Is saturated fat bad for you? – What Ansel Key’s led you to believe

by | Dec 6, 2016

We are all familiar with the idea that saturated fat is the enemy; that when you eat fat you get fat and that high-cholesterol and heart disease will follow. If you have been following recent research however you will probably also know that this myth has been de-bunked - sugar has been declared the new black; and the biggest dietary cause of obesity and heart disease around the world.

But where did ‘The Myth of Saturated Fat’ come from?

In the 1950s two very different researchers looked into the relationship between diet and cardiovascular disease; with the more famous of the two Professor Ansel Keys’ reporting a link between saturated fat consumption and the development of heart disease. The findings from Professor Key’s study ensued the ‘fat shaming’ epidemic of the 20th century; where margarine replaced butter and eggs were blacklisted as a source of bad cholesterol.

What consumers were never told however was that Keys’ research was bias. His study focused on seven countries whose statistics supported his hypothesis.
Keys used many Asian and Western countries with a very low saturated fat consumption, ignoring the findings of many European countries like France and Germany who are thriving on traditional diets rich in saturated fats such as butter, cheese and meats.

Who was the other researcher and why was he ignored?

At the same time that Keys’ conducted his research, British scientist John Yudkin found a correlation between sugar consumption and heart disease in the world’s population.

Unfortunately this information was never heard. It appears Yudkin’s biggest mistake was his humble nature – his educational approach in sharing his findings were overshadowed by Keys’ aggressive marketing style and by the time Yudkin addressed US and UK Government Officials, they were already convinced that dietary fat NOT sugar was the issue.

Sadly in the absence of any further debate, Keys declared victory and the industries funding his research (which happened to be Coca Cola) continued to market low-fat, sugar laden products to an uninformed public….(Leslie, 2016)

Why are we hearing about it now and why can’t I eat the stuff?

Recent studies have finally given merit to Yudkin’s theories – revealing that excess fructose (refined sugar) consumption strains the liver and is consequentially stored as fat on the body.

This inability to assimilate excessive levels of sugar by the liver has since been coined ‘insulin resistance,’ or ‘metabolic syndrome’, and is now a medically recognised condition and contributing risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other lifestyle diseases.

Okay so where do I stand with sugar..?

To a large extent the consumption of refined sugar comes down to common knowledge; we all know that we should be eating less of the packaged stuff and more whole fruits, vegetables, good quality protein and fats; and while I would advise as small a consumption of refined sugar as possible, there is no need to go cold turkey unless there are some serious healthy concerns that would be benefited by doing so. Instead be an informed consumer, keep an eye out for our next article How To Read Food Labels and from a place of empowerment and knowledge decide what is best for your family you’re your health.


The Sugar Conspiracy, Ian Leslie, The Guardian, 2016

For more information on fats and oils read my article 'Which Oil When'

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