A recent paper in JAMA and a Seinfeld episode shed some light on the change in diet and fat consumption in Americans initiated by national nutritional recommendations beginning in the 1970s.
Based on weak to nonexistent scientific evidence Americans were told to consume less total fat and cut saturated fat consumption to less than 10% of calories.
The paper shows that women in the St. Paul-Minneapolis area followed this advice and cut fat consumption as a % of total calories from 38.4% in 1980-1982 to 30.6% in 1995-1997. Saturated fatty acids dropped from 13.5 to 10.5%. (Since then, total fat % and SFA % has drifted slightly upward and calories downward )(for the full table see fat consumption table (PDF))
Media summaries and reports on this paper have emphasized that Americans have failed to cut their saturated fat consumption to meet recommendations of the USDA (<10%) and the American Heart Association (<6%) with a call for more promotion of these (mis)guidelines.
The skeptical cardiologist has a different take.
Interestingly total calories during these time intervals went up from 1645 to 1851. Thus, in replacement of the fat calories, the women were consuming the carbohydrates and sugars the food industry had obligingly added to food to make it more palatable, “heart healthy” and comply with guidelines.
The authors discuss the fact that during these time intervals, despite slashing fat consumption, overall rates of obesity substantially rose. Their explanation was that the women were “underreporting” fat consumption.
A simpler and more compelling explanation is that replacement of fat with carbohydrates along with overall increase in calorie consumption was the culprit.
The Non-Fat Yogurt Scam and Seinfeld
One ongoing contributor to the phenemon of replacing healthy real food fats with engineered, highly processed and highly sugared foods is the yogurt industry.
I wrote about the non fat yogurt scam about a year ago in this post.
I happened to see the fantastic Seinfeld episode “The Non-Fat Yogurt” last night . In this episode Jerry, Elaine and George eat at a non-fat frozen yogurt shop. Everyone concurs that the yogurt is surprisingly delicious given that it is “non-fat” and begin eating it regularly. Jerry and Elaine gain weight and begin suspecting that the yogurt is not truly “non-fat”.
This episode aired in 1993 during the height of the shift toward unhealthy low fat, processed substitutes. An analysis of the yogurt revealed that it was not non-fat and this is why they were gaining weight. In reality, people get fat on truly non-fat yogurt (even Greek Yogurt) and non-fat cookies and non-fat smoothies and anything with added sugar.
Fat consumption doesn’t make you fat.
Enjoy this snippet from the episode (and please excuse the bad language)