Category Archives: Culinary

The Big Fat Surprise

Another review of the book:

The book’s subtitle is Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, which gave me the impression I was about to start reading a hefty science book. There’s plenty of science in The Big Fat Surprise, but it’s more of a history book. It’s the story of how lousy science conducted by arrogant scientists and adopted by equally arrogant policymakers led to lousy decisions that produced lousy consequences. I doubt any Fat Heads out there still believe nutrition science is conducted by impartial researchers who aren’t already wedded to an outcome, but if so, reading this book will disabuse you of that notion. It’s all laid out here in a richly detailed story that runs 340 pages … the egos, the arrogance, the obsession with pursuing and (ahem) proving a single hypothesis, the scientific bullying, the corruption, and of course the ham-handed interference by the 900-pound gorilla known as the federal government.

Gee, in what other field have we seen that sort of thing?

The Big Fat Silence

It’s time to end it:

…if one has been teaching that high-fat diets can lead to heart attacks for 30 years but then finds that this may not be true, or that, indeed, more fat and less carbohydrate in the diet may be beneficial to one’s health and longevity, feelings of discomfort can result. Subconscious mechanisms may then keep enduring convictions firmly in place for extended periods of time, despite evidence to the contrary.

And it’s hard to confront the fact that you may have been responsible for the poor health and lives cut short of people you’ve been advising.

Triglycerides

So I heard about this story on the news this morning, and it sounded a little junk sciency:

“What’s exciting about this is it takes that to another place,” said Toni Pollin, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who led the 2008 work. “Just as you’d expect from something that prevents coronary artery buildup, there is strong evidence that having [a gene mutation] reduces the risk of having a heart attack.”

Kathiresan and colleagues benefited from the revolution in genome technology, sequencing 18,666 genes in each of 3,734 people in their search for genes that appeared to be linked to triglycerides. Rare mutations in the APOC3 gene stood out.

Once they understood where to look, they searched for four mutations in that gene in more than 110,000 people. They found that people with any one of the mutations — about 1 in 150 people — were 40 percent less likely to have heart disease and had lower levels of triglycerides.

There is no doubt in my mind that that there is a genetic basis for heart-disease risk, but I am not seeing anything in this study that would indicate that trying to reduce triglycerides per se (as statins attempt to lower cholesterol) are doing anything but treating a symptom, and possibly a harmless one. The mutation reduces both triglycerides and heart risk, but doesn’t mean that high triglycerides increase heart risk per se, or that lowering them artificially will reduce it.

But for what it’s worth, since I went partially paleo, my triglycerides have become almost immeasurable.

The Big Fat Lie

Another review of Nina Teicholz’s book:

Because the importance of cholesterol as a risk factor for heart disease had been accepted as dogma, it was pretty well impossible to challenge it. For example, one of the outstanding nutrition scientists, David Kritchevsky, suggested in the 1980s that there should be a weakening of the recommendation on dietary fat and encountered hysterical opposition. Here is what he told the author:

“People would spit on us! It’s hard to imagine now, the heat of the passion. It was just like we had desecrated the American flag. They were so angry that we were going against the suggestions of the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health.

This meant that anyone who had the temerity to challenge the official line was committing professional suicide. Applications for funds to support research, which might question the prevailing views on fat, were unlikely to be supported. Even if funds were obtained (eg from independent foundations) the researchers would find difficulty in publishing their results in scientific journals and they were rarely invited to serve on expert panels. By stifling opposition, the public was presented with what appeared to be a uniform scientific consensus.

Say, that sounds familiar somehow.

Transfats

Hey, let’s come up with a new poison to replace them with:

“In icings, PHOs provide the air-holding capacity to achieve specific desired gravities, along with the melting and spreading characteristics that allow icings to be evenly spread on cakes,” said Tom Tiffany, senior technical manager, ADM Oils in Decatur, Ill. “The heat stability enables the icing to remain stable when exposed to a variety of transportation and storage conditions.”

Dr. McNeill said icings sold at retail may require a shelf life of up to 1.5 years. If shelf life fails to reach that duration, consumers may open a tub of icing and find it’s “like a piece of concrete,” Dr. McNeill said.

To replace PHOs and still keep the desired shelf life in icings, formulators may use palm oil along with a liquid vegetable oil such as canola oil or sunflower oil that may keep saturated fat as low as possible, he said.

Guys, there’s this thing called “butter.” And “lard.”

As Dr. Meade says:

Dietary Animal Fat

It’s long past time to end the war on it:

The public MUST NOT let TBFS slip slowly into oblivion. Nina’s first story should create an outraged public that demands the following:

  1. Government-sponsored nutrition must be totally terminated.

  2. Freedom of information in valid nutritional sciences must be made widely available.
  3. All citizens must have the right to design their own nutrition plans.
  4. A primary prevention program based on eliminating the causes of diseases must be implemented.

It won’t happen unless we make it happen. It has to become a political issue. Attacking Michelle’s school-lunch tyranny would be a good start.

[Update a few minutes later]

And yet the USDA is still spending millions to propagandize us about low fat:

The USDA also proposed a study on changing how food is described on menus, labeling low-sodium and low-fat versions as “regular,” and “framing regular versions of certain snack products as high-fat or high-sodium.”

I’d like to see someone on the Hill make an issue of this.

Why People Are Getting Fatter

New thinking:

One reason we consume so many refined carbohydrates today is because they have been added to processed foods in place of fats — which have been the main target of calorie reduction efforts since the 1970s. Fat has about twice the calories of carbohydrates, but low-fat diets are the least effective of comparable interventions, according to several analyses, including one presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association this year. A recent study by one of us, Dr. Ludwig, and his colleagues published in JAMA examined 21 overweight and obese young adults after they had lost 10 to 15 percent of their body weight, on diets ranging from low fat to low carbohydrate. Despite consuming the same number of calories on each diet, subjects burned about 325 more calories per day on the low carbohydrate than on the low fat diet — amounting to the energy expended in an hour of moderately intense physical activity. . . . If this hypothesis turns out to be correct, it will have immediate implications for public health.

Actually, it’s only “new” thinking for people who’ve been paying no attention.

The Big Fat Latest Review

Ancel Benjamin Keys may be responsible for more premature death and suffering of Americans than anyone in history.

As someone said on Twitter:

[Update a few minutes later]

Here’s probably the ultimate review, from Michael Eades:

I want to write a review so good it inspires everyone to buy the book immediately and read it. Why? Because I think it is one of the most important books on nutrition ever written. Maybe the most important. And I feel a responsibility to inspire as many people as I can to get their hands on it.

…this book is so brimming with valuable information that I was almost paralyzed in trying to figure out which parts to excerpt. A book review always comes with excerpts, and this book presented me with such a bounty of choices, it took me forever to decide which to use.

Considering the source, that’s pretty high praise.

Nutritional Ignorance

On a bi-partisan basis:

The federal government has excluded only one fresh vegetable from the WIC program: the fresh white potato. This makes no sense and, in fact, ignores the latest nutritional science.

Because some people don’t differentiate between french fries and baked potatoes, the potato has gotten a bad rap. We believe a balance can be found that preserves the integrity of programs such as WIC while also ensuring that the most updated facts are being used to determine the best nutrients for Americans — including from the potato.

Sorry, senators, but this is nonsense. The problem with french fries isn’t the fat (particularly if it’s saturated fat, though unfortunately McDonalds got mau maued into ending the use of tallow decades ago): It’s the potatoes themselves, which are high glycemic.

Soylent

A New Yorker reporter gives it a try.

I haven’t read the whole thing yet.

[A while later]

OK, I did read it. I was amused to learn that he was hawking it at my own local Whole Foods. One concern I have is his use of seed oils. Canola has too much omega 6 for my health. I’d use olive instead, though it costs more. If you don’t use virgin, though, it doesn’t have to cost that much.

The Big Fat Surprise

Another victory for low carb, high fat.

That Eisenhower anecdote is sad. Nina Teicholz’s new book looks interesting, too:

The fact is, there has never been solid evidence for the idea that these fats cause disease. We only believe this to be the case because nutrition policy has been derailed over the past half-century by a mixture of personal ambition, bad science, politics and bias.

Gee, sort of like climate “science.”

[Sunday afternoon update]

How the war against saturated fat created carb overload, obesity and heart disease:

…there was no turning back: Too much institutional energy and research money had already been spent trying to prove Dr. Keys’s hypothesis. A bias in its favor had grown so strong that the idea just started to seem like common sense. As Harvard nutrition professor Mark Hegsted said in 1977, after successfully persuading the U.S. Senate to recommend Dr. Keys’s diet for the entire nation, the question wasn’t whether Americans should change their diets, but why not? Important benefits could be expected, he argued. And the risks? “None can be identified,” he said.

In fact, even back then, other scientists were warning about the diet’s potential unintended consequences. Today, we are dealing with the reality that these have come to pass.

One consequence is that in cutting back on fats, we are now eating a lot more carbohydrates—at least 25% more since the early 1970s. Consumption of saturated fat, meanwhile, has dropped by 11%, according to the best available government data. Translation: Instead of meat, eggs and cheese, we’re eating more pasta, grains, fruit and starchy vegetables such as potatoes. Even seemingly healthy low-fat foods, such as yogurt, are stealth carb-delivery systems, since removing the fat often requires the addition of fillers to make up for lost texture—and these are usually carbohydrate-based.
The problem is that carbohydrates break down into glucose, which causes the body to release insulin—a hormone that is fantastically efficient at storing fat. Meanwhile, fructose, the main sugar in fruit, causes the liver to generate triglycerides and other lipids in the blood that are altogether bad news. Excessive carbohydrates lead not only to obesity but also, over time, to Type 2 diabetes and, very likely, heart disease.

First emphasis mine. In that, it has much in common with climate “science.”

And as I’ve often noted, my father was a fatal casualty of that war, back in the late seventies.

[Update a few minutes later]

One other point, that I’d never considered before. The American Heart Association is probably responsible for more heart disease and cardiac (and stroke) fatalities than any other organization.

Why Do We Eat?

It’s generally not because we’re hungry.

I can generally go all day without eating, and often do. There’s a lot of evidence that fasting has some of the benefits of caloric restriction, in terms of life extension.

I’d note, though, that the article seems to subscribe to the caloric theory of weight gain and loss. It doesn’t say what “high-density” foods are, energetically speaking, but not all are created equal. Eating fat doesn’t make you fat.

Rethinking Fat

Even NPR is starting to figure it out.

But note, that, as with climate “science,” dissenters have trouble getting published when they have actual science in opposition to the “settled” science in nutrition:

“Fat was really the villain,” says Walter Willett, who is chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. And, by default, people “had to load up on carbohydrates.”

But, by the mid-1990s, Willett says, there were already signs that the high-carb, low-fat approach might not lead to fewer heart attacks and strokes. He had a long-term study underway that was aimed at evaluating the effects of diet and lifestyle on health.

“We were finding that if people seemed to replace saturated fat — the kind of fat found in cheese, eggs, meat, butter — with carbohydrate, there was no reduction in heart disease,” Willett says.

Willett submitted his data to a top medical journal, but he says the editors would not publish his findings. His paper was turned down.

“There was a lot of resistance to anything that would question the low-fat guidelines,” Willett says, especially the guidelines on saturated fat.

Willett’s paper was eventually published by a British medical journal, the BMJ, in 1996.

And that was almost twenty years ago, and the junk-science FDA guidelines that probably killed my father in the seventies remain pretty much in place.

Terrible Nutrition Advice

The top five worst.

I agree with all of them. Eating fat doesn’t make you fat, eating cholesterol doesn’t increase your cholesterol, stick with saturated fat (not just butter, but egg yolks, and animal fats), not seed oils, and stop counting calories. Just eat what’s good for you, and avoid what’s bad.

This is even more junk science than climate science (and as I’ve noted in the past, this kind of nonsense probably killed my father in the late seventies). As I’ve also noted in the past, science that has public consequences tends to become politicized.

Saturated Fat

The science is (finally) settled:

Since the 1970s almost everyone in this country has been subjected to a barrage of propaganda about saturated fat. It was bad for you; it would kill you. Never mind that much of the nonsaturated fat was in the form of trans fats, now demonstrated to be harmful. Never mind that many polyunsaturated fats are chemically extracted oils that may also, in the long run, be shown to be problematic.

Never mind, too, that the industry’s idea of “low fat” became the emblematic SnackWell’s and other highly processed “low-fat” carbs (a substitution that is probably the single most important factor in our overweight/obesity problem), as well as reduced fat and even fat-free dairy, on which it made billions of dollars. (How you could produce fat-free “sour cream” is something worth contemplating.)

But let’s not cry over the chicharrones or even nicely buttered toast we passed up. And let’s not think about the literally millions of people who are repelled by fat, not because it doesn’t taste good (any chef will tell you that “fat is flavor”) but because they have been brainwashed.

And this junk-science nutritional advice almost certainly contributed to my father’s death thirty-five years ago. I hope, at some point, that they stop putting all the “fat free” labels in the candy section.

The New Federal Dietary Guidelines

…are being written by vegetarian junk scientists:

“After 30 years of waiting, the fact that this committee is addressing sustainability issues brings me a lot of pleasure,” she began. Clancy went on to advocate that Americans should become vegetarians in order to achieve sustainability in the face of “climate change.”

“What pattern of eating best contributes to food security and the sustainability of land air and water?” Clancy asked. “The simple answer is a plant-based diet.”

“Now, this is not new, this idea of how important plant-based diets are has been around for, gosh, 30-40 years,” she said. “Before that for people who long ago were eating vegetarian.”

Clancy said plant-based diets lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and have a “smaller ecological impact” on “drought, climate change, soil erosion, pesticides and antibiotics in water supplies.”

There is zero scientific evidence of cardiovascular disease being caused by eating animals, per se (though corn-fed beef and chicken might be problematic due to omega 6).