Low-Carb High-Fat Convention: The Obesity Epidemic
Real Meal Revolution
Harcombe presents some pertinent statistics behind the well-known surge in obesity that began around 1980, give or take a few years. In the UK in 1966 the obesity rate was 1.8 percent. By 1999 it was up to 25.8 percent. She shows a picture of one of the more extreme cases, a teenager named Georgia Davis who weighs in at a svelte 400 kg. We in the States have never been big fans of the metric system so I will translate. That is about 880 pounds.
What happened? Did we suddenly become lazy pigs? Maybe some did, but in general, no. One key development about that time was the release of new dietary guidelines by the committee headed by George McGovern. These guidelines really kicked off the lowfat craze in the United States, followed a few years later in the UK and then the rest of the world. A lowfat diet by necessity becomes a high-carb diet, and the most tempting carbs are the sugary junk foods. What could possibly go wrong?
The next question is why the big change in dietary recommendations? Many assume that there were studies showing fat as the favorite weapon of the Grim Reaper. The main culprits covered in this video are Ancel Keys and Bugs Bunny. Bugs Bunny himself actually was not to blame and, as a cartoon character, was rather harmless (and highly entertaining). It was all those rabbits who were fed cholesterol in animal experiments and got clogged up by it. The thing is, it wasn’t really their fault either because they were fed things they were not designed to eat. More appropriate animals like rats and dogs had no problem eating cholesterol.
As for Ancel Keys, he claimed early on that dietary cholesterol had no effect on blood levels of cholesterol, yet later in his Seven Countries Study he asserted that higher dietary fat and cholesterol led to greater risk of death from heart disease. As we’ve said many times, that study came from heavily cherry-picked data. Harcombe points out that there is a stronger correlation in his data between heart disease and latitude than cholesterol. Maybe all we need to do to fix this is move south.
She then shows a graph from a modern version of the Seven Countries Study but now including one hundred ninety-two countries. The data points are very scattered but there is a slight trend toward lower deaths from all causes (a much better metric anyway) and higher cholesterol levels. In other words, higher cholesterol correlates with living longer.
Returning to a diet featuring animal foods and the fat they contain—the diet that has sustained us for 99.9+ percent of our human history—might seem oddly radical in today’s world. Our experiment with lowfat, tasteless swill has failed, so maybe it is time for something radical.
Obstacles to this radical change include public health authorities, economic factors and conflicts of interest. Health authorities and experts in general always hate to admit they were wrong and might not be as smart as they want everyone to believe they are. Economically speaking, what are we going to do with all those employees of fast fooderies when we start eating real food again? And what of the medical practitioners who will be out of jobs due to lack of patients? What about Pepsi? Pepsi makes more money than 65 percent of the countries of the world. The economic devastation is just too great to contemplate. We can’t afford to get healthy.
Several charts on conflict of interest paint the picture clearly. The American Dietetic Association is sponsored by the likes of General Mills, Kellogg’s, SoyJoy, Mars, Coca Cola and Pepsi. The British Nutrition Foundation is sponsored by Nestlé, Coca Cola, McDonald’s, Kellogg’s, Kraft, Cadbury, Pepsi, and others. The Association for Dietetics in South Africa is sponsored by Kellogg’s, Nestlé and so on. In many cases, these are not just sponsors but “partners.”
Michael Pollan is famous for saying, “Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.” In contrast, Zoë Harcombe likes to say, “Eat food, mostly animals, quite a lot.” The lecture hall where this talk was given has a nifty widget on the podium with green, yellow, and red lights to alert the speaker. Green: you have plenty of time. Yellow: time to wrap it up. Red, you’re done, watch out for the big hook coming at you from the side. As the red light was flashing, Harcombe referred to the late Barry Groves who said civilized man is the only chronically sick animal on the planet. She asked whether this might be because he is the only species clever enough to make his own food … and stupid enough to eat it. I think the red light is blinking on this review, so to sum up: thumbs UP.