Low-fat good for you? Experts keep zombie myth alive


The low-fat diet for heart disease and other serious chronic diseases is a zombie myth, say some doctors and nutrition experts. Those who keep it alive remain devoted to the diet-heart hypothesis that saturated fat causes heart disease. No one has yet proved the hypothesis. Thus, it is currently unscientific. 

Although associational, the PURE study is yet another scientific nail in the low-fat coffin. Yet many ‘experts’ have a vested interest in keeping the low-fat myth alive.  Here, Australian GP Dr Joe Kosterich speculates on why. And shows why it’s time to give the hypothesis a decent burial. – Marika Sboros

Dr Joe Kosterich

By Joe Kosterich

There was a time when we believed the earth was the centre of the universe. To be honest, it was not unreasonable for people in the dark ages to accept this. The technology of the time was limited.

When Galileo Galilei proposed that the earth revolved around the sun (heliocentrism), the Roman Inquisition investigated him.

The Inquisition concluded that heliocentrism was “foolish and absurd in philosophy, and formally heretical since it contradicted in many places the sense of Holy Scripture”.

They tried Galileo, found him guilty of “vehemently suspect of heresy”, forced him to recant and spend the rest of his life under house arrest. Of course, he was right and centuries later, the church pardoned him.

Fast-forward to today’s more secular world where, of course, reason and evidence trump ideology. This would mean that when people consider new findings which challenge the current worldview and the evidence shows to be correct, they act on them.

Surely they would not treat those who discover truth as heretics? Surely those in medicine are followers of science and thus ever questioning of their current beliefs?

Click here to read: ‘PURE’ proof fats don’t kill?

Sadly, this is not necessarily the case. While we no longer burn heretics at the stake or try them for heresy, vested interests use government tribunals for the same reason – to silence dissent.

We’ve known for well over a decade that the experts based advice to eat a low-fat diet on dodgy science.  Yet they still dismiss evidence that since the introduction of low-fat diets, obesity and type two diabetes have increased. They also ignore the fact that review papers found no evidence to introduce low-fat dietary guidelines.

Dr Gary Fettke

Each year, the proof that the “fat-is-bad’ manta is wrong has gotten stronger. Along the way, people in positions of power have treated proponents such as Dr Gary Fettke, Dr Maryanne Demasi and Pete Evans like modern-day heretics.

With the release of the PURE study, it is now case closed. This massive prospective trial of over 135,000 people in 18 countries shows that there is no association between fats in the diet and any adverse health outcome. On the contrary, It found an association between a low-fat (high-carb) diet with higher rates of illness and mortality.

The proverbial cherry on the cake is that there is no basis for current fruit and vegetable intake recommendations (think five and two) either.


Here is the conclusion in The Lancet: “High carbohydrate intake was associated with higher risk of total mortality, whereas total fat and individual types of fat were related to lower total mortality. Total fat and types of fat were not associated with cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction, or cardiovascular disease mortality, whereas saturated fat had an inverse association with stroke.

Click here to read: You need 5-a-day fruit, veg? No you don’t!

“Global dietary guidelines should be reconsidered in light of these findings”.

PURE is saying that current dietary advice is wrong and calling for changes. The response from assorted health groups worldwide has varied from silence to attempts to dismiss the findings.

In a textbook example of the pot calling the kettle black, dieticians and others complained that the study was observational. It was. That makes it the same as every other nutritional study. That includes Ancel Keyes’ Seven Countries study, which set us down the cholesterol- and saturated fat-phobia path.

We can speculate on why public health, (most) dieticians and health departments will not accept they are wrong. It could be egos. It might be reputation. Some suggest that dollars are a factor. You can form your own view.

Here is the bottom line: A low-fat diet (high in refined carbohydrates, such as grains) is NOT a healthy diet. Fats in the diet are NOT a problem.

The simplest eating guide is to eat like our ancestors did. They ate foods which, till recently, had been growing or moving. They ate foods which, if not frozen, would go off in a short time and they did not eat food with lots of numbers on the labels.

In fact, they did not eat foods with labels. They drank mainly water.

This is not difficult. It is not new. Until self-appointed experts pushed us down the wrong path, we were doing fine. The low-fat diet will come to be seen as the worst fad diet in human history. For now, the vested interests continue to resist and seek to strike at heretics. But truth will always win out.

The Inquisition convicted Galileo in 1633 and the church only officially pardoned him over 350 years later. How long will it take for apologies to those who the “experts” persecuted for being right about fats in the diet? My prediction is less than a decade.

Continue to watch this space. The low-fat empire is crumbling.



  1. “We can speculate on why public health, (most) dieticians and health departments will not accept they are wrong. It could be egos. It might be reputation. Some suggest that dollars are a factor. You can form your own view.”

    I vote for all three, and others. Look at how quickly the Militant Vegan Attack Hordes were organised into influencing the potential improvements in the Canadian Food Guide.

  2. Leigh, thank you for that very interesting background to the current mess. I’d heard about what happened, but not in that detail.

    I won’t dance on symantics. The decisions you describe certainly were political expediency, but they also more than meet the legal definition of ‘conspiracy’. Since this is clearly known, it’s something of a surprise that there doesn’t appear to have ever been any form of legal action in the US. Too difficult, maybe.

    Perhaps the degree of culpability varies. I hear public health people who clearly believe the low-fat mantra, but are stumped when you ask for evidence. The people at the top must know and they are either in denial or too afraid of admitting the truth.

    The two standards comment by Luise Light is pertinent. Tim Noakes was accused of advocating an unaffordable way of eating for the poor, so presumably we should lie to everyone and needlessly make people ill. It’s just an enormous mess. At least for me, the argument about a low-carb way of eating being more expensive is just plain wrong.

  3. Stephen,I did not say it is a ‘conspiracy’. I called it ‘political expediency’ which is something different but also something for which there exists some evidence in Denise Minger’s book, ‘Death by Food Pyramid’.

    Chapter 2 of the book explains how the head of the USDA’s nutritionist team in the early 1970’s, Luise Light, tried to push through recommendations for new food guidelines which “cracked down ruthlessly on empty calories”. She advocated for meat, eggs, nuts, cold-pressed fats and naturally occurring fats, to keep sugar well below 10% of total calories and to “strictly limit refined carbohydrates, with white-flour products like crackers bagels and bread rolls shoved into the guide’s no-bueno zone alongside candy and junk food”.

    But Luise Light’s good intentions were stymied by the Secretary of Agriculture’s office. Her recommendations were altered to make them grain-centric and easy on sugar – amongst other things. Luise Light complained that, “no one needs that much bread and cereal in a day ….. and that giving Americans a free starch-gorging pass would unleash an unprecedented epidemic of obesity and diabetes”.

    The explanation Luise Light received for the ‘grain-centric recommendations’ instead of her own was that it would “help curb the cost of the food stamp program”.

    The implication of this (as Luise Light later wrote) was that “we either develop two different sets of standards for nutrition, one for poor people and another for those better off. Or that what was affordable in the food stamps program would determine what was best for the rest of us”.

    And there you have it. Political expediency driving food guidelines, i.e. tell people to eat the cheapest foods. And the cheapest foods are the most abundant foods available such as grains, corn and sugar.

  4. I offer a different speculation on why public health, dieticians and health departments will not accept they are wrong and why governments will not change food guidelines.

    It’s pure political expediency because 62% of the world’s food supply is carbohydrates in terms of available calories and most of the available ‘fats’ are actually ‘plant oils’ – see this chart https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DES4_C7V0AIVYBE.jpg

    Government dietary guidelines are designed to balance world food consumption with the available food supply – hence the recommendations for high-carb-low fat and when ‘fat’ is consumed it should be ‘healthy’ plant oils.

    What better way to achieve this than by convincing everyone that the types of food that are most abundant in the food supply (i.e. plant foods) are healthy and that the least abundant types of food in the food supply (i.e. animal foods) are not so healthy.

    Quite simply, if the whole world switched to low-carb-high-fat the world food supply would not be able to feed everyone.

    A starving populace is a recipe for political unrest and revolution so it is no surprise to me that Governments have propagandized us to maintain a high carbohydrate, plant-food based diet and to minimize consumption of animal foods especially animal fats.

    Think what would happen if Governments announced, “we know a high carbohydrate diet is not healthy but we need you to keep eating that way because there are not enough non-carbohydrate foods to go around”.

    Therefore Governments will not change their food guidelines because of this ‘PURE’ study or any other studies – the political stakes are too high for them to contemplate doing so.

    • Leigh, you describe an interesting conspiracy theory. However, whenever I have to choose between ‘cockup’ and conspiracy, I tend towards the much more human tendency to get something badly wrong and then cling to it like a limpet.

      The health care costs of the current high-carb stupidity are enormous, as are the economic losses arising from a population with a range of chronic diseases. If this wasted health care money was invested in better food production, I suspect we could still produce a surplus. We’d need vastly less food.

      People eating low-carb and high-fat often eat much less, so they can afford to eat better quality. Three meals a day and endless snacks is the high-carb world and obesity and diabetes are the inevitable consequences. The satiety that comes with a low-carb way of eating means the consumption of vastly fewer calories because we have an off switch. I haven’t eaten three meals in a day for several years.

      I think there is something of a conspiracy to continue this nonsense between those rich and powerful producers who profit from it – junk food and pharma. That far I can certainly go with you.

      The great tragedy is that so called health care professionals, too mediocre or afraid to open their eyes, often support the current model of guiding us towards illness. Dietitians are the most culpable. They have just one subject to understand and get it atrociously wrong. No wonder they are sponsored by their friends in junk-food and pharma. I look forward to a time when ‘dietitian’ doesn’t automatically mean dumb or compromised. I apologise to the brave, competent ones fighting the fight from within. I admire those few bright stars in the dark sky.

    • I agree with you that food supply, and sunk investment costs in industrial agriculture are probably the biggest impediments to change, but there is a bigger problem here. In essence you have a food-health-climate change problem that is becoming increasingly unstable. For a different take on the food – climate change issue go look at Alan Savory or Judith Schwartz or even better look at a report by a group Slovak hydrologists, http://www.waterparadigm.org/download/Water_for_the_Recovery_of_the_Climate_A_New_Water_Paradigm.pdf
      Plant based, industrial agriculture will not provide for a larger world population. The approach is unstable financially, and environmentally. About 4% of the earth’s surface is arable, and there lies the dilemma. You have to use and restore grassland, about 14%, and the only way to do it is with ruminant animals. Look at the eradication of the local water cycle that results from the current food-land management paradigm. This is your climate change and it has been going on for 10K years. It is also what is supporting the decline in population health from chronic disease which got super charged 30 years ago with the food pyramid.

      The industrial revolution enabled industrial agriculture in its present form – grain based. It does not have to be, and will not be because it is making us sick, and it will not provide the food supply to even sustain the world population much less augment it. Pull the animal food out of the system and you would be lucky to feed 40% of the world population. And of course that 40% would have all of the chronic maladies that you currently see.

      • Yup, I saw that on a small scale. A farmer down the valley ploughed up one of his grass meadows and put it down to wheat. The river went over its banks and wiped out half the crop. Now he’s put it back to grass and bought some more cows. The biggest irony was that he did this in a year when the price of wheat dropped to £30 – £50/tonne below the cost of production, so he lost out twice. Perhaps now he will listen to his father . . .

  5. Public Health England’s sadly predictable response to the PURE study was that it confirmed current guidelines; namely, low-fat foods and ‘healthy’ grains and starches. The diet that has added two dress sizes to a vegetarian teenage girl who I know. She’s always hungry, and yes she eats some junk too. If you’re always hungry, that’s much more likely. No nineteen-year-old girl wants to expanding at that rate and her confidence is draining away, covered by the normal bravado.

    Naturally, I’ve tried to help my teenage friend, but she’s imbibed the religion of the low-fat vegetarian gurus, Ornish, Gregor et al. I accept that some vegetarians eat well, but most are pasta and carb junkies. It’s all terribly sad and the harm done is needless.

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