Eat Butter!

6/23/14
 
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from TIME Magazine,
6/12/14:

Scientists labeled fat the enemy. Why they were wrong.

For decades, it has been the most vilified nutrient in the American diet. But new science reveals fat isn’t what’s hurting our health.

by 1980 …, [t]he U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued its first dietary guidelines, and one of the primary directives was to avoid cholesterol and fat of all sorts. The National Institutes of Health recommended that all Americans over the age of 2 cut fat consumption, and that same year the government announced the results of a $150 million study, which had a clear message: Eat less fat and cholesterol to reduce your risk of a heart attack.

We were embarking on a “vast nutritional experiment,” as the skeptical president of the National Academy of Sciences, Philip Handler, put it in 1980. But with nearly a million Americans a year dropping dead from heart disease by the mid-’80s, we had to try something.

Nearly four decades later, the results are in: the experiment was a failure. We cut the fat, but by almost every measure, Americans are sicker than ever. The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes increased 166% from 1980 to 2012. Nearly 1 in 10 American adults has the disease, costing the health care system $245 billion a year, and an estimated 86 million people are prediabetic. Deaths from heart disease have fallen–a fact that many experts attribute to better emergency care, less smoking and widespread use of cholesterol-controlling drugs like statins–but cardiovascular disease remains the country’s No. 1 killer. Even the increasing rates of exercise haven’t been able to keep us healthy. More than a third of the country is now obese, making the U.S. one of the fattest countries in an increasingly fat world. “Americans were told to cut back on fat to lose weight and prevent heart disease,” says Dr. David Ludwig, the director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital. “There’s an overwhelmingly strong case to be made for the opposite.”

But making that case is controversial, despite the evidence to support it. The vilification of fat is now deeply embedded in our culture, with its love-hate relationship with food and its obsession over weight.

Research that challenges the idea that fat makes people fat and is a dire risk factor for heart disease is mounting. And the stakes are high–for researchers, for public-health agencies and for average people who simply want to know what to put in their mouth three times a day.

We have known for some time that fats found in vegetables like olives and in fish like salmon can actually protect against heart disease. Now it’s becoming clear that even the saturated fat found in a medium-rare steak or a slab of butter–public-health enemies Nos. 1 and 2–has a more complex and, in some cases, benign effect on the body than previously thought. Our demonization of fat may have backfired in ways we are just beginning to understand.

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