In her book, The Big Fat Surprise, Nina Teicholz begins her exploration of the topic of a low carbohydrate and high fat diet with several historical examples of populations living this lifestyle. One of these was documented by the Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson (1879 – 1962).
Stefansson was Canadian-born to Icelandic immigrants who would later move to North Dakota. He would eventually become an instructor at Harvard University in the field of anthropology. Stefansson became an avid but not always successful explorer of Iceland, Canada, and Alaska. Ironically, it is his contribution to dietary research that is one of the most-known facts about him. This is the aspect of his life that Nina Teicholz mentions in her book.
During his time with native Alaskans, Stefansson noted that their diet consisted of at least 70 percent fat, and that their health was excellent. He decided to adopt their eating practices and found that he was fit and healthy as a result.
Later, he and his colleague, Dr. Karsten Anderson submitted themselves to a year-long experiment, eating a diet of only meat and fat, under the supervision of New York’s Bellevue Hospital. They emerged from the experiment in good health, with no ill effects , defying all the skeptical medical experts who thought the men would never survive.
As Teicholz explains, in a video interview with Jonathan Bailor of the Sane Show, stories like these show that it’s time to let fat “out of jail.” There have now been three two-year long clinical trials of low carbohydrate and high fat diets to show that this diet is not only safe and effective, but in head-to-head comparisons with a low-fat diet, one low in carbohydrates is always more effective for significant weight loss. In addition to this rigorous, clinical-trial evidence, the Stefansson explorations show that we have thousands of years of evidence showing that this is the way people ate without adverse effects. Why are we demonizing fat?
Stefansson and others like him have shown that these fatty meat lifestyles are very healthy. Teicholz wants to know why this and other such evidence are being ignored.
A firm supporter of Teicholz, University of Cape Town senior scientist Tim Noakes, told Chris Barron of the Times Live that millions of years of experience support the idea of a high fat content meat diet, and no scientific study supports any other type. Noakes said, “If you haven’t read her [Teicholz’s] book, The Big Fat Surprise, you’re clueless.”
The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz is filled with stories like these, stories that explain why fat is not our enemy but why instead it may hold the key to our health and welfare.