The Big Fat Surprise

Why Meat, Butter, and Cheese Belong in A Healthy Diet

Teicholz, Nina

Book - 2014
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The Big Fat Surprise
Challenges popular misconceptions about fats and nutrition science, revealing the distorted claims of nutrition studies while arguing that more dietary fat can lead to better health, wellness, and fitness. Investigative journalist Nina Teicholz reveals here that everything we thought we knew about dietary fat is wrong. She documents how the low-fat nutrition advice of the past sixty years has amounted to a vast uncontrolled experiment on the entire population, with disastrous consequences for our health. For decades, we have been told that the best possible diet involves cutting back on fat, especially saturated fat, and that if we are not getting healthier or thinner, we are not trying hard enough. But what if the low-fat diet is itself the problem? Based on a nine-year investigation, Teicholz shows how the misinformation about saturated fats took hold in the scientific community and the public imagination, and how recent findings have overturned these beliefs. She explains why the Mediterranean Diet is not the healthiest, and how we might be replacing trans fats with something even worse. She upends the conventional wisdom with the groundbreaking claim that more, not less, dietary fat--including saturated fat--is what leads to better health and wellness. Science shows that we have been needlessly avoiding meat, cheese, whole milk, and eggs for decades and that we can now, guilt-free, welcome these delicious foods back into our lives.--From publisher description.

Publisher: New York :, Simon & Schuster,, 2014
Edition: First Simon & Schuster hardcover editon.
ISBN: 1451624433
Characteristics: ix, 479 pages :,illustrations ;,24 cm


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Jul 03, 2014
  • MaxineML rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

A well-researched and utterly fascinating look at our modern diet, health and the politics that have led us to this place.

Highly recommended for anyone who eats food.

It seems, based off of Teicholz's research, that after the introduction of Crisco in 1911 the overall health of Americans went downhill. In the 1940's and 1950's with heart-disease starting to strike down many men, researchers went looking for a reason. Based off of small samples, and flawed studies, they hit on cholesterol as the culprit. However, there is a difference between the cholesterol you eat and the cholesterol your body makes (just like there is a different between dietary fat and bodily fat), that went unnoticed by the researchers at this time. Saturated dietary fats were unnecessarily maligned, and people told to stop eating them (red-meat being the biggest one).

And we did.

And replaced those saturated fats (lard, butter, whole milk etc.) with partially-hydrogenated oils (Crisco, etc.), and vegetable oils (corn, soy, sunflower).

Yet, heart disease didn't go down. In fact, it went up - as did heart disease in women, diabetes, obesity and the other metabolic syndromes.

However, by the time people started finding out these other ideas about saturated fats, carbohydrates, sugar, and HDL and LDL cholesterol, the "low-fat" diet had become entrenched in government health pyramids, research funding, university professors, general nutrition research and societal eating habits. If you think it's difficult for an organization to change tack when new information comes to light, that is nothing to how government will react (very slowly, if at all).

There are also fascinating glimpses in this book to the politics of nutrition research and funding, and the cult of personality that has built up around some of the key characters in this story - Ancel Keys, Walter Willett, Dean Ornish, Robert Atkins...

Teicholz is pointing the finger here at vegetable oils, and a lack of saturated fat in our diets, but there is also quite a bit of evidence that the increase in sugar in our food, as well as the increase in refined carbohydrates can also be linked to these metabolic diseases.

So - eat all the butter and cheese and red-meat that you'd like. Cut down on sugar and refined carbs. Cut down on vegetable oils. And generally disregard any health claims made by anyone :)

Truly, a great book - I don't think I can recommend this enough. For those who are interested in the topic you can also read: Good Calories, Bad Calories and Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health.


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