Fat Phobia: Why are we so fat if we don’t eat fat?

Sep 11, 2009 by

Free hamburger tape measure

Did you know that human breast milk provides one of the highest proportions of cholesterol of any food?

Yet we prescribe nonfat yogurt and milk for young and old.

Did you know that the body is actually unable to absorb certain nutrients in vegetables unless they’re combined with some fat: olive oil, an avocado, some cheese, or some good animal fat with the meal?

Yet we prescribe fat-free salad dressing with our little pumpkins’ celery sticks. And we get fatter and fatter.

In the 1930s, Dr. Weston Price, a dentist, noticed a big increase in children’s teeth getting crowded, crooked and decayed. Price went on to study 14 varied groups of people around the world untouched by the modern diet.  Sturdy, strong and lean, these people were basically free of the diseases we dread in our society, including dental problems and mental illness. Generally, all these groups of people ate what was available locally: plenty of animal fat as well as lean, fruits and vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, whole grains and full-fat dairy products, like butter.

What these groups didn’t eat was white sugar, white flour and unnatural oils like hydrogenated fat. They used no modern technology for refining foods, but did use natural, traditional processes of fermentation and soaking, little known today, that actually render grains and dairy products more naturally digestible and nutritious.

Price was also able compare people from these same groups who had abandoned their traditional diets for our modern, industrialized foods.  Just like most of us today, they had developed not only decayed and crowded teeth but diseases of every sort.

Fat has long been the villain in the modern battle against obesity. But a look at the big picture of human history gives a pretty clear hint of what elements of our diet are making us fat and what aren’t.

Meat with fat, especially if it’s produced by animals free of hormones or antibiotics, nourished on feed free of pesticides and herbicides, is clearly a standard staple of a healthy diet. The fossil record backs up Price’s findings, showing the earliest humans to be as healthy as the modern groups he studied.  Our first ancestors also ate a high-fat diet of mainly critters of all kinds, fruits and vegetables, eggs and nuts.

Yet the same people who think nothing of giving kids a fat-free Big Red cola or fat-free cookies to keep them happy during a trip to the grocery store will think they’re really getting somewhere by giving up red meat. The results are evident.

As for cholesterol, high levels in the blood often show up when the body is poorly nourished with unnatural fats, in the body’s attempt to protect itself, according to Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions:  The Cookbook that challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. Like a concentration of police in high crime areas, as she explains, a high cholesterol level is actually a friend, not the enemy.

The nation with the longest life span today, Japan has a moderately fatty diet with about twice as much cholesterol as Americans, though little vegetable oil and other processed foods, according to Fallon. In number two, the Swiss eat more fat than just about anybody.  Austria and Greece, tied for third, both have high fat diets. And the French, of course, eat loads of buttery, creamy, rich, fatty foods. Yet they are thinner and have less than half the rate of heart disease of Americans.

Fat Goes Down While Obesity Goes Up

During the time heart disease skyrocketed from insignificant numbers in the 1920s to being the cause of 40 percent of all deaths in the U.S. today:

What went down:

Consumption of animal protein declined from 83 to 62 percent between 1910 and 1970

Consumption of butter went down from 18 pounds per person per year to four pounds.

What went up in these past 80 years:

Vegetable oils (margarine, shortening and refined oils) increased by 400 percent

Sugar and processed foods consumption took over our food supply

Cholesterol intake increased by only one percent

(statistics from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon)

Related post:

Good Egg, Bad Egg

This post was featured in Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday on July 16, 2010.

2 comments
Anna Migeon
Anna Migeon

Thanks, Ben! Sounds like another book I need to read. It's frustrating to hear all the contradictory advice that comes out of the experts on what we should eat. No wonder people are confused. I have changed my views so many times through the years, but the Paleo diet makes the most sense so far to me.

ben
ben

great post! i just finished Taubes' GCBC and im with you 100%. It never fails to impress me when i stand in line at the health food store (which of course is full of people that would NEVER go to the normal supermarket, right?) and just watch everyone with their baskets full of nonfat Fage, no-fat cream, soy cheese, etc. Amazing. Great post