At this time in history, we all are surrounded by “expert advice” on just about everything. Child-rearing, cooking, fashion choices, etc. Nutrition and what is good for us and what foods to avoid are no exception. If anything, there’s too much information available, much of which is contradictory.
The concept of fat in the diet is no exception. Once upon a time, people ate butter and drank full-fat milk and no one thought a thing of it.
That changed during the 20th century. How the message that fat, and cholesterol from animal-based foods was bad for us actually came very quickly. Thanks to Dr. Davis of Wheatbelly for clearly explaining:
When such fanatical leanings reached the ear of Senator George McGovern, chair of the United States Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs, he then decided that all Americans should engage in a low-fat lifestyle.
The McGovern committee pushed through legislation, written by a staff member with no background in health or nutrition, that charged the USDA, an agency whose mission had been to support agriculture and monitor food safety, to lead the charge in providing dietary advice to the public. This created an odd collision of responsibilities: Regulate an industry while also promoting consumption of the industry’s products.
Despite resistance from the scientific community over the potential hazards of government-driven dietary advice, the USDA proceeded to fulfill its charge. In addition to delivering McGovern’s pet agenda of limiting fat consumption, the grain and processed food lobby was allowed to weigh in on the details of the USDA’s final draft, doubling grain intake over that recommended by USDA nutritionists.
That’s right. It was a government operation influenced by the food lobby in the 1970s that put on the push demonizing dietary fat.
The “science” itself that was originally presented to McGovern to make the change was actually based on a single study, a move that even medical doctors will not make. Thanks to Gary Taubes from his classic New York Times article “What If It Is All Been A Big, Fat Lie“:
It was Ancel Keys, paradoxically, who introduced the low-fat-is-good-health dogma in the 50’s with his theory that dietary fat raises cholesterol levels and gives you heart disease. Over the next two decades, however, the scientific evidence supporting this theory remained stubbornly ambiguous.
Today, the theory itself is being debunked on a regular basis. Natural fats not hydrogenized or refined beyond churning butter or pressing tree nuts and olives are just fine to consume. In fact, several of these fats include necessary nutrients to keeping the body humming.
So, what expert advice should we all follow on food choices? That is actually a personal discretion. However, remember that the low fat craze did not start until the government stepped in to make recommendations, and then all of a sudden diabetes and obesity rates increased significantly.