Everything You know About Fat Is Wrong — Probably

And… we’re back for another installment of the history of why people are so confused about dietary fat. Even as long ago as 2014, there was unrest among the world’s nutrition experts. A University of Cambridge meta-analysis examined 72 observational studies that pretty much debunked the Fat=Bad paradigm.

On the other hand, some experts held that a large number of observational studies really do not prove more than a single observational study, so there was still plenty of room for controversy over methodology. Three years later, another shock wave hit the establishment:

Researchers in the study, called PURE (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology), recorded the food intake of over 135,000 people from 18 different countries, including high-, medium-, and low-income nations. They found that those who ate plenty of butter, cheese, and meats lived up to 23% longer lives than those who cut back on fats.

Well, 23% longer is a lot of time! Author Ana Aceves went on to point out that one study was unlikely to persuade health officials to entirely rewrite the dietary guidelines. Although large, it was still an associational study, meaning there was an association but not a direct link between carbohydrate intake and mortality. She added that according to a newer diet study, it was not total fats or saturated fats that threaten longevity, but excess carbohydrates.

One problem has been that people who cut down on fats tend to compensate by eating more carbohydrates like bread, pasta, and rice. Their cardiovascular health does not prosper. Apparently, the authorities were nervous about telling people about the new discoveries, because they might go rogue and think they could safely eat any amount of saturated fats. But apparently, up to about 35% is okay.

Is it the government’s fault?

Elizabeth Nolan Brown also reported on the same study at Reason.com. She called the findings “unexpected” and speculated that they might cause experts worldwide to rethink dietary guidelines. Fruit freaks get less heart disease; legume fiends have “lower rates of death from all causes and from non-cardiovascular causes.” Huge consumers of raw veggies enjoy a lower risk of total mortality, while cooked vegetables do not confer nearly as much benefit.

Brown commented on the part that raised eyebrows:

Perhaps most notably, while higher fruit, vegetable, and legume consumption was associated with lower total mortality risk and less risk of death from non-cardiovascular causes, this benefit appears to max out at three to four servings, or around 375-500 grams, per day.

The researchers discovered that being tested for LDL cholesterol is nowhere near as helpful as everyone has been led to believe, and their work produced many other hitherto unsuspected revelations. Much of the previous confusion about all these matters was attributed to the previous findings being based on limited populations in the same old places, while the PURE study included subjects in Africa, China, the Middle East, and other understudied environments.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids With Coronary Risk,” ACPJournals.org, 03/18/14
Source: “People Who Follow Low-Fat Diets Have Higher Mortality Rates, Study Says,” PBS.org, 08/29/17
Source: “More Evidence That Everything the Government Teaches Us About Eating Is Wrong,” Reason.com, 08/30/17
Image by Arne Hendrics/CC BY 2.0

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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