The Story of Fat: Why we were Wrong about Health
Let me tell you the story of how one man accidentally
gave us the obesity epidemic, kept cardiovascular
disease growing, made billions for the pharmaceutical
industry and programmed us to be afraid of
fat and cholesterol.
All the benefits from skim milk, low fat snacks,
and cholesterol lowering Cheerios that were
sold to you are based on hypotheses made by
a man named Ancel Keys.
The idea that we should avoid saturated fat
and cholesterol at all costs comes from the
Keys’ “Diet-Heart Hypothesis” and “Lipid
These ideas come from him analyzing the data
from 7 countries which showed that when you
plotted incidence of heart attacks against
fat consumption you see that the countries
that ate more fat had more heart attacks.
It was simple, you could draw a straight line
through the data points which showed more
fat equaled more heart attacks.
Pretty straight forward, you eat more fat,
you get fat, your cholesterol rises, your
arteries get clogged, and you have a heart
Ancel Keys got this accepted by the USDA,
the American Medical Association, the American
Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association
and off went the anti-fat anti-cholesterol
The only catch here is that there weren’t
only 7 countries for which data was available,
there were 22 countries.
When you factor in the remaining countries
there is no straight line to be drawn.
Maybe Keys had access to the remaining data,
maybe he didn’t, but he sure worked fast
to have his recommendations put in place.
The lack of good evidence didn’t go unnoticed,
though: Dr. George Mann, one of the researchers
on the Framingham study which was actually
supposed to bolster this cholesterol theory,
said, “Dietary fat is not the determinant
of either high cholesterol or coronary heart
disease” and ‘”the diet heart hypothesis
is the greatest scam ever perpetrated on the
That’s a bold claim but by the way, it’s
still called “hypothesis” because it’s
never been proven.
You’re probably up to date with recent health
information and maybe even OK with the idea
of a low carb diet, but chances are you’re
still not completely comfortable with fat.
After all, we’ve been programmed to associate
saturated fats with “Artery Clogging”
and we’ve seen the commercials where they
do something like clog a drain with bacon
Also Butter, Lard and Coconut Oil solidify
at room temperature so it’s pretty easy
logic that those solid fats will clog your
The problem with these images is that you
can melt those saturated fats easily in your
hand, like I’m doing here, and the temperature
in your body is much hotter; and the thing
that clogs your arteries resulting in a heart
attack is not an accumulation of fat.
Fat doesn’t even stay intact in the body-
your stomach bile works kind of like the dish
liquid I’m dropping here.
It breaks the fat up into these small droplets..
Then it gets wrapped inside carrier molecules
Fat is never technically even in the bloodstream,
it’s always transported inside of a lipoprotein
When you look at health from an evolutionary
standpoint, the concept of engineering fat
out of our foods for our health doesn’t
make much sense.
Our brains, which is what got us so far, are
the most metabolically expensive organs that
we have: consuming 25% of the adult metabolic
To adjust for the high energy cost of a large
brain, our guts had to shrink because they
too required a lot of energy to run.
So, our gut became less efficient at getting
enough energy from fibrous foods and was more
dependent on more bio-available, nutrient-dense
and energy dense foods.
Cooking food of course was an important development
for us too, but fat still takes first place
for most calorie dense nutrient at 9 calories
So fat would then be a very valuable macronutrient
that we would get as much of as our environment
There is even evidence that suggests homo
sapiens may have eaten most of the fat on
an animal before even touching the meat.
Sure we have plenty of fruits and vegetables
that have been cultivated to be more nutrient
and calorie dense and we spend much less time
moving around, so ravenously eating fat is
However it’s not very plausible that a macronutrient
that used to be so important to us is now
killing so many of us .
Timothy Olsen showcases the efficiency of
fat in spectacular fashion.
He holds the record for the Western 100 Endurance
run, a 100 mile ultra distance race in California
that includes an 18,000 feet climb and 23,000
He said he used to consume dozens of sports
gels throughout his races to keep him going,
but switched to a low carb, high fat diet
for more stable energy;
“Towards the end of the race y’know after
lots of heat and lots of gels and whatnot,
I ended up taking a crap in the woods like
20 some times.
That’s when I switched to more primal like
grain free diet, I had huge success with it”
You might have stopped and thought “How
can fat not be the problem?
I ate a plant based diet and reversed my atherosclerosis!”Living
in Japan, I’m very aware of how healthy
a high carbohydrate diet can be, especially
a primarily plant based one like the Okinawan
people’s who frequently live to be 100 while
less than 8% of their calories come from fat.
Don’t worry, we’ll get to this.
Despite our bodies preferring the energy dense
fat, this idea that saturated fat and cholesterol
needs to be reduced at all costs became medical
However, not only does our body want fat,
it doesn’t want to reduce cholesterol.
Cholesterol is incredibly important: we need
it for the membranes of our cells, we need
it to make brain cells, we need it to make
several important hormones like estrogen,
progesterone and testosterone.
Probably due to things like that bacon fat
commercial, the common assumption is that
fat and cholesterol build up on the arterial
This isn’t quite how it works.
Where the build up takes place is actually
under the arterial wall.
The process leading up to a heart attack starts
with a damaged, inflamed arterial wall and
then the body wants to mend that damage, much
like it would want to mend a cut you might
have, so it sends cholesterol and other things
like calcium, and fibrin in an attempt to
seal up the hole.
Sure cholesterol is found inside this inflamed
area, but you would blame getting burned for
your blister, not the fluid that builds up.
Blaming cholesterol instead of the inflammation
is like blaming one of the firemen instead
of the fire.
Back to the Okinawan people: they have such
a low incidence of heart disease because they’re
not eating foods that cause inflammation so
atherosclerosis never develops.
Of course they live long: they eat locally
grown, organic, fiber rich vegetables designed
to nourish them, not optimized for profit
and laden with pesticides.
Keep in mind by the way that the saturated
fat our homo sapien ancestors were getting
was from wild animals, (cage free, pasture
raised, organic – that is)not from highly
processed ham slices in Kraft Food’s “Lunchables”
, and certainly not from the butter of cows
pumped with hormones while living in cow jail
and eating processed corn scrap.
Also they were getting their unsaturated fat
in the form of omega-3’s from fish and omega-6’s
from nuts, not mostly from Canola seeds that
had to be washed in hexane solvent & sodium
hydroxide, bleached and then steam injected.
Wait a minute, but What if you have too much
It doesn’t really matter.
One of the authors of the “The Great Cholesterol
Myth,” Dr. Johnny Bowden explained in this
lecture that in the Lyon Diet Heart Study
they had a group of 605 people with high cholesterol
and a very high risk of heart disease.
In one group they put them on the Mediterranean
diet and in another they recommended they
cut saturated fat, reduce cholesterol intake
to 300mg per day and follow the “healthy”
Cardiac death and all cause mortality on the
Mediterranean diet was significantly lower
than on the low saturated fat diet.
After explaining this, Dr. Bowden says “What
do you think happened to the cholesterol of
the people on the Mediterranean diet?
Their cholesterol didn’t budge.
They just stopped dying.
Cholesterol had nothing to do with it.”
OK so total cholesterol is not a useful piece
But what about the HDL “good” cholesterol
and the LDL “bad” cholesterol?
This concept is also outdated.
In Peter Attia’s wonderfully long and technical
talk about cholesterol he explains…
“We were taught that LDL cholesterol is
the big risk right, if your LDL cholesterol
is high, you are at risk for heart disease.
And yet we’re seeing that some of the time
that turns out to be patently false.
This is a study that looked at 136,000 patients
admitted to the hospital for a coronary artery
And in these patients they looked at LDL cholesterol
level and you can see that nearly 50% of them
had what you would consider a low LDL cholesterol
There are a number of different types and
sizes of HDL and LDL particles, and what is
actually important is to avoid having too
many triglycerides sitting in your bloodstream,
which are also transported by lipoproteins.
Peter cites studies that show an increase
in processed carbohydrates and sugar leads
to an increase in the triglyceride concentration.
The best way for the subjects to decrease
their triglyceride concentration was ironically
to go on a higher fat, low carbohydrate diet.
Therefore these low-fat products marketed
to health conscious people that switch fat
for more carbohydrates are directly increasing
your risk for heart disease.
We trusted you, Snackwell’s
One quick thing: If that last part had you
thinking “how in the world could sugar,
instead of fat, lead to a higher triglyceride
Take a moment to look at Doug McGuff’s thorough
explanation of glucose metabolism here or
you can see my cliffnotes version here.
It wasn’t like nobody knew that the culprit
behind our health problems wasn’t so much
fat, but sugar.
British physiologist John Yudkin wrote a book
in 1972 “Pure, White and Deadly: The Problem
of Sugar” which correctly warned that the
consumption of sugar is what is really dangerous
to our health, an argument he had made since
at least 1957.
Nonetheless, in 1977, the US government gave
us our new low fat healthy guidelines.
and What’s happened since then?
Hospitalizations for Heart Failure went up
and heart disease is still the leading cause
of death in the world.
In fact, when it comes to weight gain, the
data suggests people started gaining weight
immediately after the guidelines came out.
“Hey Clinton, get back to work!”
We now understand that:
1 Knowing total cholesterol as well as “good”
and “bad” cholesterol are virtually irrelevant
to your health
2 Reducing inflammation, and triglyceride
concentration in the blood is what is actually
important for avoiding heart disease
and 3 The real things you need to limit are
sugar and processed carbohydrates.
Despite all this, the same guidelines are
still in place.
What is worse than that is we’re still being
prescribed Statin drugs, whose harmful effects
are a constant testament to how important
cholesterol is for the body.
Some of you might even have been prescribed
If so, you might want to ask your doctor what
the number needed to treat for statin drugs
Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin explains that
the number needed to treat is the number of
people that have to take the drug before one
person actually benefits from it.
“…So The number needed to treat for the
most widely prescribed statin, what do you
suppose it is?
How many people have to take it before one
person is helped?
300 people have to take the drug for a year
before one heart attack, stroke or other adverse
event is prevented.
So for this particular drug, the side effects
occur in 5 percent of the patients and they
include terrible things – debilitating muscle
and joint pain.
But now you’re thinking well 5%, not very
likely it’s going to happen to me, I’ll still
take the drug.
but wait a minute.
300 people take the drug, right?
One person’s helped, five percent of those
300 have side effects, that’s 15 people.
You are 15 times more likely to be harmed
by the drug than you are to be helped by the
By the way, remember how I said cholesterol
is important for producing sex hormones like
testosterone and estrogen?
What do you think the second highest revenue
prescription drug is for Pfizer after Lipitor,
which is the #1 prescribed statin?
Viagra comes in right after Lipitor.
There’s only an 8% difference between the
Let me end this video with a rule of thumb
you can use to pick out your food:
Just think about how much something has been
screwed with before you make the decision
to eat that.
For example: coca Leaves in their natural
state are quite harmless, the farmers in the
Andes have chewed on them for hundreds of
years for a small boost in energy.
However, when you process the hell out of
them, you get cocaine.
Eating a lot of sugar beets probably isn’t
so bad for you, but if you boil them in water
to make a crude syrup, then wash that solution
with calcium hydroxide and proceed to refine
it with 6 different boilers… maybe you shouldn’t
put the resulting white powder in your coffee
You can apply this idea to anything from processed
cheese to packages of so called “whole wheat
This goes for fats and meat too.
If Jack the cow just had to walk around and
eat grass, the food that comes from him is
going to be more nutritional than Jeff the
cow’s if Jeff had to be confined to a tiny
space, given all sorts of antibiotics, and
fed corn all his life.
Here’s a fun fact: Livestock consume 70%
of the antibiotics in the united states.
They need these antibiotics to survive the
ill health effects caused by confinement and
the acidosis that results from a corn based
diet – a diet which is completely unnatural
for a cow to eat.
I’m not here to sell you on any one diet
or argue what macronutrient ratio is best.
However, I can tell you for certain that this
sugary processed crap that has somehow found
its way into every store on the planet isn’t
what our bodies need.
It’s more likely that our recent health
problems came from the nutritional sacrifices
that were made for better profits, and not
from a basic macronutrient like fat that we
have been eating for centuries.
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I eat once a day here.