The Big FAT Surprise — a Book Review — by Allan Nation

This is something to think about today when your stomach starts to growl and your mouth begins to water as you catch a whiff of that luscious Sunday dinner roast.

As the dust starts to settle on the local political landscape, and we at the Pahvant Post begin moving past the elections, we will begin to outline some of the areas we intend to emphasize and focus on moving forward, as we seek to broaden our platform and develop our reach beyond Millard county.  Because one of the common threads among those involved in the Post seems to be a common interest in health and nutrition, and especially aspects of health and nutrition that most people are unlikely to learn about in mainstream media, we intend to start placing more emphasis on fundamental health, including concepts associated with our modern food supply, like the importance of food freedom.

Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 8.52.55 PMThe Post is no stranger to controversy, so we’re going to start out by talking about a controversial new, New York Times Bestselling book that is one of the biggest Myth-busters in recent decades.  It’s called The Big FAT Surprise — why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, by Nina Teicholz.

Because of recent emphasis on no-fat and low-at diets in the mainstream medical, nutrition and pharmaceutical communities, this whole idea, based on a massive amount of historical research reported in this book (which is almost 500 pages), is very controversial.  It appears, however, that historical data about health and longevity turns much of our modern medical understanding completely on its head.

Like so many things, the question is, are you interested in truth, or just the line that you have always been fed.

For this piece we’re sharing excerpts from a book review by Allan Nation, editor of the publication Stockman Grass FarmerIn his review, Nation noted that he had first become aware of the book from a very positive  full-page review in the Wall Street Journal.  Nation’s own review covers almost five pages, so we’re only sharing highlights here.

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STOCKMAN GRASS FARMER — In her ground-breaking new book, Teicholz re-examines the original research that sent American down a 50 year, anti-red meat and butter road and finds that much of it was deliberately misconstrued by “researchers on a mission” and the media due to an ingrained anti-red meat bias.

In some of her most interesting and controversial revelations, Teicholz explained this anti-red bias by showing that among many people who long for peace and chastity, red meat is seen as a stoker of human passion, virility and sensuality.  Vegetarianism was promoted by many of the same late 19th century religious figures who were espousing prohibition as a way of reining in sinful behavior.  Meat’s ability to inflame human passions was said to prevent the reception of the soul into “heavenly love and wisdom.”

Driven by such noble motives, at the heart of the modern shift away from animal fats was the simple idea much emphasized by modern media and medicine that eating fat makes you fat.  This idea was popularized in the 1950s by Ancel Benjamin Keys, a biologist and pathologist at the University of Minnesota.

However, there was, and has been, no research that actually shows this to be true.  In fact, the opposite is true as eating fat creates satiety, the feeling of fullness, and actually helps prevent over-eating.  Keys overcame this lack of research by bullying those in academia who disagreed with him.  Major corporations seeing the start of a lucrative gravy train for themselves jumped in with major research dollars for those who towed the Keys line.

Ignoring evidence contrary to Keys’ fatty meat hypothesis became commonplace in the 1950s as Keys garnered acclaim from an anti-meat press.  Those who dared challenge Keys were shouted down by researchers benefiting from the flood of corporate research dollars.

According to Teicholz, there are only three food choices:  protein, fat and carbohydrates.  If you don’t eat the first two, guess what, you will eat more carbs and that is exactly what has been happening in America since the 1950s. Americans currently eat more pounds of sugar per capita than meat.   This has all had big consequences for health.  Why do you think we have such obesity and heart disease epidemics?

Contrary to the conventional wisdom promoted by the research initially done by Keys is a correlation between the rise in heart disease with the rise in consumption of vegetable oils.  Vegetable oils are not made from vegetables but from seeds.  Seeds are very high in omega 6 fatty acid and today Americans consume 20 times more omega-6 than omega 3.  Omega 3 fatty acids fight against the kind of inflammation that leads to heart disease.  Omega-6s are pro-inflammatory.

Teicholz says that the wildly promoted idea that people ate more fruits and vegetables in the past simply is not true, and does not hold up to historical scrutiny.  She says fruits, plants and salads were often avoided for fear of Cholera.  She says the fear of fruits and vegetables as carriers of the disease did not dissipate until the advent of the ice box following World War 1.

At the same time, research regarding more primitive cultures such as Eskimos, Masai tribesmen in Africa, and nomadic people throughout the world show that they were much healthier, despite their high intake of red meat, milk and animals fats, than commonly thought.  Without looking at all the worldwide research, just focusing on Native Americans shows this to be the case.  Research on Native Americans in the 1898 to 1905 period found that their diet was primarily meat.  But not only were they more healthy, they lived longer than most white Americans.

According to the 1900 United States Census, among Native Americans 224 per million men, and 254 per million women were 100 years of age or older, compared to just 3 men and 6 women per million among the white population.  This is a huge difference.  Moreover, researchers found only three cases of heart disease among the more than 2000 Native Americans studied, and no cancer.  The fact that Native Americans have significantly more health challenges today, including type-two Diabetes is largely a result of following the ways of the white man, including diet.

Among other things, the bottom line is that in the 18th & 19th centuries, Americans ate three to four times more red meat than we do today.  And that’s not all.  Butter consumption in the 19th century was between 13 and 30 pounds per capita and lard consumption was 12-13 pounds.  This is four to five times as much butter as we eat today.

According to modern day medical and nutrition theory, early Americans should have been riddled with heart disease, but in fact it was very rare until the late 1920s.  Also a fifth of Americans in 1900 were over 50 years of age which refutes the idea that most people died young in the past.

Prior to 1910, animal fats were used exclusively for cooking.  The most reliable current research shows that vegetable oils do lower blood cholesterol when used cold, but form deadly aldehydes and formaldehydes when heated and used for frying.  Teicholz says that heart disease researchers seldom check what their recommendations are doing on the cancer side of the ledger.  For example, low blood cholesterol is a prime marker for cancer and in rat studies polyunsaturated fat, the kind found in vegetable oils, is the most effective fat for growing cancer tumors.

In conclusion, Teicholz says that all new “foods” and diets should to be tested for at least 45 years before making too many assumptions about what the long-term effects will be.  On the other side of the equation, certain diets have continued for centuries, even Millenia  with proven track records that completely contradict modern paradigms.


Screen Shot 2014-09-21 at 8.37.00 AMAllan Nation grew up on a cattle ranch and has been editor of Stockman Grass Farmer since 1977.  He has traveled extensively studying grassland agriculture in North and South America, Europe, New Zealand and Australia.  Allan and his wife Carolyn, who is also a writer, live in rural Mississippi.