The beginning and end of the fear of fat


This is the book that contributes to finally dismissing the old fear of fat. When the book The Big Fat Surprise came out in June last year, major American newspapers praised it. It has become a New York Times  best seller and The Wall Street Journal appointed it one of the best books of the year.

This book redefines food for many influential people and the fear of fat is losing its grip on the world.

Finally, I too have read the book. It’s a big book that initially is very similar to the fantastic Good Calories, Bad Calories (2007). But once you’ve read the first chapters you realize that this book is so much more. It’s an updated version with a somewhat different focus – and for most readers probably far more entertaining, clarifying and upsetting.

This is the definitive story on how fear of fat was based on how ambitious researchers and well-meaning politicians took short cuts and ignored the lack of real evidence. And as gigantic economic interests entered the picture things went very wrong.

The Problem with Fear of Fat

We know the result: instead of harmless fat – that we’ve been unnecessarily afraid of – people began to eat more sugar, wheat flour and other refined carbohydrates, which increase the fat-storing hormone insulin. Voilá: an epidemic of obesity and diabetes.

The book also goes in detail through the tragicomic and terrifying hunt for a replacement for natural saturated fat.First came industrial trans fats, where the food industry managed for decades to silence the health risks of their consumption. When this didn’t work any longer they could of course not go back to natural saturated fat – everybody was still afraid of it.

Instead, they had to experiment with new industrially produced fats that may prove to be even worse than trans fats… artificially transesterified vegetable oils (which never existed in large quantities in nature) to margarines and cooking with polyunsaturated omega-6 fats, which don’t tolerate heat without producing thousands of potentially toxic substances. Today we don’t know how dangerous this will prove to be.

Should Everyone Eat a Mediterranean Diet?

The book is also very entertaining in the review of how the now almost sacred Mediterranean diet, at least from the beginning, was the product of more hype than science.

Reality may be that the old-fashioned food culture anywhere (with plenty of natural fats) is better than today’s Western industry food. Perhaps the old-fashioned Nordic diet is at least as good … or the Peruvian diet… or the Mongolian diet.

However, Mongolia has not had any major olive oil industry that through the PR company Oldways and its extremely luxurious annual conferences for scientists and food journalists, has spread the message and built up the health aura around the Mediterranean diet. Many people have apparently fallen in love with the Mediterranean aura – and some are in retrospect a bit ashamed of it.

The chapter on how the Mediterranean diet became holy perhaps contained the biggest news to me.

Clearer Than Ever

The book’s main message – that butter, meat and cheese are healthful foods – is perhaps not a “surprise” any more, not for me and not for you. But the story has never been as crystal clear or entertaining as in the book The Big Fat Surprise. I highly recommend it.

Order the book on Amazon

The book’s website with excellent reviews

What do you, who have read the book, say? Please feel free to leave a comment!


The Fear of Fat Goes Into Free Fall

Big Fat Surprise Among the Best Books of the Year

Saturated Fat and Butter: From Enemy to Friend

Dramatically Improved Heart Health in Sweden!

WSJ: The Last Anti-Fat Crusaders

TIME: Eat Butter. Scientists Labeled Fat the Enemy. Why They Were Wrong.


  1. FrankG
    I have not read this book... yet but it is now higher on my list :-)

    The issue I have with the term "the Mediterranean diet" is the implication that there is a single homogeneous diet which this describes... last time I checked there were about twenty-five countries bordering the Med., each with its own distinct cuisine at the country, regional and local level, so which one are we talking about?

    I agree with your suggestion that, "Reality may be that the old-fashioned food culture anywhere (with plenty of natural fats) is better than today’s Western industry food. Perhaps the old-fashioned Nordic diet is at least as good … or the Peruvian diet… or the Mongolian diet."

    Reply: #2
  2. Boundless
    re: ... issue I have with the term "the Mediterranean diet" ...

    Even the reviled Ancel Keys couldn't figure that out, so he gave up on it and moved to Italy. Lived to 100.

    The real contribution of this book, and the earlier "Death by Food Pyramid" (Minger) is not so much that they identify an optimal diet (they don't), but that they totally demolish the fraudulent foundations of current consensus diet guidelines.

    So where does that leave us? Exactly.
    We are on our own, and have to learn how to interpret information, test it and develop our diets.

    Reply: #22
  3. Apicius
    Nina has a good TED talk:

    And she was just interviewed on Canada's CBC radio this week:

  4. Deborah
    Med Diet is a confusing term, one that I still chew on often. Having been to Turkey many times last year, I found my perfect diet. Grilled meats, fresh and cooked veg, cheese and yogurt!
  5. Andrew
    I agree except the part about cheese! It should not really be part of any decent diet. I gained ALOT of weight in previous years overdoing it on cheese especially the fresh ball shaped mozzarellas!
    I personally would stick with good quality meats fish some nuts and seeds and butter but cheese definitely does not belong in the same category.
    Reply: #6
  6. Murray
    "I personally would ..." Yes, personally.

    Personally, I lost plenty of weight eating loads of cheese on a trip to Italy. Some days I would eat an ultra-fresh buffalo milk burrata (200 grams) for breakfast (when I could find burrata that fresh). The local cheeses in Italy are remarkably good. I achieved almost telepathic communication with cheese shop merchants who spoke no English (and I essentially no Italian)--cheese is a universal language. Cheese equates to "smile": "Say Cheese!"

    As for nutrients, dairy fat has over 400 different fatty acids. Milk is the only food nature engineered specifically for consumption by mammals. Milk itself is a post-workout drink (which I learned observing foals at play), so it has more sugar than I want and the whey is more insulin-triggering than most protein. Fermentation makes cheese an ideal form of dairy (although butter and ghee have their merits). As a bonus, fermentation with the right bacteria adds loads of vitamin K2. Fermentation also produces lactate, which is the brain's preferred fuel, which may explain the mental boost I get from eating cheese (or yoghurt). The casein in cheese is a good source of fibre from which gut bacteria produce ample butyrate, which is anti-inflammatory and generally good for gut health. A group of Oxford researchers declared that fermented cheese is the reason for the so-called "French paradox" and not red wine.

    That said, I avoid anything made with modified milk ingredients (which I won't call cheese), cheese made from pasteurized milk (unless it is really, really good cheese) and cheese made from milk of type A1 cows (Holsteins, Friesians). I eat a lot of raw milk sheep and goat milk cheeses.

    I realize people with gut issues such as leaky gut may do well to avoid dairy until the gut issue is resolved. Often this comes from eating gluten grains, which trigger leaky gut in a lot of people. Notably, the colostrum from milk significantly reduces leaky gut.

  7. Jamie Hayes
    This is a classic for the decade. If you only read one book this decade, read this, then give it to your doctor.
  8. Paul the rat
    cheese = healthy gut

    J Proteomics. 2015 Jan 15;113:447-61. doi: 10.1016/j.jprot.2014.07.018. Epub 2014 Aug 20.
    Surface proteins of Propionibacterium freudenreichii are involved in its anti-inflammatory properties.
    Le Maréchal C1, Peton V1, Plé C2, Vroland C1, Jardin J1, Briard-Bion V1, Durant G1, Chuat V3, Loux V4, Foligné B2, Deutsch SM1, Falentin H1, Jan G5.
    Author information

    Propionibacterium freudenreichii is a beneficial bacterium used in the food industry as a vitamin producer, as a bio-preservative, as a cheese ripening starter and as a probiotic. It is known to adhere to intestinal epithelial cells and mucus and to modulate important functions of the gut mucosa, including cell proliferation and immune response. Adhesion of probiotics and cross-talk with the host rely on the presence of key surface proteins, still poorly identified. Identification of the determinants of adhesion and of immunomodulation by P. freudenreichii remains a bottleneck in the elucidation of its probiotic properties. In this report, three complementary proteomic methods are used to identify surface-exposed proteins in a strain, previously selected for its probiotic properties. The role of these proteins in the reported immunomodulatory properties of P. freudenreichii is evidenced. This work constitutes a basis for further studies aimed at the elucidation of mechanisms responsible for its probiotic effects, in a post-genomic context.
    Dairy propionibacteria, mainly the species Propionibacterium freudenreichii, are consumed in high amounts within Swiss type cheeses. These peculiar bacteria are considered both as dairy starters and as probiotics. Their consumption modulates the gut microbiota, which makes them both probiotic and prebiotic. Promising immunomodulatory properties have been identified in these bacteria, in vitro, in animals and in humans. However, the mechanisms responsible for such anti-inflammatory properties are still unknown. In this work, we identify surface proteins involved in adhesion and immunostimulation by P. freudenreichii. This opens new perspectives for its utilization in new functional fermented food products, in clinical trials, and in understanding modulation of gut inflammation by products containing propionibacteria.

    Reply: #11
  9. Lori Miller
    Sad to say, but cheese, in more than small amounts eaten occasionally, gives me acne. So do half-and-half and sour cream. I also get more nosebleeds. Milk gives me acid reflux. (I don't know about raw milk--you have to buy it via cow shares in Colorado, meaning, by the bucketful. No sale.) Cow cheese, goat cheese, sheep cheese, cow milk, goat milk--it doesn't make any difference.

    As for wheat, I've been off it for five years, and have mostly avoided all grains during that time.

  10. Randal L. Schwartz
    Bought the kindle ebook *and* the audible audiobook. I'm on my third time through, and still picking up more and more each time, and getting angrier and angrier. Needless suffering of the population, and it hasn't ended yet... it may even be getting worse as more and more conventional (read: "broken") wisdom becomes codified as law.
  11. Andrew
    Well it certainly did not equal healthy gut for me unless by healthy gut you mean "large gut" ;) Also Dr.Enfeld the man who writes this blog says specifically if you are not loosing weight on a lchf diet avoid an excess of dairy (cheese included) and nuts and seeds! I can personally attest to him 100% on that one! I actually found cheese and salted nuts ALOT more addicting than sugar and refined grain products. I'll stick with good quality meats and fish and vegetables & some fresh seasonal fruit. Eating that way for me seems to work best! No dairy and refined carbs or sugar on my menu!
    Guess everybody is different.
    Replies: #12, #14, #16
  12. Lori Miller
    Atkins induction allows no more than 4 ounces of hard cheese or a few tablespoons of cream per day. I take that to mean that those things make some people gain weight, or at least prevent them from losing it.
  13. Susan
    I love this book! It is what started me on lchf eating. I have read a lot of other books since it came out but this is one of my top favorites (along with Dr. Eenfeldt's book) on the subject. It is a large book but so good that I finished it in 3 days. I have it on Kindle but then bought 2 hardback copies...1 to keep and one to give away.
  14. Paul the rat
    I agree with all of you who say that cheese gives them some trouble. I suggest that good quality cheese should be consumed time to time as a source of beneficial bacterial flora.
  15. dom
    If you stop dairy and see weight loss, do you continue to avoid dairy permanently, or can you go back after say, a few months.
  16. erdoke
    You might just call different foods "cheese". High quality, matured cheese is lower in both lactose and whey protein. Also, it does matter what you eat it with. Organic acids and fibre significantly reduce insulin response to insulinogenic foods. So I would say the 1-2 glasses of wine, the salad and the vinegar usually consumed together with cheese in France are also contributors to the "French paradox". Again, the wine not due to the alcohol, but because of the organic acids.
  17. FrankG
    Again I see trying to formulate oversimplified guidelines based the notion that the term "cheese" or "dairy" is a single homogeneous food. Stop to think and clearly it is not. So any wholesale praise, or condemnation of its value as a food, is not realistic :-).

    An observation on the "French paradox" at least looking at their traditional diets, was always a great focus and pride taken over the high quality of what that eat/ate. Even something such as a pastry -- which would likely be disgusting junk over here filled with shaving foam or ersatz "cream" -- in France would have been made of the finest ingredients; including real heavy cream, dark chocolate, eggs, fresh berries and butter - for example. Still something not to be eaten at every meal perhaps but on balance, not so bad as one might assume just from its name.

  18. looking
    French paradox, Mediterranean diet... there is no mystery. It's just real food. Made with real, whole ingredients. LCHF is just really telling people to eat homemade, traditional foods... what your grandmother or great-great-grandmother used to eat.

    Each culture used to have it's own regionally distinct foods shaped by lifestyle, customs, and locally available ingredients. We sped up our lives, threw away customs, eat inferior quality foods; now look at the sorry state we're in.

    Reply: #21
  19. Z.M.
    From a recent paper:

    "When one analyzes the prevalence and outcome of cardiovascular disease in populations that enjoy long healthy lives, including the Mediterranean population, it is important to note that it is not just the quality or content of food but the social context in which food is consumed. Components of diets in different populations are often varied, fresh and minimally processed. There are strong social ties within the family and the community and higher levels of physical activity, which are major determinants of overall individuals' well-being. This whole construct is likely more important than just diet and dietary content" -

  20. centinel
  21. erdoke
    Real food sounds great and might even be a valid recognition, but it is definitely not a scientific term. I prefer understanding the underlying biochemistry, endocrinology, etc.
  22. looking
    "We are on our own, and have to learn how to interpret information, test it and develop our diets"...

    There's no need to reinvent the wheel. Our ancestors had it fairly right when it came to food. Fresh, local, diverse, minimally processed main and side dishes made with whole foods. I think traditional foods is easier for people to understand instead of asking them to learn from scratch. Bacon and eggs was a typical breakfast before cereal and orange juice replaced it. And something people have forgotten today is, once upon a time, we all sat down together at the table to eat and socialize.

  23. Boundless
    re: Our ancestors had it fairly right when it came to food.

    I quite agree. It's what they were adapted to. The way I usually put it, but didn't this time, is to start with an ancestral diet for your genotype.

    Simple concept, but it usually presents some difficulties such as:
    . do you know your genotype, and
    . if mixed, what then?
    . what they eat?
    . did they eat that because it was optimal for them, or because they had no choice?
    . what were the tradeoffs made in adapting to it?
    . what risks arise for modifying it?

    Given that the authorities we thought we could rely on to provide nutrition advice are lethally mistaken, whatever approach we take to fixing it involves a lot of research and personal decision making.

    Reply: #24
  24. looking
    I don't think it's so complicated. Humans are more than capable of adapting to any cultural food despite their genetic makeup. The problem is the quality of the food available locally, being consumed on a daily basis. Modern food is too artificial, too sugary, too starchy; a concoction of industrial ingredients... Not too many people realize the real food is located around the walls. The center is filled with high processed food mimicries.
  25. Alice Ottoboni
    Have you seen the book review in the Key Reporter by Jay Pasachoff? It recommends The Modern Nutritional Diseases and How to prevent Them as adjunct reading with The Big Fat Surprise.

    For critics of BFS, Dr Pasachoff says:

    "Reading the Ottobonis' book along with Teicholz's book has given me an understanding of the background of much current nutritional discussion, and I can recommend both books heartily, with the Ottobonis providing more technical "discussion on the scientific details."

  26. Susie
    This is just such an important book. FINALLY a book to trace the misguided path of all the awful diet/nutrition advice given by the medical/dietetic/political/Big Food community over the years. I learned to much and have read it 4 times. It's just so full of excellent info! I highly recommend this book. It's just terrific. Ansel Keyes, were he still alive, would have a lot to answer for, as would many others. I hope Ms Teicholz and her family have been moved into the Witness Protection program :) She must be getting hammered!

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