As heart disease and obesity continue to plague the US, many people believe that the recent proliferation of high-fat diets is the major culprit. As a consequence, many people aim to significantly reduce the amount of saturated fats they consume with the hope that they will be slimmer, healthier, and happier. However, many leading researchers in the medical field have found that this is simply not the case. In FAT: IT'S NOT WHAT YOU THINK (Prometheus, $15.95), technical writer Connie Leas, having spent years researching the subject, presents the findings of recent fat studies, explains the science behind fat and the way it interacts with your body, and sheds light on how the public has been misled into thinking that natural fats are unhealthy.
In making her argument, Leas offers some startling facts. For example:
- Overweight people live longer than those in the so-called "healthy" range of the BMI scale.
- No one has ever shown a correlation between egg consumption and cardiovascular disease.
- Doctors often prescribe statin drugs when our cholesterol level reaches 240, even though this is actually within the normal range.
- A porterhouse steak contains more unsaturated fat than saturated fat.
- Today Americans consume 15 percent less fat than we did in 1970, yet overall we are 20 percent fatter.
All of these statements seem to be counter to the popular conception of the relationship between fat consumption and health, a conception that Professor of Medicine and Biochemistry at Vanderbilt University George Mann, MD, calls "the greatest biomedical error of the twentieth century." Dr. Mann elaborates, "For fifty years the public has been told by officials of the American Heart Association and the National Heart Institute that this epidemic disease is caused by dietary saturated fatty acids and cholesterol. This advice is quite wrong...the advice lingers, for selfish personal reasons and commercial avarice."
In FAT, Leas expands on Dr. Mann's statements, tracing the history of the research and explains why the public so whole-heartedly embraces erroneous ideas about fat and health. She points out that many scientists admit that the original studies on fat were not properly conducted. Dr. Ronald Krauss, who has headed up the Nutrition Committee for the American Heart Association agrees, "The message of low fat has not been based on the best science." Yet, because of the methods for issuing recommendations and warnings, namely, through a voting consensus in which most members of the committee defer to the knowledge of others, the Association continues to warn against the consumption of fats. Furthermore, food and drug companies have jumped on the misinformation and have used it to create marketing campaigns for all kinds of "low fat" and "cholesterol-lowering" products.
In contrast, Leas points to a number of studies that offer convincing evidence that the over-consumption of carbohydrates and the past proliferation of synthetic transfat--a truly dangerous fat--are actually to blame for the obesity and heart disease epidemics.
Throughout the book, Leas explains the science behind fats in a manner that the layperson can easily comprehend. She also explains the terminology often used in fat discussions that most people do not really understand, such as triglycerides, polyunsaturated, omega-3, and transfat, allowing everyone to truly know what is in their foods so that they can make informed health decisions. Nina Planck, author of REAL FOOD: WHAT TO EAT AND WHY, sees the importance of this, "Americans are terrified of fat, doctors tell myths about fat, and journalists repeat them. Butter is good for you and corn oil isn't. Don't be the last one to know why: read this book."
Connie Leas (Boulder Creek, CA), a freelance writer, has worked as a technical writer for many corporations in the military-support, payroll services, insurance, and biotechnology industries.