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Big Fat Surprise author talks low carb diets and full-fat dairy for kids

Exclusive interview with author of Big Fat Surprise.
Simon & Schuster

When it comes to what truly symbolizes America, baseball and apple pie usually reign supreme. Based on a new poll, "fear of foods containing fat" also belongs on the list. A new poll showed that most dieters try to avoid fat, despite increasing evidence that carbohydrates cause more health problems, reported Gallup on July 29.

About half of all Americans are concerned about their diets. Although only 29 percent try to avoid carbohydrates compared to 56 percent attempting to stay away from foods containing fat, the general view from consumers is that low-fat diets are healthier and better for weight loss. But are they correct, or should they be climbing on the low carb diet bandwagon?

Based on the most recent studies, the small number focusing on restricting carbohydrates have better odds of winning the weight loss war. New research has highlighted the error in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food pyramid and American Heart Association (AHA) diet models, both of which view fat as the main reason for obesity and recommend generous servings of grains. Processed carbohydrates are the real culprit, according to the latest studies, reported Yahoo News on July 29.

"Many dieters appear to take advice from both schools of thought [low-carb and low-fat], a reminder that dieters must customize and improvise to find the right balance for themselves," said Gallup. But only 12 percent of Americans attempting to shed pounds actively work on consuming more fats.

The reason that so many Americans fear fats and consume the high carb, low-fat Standard American Diet (SAD) recently gained attention through the overnight bestseller: "The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet." In an exclusive interview, author Nina Teicholz talked about the response that she's gotten from her book, the evolution of the American diet from low-fat to low-carb and why public nutrition programs should be changed to feature full-fat dairy for children.

The American Heart Association (AHA) continues to recommend low-fat diets, despite the increasing number of studies showing that low-carb diets are more effective for weight loss and health. In response to her book, Nina says, "The AHA issued a statement reiterating its commitment to a diet low in saturated fat, and not to pay attention to 'that book.'"

But many health experts agree with her. Professor Tim Noakes, a sports scientist, has praised Nina's book repeatedly. He advocates a high fat low carb ketogenic diet and defends the approach against those who say saturated fat is linked to heart disease.

"No one has ever proven cholesterol in the blood causes heart disease. It’s an unproven hypothesis, an assumption based on epidemiology, and completely destroyed by Nina Teicholz in The Big Fat Surprise. I would like to know which studies prove it, because Nina shows there aren't any," he said firmly in an interview with Biz News.

Another supporter of the book is Dr. Michael Eades, creator of the "Protein Power" diet. He emphasized his belief that "it is one of the most important books on nutrition ever written."

Nina says she's often asked how those who want to improve America's nutritional habits can get the "establishment" to change. "I'm not an activist, but I think someone should start a "Parents for Whole Milk" movement and lobby Congress to investigate the Dietary Guidelines process. One tiny group of nutrition experts control all nutrition policy at both the AHA and USDA," she pointed out.

The AHA and USDA rank as "the two most important nutritional guidelines in the country. Congressional leaders need to investigate this monopoly-like control of our nutrition policy and require that opposing views be equally represented on these powerful panels," Nina said.

Although individuals can change their diets, she believes that to reverse the childhood obesity trend, "we need change from the top." The USDA provides the funds for both the school lunch and WIC nutrition programs, which both require milk that is two percent or less. Moreover, the WIC program contains only soy protein rather than meat, Nina notes.

"Is this low-fat requirement the best for our children? Whole milk is a perfect package of fat, protein, vitamins and minerals that in experiments has been shown to be uniquely effective in promoting healthy growth," she argues.

As for the fat content, she notes that it's essential for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as D and K. "Moreover, without the fat, calcium is not absorbed but turns to insoluble calcium soaps in the intestine instead. The particular kind of saturated fat in milk is itself vital for the body's defense against microbial infections and immune system health," Nina adds.

She proposes that whole milk should replace non-fat and low-fat milk in the school lunch program. Studies also have shown that the fats in milk result in a feeling of fullness, which could help prevent obesity in children.

The changes in school lunches include more whole grains as well as nonfat or low-fat milk. Fruits and vegetables must be served daily, reported Modern Healthcare on July 29.

A new study evaluated how well the program is doing. After surveying more than 500 public elementary school administrators and food service staff, researchers found that 70 percent "generally like" the new lunch options.

"There have been concerns that kids didn't like the meals," said Lindsey Turner, lead author of the study that was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and published in the August issue of the journal Childhood Obesity. "I think our study really showed that that's not the case at all."

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