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Book Review: The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz

Saturated fat is widely considered the biggest enemy to public health in our diets today. But what if we’ve gotten it all wrong and just the opposite is actually true? Do you know why so many people believe this universal axiom of saturated fat being a bad thing is unequivocally true? Where exactly did this idea of fat being bad actually come from and was it vigorously tested and proven by researchers to be true?

An inquisitive investigative journalist named Nina Teicholz wanted to get to the bottom of these questions and more to get the full scoop on what the real deal is about saturated fat and how we got to this point that people are scared half to death of consuming it. Her deep journey into this subject led her to uncover so many fascinating stories about where the nutritional recommendations that still exist to this day actually came from. The culmination of what she uncovered during her research of this topic is detailed in what is sure to be one of the most provocative and controversial health books to come along since the bombshell release of the 2007 New York Times bestselling nutritional health book Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes called The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet.

If you’re hellbent into thinking that saturated fat is somehow harmful and carbohydrates are completely benign, then I challenge you to read this book with an open mind and be willing to set aside any personal biases to hear the arguments that Teicholz makes in support of her conclusions. The diet story that we’ve been exposed to is predicated mostly on some basic, universal messages parroted by nearly every major health organization in the world today: significantly reduce the amount of fat, especially saturated fat (replacing with vegetable oils), you consume in your diet, cut your calories, and increase your intake of whole grains. Where did all these things we believe are true without question come from? Teicholz gives the dirty details in The Big Fat Surprise.

And if you do all those things in that laundry list above and yet don’t see the results in your weight and health that you desire, then you must lack willpower and just need to lower fat, cut calories, and increase your carbohydrate intake even more. In others words, IT’S YOU FAULT IF IT DOESN’T WORK! What a horrible message to be sending to people who are desperate for answers to their growing waistline and chronic diseased state they are facing. This is why Teicholz wanted to write this book as a means for educating and encouraging people who are tired of being told they’re the problem and arming them instead with some solid information to help get them back on track to optimizing their health again.

You might be wondering what’s new in The Big Fat Surprise that you can’t find in recent books like Gary Taubes’ Why We Get Fat, Dr. Robert Lustig’s Fat Chance, Denise Minger’s Death By Food Pyramid, and others who have written so eloquently on this subject in recent years. I’m pleased to tell you there is PLENTY in this nearly 500-page book to engage your thinking about this and take you through the history of how we got to where we are today in terms of our common societal views on diet. Yes, if you’ve read the aforementioned books, then you’re already going to be well-informed about the highly-influential role Ancel Keys played (and was treated like a rock star for) in making saturated fat the villain in health through his diet-heart hypothesis (claiming that saturated fat raises your cholesterol levels which leads to heart disease–something directly challenged and refuted by books like The Great Cholesterol Myth by Dr. Jonny Bowden and Dr. Stephen Sinatra and Cholesterol Clarity by Jimmy Moore and Dr. Eric Westman).

But what Teicholz does so brilliantly throughout her book is offer up illustrations and actual statistical data that underscores why Keys was wrong, how he got it so inexplicably wrong, and why the mistakes he made in his research never got corrected despite the fact it is well-known that he omitted statistical data that disproved his theory. It’s quite the sordid tale that is worth the price of this book just to get that history behind the worldwide launch of the low-fat diet fad. This should be required reading for every doctor, dietitian and nutritional health researcher so they don’t go down the same path that Keys did.

But Teicholz goes beyond the story of Ancel Keys and turns her attention to what actually happened (the unintended consequences) as a result of what he promoted as fact a half century ago. The low-fat lie became deeply entrenched into every fiber of our being as an absolute, unassailable truth and yet there was never one iota of solid research (randomized, controlled, clinical trials are the gold standard for making claims in science) ever conducted. But when you repeat an untruth over and over and over again so many times, even the perpetrator of the lie can become convinced it’s actually true. And that’s exactly where we are with saturated fat today.

Reversing our tendency to want to cut our saturated fat intake as a health-promoting action is perhaps the biggest goal of The Big Fat Surprise and Teicholz offers up compelling reasons for embracing real food-based saturated fats like butter, meat and cheese again while recognizing and lending credence to the reasons why these foods are actually good for you to consume. Is that controversial to say? Perhaps in 2014 it is, but maybe not so much in five or ten years from now when people awaken from their low-fat stupor and have their eyes opened to what has been the real missing link in them attaining the weight and health they’ve been pursuing for decades. The tide is turning and saturated fat is finally being vindicated. This book will be a big reason why.

WATCH THIS==>Nina Teicholz at TEDxEast: The Big Fat Surprise

http://youtu.be/1CHGiid6N9Q

NOTE: I’ll be sharing a brand new interview with Nina Teicholz about this book on “The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show” podcast coming Monday, June 2, 2014.

  • http://www.stepstowellness.org/ Les Proctor

    It’s not fat that makes you fat. It’s excess sugar and complex carbs. It’s actually the excess carbs that get converted into fat in your blood. Your review is right on.

    • Michael Trumper

      Just a fine point, the insulin spikes from excess sugar et al. will switch you body into energy storage mode. If you eat a large order of fries, the fats as well as the carbs will be stored in your fat cells (double-whammy)

      • http://www.stepstowellness.org/ Les Proctor

        It is a double-whammy! No wonder we’re so fat!

  • Martin

    I’ve started watching the ted talk. Good content, well presented. The problem is though, that it repeats, one by one all the arguments already made by Gary Taubes. I wonder, why write books that repeat all the arguments previously made. Is there a real need for that? We all know by now that saturated fat does not cause heart disease or obesity and is in fact good for you.

    • LLVLCBlog

      Consider her audience in that talk. It’s not you and me who geek out on this stuff buddy. It’s those who have not been acclimated to the message. As I stated in my review, this book goes much deeper than just that. But this part of the story bears repeating. Everybody DOESN’T know that by now. :)

  • LLVLCBlog

    Yep, he lived to be very old, but he didn’t look as healthy as someone else who lived to be near 100 as well: http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/low-carb-diets/jack-lalanne-vs-ancel-keys/

  • pforrester

    Wow! I could no longer watch the video of Jack Lalane. But he does look a lot better than Ancel Keys. I am going to see if it is on youtube to see his dietary recs
    …..