Sunday, December 29, 2013

Dietary Fat: Cure or Curse?

One of the most controversial subject of today is dietary fat.  Sounds like a juicy subject to explore.

Some people feel that:
  • Chicken fat is a natural, back-to-basics, organic, healthy comfort food.
  • Chicken fat used to fit into the former category (ie. it was deemed to be good for us, and tasted good too), but in the last 50 years, chicken meat and fat has been morphed by "modern agriculture" into a Frankenstein, mutated poison that must be totally shunned and banned from all diets.
  • Chicken meat and fat, like all (or almost all) other animal meats and fats, need to be reduced or eliminated from our diets (ie. go vegetarian).

Could all of the above be true simultaneously?

One problem we have to watch out for is the mis-information and pet theories not supported by facts, and medical quackery.  As Mark Twain said,

“It's not what you don't know that kills you,  it's what you know
that just isn't so.”

One infamous dietary quack was Ancel Keyes, who developed the Lipid Hypothesis in the 1950's that blamed dietary cholesterol and saturated fat for cardiovascular disease.  Keyes had gathered reliable health data from 22 countries, but cherry-picked the data from just 7 of those 22 countries; choosing only the data that supported his theory.  He discounted, rejected, hid, disguised, and ignored any data that went against his pet theory.

Due to his non-scientific fraud, and his continual life-long defense of his quackery like a rabid dog, Keyes got on the cover of Time magazine, testified before the US Congress, and received millions in government research funding, and scientific notoriety.

Once something is "learned", it is hard to get the public to "un-learn" it.  Today, we are still trying to recover from Ancel Keyes' quackery and his plain wrong superstitions, more than 60 years later.

In 1972, Dr. Atkins was one of the first to speak out against Keyes' quackery.

By then, Keyes and his multitude of supporters had their professional careers and funding source tightly bonded to the continuation of Keyes' quackery.  Keyes lead the attack against Atkins, attempting to discredit Atkins, thereby enabling Keyes' gravy train and scientific fame to continue a little longer.  Unfortunately, Keyes and his supporters were mostly successful.  A few independent thinkers discovered that Atkin's had done his homework, that Atkin's science was sound, and it worked in the real world.

An excellent history of these struggles is given by an award-winning investigative reporter, Gary Taubes with his 2002 article in the New York Times.

Gary Taubes went on to do further research, then wrote the definitive literature review (big & thick, with references to all the scientific literature sources) on dietary fat, calories, and healthy diets in his book Good Calories, Bad Calories.  Subsequently, he wrote Why we get Fat in 2011.

I recommend both of Gary Taubes' books, depending on the depth of knowledge you wish to obtain.

Tomorrow, we will investigate the differences, pros, and cons in the dietary fat & oils from beef, pork, and chicken.

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