The way we learn about what we eat matters. We deserve to understand and be knowledgeable about what we’re putting into our bodies – the very thing that drives the energy with which we exist every day. Sleep, fitness, and mental health are all certainly extremely important. Today, I’ll discuss nutritional health and why we need to be careful about whose advice we are taking.
For decades, we’ve heard we need to eat more low-fat, fat-free, whole grains and less saturated fats, creams, and red meat.
Ironically, the epidemics for heart disease and obesity continue to be on the rise despite this shift toward a “better, fat-free life.”
After a little digging and a great book recommendation – The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz – I found one of the critical pieces of research that first began the movement away from saturated fats and animal products. In the 1950s, a scientist from the University of Minnesota, Dr. Ancel Keys, developed his momentous “Seven Countries” study that examined the correlation between cholesterol and heart disease in nearly 13,000 men. The results of his study would become the basis for the nutritional guidelines that we have today. In essence, what he concluded was that countries with diets high in saturated fats had higher rates of heart disease.
Ancel Keys took this to the American Heart Association and planted the idea, although he had cherry-picked the seven countries (United States, the Netherlands, Finland, Yugoslavia, Italy, Greece and Japan), as Teicholz points out in this article from The Independent.
Countries known for their rich, fatty foods, without high rates of heart disease, German, Switzerland, and Sweden, were not to be included in this research. From the findings, Keys encouraged and recommended diets high in fruits, veggies, bread, pasta, olive oil – and you know how the Mediterranean Diet goes from there. Another key point in the opening of Teicholz’ book that she points out is that Keys visited Greece during the Lenten season, a time that protein and meats are typically abstained from for religious and faith-based reasons.
Isn’t it interesting that the data, research, and findings that dictate what our key recommendations of eating are today is incomplete, skewed, and a seemingly poorly timed sample size? There is knowledge in power – and understanding why you do the things you do, why you eat the things you eat, and where those ideals and recommendations are coming from is important.
Read about other research that has been done and understand why you are making the decisions that you make that will ultimately affect your daily health.
The more I have read and increased my knowledge about the Guidelines recommendation to eat fat-free and low-fat products and the “research” that backs this advice, the more I am coming to realize that the data supporting the low-fat diet just isn’t there.