In short. No. Surprised? I was too. The primary reason that all of us think that dietary fat intake contributes to our susceptibility to heart disease is that we were told it does. In response to a rapidly growing problem with heart disease in our country in the 1970’s, researcher Ancel Keys was commissioned to find out what was causing all of the heart attacks that we were having. He was to report his findings to our government so that they could establish their “stance” on our diets, the food pyramid, etc.
To find the answer, he took statistics from several developed nations and compared the eating habits of the population with their incidence of heart disease. What he found was that populations who had diets rich in fat were much more likely to have increased heart disease. From there he determined that dietary fat must be the primary cause of heart disease. Wouldn’t you agree?
Well, it appears that the study was particularly narrow. Keys has been dead for quite some time so no one has been able to ask him key questions like: “Did you check for any other macro-nutrients to correlate with heart disease?” or “Did you check for any other environmental factor to correlate other than dietary fat?” Unfortunately Keys can’t answer these questions for us.
It turns out that there was another food that was correlating with heart disease: sugar. Sugar intake in the countries that were studied had sky-rocketed along with the high use of dietary fat. (Can anyone say donuts?!) The countries that were beginning to eat more processed foods were combining high fat with high sugar in the form of desserts, fast food, packaged snack foods, and more. Unfortunately, of the two (fat and sugar), dietary fat was determined to be the villain and so began the low-fat craze.
Sadly, saturated fat has been so demonized that it is hard to convince yourself of the truth even if you have read the facts. You mean that I can eat as many eggs as I want? Yes. You mean that the fat in beef protects my heart because it is an anti-inflammatory? Yes. You mean that palm and coconut oils are good for frying? Yes. In fact, coconut oil has so many unique health properties that I will need to devote a whole post to its lovely tropical self.
Now, go eat some butter! Still don’t believe me? That’s OK – it is hard to believe. For more information on these topics check out, Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Enig, The Great Cholesterol Con by Kendrick, Nourishing Traditions by Fallon, or Real Food by Planck. Here’s to your health and here’s to an omelet!