Knowing what you believe and why you believe it, being passionate about sharing the truths you have learned through doing your own independent research, and not being intimidated by the so-called health “experts” out there who pretend to know all there is to know about diet, health, and nutrition are all hallmarks of the people who are a part of the enthusiastic and informed low-carb community. I am proud to walk side-by-side with people like this who are unafraid and unabashed in their sincere desire to expose the fraud of conventional wisdom regarding healthy living while spreading the facts about why the high-fat, low-carbohydrate nutritional approach is working so incredibly well for people who desire optimal health. One such person who exemplifies the essence of communicating the low-carb message effectively to those in positions of power and influence within the health industry is David Brown.
Describing himself as a “self-styled nutrition science analyst,” Brown has certainly taken on a rather unique approach to bringing about change to the vice-grip that the inner circle of the health establishment has on public opinion regarding what healthy living is. Through his “Nutrition Education Project” blog and direct interactions with nutritional opinion-makers worldwide, he is offering up non-threatening messages that include many of the concepts you and I already understand about the inseparable and undeniable relationship between the right kind of diet and disease prevention. You might recall in March 2009 when I wrote about when David called out Dr. David Katz for his insane comments about the Frank Sacks study on calories published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Well, he’s at it again, this time in casual response to something intriguing he saw on the American Society For Nutrition web site.
Here’s what he wrote to me:
I stumbled across two interesting blog posts by students on the American Society for Nutrition web site. The first begins:
“Truly, I am neither an obesity researcher nor a public health policy expert. But I do read material on this issue every now and then, and recently, I asked myself, why? United States is blessed with enormous research resources, facilities and funding, but still why can’t we address the issue of obesity?”
“Over the past decade the use of low fat milk has become more prominent than the use of whole milk because there is substantial scientific evidence that consumption of foods high in fat causes weight gain and increases the risk of heart disease and cancer. However, there is some controversy over whether processed low-fat pasteurized milk can meet the needs of developing offspring and whether it should be consumed during pregnancy and development.”
Several paragraphs later:
“According to a cohort study of 12,829 US children aged 9 to 14 years, weight gain is associated with excess calorie intake and consumption of low fat or skim milk, but is not associated with drinking whole milk products. This finding although surprising is consistent with some animal findings. Pigs fed reduced-fat milk gain weight easily while pigs fed whole milk stay lean. Male rats fed whole milk had significantly lower concentrations of plasma triglycerides, very low-density lipoproteins and apolipoprotein B than rats fed low fat milk. The effects of whole milk on lipid profile and body composition are not well understood, but the process of removing fat from milk may in part be responsible for some of the observed effects. Milk is an emulsion of butterfat globules and water-based fluid. Butterfat contains unique nutrients that support thyroid function and help the body develop muscle rather than fat…”
Hmm. Butterfat supports thyroid function and helps the body develop muscle. So why in the world are school children urged to consume low-fat milk laced with sugar-sweetened flavorings? Could it be because the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have both declared that saturated fat is a health hazard?
In New Zealand the prejudice against saturated fat is intense. Dr. Rod Jackson is Professor of Epidemiology at the School of Population Health, University of Auckland.
He says in this news story, “We have a health tax on alcohol and cigarettes and there should be a health tax on butter. It’s the most poisonous commonly consumed food in New Zealand. It’s about the purest form of saturated fat you can eat and it has no protein and no calcium. Butter has had all the good things taken out and just left the poison.”
With that kind of pressure, it’s not surprising that a New Zealand biotech firm, ViaLactia , would screen millions of bovines in search of a cow that produces low-fat milk. They found one and named her Marge because butter made from her milk is spreadable straight from the fridge, rather like margarine.
Note that I am copying this to Professor Jackson and for his benefit I’ll say that I consume between two and three pounds of butter a week. I also drink about a gallon and a half of raw, whole milk and eat cheese, sour cream, yogurt, and cottage cheese. Only the cottage cheese is the low-fat version. I’m 62, have a body mass index of 20, and am lean and muscular. We have an 18-year-old Down syndrome boy who is also lean and muscular which is surprising considering his sedentary habits. We put lots of butter on his vegetables.
If Professor Jackson were to listen to an 89 minute lecture by Robert Lustig, MD entitled “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” then perhaps he would realize that the real poison is sugar.
See what I mean about David and his desire to share the truth to anyone he can find to share it with? He’s quite thorough in his correspondence and lays out all the details without resorting to any unnecessary negative verbiage to make his points. Interestingly, oftentimes he is ignored with no response whatsoever from the people he copies in on these messages, but not this one. Dr. Jackson was so intrigued by what he read from David that he decided to hop in on the conversation over saturated fat. Here’s what he wrote:
Dear David and Jimmy – thank you for copying me in on your discussion. I think it is important to distiguish between the different effects of fat on health. Saturated fat is the underlying cause of coronary heart disease – the single biggest killer in the western world. Fortunately most Americans are aware of this and over the last 40 years consumption of saturated fats, including butter, which is almost pure saturated fat, have fallen dramatically. Over the same period coronary heart disease deaths have fallen by almost 75%. No other common disease has fallen by so much so quickly.
However it is possible that replacing high fat food with low fat high sugar food may be responsible in part for the increase in obesity. So we are living much longer now because of the reduction in saturated fat consumption but the price we nay have paid for this is obesity.
Where’s the proof about this, Dr. Jackson? Just saying that saturated fat leads to heart disease which is killing people more than anything else in the United States doesn’t make it so. And, unless I’m missing something, heart disease is worse than it has ever been before and even took my 41-year old brother Kevin from me in 2008. Reading this response from Dr. Jackson, I couldn’t resist sharing my reaction to his assertions about saturated fat with the health improvements I have seen personally in my own life since beginning a high-fat, low-carb program over five years ago. Here was what I wrote back to him:
Thank you David and Mr. Jackson! However, I concur with David’s personal consumption of saturated fat-filled foods and you can include coconut oil, pastured eggs, grass-fed beef, heavy cream, butter, and more that regularly find their way into my diet. Keep in mind that this saturated fat consumption is in conjunction with a reduced carbohydrate diet and a moderate intake of protein.
In fact, the macronutrient ratio of fat/protein/carbs in my diet is likely around 70/25/5 as a percentage of total caloric intake. And today I am healthier than I have ever been before with lipid numbers that would blow the minds of most of the nutrition “experts” around the world who are stuck on the “saturated fat will kill you” mantra that is truly unfortunate. David is 100% correct about this. We need to stop vilifying saturated fat (read the great research being conducted by Dr. Jeff Volek from the University of Connecticut on this subject ) and instead turn our attention to the inflammatory components of foods made with sugar or that turn to sugar in the body (starch, for example).
In light of your observations regarding the reduction of saturated fat in the American diet being replaced with high-carb sugary ones, what do you propose the saturated fat be replaced with? This is a curious discussion and gets to the very heart of the question at hand. THANK YOU for your feedback and I appreciate your perspective.
I was sincerely interested in hearing what foods Dr. Jackson believed should be consumed to replace the saturated fat in our diet that he believes is so dangerous to our health. If he agrees that the high-carb foods that have typically replaced the saturated fat consumption are bad, then what SHOULD people be eating instead? Here’s what he wrote:
Hi again guys – I think you may very well be onto something regarding the fat-obesity association which is currently unexplained by the scientific community. Certainly declining national fat consumption has not led to declining fatness! However, with all due respect to your personal experience with saturated fat, which cannot really be considered as scientific evidence and with respect to the relatively small numbers of studies with results that conflict with the saturated fat-coronary heart disease (CHD) relationship, its worth looking more broadly at the evidence and it is particularly important not to confuse the saturated fat-CHD relationship with the fat-obesity relationship.
The totality of the evidence on millions of people from basic biochemistry through metabolic ward studies, large scale cohort studies, randomised controls and finally the plummeting coronary heart disease death rates across the western world in line with major falls in saturated fat consumption and blood cholesterol levels, provides better evidence for the saturated fat – CHD relationship than anything else in medicine. I have spent over 25 years reviewing this evidence and it is important not to cherry pick the individual studies that suggest it is not true. There will always be some conflicting evidence – it is the nature of science – and the modern way to address this is to undertake systematic reviews of all the high quality evidence.
With regard to your question about what to replace saturated fat with, for our heart-health, the scientific answer is fortunately available – mono-unsaturated fats like olive oil etc. What science has yet to answer is the best diet to reduce obesity. Low glycaemic index diets are looking better than the alternatives and as I am sure you know, fats have a low glycaemic index.
It is great to correspond with people who are passionate about health but it concerns me greatly that you are unable to accept the overwhelming evidence against saturated fat and may die lean but prematurely. I am also concerned about you misguiding others. The advice people like me have been giving governments and the public about reducing their risk of heart disease over the last 25 years seems to have been extremely successful. Of course disease is caused by combinations of multiple factors and we all know about the health 100 year-old who has smoking every day (or eaten a pound of butter) from the age of 12 years. But you need to put all the evidence together. I am sure sugar is harmful but the issue is not saturated fat versus sugar.
Best wishes and good health,
OUCH! How’s that for a slap-in-the-face to those of us who are livin’ la vida low-carb? I’ll admit I was taken aback at first by his brazenness in describing what healthy saturated fat consumption will allegedly do in bringing about my early demise. But you gotta ask what planet is this guy living on to STILL believe this is true in light of all we are learning from science about the health properties of saturated fat? At the same time, it’s really not surprising to see such a dogmatic belief system creeping its way into nutritional science which has been built on a bald face lie all these decades later since the days of Ancel Keyes and the like in the 1950’s. I couldn’t help but write back to Dr. Jackson yet again:
Thanks for your concern, Dr. Jackson. But while my comments are only anecdotal, I can tell you that I’m not even referring to the weight loss benefits of high-fat, low-carb eating. My objective with everything I am doing on behalf of high-fat, low-carb diets is entirely about health and the massive improvements this way of eating produces.
In my own health, I’ve seen my triglycerides plummet from 300 to below 50, my HDL rise from low 20s to 70, my BP fall from 180/90 to 125/75, and most recently I had a heart scan to see how much plaque build-up was in my arterial walls of my heart. The result? ZERO!
Again, I acknowledge I am but one example, but I hear from people every single day with similar numbers and it’s difficult to ignore the evidence even if it doesn’t come from the scientific community. I highly encourage you to read more about the health benefits of consuming saturated fats from people like Dr. Mary Enig, Dr. Jeff Volek, Dr. Stephen Phinney, Gary Taubes and many more. I can appreciate your concern, but it is quite unwarranted in light of all we are learning. Thanks for your response.
The best case scenario I was hoping for from Dr. Jackson would have been for him to take me up on my suggestion to learn more from those experts I cited, but instead he chose to withdraw from the conversation accusing me of being too sure of what I believe and unwilling to compromise or bend. Well, when you have the truth on your side, there’s really no sense in relinquishing what you know to be facts. Here’s what he wrote:
Hi Jimmy – it is probably best if this is my last response, because it would seem to me that perhaps you have already made up your mind about this. Unfortunately the plural of anecdote is not evidence and whoever told you that they can tell from a scan that you have zero plaque is not telling you the truth because every adult human being has plaque in their arteries.
With regard to the people you quote, I have been told about several of them before and have read some of their work. Journalists like Taubes make a living selling books and you won’t sell books with titles like “Everything scientists saying about saturated fat and heart disease for the last 50 years is true!” I don’t mean to be disrespectful but my two areas of expertise over the last 25 years have been heart disease epidemiology and interpreting evidence and the book of his I looked at [GOOD CALORIES, BAD CALORIES] didn’t rate well on even a very basic critique.
I hope you are one of those lucky people who doesn’t get premature CHD from eating too much saturated fat. You have obviously been very successful with your weight loss and it would be a real shame if you dropped dead prematurely of heart disease. I am sure many people have already told you that your hero, Atkins, was not a great role model for longevity. That’s a bit ‘below the belt’ as I am slipping into anecdote, but as the ‘evidence’ you have mentioned in your emails has been mainly anecdote, perhaps its useful to remind you of this. Anyway it has been fun communicating with you.
Best wishes and good luck,
And with that final blow, this roundtable discussion over saturated fat came to an abrupt end. It’s always curious to see how people like Dr. Jackson can pretend to remain objective about the supposed relationship between saturated fat consumption and coronary heart disease while maintaining such an obvious disdain for basic decency and professionalism in corresponding with someone challenging his positions. This is one of the reasons we fight an uphill battle attempting to change the hearts and minds of the general public about the nutritional untruths they have been fed. But you gotta appreciate David Brown for stirring the pot from time to time to get these “experts” to think a little.
Wanna share your thoughts with Dr. Rod Jackson about how healthy saturated fat consumption has been for you? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your story. You can also write to David Brown to thank him for his courageous efforts in communicating nutritional truths to those who need to hear it the most. As always, I welcome your feedback about this in the comments section below! What do you think about what Dr. Jackson had to say about saturated fat leading to heart disease and death? This should be a fun conversation.