NEW STUDY TAKES ON THE FAT -VS- CARBS DEBATE AS RELATED TO DISEASE & DEATH
"The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived and dishonest—but the myth—persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." From President John F. Kennedy's Commencement Address at Yale University, June of 1962
The Lancet has long been considered one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world (established in 1823, it also happens to be one of the oldest). In light of the direction the journal has taken over the past several years, I was surprised to see their latest issue carrying a massive study called Associations of Fats and Carbohydrate Intake with Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality in 18 Countries from Five Continents (PURE): A Prospective Cohort Study.
Over 40 authors from universities and labs around the world crunched a decade's worth of data from the dietary intake questionnaires of over 135,000 people (both males and females between the ages of 35 and 70) from five continents, looking chiefly at ratios of carbs to fats to protein as related to....
- Fatal Cardiovascular Disease
- Fatality From All Causes
- Non-Fatal Heart Attacks
- Congestive Heart Failure
Before we look at their conclusions, I want to share some history on this topic. To do that, I am going to take you back to 1988; the year I finished at Kansas State University (Nutrition / Exercise Physiology) and started the CHIROPRACTIC PROGRAM at Logan University. Because I remember years by music or sporting events (HERE), here are a few songs that were playing on the radio back then to help your mind drift back in time three decades.
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By 1992, the USDA had put out their now infamous Food Pyramid. While the idea of using diagrams to simplify the process of helping people make smart dietary decisions was nothing new, the Food Pyramid (picture below) attempted to simplify things even further, and was nothing if not simple. The Pyramid's insinuation was that since it was fat that made you fat as well as being the causal factor behind just about any disease process you cared to mention, you could eat as much of the bottom row (grains) as you wanted. The problems is, as a person who grew up on a Kansas beef farm, I can tell you exactly what happens to cattle if you feed them unlimited quantities of grain. And unfortunately, it's no different for people.
Furthermore, we were told to use fats and oils "sparingly". Again, the insinuation was that since dietary fat was the cause of our collective health problems, the less you could eat the healthier you would be, with many touting novel ways to eat totally "Fat Free". Interestingly enough, in the pre-WW II dietary recommendations, the government was already touting FORTIFIED MARGARINE as a healthy alternative / equivalent to butter (any time you see the word "fortified," run far and run fast because it means that any real nutrition has been removed and replaced with SYNTHETIC NUTRITION, usually for the express purpose of increasing shelf-life). Who invented this pyramid that has wreaked so much havoc on American health, leaving in it's wake a path of disease and death?
The original recommendations of up to 4 servings of grain a day was replaced with up to 11 servings (GULP!). And that's not all, the final pyramid even had a picture of saltine crackers --- something for years touted as a "healthy snack" on the AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION'S sample diet and dietary recommendations (I used to keep a copy in the office but am not sure what happened to it). I am cherry-picking her article here (for the record, realize that the primary aim of the USDA has nothing to do with safety or health, but instead to promote US agriculture in America and around the world).
"When our version of the Food Guide came back to us revised, we were shocked... As I later discovered, the wholesale changes made to the guide by the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture were calculated to win the acceptance of the food industry. For instance, the Ag Secretary’s office altered wording to emphasize processed foods over fresh and whole foods. Where we, the USDA nutritionists, called for a base of 5-9 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables a day, it was replaced with a paltry 2-3 servings. Our recommendation of 3-4 daily servings of whole-grain breads and cereals was changed to a whopping 6-11 servings forming the base of the Food Pyramid as a concession to the processed wheat and corn industries. Moreover, my nutritionist group had placed baked goods made with white flour — including crackers, sweets and other low-nutrient foods laden with sugars and fats — at the peak of the pyramid, recommending that they be eaten sparingly. To our alarm, in the “revised” Food Guide, they were now made part of the Pyramid’s base."
Unfortunately, having been fed the "eat-all-the-carbs-you-want-it's-fat-that-makes-you-fat" message from professor after professor, I bought in, even though looking back, I had more than enough knowledge of physiology to have known better. Stupid me; I didn't question what I was being taught (I am actually BEATING MYSELF right now like Edward Norton in Fight Club). Fast forward eight years to 1996. I saw a picture of myself in shorts and a T-shirt and realized I was starting to put on some pounds and it freaked me out a bit because I had always been thin (mirrors will lie to you in ways that photographs will not).
I got my hands on Atkins' original book (1971), and not too long after that started attending seminars by Dr. Janet Lang. Needless to say, except for the occasional "CHEAT" (yes, I have been on more than one carb-induced "bender"), I've been trying to follow a LOW CARB, WHOLE FOOD, NO-GRAIN, PALEO, and at times even a high fat (KETOGENIC) approach ever since. And although I would certainly not call myself "shredded" like I was back in 1988, I feel good, and by the grace of God have managed to stay strong and healthy. But since this sort of evidence is anecdotal (BTW, I am not necessarily against ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE), let's take a look at what the PURE study had to say about diet and disease as related to the Fats -vs- Carbs -vs- Protein debate.
- THIS TOPIC IS CONTROVERSIAL: Heck yes it is! Other than maybe politics or religion, it's about as controversial a topic as you can find. In fact, I'm not sure of anything that researchers agree on less than nutrition (maybe everyone can agree that TRANS FATS CAUSE HEART DISEASE?). The authors also mentioned some of the highly confounded studies that our current dietary guidelines are based on (can anyone say Ancel Keys?). Stick around for three more minutes to see what I am talking about.
- THE ORGANIZATIONS THAT FUNDED THIS STUDY HAD NO PART IN DESIGN OR CARRYING IT OUT: How big is this today? In light of the vomit-trough we ironically refer to as "EVIDENCE-BASED MEDICINE," it's absolutely huge! and for those of you who believe that just because a government entity does / checks the study (for instance, THE FDA) that this automatically makes it "unbiased," have I got a deal for you. You see, there's this bridge in Brooklyn.....
- MOST OF THE DATA THAT CURRENT GOVERNMENTAL RECOMMENDATIONS COME FROM IS FROM WESTERNIZED NATIONS WHERE OVER-CONSUMPTION IS THE NORM: This is particularly true of the United States, where overeating has become a national past time. Be sure to tune in next week because I am working on a post that shows the metabolic / physiological consequences of overeating (the problems that go beyond blood sugar and obesity), as well as what happens to health and lifespan when people decide to eat less.
- HIGHER INTAKE OF CARBS ARE ASSOCIATED WITH A HIGHER OVERALL DEATH RATE: Since this higher mortality rate was not associated with either cardiovascular disease or dying of cardiovascular disease, there are two diseases that immediately come to mind --- diabetes and cancer. While most people realize that diabetes is the end result of living the HIGH CARB LIFESTYLE (functional doctors would argue the same thing is true of PRE-DIABETES as well), most people do not realize that this is even more true of cancer (HERE), which has taken over the number one spot as far as American mortality rates are concerned. This is interesting considering that the picture I used at the top of this post came straight from our own government's NIC (National Institutes of Cancer), touting dinner rolls (whole grains) as a dietary cancer-preventative. Oh, higher carb intake was also associated with high BP, higher triglycerides, and lower levels of the so-called "good cholesterol" (HDL), as well as a screwed up Apiloprotein B to A1 ratio; which according to NUMEROUS STUDIES, is possibly the single best predictor of having an Adverse Cardiovascular Event. "ApoB-to-ApoA1 ratio is the strongest lipid predictor of myocardial infarction and ischaemic strokes."
- TOTAL PROTEIN WAS INVERSELY ASSOCIATED WITH TOTAL MORTALITY RISK: This study showed that animal protein was associated with a diminished risk of all-cause mortality, while interestingly enough, plant protein was not.
- THE TYPE OF FAT YOU EAT REALLY DOES MATTER: This should not be too surprising to most of you (see my earlier Trans Fats link). Even though we see the AHA continuing to beat their "anti-saturated fat" drum, that bus left town a long time ago. "Higher saturated fat intake was associated with lower risk of stroke. Total fat, saturated fat, and unsaturated fats were not significantly associated with risk of myocardial infarction or cardiovascular disease mortality." I give you a better picture of this principle in THIS POST on Fatty Acid Metabolism. These authors also noted that replacing carbs with saturated fats decreased strokes by 20%, also revealing that LDL levels (the so-called "bad" cholesterol) were not an accurate predictor of cardiovascular disease or death rates.
- WE NEED TO RETHINK OUR CURRENT DIETARY GUIDELINES: The study ended with the authors saying, "dietary guidelines should be reconsidered." The thing is folks, we don't need to reinvent the wheel --- these guidelines are already out there (HERE they are from a post I wrote three years ago). The very simplest guidelines for eating an ANTIINFLAMMATORY DIET come from Functional Neurologist, Dr. David Seaman --- "eat vegetation or animals that ate vegetation".
Ah, there it is folks --- "selective emphasis". This is simply another way of letting us know that INVISIBLE & ABANDONED research is alive and well, and as real as a proverbial heart attack. I cherry-pick what I give you simply because as much as I may want to, I can't share it all. Read between the lines and you'll see that these authors are (much too gently) accusing authors of similar studies, both recent and in the past, of cherry-picking. Why? As Dr. Light showed us, it's the same reason it always is; the money.
If you are wanting to turn your life around, lose weight, lessen your body's inflammatory burden, decrease your pain, and start addressing root physiological causes of disease processes (remember that drugs don't usually do this well -- HERE), I've created a GENERIC TEMPLATE for you to take a look at. No; it's not going to solve everyone's problem(s). Some of you may end up needing medical intervention or testing by a specialist in functional medicine. Or then again, your problem might be related to your fascia --- HERE. But how can you go wrong simply living a healthier lifestyle and eating healthier foods (HERE)? HERE is a crazy testimonial from a person that used these ideas to lose 100 lbs in seven months, and get off her meds for five (5) autoimmune diseases.