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The Great Big Fat Lie. Why The “Experts” Were Wrong About Fat.

The Great Big Fat Lie. Why The “Experts” Were Wrong About Fat.

Who are the experts? And what good are they anyway?

It’s a common refrain in news papers isn’t it? Experts say…

Strange thing is, a few years later, what the experts were saying a few years ago is actually found to be completely wrong.

Recently I was looking into the health benefits of coffee. This is a classic example of where in the past, experts have been wrong, very wrong. The article I read about the many health benefits of coffee said, “Experts advise drinking coffee with low fat milk and no sugar”. What the fuck? Really? Why? Will the health benefits of caffeine magically disappear if I put a spoonful of sugar in with the coffee? And as for low fat milk.. haven’t they heard that fat is no longer the enemy it once was?

Which is a wonderful segue into where the mainstream scientific community got it so wrong for so long.. fat. Fat is not the enemy it once was. There was one nutbag (it’s the only fair way to describe this guy) called Ancel Keys. He was the guy who after world war two did a study that decided that fat was the enemy. The rest is history. cutting out fat has been a disaster for the western world. Fats were replaced in the diet by sugar and carbs. Obesity has sky rocketed as a result.

The thing is that fats were never the enemy. He decided that they were and cherry picked his data to suit his beliefs. Because he was an authoritative figure in the nutrition field, everybody just agreed with him.

And here is the point. The very precise point about why experts are can be so fallible is because they are the “popular kids” so to speak. The ones whose opinions get listened to. The problem with these people of course is that they cannot be disagreed with. And they aren’t. There is a maxim which illustrates this, “science advances one funeral at a time”.

Science? I thought that science was like justice, dispassionately weighing up the evidence and coming up with conclusions that supported that evidence. In the main that is how it is supposed to work, but unfortunately it doesn’t always work as it is supposed to. As in all fields of human endeavour, the leaders  dictate the terms and followers who find out things that contradict their leaders wisely bury those findings for the sake of their careers.

That of course is before we add in the influence of money. “Scientists say”, or “experts say” can be applied to any field, and has indeed been used in the past- it’s great marketing. Scientists who are quite prepared to design studies to support any conclusion, provided they get paid for the study.

I must say though that in general I am a believer in science. The scientific model is sound.  Get a hypothesis, test that hypothesis. If the evidence and testing supports the hypothesis, all good. If not, back to the drawing board. It’s just unfortunate that we also have take into account the usual hierarchical games that are played in science as they are in any field of human endeavour.

Science is better than that common thing on the internet these days, pseudo science. it’s something I, as a layman, writing articles about things from a layman’s perspective about the stuff that I do that works for me has to be careful about. Is this stuff actually correct, or do I believe it because I agree with it? It can be very hard to work out on the internet. For any position on any subject you can argue both for and against.

This guy even makes a case for why broccoli is bad for you. (It’s a parody by the way). His point is well made. What is the latest demon in food that some on the internet blame for all of the ills of mankind? Gluten? Grains? Dairy? Sugar? Well I personally don’t want to live in a fat free, dairy free, caffeine free, meat free, sugar free world.

Science gets it right.. in the end. But for many, many years and sometimes to the detriment of many, many people, what is accepted as fact can be nothing of the sort. But while science sorts itself out, what are we left with? That health standard that has been around for ever – all things, in moderation.

By the way.. the worst thing about Ancel Keys? He lived to 100 while having a fondness for bacon and calf livers (and cookies). Guess it was more of a case of do as I say, not as I do.

There was even a line from the book “Pumping Iron” where Arnold Schwarzenegger, then in his bodybuilding heyday that “he doesn’t vont the bread because it’s not on his special sex diet.” The old school bodybuilders of the 70s were lean and strong on a high protein, high fat, moderate carb diets.

So what’s the takeaway from this article? Fat is not the enemy. It sates hunger, whereas carbohydrate, especially sugar, stimulates hunger. Eat reasonable levels of protein, more fat and less carbs – dairy is back, and eggs are too – and butter is better than margarine (yay!). When it comes to carbohydrates, it’s slow carbs you want. Try to not go too crazy on the sugar, but don’t be a martyr. I want to be as healthy as I can for as long as I can, but I want to enjoy life too, so if you have a sweet tooth, enjoy (just in moderation).

As always, the message from this blog on diet and exercise is – do something (and here are some tips that you might like to try), but make sure you’re still enjoying life. That’s my mistake I guess. Perhaps I should be a prescriptive zealot.. those guys have followings!


PS.. If you like this article, share it please :).


Image source:  Lionel Allorge – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

About The Author


A guy obsessed with stripping down whatever field he studies to get the optimum return from effort expended. Sort of like Tim Ferriss, except with zero fame.

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