Why does everyone think fat is bad for you?

The National Dietary Guidelines, which were developed in 1977, have been spreading misleading about fat for decades by allowing trite and archaic misconceptions to stand and spread into the general public giving them false information and ideas about dietary fats and their consumption.

The general public doesn’t know why fat is bad. They just “know it is” and they will argue this to the bitter end. How can consuming fat NOT be bad for you? It makes sense on some basal level of reasoning. This lead to decades of diets and fads and why people have been spinning in circles never achieving their dreams while those with higher tier coaches are able to look how you want to look. But we are not here to argue feelings – we must look at concrete scientific data showing why consumption of certain types of fat is NOT bad for your health.

Why do people inherently believe that fat is bad?

What lead to this initial belief that seems to permeate the minds and opinions of not only the general populace, but also most fitness and nutritional coaches who know little past their personal experiences and what has worked for them personally?

Answer:

The National Dietary Guidelines that were established and are used by the United States. These guidelines were introduced in 1977 and had the goal of reducing coronary heart disease (CHD). People have always feared the word fat because we associate it with body fat, which for all intensive purposes, is the byproduct of eating within a caloric surplus resulting in energy storage within fat cells.

The guidelines did the best they could considering they had absolutely no data to back up this claim about fat – but it is the claim that has propagated recommendations for the last 40 years, even in the face of a decade of new studies proving their claim that fat causes CHD to be non-correlative and incorrect. The guidelines were recommended to over 220 million Americans without any supporting evidence from Randomized Controlled Trials. The decision was made based upon a 1977 a study which was conducted on 2467 unhealthy men and recommendations were made based off the findings of this group.

No reviews have been made of the trials and evidence available at the time until recently and the recommendations were originally made in 1977.

How could such a lack of evidence/data pass through as government guidelines?

Two men, Dr. Robert Olsen and Senator George McGovern, chair of the Dietary Committee.

In a recorded discussion in 1977, Olsen said:

“I pleaded in my report and will plead again orally here for more research on the problem before we make announcements to the American public.”

to which the Senator replied with:

“Senators don’t have the luxury that the research scientist does of waiting until every last shred of evidence is in”.

An abundance of evidence and Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) were available to the dietary committees and were not considered. Looking upon the trial of 1977 trial of the 2467 men which had been observed – No primary prevention measures, no RCT from the dietary fat recommendations and no women were included in the trial. No RCT at the time concluded that the dietary guidelines were advisable. It is baffling how dietary advice was recommended for over 220 million Americans from highly conflicting results from a small number of unhealthy men.

A meta-analysis and review of RCTs published prior to 1983 was conducted which studied the relationship between cholesterol, dietary fat, the development of Coronary Heart Disease.

No differences were found in the cause of mortality resulting from dietary interventions. Even when the controlled groups had their cholesterol levels dramatically improved – there was still no difference in mortality rates compared to groups with higher levels of cholesterol. Looking at over 18 studies examined in this meta-analysis – there was no relationships found between the deaths which occurred from Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) or all-causes, even though there were serious and significant reductions in the cholesterols levels across the groups which had dietary interventions (including the control group). These studies show that the role serum cholesterol plays as an intermediate to the development of CHD has been widely misconstrued. General reductions in dietary fat and saturated fat do not decrease the development of CHD.

In conclusion: Based on the current literature and studies – Dietary Fat intake and cholesterol level does not contribute to higher levels of mortality and CHD.

 

References:

Harcombe Z, Baker JS, Cooper SM, et al. Evidence from randomised controlled trials did not support the introduction of dietary fat guidelines in 1977 and 1983: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Open Heart 2015;2:e000196. Link to the Study

DiNicolantonio, JJ. The cardiometabolic consequences of replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates or Ω-6 polyunsaturated fats: Do the dietary guidelines have it wrong? Open Heart 2014;1:1 e000032. Link to Study

Lundell, D. Heart surgeon speaks out on what really causes heart disease. March 2012. Link

Sachdeva, Amit et al. Lipid levels in patients hospitalized with coronary artery disease: An analysis of 136,905 hospitalizations in Get With The Guidelines. American Heart Journal , Volume 157 , Issue 1 , 111 – 117.e2. Link to Study

Chowdhury R, Warnakula S, Kunutsor S, Crowe F, Ward HA, Johnson L, et al. Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids With Coronary Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Ann Intern Med. 2014;160:398-406. doi: 10.7326/M13-1788. Link to Study

Bahl, R. The evidence base for fat guidelines: a balanced diet. Open Heart 2015;2: doi:10.1136/openhrt-2014-000229. Link to Study

de Souza Russell J, Mente Andrew, Maroleanu Adriana, Cozma Adrian I, Ha Vanessa, Kishibe Teruko et al. Intake of saturated and trans unsaturated fatty acids and risk of all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies

Sauvaget C, Nagano J, Hayashi M, Yamada M. Animal protein, animal fat, and cholesterol intakes and risk of cerebral infarction mortality in the adult health study. Stroke 2004;35:1531-7. Link to Study

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