One thing that I need to make clear before continuing the discussion of dietary fat is that epidemiology is a valid field of science which has brought tremendous benefit to healthcare and many other disciplines. The point made by Gary Taubes (and many others) is that it has been used inappropriately in presuming to discover the cause of complex chronic disease (especially with observational studies). At the end of his article about misapplied epidemiology, the editors made note that he had written a new book entitled “Good Calories/Bad Calories”. Back in Knoxville, I went straight to Borders Bookstore (RIP) and purchased it. Finally, a book which would cause thoughtful yet confused providers of healthcare and many others to pause and reconsider entrenched ideas. The research was copious with more than 100 pages of references. He wrote about much that we already knew but filled in many gaps and most beautifully unearthed all the suppressed science and the scientists who were crushed by the “low fat” steamroller or were simply flushed down the toilet bowl of time. The book elegantly reviews the complex interplay of hormones with metabolism and shoots down simplistic notions of calories in/calories out as a way to understand weight gain or loss. It also, more skillfully than I had yet seen, dismantled the “diet/heart hypothesis”. Again it states: “saturated fat via raising cholesterol is the primary cause of heart disease“. He shows that it is not calorie content or fat content but the overall quality of our food which makes all the difference.
Despite having studied these topics for years, I learned a tremendous amount and got answers to many questions which had been troubling me. He also introduces a mid-twentieth century scientist named Ancel Keys who almost single handedly fostered the idea that dietary saturated fat causes heart disease. If you are interested in these topics, I urge you to read the book. It is, however, quite dense and not an easy read. If you would like to read a book which covers some of the same ground, yet is easier to get through, I recommend “The Big Fat Surprise”. Nina Teicholz takes up Taubes’ story and builds on it by including a lot more information about dietary fat and filling in what has occurred over the last 10 or more years. It’s a fascinating discussion of science run amok, courageous pursuers of truth and many details about the scientific study and health giving properties of dietary fat. Just as with “Good Calories/Bad Calories”, I learned a tremendous amount from this book. An added bonus is that it’s a page-turner reading like a mystery novel as falsehoods are shot down and the truth is revealed. In coming posts, I’ll use some of her chapter topics to give a primer about dietary fat covering both its crucial role in preserving our health and its potential dangers. More than any topic related to our health, this one is fraught with land-mines and confusion. Hopefully, some of that can be cleared up!