These are a few staggering headlines that we often read in today’s media circles:
Dyslipidemia and metabolic syndrome more often referred to insulin resistance syndrome.
Half of Americans are pre diabetic, this is staggering.
This means the average American is pre diabetic.
Obesity is the tip of the iceberg as there are a lot of other chronic diseases that go with this but it’s important point out that this all occurred while we were consuming less saturated fat. Only a small fraction of adults have been able to maintain a healthy weight in the context of our current guidelines.
What is really alarming is diabetes and prediabetes is epidemic. This comes from a paper published just a few months ago in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association). The latest statistics reported half of Americans are prediabetic; that’s almost 150 million Americans. These come from pretty well done studies based on several measures of prediabetes including hemoglobin A1c, fasting glucose and serum lipids. Again, it is staggering to think the average American adult is prediabetic.
If you look at dietary patterns over the last several decades, we were able to get saturated fat down, with protein intake remaining pretty much the same. What has changed is the increased dietary carbohydrate, to the tune of about 200 kcals per day, along with a shift to more polyunsaturated fats/oils.
Whether the average American realizes it or not, this extra 200 Kcals is not vegetables like asparagus, broccoli or spinach, but processed/concentrated sources of sugar and processed carbs. This as a result of the dietary heart hypothesis and the unintended consequences that if you restrict saturated fat, we start eating more carbs. This has all caused a whole different problem that was unanticipated back in the 70s and 80s by the people pushing the dietary heart hypothesis. In effect, most Americans were subjects in an experiment which failed to validate the hypothesis.
Metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance is really prediabetes, and that of course increases risk for heart disease but also a whole host of other problems.
One would think that they would have changed course sooner, as there’s literally been billions of dollars invested in trying to prove the diet heart hypothesis. Unfortunately, it is quite the opposite; billions, if not trillions of dollars have been spent on medical care and drugs to counter the effects of the outcome of the dietary heart hypothesis. Statin Drugs alone account for $30 billion a year in sales!
Ancel Keys and the diet heart hypothesis
Not many people born after 1975 have heard of Ancel Keys. However, if you were around in the 1950’s, he was on the cover of Time magazine, a dietitian to the president, and for the most part was a very dynamic doctor of nutrition at the time. Ancel Keys’ diet heart health hypothesis was first proposed from his 7 countries study. He basically went to places on earth where heart disease was reportedly very low and he studied their diet patterns and came up with the idea that eating a low fat diet would decrease cholesterol and thus heart disease. In fact, the 1970 dietary guidelines were, in part, formulated by his research. Mind you it is much more complicated than this, but this at least gives you an idea.
The problem with Ancel Keys “research” is that he cherry picked the data he presented in order to show that he had a strong argument for lowering cholesterol in the diet. He was determined to show that this was the case and he argued like a politician against anybody who thought otherwise. He used his authority to basically silence those who challenged him. It is now known that he had support from large companies like Coca Cola and other companies trying to show that sugar was not harmful. He also chose not to show that there was a correlation of increased sugar intake with heart disease (see graph). This all came out after he passed away. In any case, the diet heart hypothesis is really based on this simple syllogistic thinking where dietary saturated fat increases cholesterol which in turn increases heart disease. Basically, more bad explanations for a very complex and important problem. A lot of studies have been done now that disprove the diet heart cholesterol hypothesis. A + B does not = C.
It is a shame that Ancel Keys has gotten such a bad rap, because he did perform a lot of research (The Minnesota Starvation experiment and popularization of BMI), but when you are in the clutches of big company execs seeking big profits, these are the kinds of things that get spit from the crevices. The story isn’t really different than Big Tobacco.
Dietary guidelines 1970
For reasons beyond our control, the government decided that it would come out with dietary guidelines in 1970 partially based upon the 7 Countries Study. There are clearly some issues with this, but looking at our current situation, the dietary guidelines based upon the 7 Countries Study started in 1970 and they really haven’t wavered much over the years. The cornerstone of the government guidelines has always been a high carbohydrate, low-fat approach and this is where we are today. Only a small fraction of adults can maintain a healthy weight. We are now, as a result of the 30+ year experiment in this country, the most obese we have ever been in the history of humanity. Just consider for a moment that the average person is obese, and that nearly three-quarters of adults in this country are overweight. It is really staggering when you think about you how many people this really affects; more than 150 million people. We all hear about the obesity epidemic, but not often in this way.
The result of the diet heart hypothesis has been a colossal catastrophe where half of Americans are prediabetic; so you break up the population, only about a quarter of us are at a healthy weight, another quarter are prediabetic, another quarter of us are pretty much borderline prediabetic and overweight.
Since 1970, we all got hammered with the dietary recommendations and we were actually able to successfully restrict saturated fat. But in restricting fat, we increased our sugar intake. The result was about 200 kcal per day of processed sugar. This was the biggest unintended consequence of restricting saturated fat. Today, the average American nearly consumes their body weight in sugar; about 40 to 50 kilograms; children often eat more than their body weight.