Saturated fat is not the cause of heart attacks, obesity or diabetes, says investigative journalist Nina Teicholz. According to Teicholz, the real cause of heart disease and weight gain is a high-carb, sugar-rich diet.
"The fact is, there has never been solid evidence for the idea that [saturated fat] causes disease," Nina wrote in the Wall Street Journal. According to Teicholz, eating too much refined carbs and not enough unprocessed fat is what has led to the widespread phenomenon of overweight, diabetic, sick Americans.
Teicholz echoed the sentiments of science journalist Gary Taubes, who argued that fat has been wrongly blamed for causing obesity and other degenerative diseases for the past 40 years. Taubes detailed the research in his bestseller, Why We Get Fat.
Low-Carb Diet Curbs Pro-Inflammatory Insulin Spikes
According to obesity experts, a high-carb diet promotes disease and weight gain by causing pro-inflammatory spikes in blood glucose and blood insulin. By limiting those surges in blood sugar, we dramatically reduce inflammation, which is what fuels disease, they say.
"Cutting back on saturated fat has had especially harmful consequences for women, who, due to hormonal differences, contract heart disease later in life and in a way that is distinct from men," said Teicholz, author of The Big Fat Surprise. "If anything, high total cholesterol levels in women over 50 were found early on to be associated with longer life."
A growing number of medical experts are debunking the myth that saturated fat is the cause of high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. In March 2014, Dr. Rajiv Chowdhury, a cardiovascular epidemiologist at Cambridge University, said unprocessed saturated fat actually enhances health. According to Chowdhury, we should focus on reducing carb intake and eating more unprocessed fats if we truly want to be healthy.
“It’s not saturated fat we should worry about," Chowdhury wrote in the Annals of Internal Medicine. "It’s the high-carbohydrate or sugary diet that should be the focus of dietary guidelines. If anything is driving your low-density lipoproteins in a more adverse way, it’s carbohydrates.”
Dr. Chowdhury and his Cambridge University colleagues drew their conclusions after reviewing data from 72 published studies of more than 600,000 people from 18 countries.
In October 2013, cardiologist Aseem Malhotra made headlines after declaring that unprocessed saturated fat is good for you. In his research, Malhotra found no evidence that a high-fat diet causes heart attacks, obesity or diabetes. If anything, he said consuming healthy fats (like those found in grass-fed meat, coconut oil, butter, olive oil, salmon and avocados) protect against these diseases.
"The mantra that saturated fat must be removed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease has dominated dietary advice and guidelines for almost four decades," Dr. Malhotra wrote in the BMJ. "It is time to bust the myth of the role of saturated fat in heart disease and wind back the harms of dietary advice that has contributed to obesity."
According to Malhotra, the anti-fat crusade stemmed from greed on the part of food corporations who profited from shilling their low-fat, high-carb snacks.
"The food industry has profited from the low-fat mantra for decades because foods that are marketed as low-fat are often loaded with sugar," he said. "We are now learning that added sugar in food is driving the obesity epidemic and the rise in diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”
High-Fat, Low-Carb Diet Helps Weight Loss and Disease Prevention
Malhotra is not alone in his assessment that unprocessed saturated fat protects our bodies and our brains against illness. Neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain, said the high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet prevents — and in some instances reverses — Alzheimer's disease and ADHD.
"Carbs are devastating for the brain," Dr. Perlmutter told me. "Even slight elevations in blood sugar have been shown to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease."
Dr. Jeff Volek, author of The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Living, said the high-fat ketogenic diet reverses type 2 diabetes and prevents heart disease. "Carbohydrate restriction is the proverbial ‘silver bullet’ for managing insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes," Dr. Volek told me.
Similarly, obesity expert Dr. Eric Westman underscored that a high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet not only produces rapid weight loss, but also combats epilepsy and prevents cancer.
"I tell my patients not to fear the fat," said Dr. Westman, author of A New Atkins for a New You. "Eat lots of fat. There's no problem with fat. In fact, saturated fat, the fat that we've been taught not to eat, raises your good cholesterol best of all the foods you can eat."