sarri KO, Linardakis MK, Bervanaki FN, Tzanakis NE, Kafatos AG. Greek Orthodox fasting rituals: a hidden characteristic of the Mediterranean diet of Crete. The British journal of nutrition 2004.
Ref 12. den Hartog C, Buzina K, Fidanza F. Dietary studies and epidemiology of heart diseases. The Hague: Stichting tot Wetenschappelijke Voorlichting op Voedingsgebied, 1968.
Ref 13. Sarri K, Kafatos A. The Seven Countries Study in Crete: olive oil, Mediterranean diet or fasting? Public Health Nutr. 2005.
Ref 14. Keys A. Coronary heart disease in seven countries XVII. The Diet Circulation 1970.
Ref 15. Menotti A, Kromhout D, Blackburn H, Fidanza F, Buzina R, Nissinen A. Food intake patterns and 25-year mortality from coronary heart disease: cross-cultural correlations in the Seven Countries Study. The Seven Countries Study Research Group. European journal of epidemiology 1999.
Ref 16. Keys A. Sucrose in the diet and coronary heart disease. Atherosclerosis 1971.
Ref 17. Harcombe Z, Baker JS, Davies B. Evidence from prospective cohort studies did not support the introduction of dietary fat guidelines in 1977 and 1983: a systematic review. Br. J. Sports Med. 2016.
Ref 18. Harcombe Z, Baker JS, Cooper SM, et al. Evidence from randomised controlled trials did not support the introduction of dietary fat guidelines in 1977 and 1983: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Open Heart 2015.
Ref 19. Keys A. Coronary heart disease in seven countries Summary. Circulation 1970.