Is low fat a great idea? Do you have a few hours to spare? Then check out the new & massively long blog post by the always-entertaining, controversy-seeking and brilliant Denise Minger:
The post is a longer and more developed version of her 2014 AHS talk Lessons from the Vegans (worth watching, and it will only take you 30 minutes).
The general idea is that while low carb seems to work great for metabolic problems – like obesity and diabetes type 2 – so too can very low-fat plant-based diets sometimes work fine. Why is that? In Minger’s words it’s because of extreme low-fat “magic”, which presumably is another kind of magic than low-carb magic.
Interesting, but not necessarily true.
Dr. Fung’s reply
Enter Dr. Fung, with a much shorter but still interesting post on the controversy:
In Dr. Fung’s view the extreme low-fat diets (like the <10% fat rice diet) sometimes work well because you really eat the same amount of carbs but avoid everything else (almost no protein and no fat). This is because all reward from eating disappears, due to the extremely monotonous diet – people only eat when they are truly hungry. The rest of the time they are, in effect, fasting.
My comments and criticism
While I tend to agree with Dr. Fung about most things – and his comments here make a lot of sense – there are also interesting points in Minger’s long post. For example, that the “macronutrient swampland” of Western junk food – high carb, high fat – tend to be where we find massive food reward (think chocolate, ice cream or donuts), leading to overeating. It’s clear that whole-food plant-based diets avoid this problem.
I also have some criticism of Minger’s post. For example she spends tons of time attacking the idea that Ancel Keys started the low-fat movement. This feels very misleading. While it’s certainly true that he did not invent low fat, like Minger says, he was still the dominant figure transforming low fat – earlier a theory that not many people cared about – into officially accepted dogma. Quite a feat.
It’s like Dr. Robert Atkins and low carb. Dr. Atkins took a concept that had already been talked about and tested for over a hundred years – low-carb diets for weight loss – and made it famous and known by everyone. That’s why decades later the word Atkins is still synonymous with low carb. While Dr. Atkins did not invent low carb – not even close – he still had an important role to play. Nobody would seriously argue otherwise.
To summarise I find Minger’s post interesting and – as always – entertaining in her unique way. But I can’t help feel that she’s sometimes seeking controversy more than enlightenment. And there’s no magic in that.