Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Big Fat Lie

I'm in the middle of reading The Big Fat Surprise, which sheds yet more light on the growing consensus that saturated fat really doesn't hurt us, it certainly doesn't contribute to heart disease, and it may, in fact, actually be GOOD for us.

Aside from that, it also sheds a great deal of light on how our current scientific research machine really works. Once upon a time, if a researcher wanted to study something that went against the current trend of ideas, he might have had a chance. Not so in our brave new world where "settled science" rules and any evidence to the contrary is squashed like an unwanted bug.

Once the government decides something is true, that's pretty much the end of the discussion. Such was the case with the diet-heart hypothesis that gave us the low-fat diet. If you are a researcher with doubts who wishes to study a different possible cause, good luck getting any funding.

The problem with this dogmatic establishment science is that when they get it wrong - as they often do - any possible corrections take decades. In the meantime, we all blunder along under a false confidence that we are, in this case, eating a "prudent" healthy diet, when in fact we are eating all the wrong things.

I visited my doctor last week for an updated "Lipid Panel" blood test. She talked to me about my cholesterol and how I should reduce my saturated fat intake--eat less red meat, more chicken. I wanted to pull my hair out. She's a naturopathic practitioner. As politely as I could, I asked her if she'd read anything regarding the current cholesterol/fat debate. She cited a 2012 study that cautioned against too much fat... except, like all studies of this sort, it didn't control for healthy saturated fat, but instead lumped together all fats (including unstable polyunsaturates) AND carbohydrates...and then, of course, blamed any resulting problems on saturated fat. This is the modus operandi of all diet-heart studies. Saturated fat is the villain. End of story.

As a Naturopath, I had hoped my doctor would be more tuned in to stuff like this. But...not so much. I'm planning to recommend this book to her. We'll see how that goes.

Nowadays, most cholesterol tests, which are actually lipid tests, look at a broad list of factors. Where they once just gave you your overall cholesterol number, they now break out a variety of particle counts. In 2003, my cholesterol test sent back four numbers: Total Cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides. Now the panel has nineteen values, among which are particle size counts (small dense lipid particles are bad, and large buoyant lipid particles are good) and a variety of other biomarkers such as C-Reactive Proteins, which measure inflammation, and Lp(a) (pronounced L P little a), which is an inherited factor that can't be controlled by diet or drugs but can be reduced with niacin.

How did I fare in my lipid test? My diet is very high in saturated fat-- I can't tell you exactly how high because I'm not doing any scientific analyses on what I eat, but it includes lots of butter, bacon, coconut oil, coconut milk, and meat--RED meat. But I can tell you it's much higher than the 5% to 6% recommended by the American Heart Association-- probably closer to 30% or 40%.

My small dense particle count is still too high (probably due to my cheatin' heart giving in to bread and sugar more often than I should), but my large buoyant particle count is literally off the chart. It turns out that eating a lot of saturated fat causes your body to make lots of large buoyant HDL particles. That's right - the good safe particles.

Since high cholesterol appears to be protective in women, particularly older women as well as older men, my 226 number (rated "borderline high") doesn't bother me one little bit. Matter of fact, it makes me happy.

I do have that hereditary Lp(a) problem, but I've been taking niacin for it, which has dropped my number by 25% (from 60.5 to 40.5) over the past six months. It should be down in the normal range (0-30) by my next blood draw.

It's easy to get really caught up in the foods we eat, especially once we become aware of the impact of food on our health. At the beginning of the year, I adopted (more or less) a Paleo diet. Okay, it's probably more less than more, but I've discovered that it isn't a magic pill for staying healthy. I question the whole Paleo philosophy because its premise disregards a Creator God. Paleo says consuming another animal's milk is unnatural, but mankind has been eating dairy products since Genesis. The Land of Milk and Honey doesn't mean anything to a society that doesn't eat dairy. Is it possible that God has always intended us to eat dairy, and maybe it's the damage caused by pasteurizing and homogenizing the milk that makes it hard to digest? Grains such as wheat that have changed significantly from the ancient grains, along with the way we prepare them for eating, no longer provide the best nutrition, but mankind ate those ancient grains for thousands of years without developing leaky gut, cancer, or dementia.

There is a lot wrong with our food, but cutting out entire natural food groups because of some assumption that humans never used to eat them may not be the best way to manage diet.

Instead, perhaps just going back to a way of eating that resembles what our recent ancestors did makes more sense. Eating traditional foods that haven't had the life processed out of them shouldn't frighten us. Why are tubers like carrots and rutabagas okay in a Paleo diet, for instance, but potatoes (which are also tubers) are not? Why are beans and legumes (which are a kind of seed - you plant them and they grow) bad but other types of seeds and nuts are just fine? And grains, which are also seeds, are the devil? The Paleo "rules" sometimes seem arbitrary.

It makes more sense to me to evaluate foods on how they affect health rather than whether the imaginary cavemen in some made-up prehistoric age ate them. Why not instead look at how our great-great-grandparents ate? What were their recipes? How did they prepare meals? Heart disease and cancer were extremely rare in their day, and if they survived germs, war, and accidents, they typically lived a long time-- often into their 80s and 90s. They didn't care about how much fat or carbohydrates were in their food. Diets around the world were different, but they had one thing in common - they were real food.

Back in the 1950s and '60s, a man named Ancel Keys decided that saturated fat caused heart disease. He set about to prove his hypothesis, but never really succeeded. Nevertheless, he convinced enough people, including government organizations, that it must be true because it made so much intuitive "sense." This triggered a search for alternative fat sources, and processed food was born. Before long the notion developed that all fat was less desirable, but if you were going to eat any fat at all, it should be unsaturated. After some 75 years of research and thousands of studies, there is still no evidence that eating a diet low in fat (especially saturated fat) prevents heart disease. Moreover, the evidence disproving Keys' theory has been systematically and deliberately silenced through defunding research and discrediting the scientists who have dared to speak out.

The health claims of a low-fat diet have turned out to be false, and it is a fraud of the worst kind. When falsehood is institutionalized as truth, and passed on from generation to generation as truth, before long, the lie is accepted without question. We stop asking logical questions like, why did we suddenly start getting sick and fat when we stopped eating all that bad butter, eggs, and meat?

No one would tolerate a doctor of medicine constantly misdiagnosing his patients and prescribing all the wrong medications, but our nutritional institution has been doing exactly that for the past 50 years. Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity have skyrocketed in sync with the increased polyunsaturated fats, trans-fats, and carbohydrates that have replaced the traditional diets of our ancestors. Coincidence? Not likely.

The Big Fat Surprise sheds light on the big fat lie that has been perpetrated on the world by those who had much to gain by manufacturing fake fats and making people believe that natural fats were bad. I would encourage you to pick up a copy and dig into the details for yourself. Americans trust our healthcare advisers to know what they're talking about. Unfortunately, most of them (like my doctor) mean well and have our best interests at heart, but are misguided by the "settled science" they themselves have been taught. It's up to us to educate ourselves and share what we know. Our doctors and nutritionists will come around eventually as the truth continues to find its way into the mainstream.

In the meantime, we're on our own. But the good news is, there's a wealth of information at our fingertips. To quote a familiar line, the truth is out there!