Fats don't make you fat - Carbs do

Fats don't make you fat - Carbs do

Yes, we may be harping on a little here but after 30 years of misinformation, we need to keep beating this drum - fat is not the enemy. (Saturated fat, that is. Trans fats really, really are an enemy!)

We owe fat's poor reputation to a single scientist, a fellow called Ancel Keys, who put forward the lipid hypothesis i.e saturated fat causes higher cholesterol which causes clogged arteries and heart disease. We've all heard this theory, right? And most of us have lived our lives very strictly to avoid that chain of events. Yet nations are getting fatter and obesity and related diseases are far more prevalent. How?

Well, there are several issues with Keys' theory. Firstly, he had data for 22 countries but only used data from the 6 countries that supported his hypothesis i.e 16 countries were ignored because they didn't fit his theory. Secondly, he concluded that (in those 6 countries) fat intake was high and heart disease was increasing therefore fat causes heart disease. He did, however, fail to take any other factors into account. He ignored, for example, their carb intake, he ignored the increase of cigarettes being smoked and the actual lifestyles of the populations he studied. He had no control group and couldn't show causation between saturated fat and cholesterol because he couldn't discount the other factors. Yet, he still put forward his theory as gospel. There are many other issues with Ancel Keys' hypothesis but that would be a dissertation in itself so we'll move on. The gist is his theory should never have been accepted.

Then, in 1977, the food pyramid was published. You know it - carbs form the base and fats at the tip, recommending 8-12 servings of carbs a day. Only, this was formulated after President Richard Nixon tasked his team to win back favour with the farmers and the population who were unhappy about rising food costs following the Vietnam war. The government gave farmers money to produce corn and soy (making the farmers happy) and thereby introduced an influx of produce into the market (driving down food prices) and keeping Nixon's political agenda intact.

Now they just needed to convince the population that they should be eating more corn and soy products than they ever had to before. That is, they needed to create demand. And what better way than to release government recommended dietary guidelines to the population, et voila, the food pyramid was born. It's also important to note that the developer of the food pyramid had no training or background in nutritional science and was himself a vegetarian, all too happy to place personal convictions about the consumption of saturated fat via animal products into his guidelines.

And the rest is history. These guidelines enter the population in 1977 and data from 1980 onwards shows a year on year increase in obesity and heart disease. So SURELY something was wrong.

And now, to explain just WHY the science was incorrect (despite the blatant political motivations) this infographic breaks down exactly what happens in your body when you eat carbs, shows comparative results between low fat and low carb diets and shows why fats don't make us fat - carbs do.


References: Real Meal Revolution Tim Noakes, Jonno Proudfoot, Sally-Ann Creed and David Grier