How to check worthiness of Al Sears MD's "Who's Afraid ofa Little Fat?"

Asked February 14, 2018, 2:47 PM EST

Dear folks at CE,
Is this a case of nutrition misinformation?
Thanks for checking,

Nelson County Kentucky

2 Responses

Hello, G!

There are so many articles about nutrition and health out in the internet world that it certainly is confusing. It is great that you chose to search deeper. Here is a response from 2 Registered Dieticians. To become a Registered Dietician you are required to complete a 4 year college degree, complete an internship actually working in clinical nutrition, food service, and community nutrition, AND pass a very indepth test.

"My opinion is that this article is an example of some truth taken to the sensationalist extreme. I’ll see what I can do to clarify from my knowledge base:

  • Sure, industry markets what they can make a profit on, and this has contributed to the obesity epidemic and the rash of associated chronic diseases. But the author ignores that our lifestyles have become much more sedentary since his grandmother’s time, and our generation experiences more pressures from noise pollution , light pollution, a constant barrage of information and exponential rate of societal change, etc.

  • Reason 1: Yes, fat is one of our macronutrients, but the jury is still out about the optimal mix of sources. To my knowledge, the preponderance of science demonstrates that unsaturated fats are still the healthiest source of fats. There is a wide variety of natural plant sources of these- all kinds of vegetable oils, olives, etc. When it comes to saturated fats, we have lately acknowledged the damage that transfats can do. These are the fats found in shortenings, created by blowing hydrogen gas through unsaturated fats and breaking the double bonds between carbon and hydrogen, to form a solid fat. This being said, I’m unaware of enough scientific evidence to conclusively establish that butter (a natural saturated fat) raises blood cholesterol less than margarine (a hydrogenated fat).

  • Reason 2: Yes, our heart disease rates keep going up. I’m not sure how the author established the heart disease rate of his grandmother’s generation. The population was smaller, and fewer people lived with heart disease- They died earlier. So, I’m not sure it’s fair to compare the heart disease rate of that generation with that of the present generation. As I mentioned previously, our lifestyles are significantly more sedentary and arguably more stressful than those of past generations, too. So, we can’t conclude that differences in heart disease rates are entirely the result of dietary changes, either.

  • Reason 3: I’m not familiar with the article in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition he cites. This is a very reputable journal, but I can’t speak for his interpretation. The author states that those who performed the review “found no evidence that eating less saturated fat lowers your risk of heart disease.” Yet, in the following paragraph, he says, “The women who ate more processed fake fats had the worst progression of atherosclerosis.” Processed fake fats are saturated fats- hydrogenated fats. He contradicts himself there. Also, there is no way of knowing the sources of remaining calories in the diets of those who ate less saturated fats, so there is no way of knowing that the consumption of less saturated fats was responsible for the risk of heart disease. Therefore, I’m skeptical of his conclusion that “more saturated fat meant less heart disease.”

- my opinion is that this article contains just enough truth to be misleading and dangerous."

Jackie Walters, MBA, RDN, Kentucky

"I definitely agree with the opinion that this article contains just enough truth to be misleading and dangerous.

The types of fats used to "build a faster brain" are EPA and DHA, which come from unsaturated fatty acids, not saturated fats.

Additionally, all three of the sources cited in this article are outdated, with one being from 2004. This is definitely not an article I would give to any of my patients." Hannah Chumley, RD, Michigan

Dear Jackie Walters, Hannah Chumley, and Martha Y,

Thanks so much foryour thorough and generous responses! I had not seen your answers until now.I never got an email notifying me about them until yesterday.

I was actually surprised a friend had sent me the link I submitted to the Exttension, and I will definitely send on your response.

I will bookmark your website.

Have a blessed day,

Br Gregory