Time for a change
Ancel Keys on a Time cover in 1950; a 1984 Time issue; the current Time issue
Well folks, it’s finally happened. Time magazine, the publication that led the entire Western world and beyond to shun saturated fat and eat more foods high in carbohydrates, resulting in countless early deaths, has admitted it was wrong. Way wrong. Actually, Time didn’t say it was wrong, but that the scientists it relied on were wrong.
The fraud exposed
The June 23 issue of Time is the most high-profile event among a sudden confluence of developments laying bare the fraudulent myth that saturated fat is harmful to health, and revealing that the opposite is true. Exposure of the misconception – or, more accurately, deception – has come from a variety of sources over a period of decades, but the media have mostly ignored these revelations. However, the recent, eye-popping series of events has garnered some attention. Probably the most important in shaping public opinion on this issue is the big mea culpa – sort of – issued by Time magazine in its current issue, the cover of which shows a coiled slab of yellow butter and declares: “EAT BUTTER. Scientists labeled fat the enemy. Why they were wrong.” “Mea culpa” is a valid term, because the article comes 53 years after a 1961 Time issue that, relying on the dogmatic opinions of researcher Ancel Keys, proclaimed saturated fat was the main culprit in heart disease. That it was only “sort of” an admission of error is borne out in Time’s assertion that “new science” has shown the magazine was wrong. But that science has existed for decades. It’s not been known because the media have closed their eyes to it.
New book debunks fat myth
Author Nina Teicholz
The supposed “new” science is a report in the March 18 Annals of Internal Medicine on a meta-analysis of 72 studies going back many years and involving more than 600,000 people in 18 nations, showing no link between saturated fat on the one hand, and heart disease and its correlates on the other. The New York Times said, “The new findings are part of a growing body of research that has challenged the accepted wisdom that saturated fat is inherently bad for you.” Then People’s Pharmacy and columnist Mona Charen, both with national readerships, reported on the findings. Soon afterward, The Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal ran a piece by Nina Teicholz that went much further than reporting on the findings of the huge analysis. She summarized her book, published almost simultaneously by Simon & Schuster, The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, which was almost 10 years in the making. “Our half-century effort to cut back on the consumption of meat, eggs and whole-fat dairy has a tragic quality,” Teicholz wrote. “More than a billion dollars have been spent trying to prove Ancel Keys’s hypothesis, but evidence of its benefits has never been produced. It is time to put the saturated-fat hypothesis to bed and to move on to test other possible culprits for our nation’s health woes.”
She began investigating after losing 10 pounds while eating foods high in saturated fat as a restaurant reviewer. On June 21, Teicholz discussed the book as a guest on MSNBC in an appearance that likely will give a big boost to sales. However, Brian Shilhavy of the website Health Impact predicted slow change in public opinion despite the surge in publicity debunking the idea that saturated fat is unhealthy. He noted Time’s confession to disseminating the wrong messages in both the 1950s issue condemning saturated fats and one in 1984 that blamed cholesterol from saturated fats as a cause of heart disease. Despite the magazine’s admission that the bases of those reports turned out to be “junk science,” Shilhavy wrote, “don’t expect Big Pharma and the USDA dietary guidelines to change anytime soon … what is at stake here is a multi-billion dollar industry of lowering people’s cholesterol levels through medication (statin drugs).” Bryan Walsh, writer of the Time article, commented similarly: “The war over fat is far from over. Consumer habits are deeply formed, and entire industries are based on demonizing fat. TV teems with reality shows about losing weight. The aisles are still filled with low-fat snacks. Most of us still feel a twinge of shame when we gobble down a steak. And publishing scientific research that contradicts or questions what we have long been told about saturated fat can be as difficult now” as it was in the 1990s.
The Keys to the ruse
Dr. Mary Enig
Dr. Uffe Ravnskov
Time and author Teicholz echoed the nation’s leading alternative physicians and research scientists including the noted Drs. Mary Enig, a biochemist/nutritionist, and Uffe Ravnskov, a Danish physician who authored the book Fat and Cholesterol Are Good for You! They place the blame for the misinformation about saturated fat and cholesterol on a researcher named Ancel Keys, who conducted studies in the 1950s to prove his theory that saturated fat bore heavy responsibility for heart disease. Although his samples were 22 societies, he cherry-picked the seven that ostensibly proved his hypothesis. The other 15 didn’t support it at all. And in the seven, serious flaws that never would be allowed in today’s research were later found, such as the failure to investigate the role of cigarette smoking among those with heart disease, and the high sugar consumption, which causes arterial inflammation, in the seven nations. But Keys, described as “imperious,” attacked any research that conflicted with his findings, and the scientific community fell in line. The idea that saturated fat and cholesterol were major culprits in heart disease became deeply entrenched, accepted science. The public was unaware of the distortions and woeful inadequacies in what current opponents refer to as junk science. Food processors began turning out foods that accommodated the populations’ beliefs in this science. Low fat, reduced fat, no fat, and fat free labels stared at shoppers from grocery store shelves. These foods have little saturated fat, but most have high-fructose corn syrup and processed vegetable oils that damage the arteries. Some or all of the beneficial saturated fat in milk was removed and replaced with powdered milk, which has been treated to high temperatures, damaging the cholesterol and contributing to inflammation in the arteries.
Folks get fatter
One of the most damaging results of the flawed science was the advent in the 1980s of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, which Shilhavy called “the most lucrative class of drugs ever sold in the history of mankind.” Estimates are that it is a $29 billion industry. Instead of resulting in slimmer, healthier populations, obesity rates began climbing and have reached epidemic proportions. Deaths from heart attacks have declined, but this phenomenon coincides with advances in heart surgery and more-technically-advanced emergency methods of saving persons in the throes of heart attacks.
Where’s the beef?
Alternative doctors might fault the Time report for failing to distinguish between eating regular red meat and that from cattle which have not been given growth hormones and antibiotics to counter the ill effects of the hormones. These doctors have long preached that grass-fed beef is healthy. However, it’s very hard to come by – ordering online is an option – and is far more expensive than regular beef. An alternative not a lot more expensive than regular beef is the all-natural variety, which lacks the hormones and antibiotics but still comes from cattle fed mainly corn, which has been genetically modified and is adulterated with pesticides and fertilizers.
The status of statins
Brian Shilhavy concludes, “So until Americans wake up and realize that statin drugs are one of the biggest scams in the history of health care, the cholesterol anti-saturated fat myth will persist.” Americans won’t know about this scam unless the media, woefully irresponsible so far, inform them. We can only hope they will take their cue from Time, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.