WHAT'S IN THIS ISSUE
DEMON Fat part Ii
Last week I started discussing how saturated fat was demonized incorrectly by looking at the work of Ancel Keys, one of the proponents of the theory. The mistake he made was made by, well, just about everyone.
Keys chose six countries that seemed to prove that fat caused death by heart disease. However, there is a huge, glaring problem with the graph: correlation does not equal causation. Without an experiment that isolates the fat variable and just the fat variable, the graph is good only for generating a hypothesis. I could replace the x-axis with "TV sets per household" and see exactly the same correlation.
Here is what two researchers who critiqued Keys work had to say:
It is well known that the indirect method merely suggests that there is an association between the characteristics studied and mortality rates and, further, that no matter how plausible such an association may appear, it is not in itself proof of a cause-effect relationship. But quotation and repetition of the suggestive association soon creates the impression that the relationship is truly valid, and ultimately it acquires status as a supporting link in a chain of presumed proof.
Yes, they are talking about the correlation between fat and heart disease. These researchers also pointed out that there were many variables that also increased along with fat consumption. That led to the following explanation:
the amount of fat and protein available for consumption is an index of a country's development, industrially, nutritionally, medically, and no doubt in other respects as well.
In other words, as a country develops its fat intake goes up (along with its animal food intake) — and all the other factors that increase with the development of a country, like pollution. (You can read Denise Minger's post to get into the details, and she's very good with the details.) So Keys found a correlation, jumped on it and ignored all the other possible reasons heart disease increased in the countries he studied.
But surely there is something to the saturated fat is bad for you correlation? Yes, there is one situation in which saturated fat is harmful to humans: when eaten with carbohydrates and in particular, with refined carbohydrates. If you want to avoid heart disease, it's not the meat you should avoid in the hamburger, it's the bun, especially if you eat the bun with the meat. And if you go back to the data for richer countries, you'll find that their consumption of refined carbohydrates also increases along with fat intake. In fact, in virtually every study I've looked at that implicates meat eating (a proxy for saturated fat) for our diseases of civilization you'll find that refined carbohydrates were eaten together with the meat, whether it's in the form of pepperoni on top of pizza or a beef patty surrounded by two pieces of bread.
As Dr. Cordain points out in the video below, there is no food that occurs in nature that is high in saturated fat and high in carbohydrates — not nuts, seeds or anything else.
So we can finally come to some sort of conclusion: saturated fat is healthy for humans to eat when it is eaten alone or with protein. This is how hunter-gatherer societies eat it and show no incidences of diseases of civilization, until, of course, they start eating sugar and wheat in powdered form (i.e. flour).
This interesting twist, that carbohydrates alone or with saturated fat increase the risk of heart disease, helps explain why there is so much conflicting evidence on saturated fat. If you look at the various meta-studies, you'll find many of them that completely exonerate saturated fat. The meta-studies that indicate some sort of correlation often use studies that don't remove carbohydrates from their test and thus wrongly implicate saturated fat. The Cochrane Review on the subject concluded:
There were no clear effects of dietary fat changes on total mortality (RR 0.98, 95% CI 0.93 to 1.04, 71,790 participants) or cardiovascular mortality (RR 0.94, 95% CI 0.85 to 1.04, 65,978 participants).
It will take some time for it to become widely known that carbohydrates are actually the culprit in heart disease AND that pairing carbohydrates with saturated fat is an especially poor combination. It was tricky to figure out. But don't worry about eating butter or red meat, you should actually be skipping the bread.
Be sure to watch the introduction (one hour) to the Paleo Diet by Dr. Loren Cordain, it's excellent and wide-ranging, and he discusses how modern research is showing that common ailments like skin acne are caused by carbohydrate consumption.
Night Thoughts in Hagsgate | The Archdruid Report, May 23, 2012
Why are there so many stories lately saying that peak oil is irrelevant? John Michael Greer looks into it.
Global Scarcity: Scramble for Dwindling Natural Resources | Environmental 360, May 23, 2012
Limits We are Reaching: Oil, Debt, and Others | Our Finite World, May 23, 2012
Greasing the Wheel: Oil's Role in the Global Crisis | The Oil Drum, May 23, 2012
Leverage points in energy storage | Cassandra's Legacy, May 28, 2012
Heist of the century: Wall Street's role in the financial crisis | The Guardian, May 20, 2012
Global Recession: Mounting signs of deepening global economic slump | Global Research, May 27, 2012
When The Derivatives Market Crashes (And It Will) U.S. Taxpayers Will Be On The Hook | The Economic Collapse, May 29, 2012
Espana en Fuego | The Automatic Earth, May 29, 2012
Safe Haven: Could U.S. Markets Rally in a Global Decoupling? | Of Two Minds, May 29, 2012
Deadlier Than Natural Disasters: How to Prevent Heatstroke | The Survival Doctor, May 24, 2012
20 Reasons to Keep Vinegar on Hand | Chris Martenson, May 24, 2012
Salt Rising Bread | Preparedness Advice Blog, May 25, 2012
Are Canned Foods Safe to Store? | The Survival Mom, May 29, 2012
What to Do for Heatstroke When You Can't Get Help | The Survival Doctor, May 29, 2012
Rising seas not only issue facing island nation | MSNBC, May 15, 2012
Climate Study: Extreme Rain Storms in Midwest Have Doubled in Last 50 Years, Often Leading to Worsened Flooding | Environmental News Network, May 22, 2012
Killer Climate Will More Than Double Annual US Heat-Death Toll | Climate Desk, May 23, 2012
The Endangered Waters Beneath Our Feet | Post Carbon Institute, May 28, 2012
Video: The Paleo Diet Explained | The Paleo Diet, May 23, 2012
Is It Primal? 7 More Foods Scrutinized | Mark's Daily Apple, May 23, 2012
Gut Health And Obesity | Robb Wolf, May 25, 2012
How to Grill a Whole Fish | Mark's Daily Apple, May 26, 2012
The Influence of Diet on The Development and Progression of Multiple Sclerosis | The Paleo Diet, May 28, 2012
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