Except of course things I write about nutrition. That is not wasted time and may save your life. I jest. Only slightly. In an informative blog post at the NY Times, we find out that new findings on nutrition questions whether fat really gives you heart disease. For decades now, since Ancel Keys screwed us all over with a crappy study attempting to relate diet to heart disease, we have been told, nay yelled at until we were deaf, that saturated fat was killing us, that butter was the enemy, that bacon was Satan’s way to convince men (who liked it better than apples) to stray from their wives and sin. I exaggerate only slightly. We were told to use hydrogenated vegetable oils instead of lard, magical trans fat human made margarine instead of butter, grains and bread instead of steak. Like so many things the government told us, it was all wrong.
As it turns out, nature is difficult to improve upon. We ate animal fats for centuries. Hunter-gatherer populations (the Inuit) who subsist on fat have low incidences of heart disease. Hunter-gatherers (the !Kung) whose diet is made up in large part by the mongongo nut, a high (80%) fat nut have a low incidence of heart disease. It starts to look, when we actually bother to examine things, that fat isn’t that bad. Except the fats we super smart humans make up like trans fats which turns out kills us on a regular basis. Imagine that, something man-made, a supposed improvement on nature, turns out to be highly toxic.
In the linked study, we get this gem from Alice H. Lichtenstein, lead author of the original American Heart Association’s dietary guidelines, which recommend that people restrict saturated fat: “it would be unfortunate if these results were interpreted to suggest that people can go back to eating butter and cheese with abandon”. Ahem. Back in 1910, we ate tons of butter and lard. Guess what, low incidence of heart disease. Of course she has to say that, she wrote the original guidelines saying saturated fat is bad. We can’t admit mistakes, now can we? Someone might sue us.
Common sense ought to tell us that the following things are good for us: meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds. These are the things Mother Nature taught us to eat and we’ve been doing pretty well as a species for a little while now, nutritionally speaking anyway. Things that can sit on a shelf for 24 months and still be “edible”? Common sense ought to tell us to stay the hell away from those. Made up foods that were created in a laboratory? Highly dangerous. Foods that consist almost entirely of sugar? Deadly.
Speaking of sugar, it’s almost worse than made up fats from Uncle Sam’s laboratory. Dr. Richard Johnson has done some amazing research into sugar and it’s extremely negative effects on our bodies. Sugar and its man made evil cousins are the reason why obesity and Type 2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is rapidly becoming the epidemic of our age. Sugary diets are far more likely to cause heart disease and inflammation than saturated fats. But our government can’t tell us that because there’s a sugar lobby not to mention that little problem with having told us saturated fats are bad for decades.
The real story here is that nutritional “science” is in its infancy and we have no idea what we’re talking about. The best thing we can do is eat things that are actually food. If there is an ingredient list, don’t eat it. If it’s second ingredient is sugar, don’t eat it. If it has something made in a laboratory in it, don’t eat it. If it can sit on your shelf for years and when the zombies come still be edible, keep it just in case the zombies do come but don’t eat it on a regular basis. It’s ok to have Spam in the house but only for emergencies. Eat real food. Things that you know had a face at one point or things that you could grow in your backyard. There is no Doritos tree. Stop eating crap and you’ll be amazed at how good you feel.