A 25-year Swedish study suggests we refocus our dieting concerns on good, old-fashioned animal fat.
Ellen Ruppel Shell
Jun 11 2012
“Steak, cream pies, hot fudge — those were thought to be unhealthy — precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.”
A version of Woody Allen’s fantasy has in recent years been making the talk show circuit. Marbled steaks, bacon, greasy burgers dripping with cheese, we’re told, are not to blame for obesity and cardiovascular disease. Nope, it’s bananas, whole wheat toast, acorn squash, peas, pasta, rice and boiled potatoes that’s making us fat and sick. So feel free to double up on those pork chops and sausage patties!
Unfortunately, today’s long anticipated announcement of the results of a 25-year Swedish study pours rain on the porky parade. What apparently makes this report particularly potent is that it is the first nationally and regionally conducted long-term epidemiological study of low carbohydrate diets. And the results were categorical.
The study concludes that, over time, reducing animal fat intake decreased blood cholesterol levels, and that a high fat low carbohydrate diet increased blood cholesterol levels. On average, Swedes who switched from a lower fat diet to a higher fat/lower carbohydrate diet saw their blood cholesterol creep up — despite an increased use of cholesterol lowering medication.
Yes, many people have lost weight on a low carbohydrate diet, and an entire industry has sprouted up around that claim. But while complex carbohydrate consumption in the U.S. has declined significantly since the late 1990s, American obesity rates remain the highest on the planet.
Low carbohydrate evangelists will almost certainly attack today’s announcement–and perhaps this post — with biblical fury. They’ll make their usual claim: that this is yet another conspiracy of scientists who just don’t get it, scientists who don’t understand nutrition, scientists who somehow made it through their PhD’s and MD’s without knowing the first thing about how the human body works. But let’s face it — most of us know in our hearts that eschewing a breakfast of whole grains and fruit crowned with a dab of yogurt for a greasy pile of sausage, bacon, and eggs is not the road to health.
The study’s head researcher, Ingegerd Johansson, put it this way: