In February of 1977 the US government select committee on nutrition set forth “Dietary Goals for the United States”, but there was dissent among some of the researchers who advocated for more comprehensive studies, because they believed the evidence for the guidelines was inconclusive to support cutting saturated fat from the American diet. We all know that cholesterol and saturated fat are not good for us and can lead to heart disease right? In your practices are you not still telling your patients that they need to avoid saturated and cholesterol and choose “good fats” sparingly? You may want to reconsider.

Dr. Robert Olson, one of the leading researchers at that time recounted  an exchange he had with Senator George McGovern, in which he said: “I plead in my report and will plead again orally here for more research on the problem before we make announcements to the American public.” McGovern replied: “Senators don’t have the luxury that the research scientist does of waiting until every last shred of evidence is in.”

The guidelines were published anyway, backed by questionable research studies, and for past forty years have been preached as the gold standard in dietary recommendations. Most recently we are starting to see more evidence to contradict those original studies and guidelines. In 2017 Time published Bryan Walsh’s “Ending the War on Fat.” Walsh quotes Philip Handler, who was president of the National Academy of Sciences in 1980. He called the fat guidelines a “vast nutritional experiment.” According to Walsh, “the experiment was a failure. We cut the fat, but by almost every measure, Americans are sicker than ever.”

In reviewing the 1977 recommendations the call to reduce cholesterol and saturated fat was well intentioned but flawed. If you read the guidelines you will see that all the recommendations are not all wrong. The guidelines called for decreased consumption of sugar and salt, and to increase fruits and vegetables, no problem there. It is the fat and cholesterol where the controversy emerges. So to give you a little more insight here are a few facts and misconceptions on how fat , lipids, and cholesterol are stored in the body.

True or False  When we order lipid panels and are looking at LDL -we are measuring bad “cholesterol”  This is false, there are no blood cholesterol levels. Back in the 1940’s, Ancel Keys, Ph.D came up with a formula (Change in serum cholesterol concentration (mmol/l) = 0.031(2Dsf − Dpuf) + 1.5√Dch ) to predict how much cholesterol we have. Keys went on to write that “There’s no connection whatsoever between cholesterol in food and cholesterol in blood. And we’ve known that all along.” Ancel Keys, Ph.D., professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota 1997.

In 2015, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee in the US, having reviewed all the evidence made this statement: “Cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”

After doing much reading it is becoming more clear that sugar and high glycemic carbohydrates are a major contributor disease and poor health vs. fats. I am not advocating you or your patients go out and start eating a half pound of bacon for breakfast every morning, how about some avocado, nuts or olives instead ? Do your research and make informed choices.

Below are some very good articles and links on this topic. I especially found Dr.Michael Kendricks article “Why saturated fat cannot raise cholesterol levels (LDL)” very informative on this topic of cholesterol and understanding lipids.



Categories: Diabetes, Diet, Obesity

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