The "war" on saturated fat is the biggest mistake in the history of nutrition.
As people have reduced their intake of animal fat and cholesterol, many serious diseases have gone up.
We are now in the midst of worldwide pandemics of obesity, metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes.
Studies conducted in the past few decades conclusively show that neither saturated fat nor dietary cholesterol cause harm in humans (, , , ).
Scientists are now beginning to realize that the entire low-fat dogma was based on flawed studies that have since been thoroughly debunked.
Here are 6 graphs that clearly show how incredibly damaging it has been to advise people to reduce their consumption of animal fat.
Data from: Hoenselaar R. British Journal of Nutrition, 2012.
Have you ever heard of the "French Paradox"?
It is a phrase used to describe the seemingly "paradoxical" fact that French people have a low risk of heart disease, while eating a diet that is high in saturated fat.
Well... here is the European paradox, where there is simply no correlation between saturated fat consumption and heart disease deaths in different countries in Europe.
If anything, the countries eating more saturated fat have a lower risk of dying from heart disease.
Thanks to for the enhanced graph.
Source: National Center for Health Statistics (US). Hyattsville (MD): National Center for Health Statistics (US); 2009 Mar. Chartbook.
Back in the year 1977, the low-fat diet was recommended to all Americans. Looking back, it is interesting to see that the obesity epidemic started at almost the exact same time the guidelines first came out.
Although this graph doesn't prove anything (correlation does not equal causation), this does make sense because people started giving up traditional foods like butter, in place of processed "low-fat" foods high in sugar.
Since then, many massive studies have been conducted on the low-fat diet. These studies show clearly that the low-fat diet does not cause weight loss and has zero effect on cardiovascular disease in the long term (, , ).
Despite the poor results in the studies, this diet is still recommended by nutrition organizations all over the world.
Source: Brehm BJ, et al. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2003.
If animal fat was as bad as they say, then diets that contain a lot of it should be both fattening and harmful to your health. However, the studies do NOT back this up.
In the study above, women eating a low-carb, high-fat diet until fullness lost more than twice as much weight as women eating a calorie restricted low-fat diet.
The truth is, diets that are high in fat (but low in carbs) consistently lead to much better results than low-fat, high carb diets.
Not only do they cause more weight loss, but they also lead to big improvements in pretty much all the major risk factors for diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes (, , ).
Source: Dr. Stephan Guyenet. . 2012.
In the 20th century, several serious diseases became common in humans.
The heart disease epidemic started around 1930, the obesity epidemic started in 1980 and the diabetes epidemic started around 1990.
Even though these diseases were almost unheard of before, they have now become the biggest health problems in the world, killing millions of people per year.
It is clear from the graph above, that these diseases have skyrocketed as animal fats have been replaced with shortening, margarine and processed vegetable oils.
Source: Hu FB, et al. The New England Journal of Medicine, 2000.
It amazes me that some people still blame traditional foods like meat and butter for the diseases of civilization.
These foods have sustained humans in good health for a very long time and blaming new diseases on old foods just doesn't make sense.
All the data shows that people actually reduced their consumption of these foods as these diseases went up.
The graph above, from the Nurses Health Study, shows that Americans were reducing their intake of red meat and full-fat dairy at the same time the obesity epidemic was starting.
Source: Gillman MW, et al. Epidemiology, 1997. Photo source: .
Back when everyone started pointing the finger at saturated fat as the cause of heart disease, butter and other high-fat dairy products were demonized.
Nutrition professionals all over the world started telling people to replace butter with margarine... which was low in saturated fat, but high in man-made trans fats.
As with so many of the "truths" in nutrition, this ended up having the exact opposite result. Whereas saturated fat is harmless, trans fats are highly toxic (, , ).
In the graph above, based on the Framingham Heart Study, you can see how heart disease risk goes up as people eat less butter and more margarine instead.
For some very strange reason, many health organizations are still recommending that we avoid heart-healthy butter and replace it with processed margarine.