Fat is no longer the Bogeyman


By Richard Tardif


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It is widely accepted that excessive spikes of insulin from consuming refined carbohydrates cause obesity, not dietary fat, as we were lead to believe in the 1970s, a belief that came with dire warnings that fat had a dark side, called saturated fats, and led to heart disease, and we should eat less of it.

Instead, we were urged to eat more carbohydrates, and Canadians got fat, but a recent global survey led by Canadian researchers suggest people should now increase fat consumption while decreasing carbohydrates. Confused yet?

Full disclosure – the survey mentioned above failed to show any effect of fat intake on any outcome, See expert reaction, but it stemmed from an equally criticized 2014 British study advocating for guideline changes stating that saturated fat, our Bogeyman, doesn’t alone predict heart disease.

Fat consumption in the early 1970s was estimated to be about 40 percent of total calories when Canadians were encouraged to reduce fat consumption to prevent the rising numbers in heart disease. By 2004, fat consumption accounted for 31 percent of total daily calories, and we were ready to declare victory on the war on heart disease.

In the meantime, processing food companies had just about everyone hooked on a low-fat, low-source, little-fat, reduced-fat, fat-free, no-fat, zero-fat, unloved fat bandwagon. The message until 2014 was, “go ahead and carb it up” and “fat is bad for you”. Even Canada’s Food Pyramid in 1982 was recommending three to five servings of refined foods a day (bread and cereals).

For decades, refined carbohydrates have played a starring role. Not to be too harsh, but Canadians were getting fatter, not thinner. One can surmise, the fat problem only happened after the introduction of nutritional guidelines recommending high levels of carbs in the 70s, and lower levels of fat and they’d be right.

Obesity rates in Canada have doubled for adults and tripled for children over this timeframe, most likely related to increased consumption of refined carbohydrates, what we now understand is a principal driver of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and yes, heart disease.

We didn’t control heart disease, either.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation 2016 Report on the Health of Canadians reports that heart disease is on the rise with 60,000 Canadians living with heart disease. Each year, 50,000 Canadians are diagnosed with heart disease. In 1952, heart disease and stroke accounted for 46 percent of deaths in Canada. Back then, 30 percent of heart attack patients didn’t survive. Obesity, diabetes and an aging population are major concerns. Sixty percent of Canadians are overweight or obese, and nine out of 10 Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease. (It should be noted that more Canadians are surviving heart disease and living longer due to improved diagnostics and better medical management).

 Is Butter Really Back, reminds us not all fats are bad, just like not all carbs are bad, and concentrating on eliminating “fat” from our diets has led us to replace healthy fats with sugars and refined carbohydrate “foods” that are worse for our health. The British study has been criticized for being flawed in its methodology, and the debate continues; however, as the adage goes, “If it’s processed, don’t eat it.” Why would you eat it?

Richard Tardif is a personal fitness trainer, life coach and an award-winning health journalist who has been writing about health and wellness for over 20 years. As someone who has struggled with his own weight and health issues, Richard’s mission is to shed light on the misinformation propagated by the fitness industry and empower people to take back responsibility for their health. He is also finalizing his debut book, Stop the Denial: A Case for Embracing the Truth about Fitness
, published by Smiling Eye Press. Please visit his website
or email Richard at
or facebook.com/richard.tardif