Saturday, December 31, 2016

Low fat and no fat diets may be dangerous to your health

If you want to make a New Year's resolution that should be easy to keep, give up low-fat or no fat food items. For 40 years the U.S. has been on the fast track to obesity problems--diabetes, more cardiovascular problems, and decreased exercise and activity because it's just tough to do it with all those extra pounds that damage knees and hips. Now it turns out the the U.S. government, the professional nutrition organizations, academic researchers and the food processing companies (which followed government guidelines) probably had it wrong.

When I was a child about 40% of our calories came from fat--mostly animal fat. My mother cooked with lard, we drank whole milk (cream would freeze and push up the cap when the delivery was on the porch), we used butter, we ate eggs and bacon, but sugar especially when rationed during WWII and Korea was used frugally. Somewhere along the way my mother was swayed by articles on nutrition published in women's magazines--and in the 60s and 70s she switched to margarine and 2% milk, she was cautious with eggs, and bacon probably wasn't used. Lard became Crisco and then Safflower Oil and Peanut Oil for her fabulous pies.

For 40 years Americans tried to decrease their use of fat--we (at least I) bought low-fat or no-fat salad dressing, skim milk, low-fat sour cream, skinny bread, and added carbs just as the government recommended, and sugar was added to processed food to make them palatable, as the flavor and satiety  was gone. Special chemicals were added to provide texture and thickening. So we just ate more of everything because the food didn't taste or feel right and didn't satisfy. And we all got fatter and less healthy; cardiovascular diseases which had been on the decrease, began to increase; diabetes which had been relatively rare became an epidemic. In studies of low-fat, high carb diets, those studied had higher rates of premature death, not lower as was expected. Industry went along because there was a profit to be made--ordinary products like dairy and cereal were advertised as low fat; diet products proliferated and became a huge industry as did weight reduction surgery and weight clubs and support groups. Exercise products and clubs sprung up.

Researchers know more about the human body in 2016 than they did in 1966--men and women aren't the same (no matter which pronoun is demanded), blacks and Asians aren't the same, teens and elderly aren't the same, children are not just small adults, our grandparents did actually pass along culture as well as genes, and you just can't change thousands of years of evolution of our bodies' response to famine and plenty by having the USDA or HHS mandate food for school lunches and grants for academic research.

So put some butter on that toast, and fry up some bacon and enjoy the New Year while you wait for the next expert to report on why we need to believe them about climate change.


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