It's always difficult to understand why there are still people who believe antiquated and disproven myths. In the case of dietary fat, the increased head scratch happens when you look at scientists who still believe the farce. But a healthy search of pubmed will come up completely empty-handed with a single study that has ever shown dietary fat, even saturated dietary fat, contributes to any detrimental health effects. No study has ever shown that dietary fat is bad for you. At best, the researchers have already taken as a given that fat is bad, then reason something like this: "since fat is bad, more fat is very bad - now see how bad fat is." Wow. We're all dazzled by the brilliant logic.
It's weak thinking, but ubiquitous even among very smart researchers. One of the most recent occurrences was at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University. The paper itself was entitled, "High Fat Diet Prompts Immune Cells to Start
Eating Connections Between Neurons." What an interesting title, given that high fat diets cure epilepsy, reverse certain forms of Alzheimer's, slow the progression of Parkinson's and are indicated in the amelioration of ALS. However, once you read the paper, you realize that the researchers conflated "high fat diet" with "obesity." Yes, being obese is an inflammatory condition. That inflammation surely prompts the immune system to destroy connections between neurons. Old news, guys. And...terrible terrible job at critical thinking. Absolutely no one has ever argued that increasing dietary fat will work well without restricting carbohydrates and/or protein intake.
Digging further into this study, you find that researchers padded their findings. Though the high fat group ate 60% of its calories from fat, the total amount of carbohydrates and protein was the same as the low fat group. So, both groups ate non-ideal diets, but the low fat group was enjoying the benefits of food restriction via fat, while the high fat group was enjoying the downsides of overall overeating irrespective of the fat content.
Even with a cursory once-through, you find that the research actually proved the exact opposite of the claim made by the researchers. At week 4, the high fat diet group had no detrimental effects. In fact, as long as their body composition remained unchanged, there was no damage to connections between neurons in the high fat diet group. By definition, this means that the line of causation cannot be drawn from dietary fat. Dietary fat is at worst entirely inert with respect to neurodegenration. However, at best, it's neuroprotective. Yes, weight gain via high protein and carbohydrate intake is easier when dietary fat is also high. No one has ever argued to the contrary.
SOURCE OF FAT: does it matter? Let's think for a second. Of course it does. Is it ever discussed in this or any other research determining the evil of fat? Nope. Yes, there are completely unthinking gurus who still say a calorie is a calorie and a macronutrient is a macronutrient. There's a very simple test to check if they even believe themselves: drink a bowl of snake venom. Snake venom is just protein, peptides and amino acids. I thought a calorie was a calorie, right? Well, drink up, guru.
Every once in a while, in order to perpetuate the calorie is a calorie myth, people invoke the one man "study" of Dr. Twinkie. This was an experiment a nutrition professor decided to run on himself. Allegedly, without any controls or oversight, he starved himself, breaking his fasts with exactly portioned small amounts of twinkies, exercised regularly, and lost 27lbs through the process. The findings have never been replicated or validated. Even if they were, all we're seeing is that someone can eat a small enough amount of something destructive and minimize the deleterious effects. We have all had arsenic if we've eaten apples or drunk apple juice, but we're all doing just fine because the dose was so small. In the same way, Dr. Twinkie can eat a small enough portion of poison that he can down-dose the inflammation normally associated with it. This proves nothing other than the dose makes the poison. Sound familiar? That's because Paracelsus was saying this in the 15th century.
So, unfortunately the layperson is continually bombarded with ill-constructed studies and weakly reasoned arguments, because, frankly, the smartest people in history have been wrong about something. Just because someone wears a lab coat does not make her impervious to the failings of human beings. Those same imperfect humans are the ones creating studies that argue dietary fat is harmful. Isaac Newton, perhaps the greatest mind humanity will ever know, founded modern science, physics, calculus and on and on we can go. But he also believed in alchemy. Oops. One of Newton's biggest fans, Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist, even has a hard time with basic statistics. Oops.
Don't be afraid to go toe-to-toe with the seemingly most dispassionate studies. There are errors somewhere, always. To err is human. One day there will hopefully be a nutrition study wherein all tested groups have identical activity and kCals, one high fat diet group will have coconut oil, molecularly distilled fish oil and ghee from grass fed cattle and another high fat diet group will have garbage omega 6s from the standard American diet. THEN, we might learn something. Ahh, we can only hope.
Even the ancient Hebrews knew there was a difference between the meat from a humanely-killed animal and that from an inhumanely-treated animal. Lo and behold, an ill-treated animal is packed full of stress hormones, adrenaline and more susceptible to infection and subsequent rapid spoiling of its meat. Meanwhile, modern medical nutrition researchers can't even control for what type of fat, let alone the source, let alone the treatment and processing. Preposterous. This is not rigorous science. Dietary fat is not bad. Saturated dietary fat isn't bad. Red meat isn't bad. Those aren't even scientific claims. They are broad over-generalizing judgements. Please, just begin with a slightly more specific and thus scientific question: when controlling for all other variables, at what daily dosing per kilogram of body mass do we see detrimental outcome from the intake of saturated fat sourced from ill-treated bovine of X breed? So far, no one has even produced a rigorous enough study to tell us for sure that that fat is uniquely and solely causing a problem. The research is largely simple-minded and question-begging.
Why do people still believe dietary fat is bad? It's simple: they don't apply enough rigor in their thinking. There's a word for this: lazy.
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