At about five years old we start to remember things on a pretty regular basis, and that is the dawn of the world for us, as adults. It is so easy to look around you and search your memory and assume innocently that the world has always been thus. The first time that I ever really questioned my world view was when my Dad told me about Polio scares. Polio is a nerve disease caused by a virus that had a vaccine deleloped for it in 1952. I was born in 1960 and at that time there still was Polio in my world. In 1961 there were only 161 cases of Polio reported in the entire US. However, in my world, the one that began forming in my memory starting around 1965, there have always been vaccines, we have always been free from the fear of mass-contagion. I never in my life feared Polio.
This function of our memory limiting our world view makes it easy for us to see things from the view of the mass of us. For instance, we now live in a world where there is heart disease and heart attack. Unless you research it, you would never know that before the year 1900 there was no reason to have a word for it, because nobody ever got heart attacks.
The hypothesis that saturated fat causes heart disease was developed in the early 1950s by Ancel Benjamin Keys, a biologist and pathologist at the University of Minnesota. At his lab, he ran experiments looking for early indications of disease, and in the 1950s, no health issue seemed more urgent than the problem of heart disease. Americans felt themselves to be in the midst of a terrible epidemic. A sudden tightening of the chest would strike men in their prime on the golf course or at the office, and doctors didn’t know why. The disease had appeared seemingly out of nowhere and had grown quickly to become the nation’s leading cause of death.
Teicholz, Nina (2014-05-13). The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet (Kindle Locations 390-395). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.
Early researchers, in a panic to find a solution to a new problem came up with one, based on incomplete science. The way to keep cholesterol plaques from forming in your arteries is to not eat fats. In a way, there is a certain beauty to this knee-jerk logic. If I pour bacon grease down a sink drain enough times I will certainly cause a grease plug in my piping–therefore–if I pour enough bacon grease into my throat, over time I should expect to find grease plugs in my piping too! Easy Peasey!
Except that nothing like that happens in your body. The grease you pour in your throat does not turn into bloodstream grease. Eating cholesterol in your diet is not going to lead to cholesterol in your blood, because your body does not work that way. The old saying ‘you are what you eat’ is a gross over-simplification and not a basis for a scientific hypothesis.
We are at a very similar crossroad of national awareness at this very moment. We missed the call on heart disease from fats, and the solution we settled on, replacing fats in our foods with carbohydrates in our foods, has made the national health report card grade a big fat F. Now we are about to figure out, finally, what the real true culprits were in the heart disease epidemic. In addition to that, we are about to find that the thing we replaced the ‘evil’ fat with, was the original evil, and that if you ate even more of it, (sugar) that when you do die of heart disease it will only be after you have went blind and had your feet cut off as a result of your type two diabetes. The diabetes will only kill you, though, if the liver disease doesn’t get you first, or the high blood pressure-induced stroke.
Getting off of sugar will be a huge job, though. It will be much tougher than getting off of fat was. By now there are huge amounts of money being made in the current system. The corn producers are raking it in making sweeteners. The soda producers are raking it in making ever larger portions of their syrups. The pharmaceutical companies are raking it in dealing with the chronic illnesses. The hospitals are raking it in on the bariatric surgeries. Everyone is just fine with the way that it ‘has always been’. We don’t realize that it hasn’t always been like this. Your kids look around in school and just about everyone is as heavy as they are. You look around at work and all the men have beer bellies. It’s common knowledge that all we have to do to turn it around is stop eating fat. It’s always been like this, right?