Tuesday, April 27, 2010

You Can Eat the Butter, But Skip the Bread

The evidence is mounting:

Carbs are bad.

Saturated fat? Not so much.

Conventional wisdom -- “go low-fat” -- got it ass-backwards. The persistent belief in “low-fat” diets -- premised on four decades of flawed governmental findings, limited and/or mis-cited studies, agribusiness interests, scientific hyberbole, and willful blindness -- has led Americans to stuff ever-increasing amounts of processed carbohydrates in their mouths in place of proteins and good fats. And it’s killing us.

Gary Taubes’ 2002 New York Times Magazine article (“What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?”) and 2007 book (“Good Calories, Bad Calories”) covered this subject in exhaustive and compelling detail, but at the time, many dismissed him as another Atkins nut. (Others rejoiced.) But more and more, it looks like he was right on the money: Refined carbs -- not saturated fat – are responsible for the health epidemic associated with obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease (a.k.a., metabolic syndrome, or Syndrome X).

Scientific American is the latest to echo Taubes’ assessment of carbs versus fat:

[W]hile Americans have dutifully reduced the percentage of daily calories from saturated fat since 1970, the obesity rate during that time has more than doubled, diabetes has tripled, and heart disease is still the country’s biggest killer. Now a spate of new research, including a meta-analysis of nearly two dozen studies, suggests a reason why: investigators may have picked the wrong culprit. Processed carbohydrates, which many Americans eat today in place of fat, may increase the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease more than fat does—a finding that has serious implications for new dietary guidelines expected this year.

“If you reduce saturated fat and replace it with high glycemic-index carbohydrates, you may not only not get benefits—you might actually produce harm,” Ludwig argues. The next time you eat a piece of buttered toast, he says, consider that “butter is actually the more healthful component.”
Read the entire article here. And if you’re interested in all the gory details about how American health officials and nutrition experts got it so very wrong for so very long, check out Taubes’ book or watch his 2007 lecture at U.C. Berkeley.