We’re At The Tipping Point

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A couple of podcasters who interviewed me recently asked if I believe we’re at a tipping point. I do. I’m seeing a major shift in what the public at large considers a healthy diet, thanks largely to the Wisdom of Crowds effect. It seems that more and more people are rejecting the decades-old anti-fat message and embracing real food – fat and all.

I’ve sometimes wondered if I’m just experiencing the Red Toyota Effect, which works like this: While shopping for a car, you make up your mind that you want a red Toyota … and soon after, you start noticing them all over the place, which leads you to think, “Holy moly! Everyone’s buying red Toyotas all of a sudden!” In fact, the red Toyotas were always there. You’re just noticing them now because owning a red Toyota is on your mind.

Sure, I’ve got diet on my mind. I write about diet, I think often about diet, I hang out in social media sites where the subject is diet. But I don’t believe I’m experiencing the Red Toyota Effect. I think there’s a real shift happening out there.

For starters, I keep seeing more mainstream media articles declaring that – surprise! — saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease after all. Here are some quotes from an article in the U.K. Telegraph with the headline No link found between saturated fat and heart disease:

For the health conscious reader who has been stoically swapping butter for margarine for years the next sentence could leave a bad taste in the mouth.

Scientists have discovered that saturated fat does not cause heart disease while so-called ‘healthy’ polyunsaturated fats do not prevent cardiovascular problems.

In contrast with decades old nutritional advice, researchers at Cambridge University have found that giving up fatty meat, cream or butter is unlikely to improve health.

They are calling for guidelines to be changed to reflect a growing body of evidence suggesting there is no overall association between saturated fat consumption and heart disease.

Earlier this month Dr James DiNicolantonio of Ithica College, New York, called for a new public health campaign to admit ‘we got it wrong.’ He claims carbohydrates and sugar are more responsible.

Admit we got it wrong …. Yeah, that would be awesome. Despite my optimism about a big shift within the public at large, I don’t expect a We Got It All Wrong announcement from the USDA anytime soon. They are, however, slooooowly backing away from some of the advice they’ve been handing down for the past 35 years. Here are some quotes from a Forbes article titled Fat Is Back: Time To Stop Limiting Dietary Fats, Experts Say:

The latest version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans – the government-sanctioned recommendations about what we should and shouldn’t eat – will include a game-changing edit: There’s no longer going to be a recommended upper limit on total fat intake. This hasn’t gotten as much press as the other big change – that cholesterol will no longer be considered a “nutrient of concern,” meaning that we can now eat eggs without feeling guilty.

But as the authors of a new paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association point out, the true game-changer in the new recommendations is that we won’t have to worry so much about the total fat content of our food. And this makes a lot of sense, since in many ways, fats are much better for us than what they’ve typically been replaced with in low-fat diets – refined carbs and added sugars.

For people who lived through the low-fat/no-fat craze that started in the 80s, this is big news. The change in fats recommendations has been coming for some time now, as studies have consistently shown that low-fat diets are in no way the beacon they once seemed to be, and can in fact be quite unhealthy over the long-term.

The USDA (ahem) “experts” are willing to admit that cholesterol is no longer a “nutrient of concern,” but can’t quite bring themselves to say saturated fat is okay. However – and this is huge, since so many people get their dietary advice from registered dieticians – the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has already jumped ahead of the USDA. The organization’s official commentary on the latest USDA guidelines first praises the USDA for its efforts, then disputes much of what the USDA has to say.

Dr. Stan De Loach (who has been recommending a high-fat, real-food diet to patients in Mexico for years) summarized the points made by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

1. Cholesterol contained in food items is NO LONGER a nutrient of interest or concern. That is, limiting cholesterol (egg yolks, for example) in the food plan makes no sense because there is no trustworthy scientific evidence that it may produce negative or harmful effects on the human body or cardiovascular system.

2. NO scientific consensus or concrete scientific evidence exists that could justify the recommendation that the quantity of dietary salt (sodium) be limited. This long-standing recommendation to not consume salt freely has been overturned. Moreover, the Report mentions that probably and certainly “there are persons who are NOT consuming a SUFFICIENT amount of sodium.”

3. “Not a single study included in this revision of the dietary recommendations meant to prevent cardiovascular disease was able to identify saturated fat as an element in the diet that has an unfavorable or adverse association to cardiovascular disease.” The experts recommend de-emphasizing saturated fat as a nutrient of interest or concern.

4. The lipid/lipoproteins LDL and HDL are NOT appropriate nor adequate for use as markers of the impact of diet on the risks of cardiovascular disease, for example, in the scientific studies that attempt to measure diet’s impact on the risks for cardiovascular disease.

5. “The consumption of carbohydrates carries a GREATER risk for cardiovascular disease than that of saturated fats.”

6. “It is likely that the impact of carbohydrate consumption on the risks for cardiovascular diseases is positive (that is, their consumption INCREASES the risks).”

7. “Therefore, it seems to us that the scientific evidence summarized and synthesized by the Committee suggests that the most effective simplified recommendation to reduce the incidence of cardiac disease would be a simple reduction in the consumption of carbohydrates, replacing them with polyunsaturated fats.” Polyunsaturated fats tend to reduce the levels of cholesterol in the blood. Avocados, fish (tuna, trout, herring, salmon), some varieties of nuts (peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame), some mayonnaises, some salad dressings, olive oil, etc., contain polyunsaturated fats.

8. “The strongest scientific evidence indicates that a reduction in the consumption of added sugars (carbohydrates) will improve the health of the American public.”

Okay, ya can’t win ‘em all, at least not right away. The dieticians want carbs replaced with polyunsaturated fats. But this is still huge. Look at the basic message: Stop worrying about cholesterol, saturated fat and salt. Start focusing on reducing sugars and refined carbohydrates. If this keeps up, people will soon believe you can eat food that tastes good and still be healthy. Dr. Ornish must be terrified.

It isn’t just that people are no longer accusing saturated fat of a crime it didn’t commit, either. There’s also been a huge rise in the demand for quality food, food that hasn’t been processed into nutritional oblivion. Food manufacturers are wondering what the bleep happened and trying to adjust, as this article in Fortune magazine online explains:

Try this simple test. Say the following out loud: Artificial colors and flavors. Pesticides. Preservatives. High-fructose corn syrup. Growth hormones. Antibiotics. Gluten. Genetically modified organisms.

If any one of these terms raised a hair on the back of your neck, left a sour taste in your mouth, or made your lips purse with disdain, you are part of Big Food’s multibillion-dollar problem. In fact, you may even belong to a growing consumer class that has some of the world’s biggest and best-known companies scrambling to change their businesses.

“Their existence is being challenged,” says Edward Jones analyst Jack Russo of the major packaged-food companies. In some ways it’s a strange turn of events. The idea of “processing”—from ancient techniques of salting and curing to the modern arsenal of artificial preservatives—arose to make sure the food we ate didn’t make us sick. Today many fear that it’s the processed food itself that’s making us unhealthy.

It’s pretty simple what people want now: simplicity. Which translates, most of the time, to less: less of the ingredients they can’t actually picture in their head.

Steve Hughes, a former ConAgra executive who co-founded and now runs natural food company Boulder Brands, believes so much change is afoot that we won’t recognize the typical grocery store in five years. “I’ve been doing this for 37 years,” he says, “and this is the most dynamic, disruptive, and transformational time that I’ve seen in my career.”

So it’s definitely not the Red Toyota Effect. This change is real, and it’s coming to a Kroger near you. In fact, I recently found – for the first time ever – dry-roasted almonds in a Kroger where the only ingredients were almonds and salt. A sign above that section of the store bragged about the lack of additives in the several varieties of nuts, which you can buy in bulk.

As the Fortune magazine article explains:

Shoppers are still shopping, but they’re often turning to brands they believe can give them less of the ingredients they don’t want—and for the first time, they can find them in their local Safeway, Wegmans, or Wal-Mart. Kroger’s Simple Truth line of natural food grew to an astonishing $1.2 billion in annual sales in just two years.

The search for authenticity has led organic food sales to more than triple over the past decade and increase 11% last year alone to $35.9 billion, according to the Organic Trade Association. Data provider Spins found that sales of natural products across nearly every category are growing in mainstream retailers, while more than half of their conventional counterparts are in decline.

Perhaps more frightening for Big Food, shoppers are doing something else as well: They’re skipping the middle aisles altogether.

The war on fat is ending, with fat emerging as the victor. Cholesterol is no longer a “nutrient of concern.” The low-salt nonsense is being abandoned by doctors, nutritionists and even the CDC. Consumers are avoiding foods with ingredients they can’t pronounce, and Big Food is both scared and scrambling to adjust.

Yes, we’re at a tipping point. Let’s hope the nation tips right over into better health.

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152 thoughts on “We’re At The Tipping Point

  1. Jill

    On the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Facebook page there was a pic of a child in hospital, after a Type 1 diagnosis. She was eating a bowl of cereal and milk. I politely expressed my concern about her diet. My post was quickly removed. I was warned that any posts about diet will be immediately removed. They banned me.

    Reply
  2. Sky King

    I just hope that as a consequence of more and more folks become educated that foods such as grains/grasses and its PUFA oils, the sugars (fructose, glucose, sucrose, etc.), and processed carbs are the reasons for what’s slowly killing many millions of us that there will still be enough beef, fish, chickens, eggs, pork, etc., to go around to feed everyone.

    The prices for such commodities as beef, pork, chicken, butter, etc. will surely start to climb as quantities start to dwindle trying to meet demand. That’s the bad news!

    Reply
  3. Linda

    PS: I’m not suggesting that those who honestly got it wrong like my doc (who was conned by the other docs in the practice and the drug reps) be punished. I am still very much for those in the pharma industry, who KNEW the harms that statins were causing to countless people, be held accountable for their actions. There is already plenty of evidence that big pharma knew about the dangers of statins years ago, and kept promoting them for those big dollars! They should at least suffer in their pocketbooks- I certainly have in more ways than one.

    I’m very forgiving to my doc who prescribed the statins. She at least read and researched after I gave her Fat Head and other books and made a decision to quit prescribing them! She passed Dr, Malcolm Kendrick’s book “The Great Cholesterol Con” that I gave her on to the other docs in the practice, and unfortunately they refused to even read. I do blame them and other docs like them! I have personally witnessed the lavish lunches brought in by these drug reps for the docs when I’ve been there. These docs who refuse to even read and research are violating the basic principle of medicine: First, do no harm! They should be held accountable.

    Reply
  4. Troy Wynn

    As mentioned before, it is dangerous to combine saturated fat with refined carbohydrates. You can’t have it both ways. I remind my clients about this. The message is incomplete if you ask me. Food companies will add the fat to the flour and sugar and call it health food. It’s like “gluten free.” I’ll ask what’s the carb content? It’s high, yeah, still spikes your blood sugar. Not so good.

    Reply
      1. Troy Wynn

        Hmmm…. Not seeing it that way…

        ” Limiting total fat was also not recommended for obesity prevention; instead, the focus was placed on healthful food-based diet patterns that include more vegetables (low carb), fruits (high carb), whole grains (high-carb), seafood (protein/fat), legumes (high carb-fiber), and dairy products (fat/protein) and include less meats (protein/fat), sugar-sweetened foods and drinks, and refined grains (high carb).”

        There is nothing wrong with meat, red or otherwise. They are still screwing with us in my opinion.

        As a food company, I slap “whole grain” on my breads, pasta, cereal and cookies and I am good to go. Wait…. They do that already.

        Reply
        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          Let’s take it one step at a time. The war on fat is over, and saturated fat has been declared not guilty of mass murder.

          Reply
  5. Cindy

    in my eyes the problem is now going to be people eating high fat AND high carb. We are hearing the “saturated fat is good” message but not hearing the “carbs are bad” message clearly enough. Simply adding back in the fat isn’t going to improve our health and assuming that they will be filled up more with fat means they will reduce the carbohydrate simply won’t work. I’m sure of it. They will want their burger on a bun, their bacon and eggs with toast and their rib eye with potatoes and corn. Even going “gluten free” doesn’t remove the carbs, it simply switches to rice, soy and other grains and starches. Paleo doesn’t cut the carbs much either – just has people selecting different ones. Not going to solve the problem. Carb addiction and the blood sugar roller coaster continue…

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      The dieticians are, in fact, warning against sugar and refined carbs. Go back 50 years ago when most people were lean and diabetes was much more rare, people weren’t on low-carb diets. But they ate far less sugar and didn’t make grains the base of their meals.

      Reply
    2. Jeff

      To say that “carbs are bad” is to ignore the evidence of the literally billions of healthy people (ie, without diet/lifestyle diseases of civilization) whose diets are primarily carbohydrates. This includes all of the Blue Zones.

      The porblem arises when the carbs in the diet come from a factory rather than a food. If your diet is primarily fruits/vegetables/tubers/legumes, your carb intake will be high, but your health won’t suffer.

      I believe the same logic applies to fat/protein. Eating meat/eggs is not likely to be a problem. But extracting the fat from whole foods and adding it to your diet is probably almost as bad an idea as removing the sugar from a plant and adding it to your diet (in qualtities that are not achievable by just eating actual food.)

      Like fat? Eat a pork chop. Like sweets? Eat a beet or an apple.

      Unfortunately once the “fat is OK” message takes hold, Nabisco will try to have us all eating the heavily processd, fat and protein equivalent of Snackwells. In this case, in 40 years the pendulum will swing back the other way.

      Eat. Real. Food.

      Reply
      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        The dieticians aren’t saying carbs are bad. They’re saying sugars and refined carbs are bad. I eat tubers myself these days.

        Reply
        1. Jeff

          Agreed. But in paleo (et al) and low carb circles there’s not enough concern about processed fats. I suspect that 1000 calories of added sugar is worse than 1000 calories of added lard, but I also suspect that the latter is not terribly good as a dietary staple in the long run either. On the other hand, getting the “lard” as natyre intended, wrapped around pig meat, is probably fine.

          I think that the observations about saturated fat leading to heart disease in the 50’s to 70’s may have reflected this. Back then if you had a high sat fat intake, a lot of it was added butter/tallow/lard, rather than just consisting of a high meat/dairy FOOD intake. More recent data doesn’t show a problem with sat fat, because a high sat fat intake now comes much more from real food. (And now the problems are with the added refined carbs and industrial oils.)

          Highly concentrated, processed extracts of real food are probably best avoided as a large portion of diet, regardless of the particular item.

          Reply
          1. Tom Naughton Post author

            I don’t think added saturated fat is a problem either, as long it’s within the context of a low-sugar diet. Butter and lard consumption in 1900 was way higher than now, but heart disease was relatively rare.

            Lots of factors figured into the rise in heart disease in the 1950s. Smoking was probably the biggest.

            Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I fully expect them to fight back. The anti-fat, anti-cholesterol message has entire industries built up around it. But at this point, it’s a desperate counterattack in a war they’re losing. It’s the Battle of the Bulge.

      Reply
  6. Linda

    PS: I’m not suggesting that those who honestly got it wrong like my doc (who was conned by the other docs in the practice and the drug reps) be punished. I am still very much for those in the pharma industry, who KNEW the harms that statins were causing to countless people, be held accountable for their actions. There is already plenty of evidence that big pharma knew about the dangers of statins years ago, and kept promoting them for those big dollars! They should at least suffer in their pocketbooks- I certainly have in more ways than one.

    I’m very forgiving to my doc who prescribed the statins. She at least read and researched after I gave her Fat Head and other books and made a decision to quit prescribing them! She passed Dr, Malcolm Kendrick’s book “The Great Cholesterol Con” that I gave her on to the other docs in the practice, and unfortunately they refused to even read. I do blame them and other docs like them! I have personally witnessed the lavish lunches brought in by these drug reps for the docs when I’ve been there. These docs who refuse to even read and research are violating the basic principle of medicine: First, do no harm! They should be held accountable.

    Reply
  7. Michael Steadman

    I agree that the tipping point is here, and it got here pretty quickly; as you pointed out it will still take time to get us to where we should be as just yesterday I read an article quoting a nutritionist as saying saturated fat from olive oil and avocados is okay, but that’s it. There is still an anti-animal fat bias and the old mentality of “if we back off fat guidelines too quickly it will confuse people,” Evidently it wasn’t too confusing for the guy from CSPI to lobby to remove coconut oil and beef tallow from popcorn and French fries respectively, however. It’s long past time for the “experts” to be mute for awhile, at least.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      Heck, we don’t need for them to be mute. They’re getting drowned out by other voices, which is just as good.

      Reply
  8. Maria J

    Thanks Tom, great post. I remember how disappointed I was when the Non GMO labeling issue failed to pass in my state. And doubting the mantra of “vote with your wallet” that was offered as a solution. I have chosen to do that and am glad it is making a difference. I don’t know for certain but did hear that Bill Gates condones the practice of GMO food production. Surprises me that a man that intelligent with children would suggest such a travesty. Thanks to whoever posted the link to the Tim Noakes article, very interesting.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      I’m not that surprised about Gates. He made his billions in technology and may therefore be predisposed to see food technology as the way forward.

      Reply
    2. j

      Bill Gates promotes GMO for the very reason GMOs were created…to increase yields, and to fight world hunger…

      There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to the hunger issues of the world, so no sense in having a narrow, first world perspective and trying to fit a square peg in a round hole…

      Reply
  9. Peter

    To find fresh pork belly, I have to find them at ethnic grocery stores. These bellies often come w/ bones & skin attached, sometimes w/ bristly hair & nipples. Not exactly a mainstream item.

    Today, for the first time, I saw fresh pork belly, w/o skin, at Costco outside Chicago. Fat, especially pork fat, had gone mainstream.

    Reply
  10. Michael Steadman

    I agree that the tipping point is here, and it got here pretty quickly; as you pointed out it will still take time to get us to where we should be as just yesterday I read an article quoting a nutritionist as saying saturated fat from olive oil and avocados is okay, but that’s it. There is still an anti-animal fat bias and the old mentality of “if we back off fat guidelines too quickly it will confuse people,” Evidently it wasn’t too confusing for the guy from CSPI to lobby to remove coconut oil and beef tallow from popcorn and French fries respectively, however. It’s long past time for the “experts” to be mute for awhile, at least.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Heck, we don’t need for them to be mute. They’re getting drowned out by other voices, which is just as good.

      Reply
  11. Maria J

    Thanks Tom, great post. I remember how disappointed I was when the Non GMO labeling issue failed to pass in my state. And doubting the mantra of “vote with your wallet” that was offered as a solution. I have chosen to do that and am glad it is making a difference. I don’t know for certain but did hear that Bill Gates condones the practice of GMO food production. Surprises me that a man that intelligent with children would suggest such a travesty. Thanks to whoever posted the link to the Tim Noakes article, very interesting.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I’m not that surprised about Gates. He made his billions in technology and may therefore be predisposed to see food technology as the way forward.

      Reply
        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          For the record, I don’t think we can declare all GMO foods bad just because they’re GMO. Foods are bad or good depending on how they affect our health. But given that we don’t know how some of these GMO foods will affect us, I prefer to avoid them.

          Reply
          1. Glorificus

            Good, since they’re using GMO beta-carotene enriched Golden Rice to fix vitamin A deficiency complications including childhood blindness in impoverished countries and they’re doing work on more nutritious bananas & potatoes that could sprout tomato vines.
            They also genetically modified bacteria in the 1980s to make insulin, human growth hormone and blood clotting factor, three things that were rare and difficult to make before that (you needed 10 liters of blood to make a single dose of bloodclotting factor and HGH was obtained from cadavers; insulin from crushing thousands of pounds of animal pancreases)

            I”d hate for this GMO thing to turn into another Silent Spring eco-activist disaster (That book launched the campaign to ban/restrict DDT anti-mosquito pesticide usage in Africa when DDT was on the way to making malaria a very rare disease)

            Reply
            1. Walter Bushell

              But I don’t trust Monsanto. When some entity says “Trust us.”, that’s a red flag that they can’t be trusted.

              And will the miracle rice work in a fat deficient diet; I think not. The people for whom the diet is intended are poor and hence likely on a low fat diet. And no plant food has retinol or true vitamin A so I think it is unlikely for this rice.

            2. Glorificus

              A paranoid platitude and an argument thrown in that seems to show little concern for, and perhaps even mocks, the impoverished.
              Posted by someone who didn’t read my comment too clearly and uses an impoverished culture’s religious symbol as an avatar. So probably an aging New Age type westerner.
              My opponents are so very clever.

    2. j

      Bill Gates promotes GMO for the very reason GMOs were created…to increase yields, and to fight world hunger…

      There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to the hunger issues of the world, so no sense in having a narrow, first world perspective and trying to fit a square peg in a round hole…

      Reply
  12. Peter

    To find fresh pork belly, I have to find them at ethnic grocery stores. These bellies often come w/ bones & skin attached, sometimes w/ bristly hair & nipples. Not exactly a mainstream item.

    Today, for the first time, I saw fresh pork belly, w/o skin, at Costco outside Chicago. Fat, especially pork fat, had gone mainstream.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      I prefer to think of it as The Battle of the Bulge. The Japanese didn’t think they were losing the war at Midway and weren’t launching a desperate counterattack.

      Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I prefer to think of it as The Battle of the Bulge. The Japanese didn’t think they were losing the war at Midway and weren’t launching a desperate counterattack.

      Reply
  13. Brianna

    Yeah Tom and it is all your fault lol. I would be dead by now if you had not made that movie. I will love you forever.

    Reply
  14. Brianna

    Yeah Tom and it is all your fault lol. I would be dead by now if you had not made that movie. I will love you forever.

    Reply
  15. Butler T. Reynolds

    I wonder how long it will be until we see a First Lady making appearances schools to promote the idea that kids should consume whole milk and real food.

    Reply
  16. Butler T. Reynolds

    I wonder how long it will be until we see a First Lady making appearances schools to promote the idea that kids should consume whole milk and real food.

    Reply
  17. JohnnyF

    What’s next?
    Islam is not a religion of Peace?
    Global Climate Change isn’t caused by humans?
    Men and women aren’t the same?
    Public Education is actually a Government funded Political Indoctrination System?
    Capitalism creates prosperity and government is a drag on the economy?
    Mainstream media has a liberal bias.
    Maybe this tipping point is bigger than we think.

    Reply
  18. JohnnyF

    What’s next?
    Islam is not a religion of Peace?
    Global Climate Change isn’t caused by humans?
    Men and women aren’t the same?
    Public Education is actually a Government funded Political Indoctrination System?
    Capitalism creates prosperity and government is a drag on the economy?
    Mainstream media has a liberal bias.
    Maybe this tipping point is bigger than we think.

    Reply
  19. Jeff In Indy

    It’s already happening… TWO different Kroger stores very close to my house are building new stores across the street from the old ones. They will be the new Marketplace stores – larger produce and cheese sections, etc.

    Reply
  20. Jeff In Indy

    It’s already happening… TWO different Kroger stores very close to my house are building new stores across the street from the old ones. They will be the new Marketplace stores – larger produce and cheese sections, etc.

    Reply

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