Eating Fat Doesn't Make Us Fat

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

For decades, many people have believed that fat, especially saturated fat, makes us gain weight, but that turns out not to be true. Investigative journalist Nina Teicholz documents how the low-fat nutrition advice of the past 60 years has had disastrous consequences for our health. 

The idea that we should limit saturated fat from eggs, cheese and meat dates back to 1961, when the American Heart Association published that guideline. “The story of our dietary recommendations is really taking the dietary advice for middle-aged men, who were trying to prevent heart disease, and recommending it to all women and children over the age of 2.”

“There have been critics of this hypothesis all along…but they found that it was then hard to get research dollars.” The pressure was so intense, Teicholz says, “it got to a point where scientists would just self-censor, they just wouldn’t go into the field.”

Dr. Ansel Benjamin Keys’s seven-country study, which became the foundation of the Mediterranean Diet, is “like the Big Bang of nutrition research.” But it was also seriously flawed, and now “scientists are unable to conclude that [olive oil] really spares people from heart disease.”

Teicholz notes that, at high temperatures, vegetable oils “create oxidized products that cause inflammation and other problems that have really not been talked about much.” And she says that many Americans are wary of coconut and palm oils because of a PR campaign in the 1980’s when the soybean industry was in something of a trade war.

Low-fat products often have more carbohydrates. “When they take out fat out of products like yogurt, salad dressing, they have to use what’s called fat replacers. And fat replacers are almost always carbohydrate-based and sometimes they’re just sugar.”

The best hypothesis today, Teicholz says, is that foods like sugar and flour – carbohydrates – could cause heart disease as well as diabetes and obesity.

Nina Teicholz's book is The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese belong in a Healthy Diet.


Nina Teicholz

Comments [63]


when host Leo Lapote asked about vegan diet. she immediately cut him off stating that one cannot be getting a healthy diet from a strict vegan (veggies, bean) diet. WRONG! she needs to go live in Asia, especially east and southeast asia where huge segment of population are vegan (due to Buddhism which do not eat any meat or live form). many living very healthy. i myself have been vegan for over 4 yrs,6ft3in frame dropping from 260lbs down to 185lbs and stay there. the lady needs to do more travel and see the world.

May. 16 2014 12:28 AM
Jennifer from NYC

The problem with this interview is that it follows the pattern of everyone should eat THIS way. The best nutrition is not a one-plan-fits-all. For some, veganism works best. For others, vegetarianism. For still others, red meat, etc. Sometimes, even a combination can work best. Bottom line is it's something each of us has to work out individually.

May. 15 2014 07:11 PM

She never really answered the caller (woman in her 50s with high cholesterol) who asked if she should take statins. I am wondering this myself.

May. 15 2014 03:09 PM
Andrea from philadelphia

I totally agree with the guest. I was a vegan and was not healthy. I had dangerously low cholesterol. An accupuncturist finally told me to eat meat. I lost so much weight almost automatically. Meanwhile, I witnessed my over-eating uncle change from eating whatever he wanted to only eating low fat pound cake and pretzels, margarine instead of butter et. Now he has Leukemia. I tend to agree with the eat for your blood type theory, though theories are unbalanced by definition. Do what you need to FEEL what your body needs. Get your system clean and then listen to your healthy cravings. Your body will tell you what you need, as long as you are not eating for emotional comfort but for vitality. In my opinion, overeating or comfort eating, not for life but from out of balance relationship to food, is what causes problems. Trust your body, trust the plants, animals, herbs to sustain us in balance and moderation.

May. 15 2014 10:38 AM
Viktoria W

I love your show but I was missing more critical questions from your side, especially because you knew that it would cause a stir among your audience.

As long as we keep discussing different diets while sitting in front of our TVs and electronic devices, nothing will change. We need to get out, leave our cars, breath fresh air and move our bodies! Even if it is too late for us, we can still set a good example for our kids.

May. 15 2014 07:52 AM
Xtina from E. Village

PS - eating cholesterol containing foods doesn't give you high cholesterol, either.

May. 14 2014 06:35 PM
Xtina from E. Village

I've been saying this for years but I'm not a well-funded industry lobbyist group. So Glad I don't listen to these 'experts' that throw their weight around (pun intended) and bludgeon you with their 'science'.

May. 14 2014 06:34 PM
Jeans from nyc

everybody is trying to crack the diabetes puzzle. too much sugar, too much body fat, not enough of whatever it is. can we all agree that we react to food due mainly to our genetics and it can't be just one lifestyle or one silver bullet. some people smoke their whole life and don't get cancer. some people eat fast food/junk food and remain fine. people would be better served monitoring what is best for their body, than following a single dietary convention.

May. 14 2014 05:06 PM
Adrienne from NYC

I tried to listen with an open mind like a good public radio listener/supporter.;)

I'm glad she pointed out the absurdity of using middle aged white men and their heart disease as the standard for studying health. And good on her for noting the fact that there are entrenched scientific and industry-driven biases about what's healthy regardless of proof to the contrary. Unfortunately, the government has been whistling the wrong tune for many years. The cascading health crisis has been the sorry result. Still, our obsession with high-fat and high cholesterol is just as myopic as focusing on any other nutrient. Protein obsessed folks -- I'm talking to you.

It's worth noting that celebrating the joys of butter, meat and cheese is steeped in big ag/lobby groups just as researchers/doctors found the joys of a certain "low fat" regimens on olive oil industry sponsored junkets and conferences. The way butter, meat and cheese are created in this country is a health, environmental and ethical horror story. The widespread government support for "processed" animals and other processed food producers is frightening. It's so frightening, literally, that in the case of the animals we raise and slaughter by the millions daily, we don't want to look at the truth. In some states it's even criminal to do so thanks to ag-gag laws.

She's absolutely wrong that you can't be healthy on a vegan diet or that it's exceedingly difficult or expensive. Where's the science for that conclusion? Cut out the garbage and you'll be amazed by how much real, unprocessed food you can afford. We can all make better choices. For me that includes an ethical calculus. Some call the choice to not eat animals in any form compassionate cooking.

Also, the pancreas produces insulin, not the liver.

P.S. Carbs shouldn't be made the bogeyman, either. Too much white flour and sugar is going to make you fat and sick. No doubt. Carbs produce glucose and glucose is fuel. Use some of that fuel for exercise.

May. 14 2014 02:26 PM

you say that low fat diets were prescribed in the early sixties and americans' health has gotten worse. but what about the rise since then of fast food and american's addiction to it?

May. 14 2014 02:12 PM

it's become clear from googling around the web that Ms Teicholz gas become a media darling among the rightwing blogosphere. her leading article in the WSJ is now getting passed around "freedom" blogs and the like. between the anti-govt sentiment at an extreme high and Michele Obama's vegetable garden, she is the perfect candidate to become a mascot for red-meat America.

May. 14 2014 02:08 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

We needed lots of carbohydrates when as a species we worked very hard for a living. When we either had to walk far or run to hunt for food, or escape from becoming food, or to plow fields to raise crops or dig ditches all day, etc. We don't need carbs today.

May. 14 2014 02:04 PM
Leslie from Connecticut

I am very disheartened to hear the guest make such casual pronouncements regarding choosing against a plant-based diet. She may view it as rationally scientific, but her approach dismisses the concerns of those of us for whom it is a moral imperative to not eat meat. We cannot simply defer our most important principles until "we've figured out how to make it healthy first."

Her response occurs to me as either insensitive or uninformed.

May. 14 2014 01:58 PM

I absolutely refuse to listen to someone claiming to have great knowledge about dietary food requirement and never distinguishes between type 1 and type 2 diabetes especially when talking about cause.

Type 1 diabetics are not becoming diabetic because of what they are eating. Talk about getting the facts straight!

May. 14 2014 01:56 PM


May. 14 2014 01:54 PM

Montignac has explained the role of carbs and insulin, just as in this show now, 20 years ago and made it the center of his healthy diet. Why is he never mentioned in this country?

May. 14 2014 01:54 PM
Michele from NYC

The reason Americans are fat and sick is because they are sedentary and they eat too much.
Everything must be taken in moderation in order to maintain good health, and one must
exercise. I don't hear Ms.Teicholz discussing this subject.

May. 14 2014 01:54 PM
Amy from Manhattan

What are Ms. Teicholz's sources for how much fat, carbs, etc., Americans eat? Doesn't research on this usually rely on self-reporting, which can be biased or limited by people's memories?

And there are other issues w/palm oil, esp. environmental ones, like the destruction of orangutan habitat to plant more palm trees for oil suppliers.

May. 14 2014 01:52 PM
korgy from brooklyn, ny

@james --

yes i was wondering that myself -- the link between cancer and meat. i have no problem with the belief that a certain amount of fat is necessary -- but she is coming dangerously close to suggesting that loading up on meat endlessly is healthy.

May. 14 2014 01:52 PM
Susan from Brooklyn

Curious to know how Ms. Teicholz thinks about the obesity phenomenon in low-income neighborhoods that have well-documented "food deserts". There's a whole group of people who haven't had access to many whole food, plant-based diets, yet the obesity rates are exorbitant. People in these neighborhoods have a high-fat diet, but remain obese. What makes this situation different? How does she explain this?


May. 14 2014 01:51 PM
Rebecca from Queens

Wondering what your guest's opinion of The China Study (Campbell, et al) is.

May. 14 2014 01:50 PM
Donna Cappella from New Jersey

I didn't hear anything said about PORTION CONTROL. Anything in moderation. ANYTHING! People keep looking for the magic bullet. IT DOESN'T EXIST!

May. 14 2014 01:50 PM

Grapeseed oil is a fine oil at high temps.

May. 14 2014 01:49 PM
Desiree from Boston, MA

I think there are some good points about how we should NOT be following the dietary guidelines suggested by the food pyramid. But I also think that a lot of foods are being lumped together into one big category. Not all fats (and low fats) are created equal. What about issues like diversity in your diet? Or the difference between solid fats like butter and margarine? I am an omnivore, but I think it's important to be clear that it is very possible for vegans to consume a high amount of saturated fats through nuts, coconut oil, and avocados. I believe that saturated fats can be a good component to your diet, but I don't really agree with the way in which this argument is being presented.

May. 14 2014 01:48 PM

Did she just tell the audience that the liver releases insulin? And I do wish they could call it "type 2 diabetes" when they are talking about insulin resistance. It's not that hard.

May. 14 2014 01:48 PM
Daniel from Manhattan

The liver releasing insulin?

May. 14 2014 01:47 PM
JAMES from nyc

It sounds like the guest's point are solely from a heart healthy perspective but what about medical links between animal fats/dairy and other diseases like cancer?

May. 14 2014 01:47 PM
korgy from brooklyn, ny

there are so many confusing straw arguments that where does on begin? she suggests that vegans and vegetarians = a belief in a high carbohydrate diet. she pits olive oil against coconut oil. she acts like the meat industry never colluded with the USDA. she has created a whole new set of polarizations...

May. 14 2014 01:47 PM
jul from BKLYN

Your liver does not make insulin, try the pancreas.

May. 14 2014 01:46 PM


May. 14 2014 01:45 PM
Mark McPherson from NJ

Dr. Melik: This morning for breakfast he requested something called "wheat germ, organic honey and tiger's milk."
Dr. Aragon: [chuckling] Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.
Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or... hot fudge?
Dr. Aragon: Those were thought to be unhealthy... precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.
Dr. Melik: Incredible.

Woody Allen's "Sleeper"

May. 14 2014 01:45 PM
paulb from Brooklyn

Did I really hear her say green veggies are a problematic source of carbs? Please repeat, if so.

May. 14 2014 01:44 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Want to lose weight? You have to eat less than 60 grams of carbohydrates a day. Most meats, cheeses, eggs, butter have no carbohydrates. Some vegetables are low on carbs. Berries such as blueberries are relatively low on carbs. Splenda and Stevia can safely replace sugar. Unsweetened bakers chocolate is low in carbs and can be mixed with splenda and Heavy Cream for very low carb chocolate treats. It is possible to stay on a low carbohydrate way of eating if you learn how to use many low carbohydrate foods effectively you can give up bread, cookies, potato chips, pizza and the rest, or at least cut down significantly to lose weight and improve health.

May. 14 2014 01:44 PM


May. 14 2014 01:43 PM
Jim B

Would the guest comment on the role of fatty fast food in the American diet and how it fits into the theme of her book?

May. 14 2014 01:42 PM

you say that low fat diets were prescribed in the early sixties and americans' health has gotten worse. but what about the rise since then of fast food and american's addiction to it?

May. 14 2014 01:42 PM

Veganisim is a cult, not a diet.

May. 14 2014 01:38 PM
Molly from South Orange

The book "The Coconut Oil Miracle" talks about how coconut oil has gotten a bad rap and that its actually really good for you... That you should use it in place of other oils and (if I remember correctly) take up to 3Tbsp of it per day. I wonder if Nina Teicholz agrees about coconut oil being better than previously thought.

May. 14 2014 01:33 PM
Paul from UWS

Can your guest comment on the Omega 6 vs Omega 9 profile of olive oil. Supposedly that ratio is better than most oils accounting for its more acceptable benefits.

Also, can your guest comment on medium chain fat in coconut oil and whether that oil may be the queen oil of all, especially for cooking.

May. 14 2014 01:32 PM
irv from fat farm

Mention Dr. Peter Attia; he started a research institute with Gary Taubes, and has done a lot of work in the insulin resistant diet.
Even a fatso like Lenny could lose weight on this diet if he's part of the 25% of the population that are insulin resistant.

May. 14 2014 01:32 PM

…oh, wait…

Let me get this straight... super-highly processed, high-estrogen, endocrine disrupting soy products formed into the shape of animal parts are NOT good for you?!?!?!

Really??? TouFurky™, SoyBakon® are NOT good for you...?!

May. 14 2014 01:31 PM
korgy from brooklyn, ny

a quick google quickly weeds out some of the strawmen in Ms.Teicholz's arguments. Annals of Internal Medicine in March never said that saturated fat does not cause heart disease, did not say that saturated fat is harmless, and certainly did not say saturated fat is beneficaial. and obviously, replacing meat with cookies is just silly. but the public is dying for someone to publish a book telling them to eat more meat.

from David L. Katz, MD, MPH
Director, Yale University Prevention Research Center:

May. 14 2014 01:29 PM
Jessica from Staten Island, NY

What would be the ideal oil for frying those occasional chicken cutlets with mustard sauce?

May. 14 2014 01:26 PM
Paul from NY

The guest confirms once again that science is merely humans operating in a much less intelligent mode than they imagine, and that we also imagine as we roll out the carpet for them. Why are we so hypnotized by all of these endless science types who are engaged in citing their endless studies and research? What does it really all amount to? Another episode on a talk show.

May. 14 2014 01:26 PM
Bebe from Queens

Please ask Ms. Teicholz to discuss the importance of consuming pasture-raised animals and dairy products, and the problems with factory farming. Thank you.

May. 14 2014 01:26 PM
Amy from Manhattan

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said after Gary Taubes' "What If Fat Doesn't Make You Fat?" article that Americans weren't actually eating less fat, even though we were being told to & many foods were being hyped as low/no fat. Taubes himself has moderated his language (incl. saying "being told to eat less fat" rather than "eating less fat") & gotten more nuanced recently.

CSPI's "Nutrition Action" last month had an article called "Non-Trivial Pursuit" showing how clinical studies on diet & disease work, why they sometimes seem to contradict each other, & what the pitfalls are in conducting & interpreting them.

May. 14 2014 01:26 PM

Organic virgin coconut oil has long chain fatty acids (please explain what that means!) and burns at higher temps.
I only buy expeller pressed oils, is that better than chemically treated oils?

May. 14 2014 01:25 PM

What about coconut oil? A better alternative to margarine?

May. 14 2014 01:23 PM

Fat "quality" is an critical qualifier.

Industrial fats will KILL you.

Expeller pressed. From pasture-raised animals…etc.

…and, mix it up. Different oils contain different toxins. It's best to use a good variety of oils from different sources.

May. 14 2014 01:23 PM
Scott from Brooklyn

I have lost 30 lbs in the last six months without cutting out meat, cheese or other dairy. In fact now I drink whole milk (I used to drink skim or soy/almond milk).
I did eliminate from my diet ALL sodas (diet included) & bottled juices, processed foods, and included more fresh vegetables and fruits
I also now cook at home and don't order in as much.
Nina is right and I'm not surprised by her findings.

May. 14 2014 01:19 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Atkins was persecuted like some Jesus who confronted the industrial food industry with its lies and hypocrisies and was virtually crucified for telling the truth. He was a cardiologist who had treated tens of thousands of obese patients with heart problems and simply saw the obivious. And it was the obvious that the powers that be did not want us to know about it because it kills a huge industry, no different that was the case from big tobacco, big oil and coal, etc.

May. 14 2014 01:18 PM
Bebe from Queens

Leonard, I AM NOT GOING TO SEND YOU AN ANGRY EMAIL. In fact, this is a HALLELUJAH EMAIL. This information has been around a long long time, and we are way overdue to be taking it to heart. Gary Taubes has already written the definitive books on this topic, "Good Calories Bad Calories," and its shorter companion text, "Why We Get Fat And What To Do About It." Glad to hear her give Taubes credit where credit is due.

But I'm very happy that Ms.Teicholz is on the right bandwagon and continuing to spread this important information to the public.

May. 14 2014 01:13 PM
pina1978 from So.Plainfield

I soooo agree with the guest. But she should emphasize that we need good fat not just fat. Fat in potatoes chips isn't same as fat in fish, egg or avocado. Also, ketogenic diet is super healthy especially for our brain. Brain needs good fat.

May. 14 2014 01:13 PM

Remember Atkins was a Cardiologists who did the diet himself and put his patients on it.

May. 14 2014 01:11 PM

YES!!! Dr. Atkins is vindicated!

May. 14 2014 01:09 PM

Please Leonard, ask your guest about Dr. Atkins and how he was right.

May. 14 2014 01:08 PM

Dr. Atkins was a visionary and a pioneer. He was screaming from the mountaintop so many years ago that the lack of praise for him from those now promoting the principals of his diet is astounding. The man deserves a noble prize for his work. He was a target from the often way behind AMA, which is also corrupt.

May. 14 2014 01:07 PM
Sheldon from Brookyn

Well said JG.

May. 14 2014 01:00 PM
John A

Your headline is overdone. Fat has calories so therefore must be balanced. What is unbalanced is the fad overuse of this-or-that evil in marketing. "No fat" labels don't cut it, sure. But weighing all factors does. Cholesterol, saturated fat, fat, oils, sugars, salts, you should watch them all, folks.

May. 14 2014 12:06 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

I've known since the mid-1990s that the "low fat" nonsense was nothing but a scam and have been on the so-called "Atkins Diet" since 1997 eating plenty of eggs and butter and avoiding "low fat" offerings like the plague as what the processors do is replace fat with sugar and other carbohydrates instead only making people even fatter. My weight is great and my heart is ticking perfectly at age 67.

May. 14 2014 12:04 PM

Granted we now know that eating fat doesn't make you fat. But is it still unhealthy for the heart?

May. 14 2014 06:23 AM
stanchaz from Brooklyn

I expected a recorded show here -- from Leonard, instead of an ad for a book on Amazon.

For a different and unique perspective on fats salt , and sugar in our diet, and heath topics in general, I encourage you to checkout the video archive at the "Dr. Mercola" website. It's genuinely interesting and informative, --and well researched by the Doctor. Like many health websites, even WEBMD, Dr. Mercola sells products on the side, but his primary and over-riding focus is researching and explaining health-related needs and options to the general public. And he does it well..

May. 14 2014 03:34 AM
Megan from Brooklyn, NY

how can i listen to this segment?

May. 14 2014 12:37 AM

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