Verdict In: Fat and Butter Exonerated

The June 23rd 2014 issue of Time magazine graces its cover with the bold statement to “Eat Butter” and further mentions that scientists were actually wrong about fats. After reading this article I am more disturbed than educated on this subject. Here’s why. It was with the dangerous combination of “Good Intentions” and faulty science that actually launched the current obesity epidemic in the first place.

In 1977, authoritative powers like the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and some political leaders, decided to halt cardiovascular disease and obesity. The catalyst behind this movement was engineered by physiologist Dr. Ancel Keys. Keys was well established in the food science community. He was given the credit for the ration diet, a diet used for soldiers in the battlefield. His image was also on the cover of Time magazine in the early 1960’s. Keys parlayed his high profile and popularity and set forth the“Lipid Hypothesis,” basically stating that fat was the culprit for the increase in cardiovascular disease and obesity. His nutritional guidelines included avoiding red meat, dairy, eggs, fat and cholesterol from the diet. Many people also supported Keys because of his prominent stature. People believed, as was stated in the article by a biochemist, it doesn’t take a great leap to understand that you are what you eat, which further gave credence to Keys’ theory. Of course, if applying this logic, what if you ate more sugar, would that make you sweeter? Keys then went out to prove his theory. His investigation included 22 countries. When the findings came back, Keys selected only seven countries as evidence, those countries that supported his agenda, or, in other words, flawed and unreliable research. Whenever Keys was challenged he relied on his high status to either deflect, attack or dismiss his adversaries rather than discuss or debate them. Some of his adversaries included Dr. John Yudkin (author of Pure, White and Deadly) and biostatistician Jacob Yerushalmy.

In 1980, with Keys’ flawed research and support from the USDA, NIH and some politicians the “War on Fat” campaign was unleashed. Also I would be remiss if I didn’t give the food industry their deserved props for their contribution in promoting the obesity epidemic by making their own concoctions and alterations in producing non-fat, reduced fat, fake fat products along with an array of butter substitutes and yolk-free eggs into the marketplace. As a result of this “Great Government Nutritional Experiment” the numbers are in; two-thirds of the population are overweight, 30% of the population is obese, there was a 166% increase in diabetes from 1980 to 2012. Additionally an estimated 86 million people are pre-diabetic, and still cardiovascular disease is America’s number one cause of mortality in both men and women, all the while with a reduction in their fat intake! While all this is alarming, what is truly disturbing, even criminal, is why it took 32 years to warn the public of this fiasco? At what point during this 32-year period were the numbers favorable?

Many scientists and doctors knew that Keys’ “Lipid Hypothesis” was flawed and unreliable from the start. Unfortunately their voices and concerns were silenced by Keys and his believers. People with a rudimentary understanding in biochemistry realize that it’s high insulin levels that promote fat deposition and that it gets elevated upon carbohydrate (sugar) consumption. When you shift your caloric intake away from fat and towards sugar, as prescribed by Keys, you directly elevate insulin levels in blood. However, even if you’re a biochemistry illiterate, if you simply apply empirical evidence, Keys’ theory should have been summarily dismissed. The fact that butter has been used by humans for thousands of years and the obesity epidemic is only about 40 years old, pretty much exonerates butter as the culprit. We need to acknowledge what occurred in the past 40 years has led to this current epidemic. What has occurred in the past 40 years include fragrantly flawed government nutritional guidelines and the increased production of altered, genetically modified, highly refined, highly sugared and sugar substitute products that are stocked onto supermarket shelves and in our kitchen for daily consumption.

Some of the government nutritional guidelines include the four food groups and the pyramid diet, which if followed leads to weight gain and obesity since they contain high amount of carbohydrates/sugar. I suggest as a standard procedure that any new government nutritional guideline should come with either a warning label, a laugh track or both, at least in that way the people may have a better chance for improved health.
Considering that it took over three decades for Time magazine to publish this sophomoric, unenlightening article, perhaps in another decade or two, hopefully Time magazine will write an article on the harmful effects of sugar and sugar substitutes and their direct role in obesity. At least it will be a start in the right direction.

Joel Berger