FOOD, NUTRITION 15th August 2016

Nutrition: Is it just bad science?


The field of nutrition is made up of industry science not good science

For years we have been told to limit our intake of saturated fat

We always need a villain to blame

Over a hundred years ago the likelihood of dying from an infectious disease was far greater than it is today. Living conditions in rapidly growing cities were unsanitary and cramped. Vaccinations did not exist and life expectancy in the U.S. in the year 1900 was 47 years. Today, the likelihood of dying from an infectious disease is significantly lower thanks to modern medicine, technological advances and infrastructure developments. But before we claim victory for mankind, the sad fact is, we now face a new set of illnesses: heart disease, cancer and diabetes to name a few. So where did it all go wrong? And what role, if any, does nutrition play in all of this? What you are about to discover may surprise you.

Ancel Keys and the Study of Seven Countries

Does this diet-plan sound familiar? Suffering through egg-white omelettes, eating chicken breast without the skin, consuming tasteless cheese and staring at five different types of milk? It should, because in 1958, American scientist Ancel Keys published a study known as the ‘Seven Countries’ Study which would go on to shape mainstream nutrition as we know it today. Keys hypothesized that dietary fat particularly saturated fat, caused cholesterol and heart disease, based on studies carried out across seven countries. The study concluded that countries where people ate the most saturated fat had the highest levels of cholesterol and heart disease and countries where people ate the least amount of saturated fat had lower levels of cholesterol and heart disease. Keys persuaded the American Heart Association (AHA) to take note, and in 1961 they publicly declared saturated fat, animal fats and cholesterol the enemy in the fight against heart disease. They advocated margarines and vegetable oils based exclusively on the Keys study. It should interest you to know the study was flawed for two reasons: Keys only picked countries which supported his hypothesis and he used sample sizes of less than five hundred males, a clinically insignificant sample size in scientific circles. To make matters worse, the U.S. Government jumped on the Keys band wagon. In 1977, the McGovern Report was published, in which the Government laid out for the very first time dietary guidelines to the public. Essentially the advice was to eat 60% carbs, and 30% fats.  Keys study would shape our perception of nutrition for decades to come. 

Ancel Keys was an American scientist who studied the influence of diet on health. He is most famous for hypothesizing that saturated fat in the diet is unhealthy and should be avoided.

Take note next time you’re in Starbucks, do you want a Caramel Frappuccino Light, a Nonfat Iced Vanilla Latte, a Nonfat Iced Caramel Macchiato or an Iced Skinny Latte? We still live in a world where Fat-Free dominates.

Industry Science vs. Good Science

When it comes to nutrition, the problem is one of complication and money. Since the Keys study was published, nutrition science has conjured up term after term to confuse the public: Saturated Fats, Transfats, Omega 3, Carbs, Complex Carbs: micronutrient terms that mean very little to us. We are at the mercy of policy makers and nutrition scientists who coin these terms and we assume they must be right, without questioning their motives or who pays them. Take cholesterol for example, we produce it naturally and it’s a key component of our functioning bodies. So at what point did cholesterol become the bad guy? Again, we must look to Keys. His study was welcomed by vegetable oil companies like Monsanto, Unilever and P&G. These companies have been manipulating nutrition science since the 1940’s and actually fund the American Heart Association, who conveniently advocate vegetable oils over natural fats. Vegetable oils did not even exist in the early 1900’s – people cooked with lard, butter and animal fat back then. Unfortunately, nutrition scientists are influenced by companies who fund their work. Tens of thousands of journals have been written on fat and are supported by huge companies like Kraft, Nabisco and Heinz, who steer it in the direction they want. What we now have is a situation of industry science vs good science and the good scientists are not speaking up.

Industry Science: The companies behind thousands of nutritional studies push their agenda into the mainstream

Industry Science: The companies behind thousands of nutritional studies push their agenda into the mainstream

Fat: a misdefined term

Google the word ‘fat’ and sure enough obesity images fill up the results page. Fat as a term has become synonymous with being overweight and having ill health. However, nothing could be further from the truth. According to Dr. Leonard Syme, an Epidemiologist at the University of Berkeley, there is not and never has been any scientific evidence that the amount of fat in your diet is anything to do with cholesterol or heart disease. If this is the case, why is the fat / heart health link still considered the number one hypothesis amongst physicians and the lay public. The low fat diet remains firmly entrenched to this very day despite scientific evidence to the contrary, and one can only suspect it goes back to the source of the research and who is funding the studies. In reality, insulin (from sugar and carbohydrates) is what makes you overweight. For years, even farmers have known this and used it to fatten up livestock. They do this by confining cattle into small spaces and feeding them grains. Insulin also creates inflammation in the body, which can trigger anything from heart disease to diabetes, cancer and arthritis. But we never hear from nutritional science about the insulin response as much as we do about fat.  We needed a villain and fat sadly paid the price.


The final word

If we are to survive and thrive as a population, we need to simplify our habits and eat real food. We need to stop obsessing over Saturated Fats, Trans Fats, Cholesterol and Carbs. Nutrition science has deceived us for decades and relying on nutritional advice that demonizes one type of nutrient is both irresponsible and dismissive of the bigger picture. If there are just too many variables in how our bodies process food, why complicate things even more?

As always, Pushing for Health xx


For my baked Eggplant recipe, I included cilantro and red peppers #nocomplications