When we visit family in Croatia I’m often astonished at how much fat they eat.
Everything from olive oil to the fattiest chucks of meat you can imagine. I recall a friend, who I was backpacking with back in the 1990s, astonished at the fact that my family left the lean cuts of meat behind as they enjoyed the fattiest chunks.
So to read that the now infamous Ancel Keys used Italians (Italy is right next door to Croatia) as an excuse to recommend decrease fat intake is rather hilarious.
Here’s a quote from a Washington Post article,
The history of the fat warning is usually traced to the work of Ancel Keys, a scientist at the University of Minnesota, whose study of heart disease in the 1950s startled the medical world.
Keys examined fat consumption and rates of heart disease in various countries. In places where people eat lots of fat, he found high levels of heart disease. One of his famous charts, from 1953, showed that in the United States, where close to 40 percent of the diet came from fat, people suffered a disproportionate number of heart disease deaths. People in Japan and Italy, by contrast, consumed less fat and died of heart disease less often.
We’d love to know what Dr. Keys was using to measure the amount of fat Italians were eating.
From casual observations of people in that area of the world, I’d say they eat a lot more fat than Mr. Keys believed.
Maybe they were sneaking in some bacon, fatty milk, and cheese when he wasn’t around?
Luckily such flimsy science is finally being challenged, from the same article:
But even as a Senate committee was developing the Dietary Goals, some experts were lamenting that the case against saturated fats, though thinly supported, was being presented as if it were a sure thing.
“The vibrant certainty of scientists claiming to be authorities on these matters is disturbing,” George V. Mann, a biochemist at Vanderbilt’s medical school wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Ambitious scientists and food companies, he said, had “transformed [a] fragile hypothesis into treatment dogma.”
Indeed, the subsequent 40 years of science have proven that, if nothing else, the warning against saturated fats was simplistic.
By itself, cutting saturated fats appears to do little to reduce heart disease. Several evidence reviews — essentially summing up years of research — have found no link.
“There is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease,” said one published in 2010 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.