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The Lipid Hypothesis Has Failed (Part 1of many)
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January 12, 2011
12:38 am
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Thanks to George McGovern and the "United States Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs" for killing millions of people via the consequences of obesity—diabetes, heart disease, depression, cancer, dementia, stroke, osteoarthritis, and a host of other totally preventable maladies.

Seriously: we let a Senate committee decide what was healthy to eat? I guess we got what we deserved.

"Low-Calorie" Foods Made Us Fat

To forestall the inevitable cascade of reflexive…

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January 17, 2011
9:51 am
Links, Quick Hits &a
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[...] Pretty telling chart that J. Stanton of GNOLLS.ORG put together right here: The Lipid Hypothesis Has Officially Failed. Lot's of other great insight on that blog so have a look around. Here's a suggestion: Fat And [...]

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January 17, 2011
11:22 am
Katie
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Thanks for posting this! That graph is really telling. Just found your site.. looking forward to reading more.

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January 17, 2011
3:16 pm
anonymous
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How did they get this so wrong? Were there already some lobbies in place which had a lot to win in pushing high-carb, low fat foodstuffs? Or was their science just severely flawed?

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January 17, 2011
4:35 pm
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anonymous said:

How did they get this so wrong? Were there already some lobbies in place which had a lot to win in pushing high-carb, low fat foodstuffs? Or was their science just severely flawed?


My guess is that we can trace the rise of dietary recommendations to eat more grains and soybeans to the rise of agribusiness (e.g. ADM, Monsanto, Cargill) and its stranglehold on American farm policy.
 

Now that we subsidize multibillion-dollar corporations to mass-produce corn, soybeans, and wheat (necessarily at the expense of pasture and other crops), we have a lot of corn, soy, and wheat that needs to be eaten…and the government-sponsored dietary recommendations, unsurprisingly, emphasize the consumption of corn, soy, and wheat, science and evidence be damned.

"There isn't one grain of anything in the world that is sold in a free market. Not one! The only place you see a free market is in the speeches of politicians. People who are not in the Midwest do not understand that this is a socialist country." -Dwayne Andreas, ex-CEO of Archer Daniels Midland

If you want to see how agribusiness is really done, read about ADM's history of price-fixing here ("ADM ultimately settled federal charges for more than US$100 million and paid hundreds of millions of dollars more ($400 million alone on the HFCS class-action case) to plaintiffs and customers")…and let's not even talk about the corn ethanol scam.

So I guess what I'm saying is: don't expect the food pyramid to change anytime soon.

JS

 

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January 20, 2011
11:40 am
Check the links̷
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[...] lipid hypothesis has failed and the myth of complex [...]

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January 22, 2011
8:10 am
mia schreiber
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in the paleo diet, how do milk and dairy products fit in? i read gc/bc by gary tauber and there wasn't a whole lot about it, except that butter is good. but what about yoghurt and cheeses?

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January 22, 2011
2:02 pm
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Mia:

That is a topic of passionate debate amongst paleo adherents, and I can't claim to address all the arguments.

Some claim (correctly) that dairy could not have been consumed before animals were domesticated and is therefore not truly 'paleo'.  Others claim that, strictly speaking, refrigerators and freezers aren't 'paleo' either.

My opinion: butterfat is healthy for the same reason animal fat is healthy, and butter (being 100% butterfat) is therefore beneficial for all but practicioners of what Dr. Kurt Harris calls "paleo re-enactment".

Other dairy products are suspicious in proportion to their lactose and casein content.  Aged cheeses and full-fat yogurt contain little to no dietary lactose, and are therefore in the muddy middle, but eliminating grains and seed oils is far more important.  If you've already done that, you can eliminate cheese/yogurt and see if it improves your performance.  Many find it makes no difference, and continue to enjoy cheese, yogurt, and heavy cream.  (I certainly do.)

I see no reason to drink milk, as casein is of doubtful benefit, and low-fat milk (like all low-fat products) is just another way to make yourself fat.

Remember: fatty meat is always your primary source of calories. If you're diving into bricks of cheese, you didn't eat enough animal fat.  Eating lean meat is your primary source of cheese cravings.

I'll do a full-length post about this at some point.  Thank you for bringing up the subject!  I hope you'll check back on Tuesday for a big article that will be very relevant to your paleo curiosity.

JS

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January 24, 2011
12:49 pm
Patrick
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Hi,
Just to clarify, the lactose content of yogurt depends on how long it was fermented, not its fat content.

Also, you mention that fat consumption dropped but you didn't point out that the kinds of fat people were consuming also changed - saturated fat consumption dropped in favor of dangerous vegetable oils (high in omega-6-heavy polyunsaturated fatty acids). Taubes ignores this, but the Paleo community is very big on it.

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January 24, 2011
7:34 pm
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Patrick:

"The lactose content of yogurt depends on how long it was fermented."  Absolutely true.

And re: Taubes, I agree.   n-3/n-6 balance was one of my first areas of dietary research, and discovering its importance was my first step towards 'paleo'.  It is known that trans fat causes obesity, and seed oils (I refuse to use the misleading term 'vegetable oil'...they're not vegetables) contain a significant amount of trans fat after extraction and deodorizing, as I mention here.  There is also evidence that pro-inflammatory nature of arachidonic acid may cause obesity by itself, but to my knowledge that is less well researched.  (Please correct me if you know sources.)

Thanks for contributing!

JS

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January 29, 2011
5:17 pm
Canibais e Reis &raq
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[...] [...]

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February 11, 2011
2:18 pm
CrossFit Mount Laure
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[...] This is about the lipid hypothesis which is the basis for the low-fat diet that’s made all Ame... [...]

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February 11, 2011
9:52 pm
Dana
Guest

That chart you posted has to do with BMIs. Are the BMI numbers adjusted to account for changes in BMI reckoning or are we comparing apples and oranges?

I'm not contesting that there are more fat people in the U.S. than there used to be. But to get an accurate idea of how bad the problem is, we need to compare like with like across the board.

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February 11, 2011
9:58 pm
Dana
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OK, I went and looked up body mass index on Wikipedia and the *method* of calculating BMI has always been the same, BUT, what is termed "overweight" or "obese" has changed. So again, what we need is a chart that shows what percentage of the population has a BMI of ___ number or above. Maybe 25 and 35 might be good cutoffs for overweight and obese respectively, or 30 and 35.

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February 11, 2011
10:43 pm
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Dana:

According to the CDC, "overweight" for the purposes of these graphs is 25 <= BMI < 30, and "obese" is BMI >= 30.  That's actually in the fine print at the bottom of the graph, if you squint.

The original graphs, and links to the full report, are available here at the CDC's website.

You are correct, however, in noting that the definitions of "overweight" and "obese" have changed over the years.  So it's important to use the original BMI data, and not just the summary percentages in the surveys.

Thanks for contributing!

JS

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February 12, 2011
5:55 am
Canibais e Reis &raq
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[...] nunca provou nada, e falhou sempre nos principais estudos em melhorar a saúde em geral. Oficialmente, falhou, há que assumir o fracasso de [...]

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March 27, 2011
2:57 am
Canibais e Reis &raq
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[...] Fonte: The Lipid Hypothesis Has Officially Failed (Gnolls). [...]

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April 21, 2011
9:18 am
Allen
Guest

JS,

I just listened to the first half of the Latest In Paleo podcast featuring you. I'll get back to it later, but so far, so good!

I really like your site and I'm enjoying the articles.
I know this post is a couple of months old, but I'm commenting anyway because I think there's more of interest regarding the paper you've sited.

I downloaded a copy of Divergent Trends in obesity and Fat Intake Patterns and gave it a read. It's fairly short. Here are some things I think might be worth pointing out:

To start with, here's the core observation. According to the data gathered for large cohort studies of impeccable pedigree, in the U.S. between 1977 and 1987 not only did the average fat intake decrease (down 11%) but total calorie intake as well (down 4%). At the same time, however, there was a huge jump in overweight and obesity. This, according to the authors, is a "paradox."

What's most interesting is what the authors conclude from the data. It's clear that they take the Lipid Hypothesis as gospel. They conclude that the only possible explanation for the weight gain is that everyone got more sedentary. They readily admit that there is no evidence for this, though they also argue that there's been no reliable measure of physical activity trends.

They site a study that claims "...the percentage of Americans who had a sedentary lifestyle remained stable..," IE: There's been no change in physical activity for Americans. They go on to suggest, however, that, though Americans may not be exercising less, they MUST have become significantly less active during the rest of their "non-leisure" day. A fancy way of saying that life must have gotten significantly easier for us physically or that we're just suddenly much lazier - the oft referenced "Glutton or Sloth" hypothesis. The data show that Americans don't seem to be gluttons. Since, however, they have gotten fatter anyway, then it must be that we've become more slothful. QED.

The authors try hard to hammer out the "paradox" with the blunt mallet of "energy in equals energy out." There's a great bit on the last page of the paper where they site another study in which subjects were put through 8 weeks of exercise and "unexpectedly" there was a drop of 60% in non-exercise-related physical activities. Yet, they aren't compelled to ask whether or not this suggests even the possibility that physical activity isn't the dominant causal factor in the rise of obesity. Or that there might be more going on here than can be reflected in a simple algebra equation.

Here's a telling quote:

Other researchers have suggested that "...a modern inactive lifestyle must play an important, and perhaps dominant, role in the development of obesity. It is likely that the reported high levels of sedentary lifestyle in the United States, which appear to be unchanged since 1986, do not accurately reflect trends in total physical activity, which may well have declined."

Noted also was the greater divergence in weight gain and calorie intake in women in their 50s and white men. The conclusion? They are becoming disproportionately less active. Might we suggest that, at least in the case of the middle-aged women, a tired pancreas and insulin-deaf cells might be a factor? Don't know. Just saying.

The last paragraph of the paper is also a gem. It begins:

"In summary, it appears that the efforts to promote the use of low-calorie and low-fat food products have been highly successful and have been in line with the objectives of the US Public Health Service."

So, the campaign to change the way everyone eats has worked! Everyone's eating less fat and fewer calories. Unless, however, the "objectives of the US Public Health Service" is to increase obesity and diabetes, I'm not sure how this can be said to be "in line."

The conclusion of the authors?
There's nothing wrong with the underlying assumption.
It's all our fault for finding creative and hidden ways to be sedentary!

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April 24, 2011
9:50 pm
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Allen:

Thank you for the long and thoughtful post! I love your conclusion: "It's all our fault for finding creative and hidden ways to be sedentary!"  One wonders if the rise in obesity in children under two years old will be blamed on lazy babies.  

Dr. Malcolm Kendrick does an excellent job of skewering these sorts of ad-hoc hypotheses in "The Great Cholesterol Con."  

I'm glad you're enjoying the podcast: both Angelo and I had a great time.

JS

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July 7, 2011
5:33 pm
Walter
Guest

If people are more sedentary it's because they are getting fat. Taubes makes a big deal of this. If you eat too many carbs, they will take the fat to storage and should you eat less, your activity level will go down.

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