Is Fat the Real Enemy in the Battle for Healthy Living?

Just over a week ago, the New York Times published an article revealing that the sugar industry funded scientific research in the 1960s with the intention of downplaying sugar’s role in heart disease. Not very surprising right?

The research served to pin the blame of cardiovascular disease on fats and succeeded in doing so for over 50 years. During the 1960s, an increasing rate of coronary heart disease was becoming evident amid a burgeoning fast food and packaged goods market. The studies set into motion by the sugar industry named fat as the culprit; a claim that influenced the nation’s health and nutrition recommendations for decades to come.

A researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, found internal sugar industry documents suggesting that the role of sugar in the diet and decades of dietary recommendations were largely shaped by the sugar industry Share on X, specifically the Sugar Research Foundation, otherwise known as the Sugar Association. This organization paid three Harvard scientists to review and minimize the link between sugar and heart health in published works. The subsequent low-fat and fat-free movement that took over the country did nothing to reduce the rate of cardiovascular disease.

We’ve Been Lied to for Too Long

Ever hear that you should eat more complex carbs and avoid simple carbs? If you’re often left wondering what the heck the difference is between the two, it’s pretty substantial. Share on X Simple carbs are those added sugars found in highly refined or processed food products. These carbohydrates that the Sugar Association pushed in an effort to increase the popularity of fat-free and low-fat foods also causes spikes in your blood sugar. Complex carbs, on the other hand, are whole grains and starchy vegetables that are jam packed with vitamins and minerals. Because complex carbs are fiber-rich, they slow down the rate of digestions and provide a steady stream of energy to keep us feeling full longer. Unfortunately, it’s the simple carbs that are more commonly sought after by American consumers.

Not only did the sugar industry push the idea that fat-free and low fat were the best options for a healthy diet, they did so with the knowledge that sugar is addictive. In some animal based lab studies, sugar or intense sweetness is associated with a higher feeling of reward than addictive substances like cocaine. In fact, ingestion of sugar releases the same endorphins associated with alcohol and drug use. There is also a positive indication of a physical craving with consumption of sugar.

Sugar Can’t Take All the Blame

So, we’ve been lied to for the last 50 years. In a time when regulation of scientific research was not all that commonplace, industry funded or industry-backed research made some incredibly poor dietary recommendations that may have influenced the current state of health in this country. Let’s review what we’ve just learned:

  • Fat is not the enemy.
  • Sugar is bad.
  • Forget fat-free or low fat and stock up on animal protein and saturated fats.


The Magic of Moderation, a Diet to Live By

Let’s get over our anger at the big bad sugar industry and be thankful that there is an increase in regulation and more scientific research available in our time. Let’s move the conversation over to the right type of healthy living you’re looking for. To nourish the body and brain and maintain a clean bill of health, you need a steady intake of three macronutrients: complex carbohydrates for energy, protein for cell and muscle health, and good fats for brain and heart health. Share on X

Macro distribution in your daily diet is like making the perfect cocktail. It takes a good mix of each in the right amounts.

But, to keep it simple, focus on consuming high-fiber carbohydrates like whole grains and starchy vegetables that help regulate blood sugar levels and help maintain a healthy digestive system. For protein, focus on plant sources as well as lean meats like skinless chicken breast, turkey, and fish to keep your heart healthy and your muscles strong. Pick fats that are either poly- or monounsaturated while reducing trans- and saturated fats. Healthy fats come from oils, like canola and olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds, and they also aid in heart health. Get into a nutrient-dense mindset to minimize the overly processed foods we all love to eat and then feel guilty about. The fact is that consuming nutrient-dense foods and practicing moderation is a great idea for a healthy mind, body, and soul.