The Swedish diet revolution and the resulting hysteria

Swedes are happily rejecting obsolete fat phobic advice. More and more Swedes just don’t fear real butter anymore. A good choice, as modern science clearly shows there’s simply no connection between saturated fat and heart disease.

Not surprisingly this leads to some hysteria from those who are still stuck in the failed fat->cholesterol->heart disease paradigm of last century. News of it appeared in a few UK papers yesterday. They even mentioned this blog!

Mail Online: Atkins diet ‘raises risk of heart disease ‘ because of a surge in cholesterol levels

Similar articles also appeared in The Independent and Metro.

While reading I couldn’t help smiling at the bizzarely inflated scary conclusions drawn from a single small observational study!

It’s of course likely that eating more fat may have increased the total cholesterol in the population somewhat. But it also increases HDL (good) cholesterol, which statistically is highly protective. Of course, ignoring HDL is par for the course when fear-mongering about cholesterol.

More importantly there are no signs that the number of heart attacks are increasing in Sweden. We seem to be just as healthy, even as the (good) cholesterol “surges”. As the years go by that will be harder and harder to explain away.

Swedes are already among the slimmest people in Europe, and according to the latest statistics the obesity epidemic is slowing to a crawl here. Meanwhile the United Kingdom, where the fear of fat is as strong as ever, has become the fattest country in Europe. Coincidence?

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  1. Laura
    PS Morepork nobody was shouting at you but in a way you show us all how easy it is to distort the original message or principle. When it comes to this kind of sceince based framework of thoughts relating to diet and lifestyle based on an ancestral model the best thing to do (what i would do) is try to find the original source e.g. Boyd Eaton, Loren Cordain to quote but two of the msot influencial people and make your mind on the basis of their work and publications and not on hte basis of some quack who is preaching absolute trash under the 'paleo' label.
  2. Tia
    @ Galina L.:
    I do not follow Guyenet' s publications and I do not know if he is interested in tooth decay of his followers. I am not.

    As far as I know there are a lot of evidences for disadvantages of high blood glucose and reactive insulin levels and decided for myself to keep both low by a LC woe. No further tooth decay included. ;)

  3. Moreporkplease

    Almost no one in contemporary Paleo practice - what the Paleo community actually does instead of what the gurus preach - listens to Cordain. He is widely mocked for his low-fat "Faileo" diet. At best it's called Paleo 1.0, where most people now say they do Paleo 3.0.

    Guyenet, who just yesterday invalidated his own premise that calories count by posting a study showing sugar altered not to taste sweet had no - zero - metabolic effects and doesn't cause weight gain or insulin rises(!), now drives this confused Paleo idea.

    Sorry, it's just reality. Or rather the continued Paleo chaos they call science.

  4. Tia
    "Guyenet, who just yesterday invalidated his own premise that calories count by posting a study showing sugar altered not to taste sweet had no - zero - metabolic effects and doesn't cause weight gain or insulin rises" #53

    Why would somebody eat such thing?
    Seems to me that Guyenet somehow got on the wrong track

  5. Maggan A
    Morepork #53

    Hm... fatscared but not afraid of sugar....

    Deja vú anyone?

  6. Laura
    I have followed and read a couple of publications by Guyenet. He seems to base his entire thesis on palatability and reward circuits in teh brain. I am sorry I jsut cannot agree with this premise and point of view although I was unaware of his stance on calories and sugar consumption. His diet advice would be to eat low palatable BLAND food so as to keep those brain reward centres under control...not sure if he says to do so forever if you are a craver like me or jsut for a whole until you reset the system but really it could not be more contrary to my life choice and my love affair with food and the paleo principles where the main drive to eating certain foods had to be palatability. I cannot see a chimp deciding to eat somehting they hate jsut because it is good for them...I shall stick with what tastes good and is also good for me (apart from wheat/milk/sugar and derivatives). such is life never easy uh?
  7. Galina L.
    I think I didn't mentioned Dr.Guyenet at all.
  8. Maggan A
    Copied from the latest LCHF-magasine that arrived in the mailbox today. Maybe the google translation is not optimal but i think you get the picture. I´m loking forvard to september, when i belive we will here a lot of "I told you so" and som others will have to eat the sour grapes.

    It does not get much better than this ;-)

    "He became a professor even as a 44-year-old and he has no problem with sticking his neck out in the health debate.

    Now he is cooperating in the great governement investigation "Food for obesity" initiated by the SBU, in english the National Council on Medical Assessment.

    It will find out what kind of food that is in obesity or as it is called in Swedish; investigation to "clarify the effect of different diets and individual foods have on weight loss, mortality, morbidity and quality of life for people with obesity."

    -It involves about 30 000 scientific papers to be reviewed and assessed. We have come a long way and in the fall to the summary published, says Fredrik Nyström, who is a consultant and professor of Linköping. His specialty is internal medicine and endocrinology, namely the study of hormonal disorders such as diabetes and dyslipidemia"

  9. Tia
    Galina L., you are right, you did not mention S. Guyenet, but you mentioned tooth decay resulting from high sugar intake. S. Guyenet recommends high sugar intake and I do not know, if he cares about tooth decay of the followers of his recommendations... this is the abbreviated version for better understanding :)
  10. Laura
    Morepork I am geneticist by training and practice with a strong interest in anthropology and archaelogy I do hope you give me some credit both academically and intellectually to be able to judge for myself what is right or wrong based on my knowledge and own analysis and interpretation of the scientific literature (teh data bit). Cordain's work is very respectable..his actual 'commercial' diet I think suffers from fear/lack of animal fat. (I agree with the dairy avoindance though).
    I really do not go with what people say or the latest trend or misunterpretations thereof...
  11. Laura
    ABout Gueyenet and David Kessler both 'palatability' people...all their speculations and observations can be easily explained by the effects of infulin secretion both when we think/anticipate food consumption and during/immedaitely after a meal. So the Taubes explanation (like Darwin's theory of evolution) remians in my view the best far
  12. Michael
    Confused: "The majority of Paleo people now follow Guyenet's ideas..."

    I don't think so (but I don't read Paleohacks much so maybe you're right) but it seems a lot of people who read the paleo diet blogs were overwhelmed by Guyenet's "refutation" of the carbs->insulin->fatgain model popularized by Gary Taubes and they didn't bother to dig deeper into his so-called proofs,

    and then they saw some paleo authority figures give their thumbs up so they concluded "uh... well, it must be true then!", they didn't bother to read Petro Dobromylskyj's blog posts in which he pretty much refutes everything Guyenet wrote about insulin/obesity.

    every group or community is tribal in some way or another. so you can expect some kind of basic groupthink in any of them but I was surprised how quickly some people just turn off their brain and decide to support autority figure X.

  13. Michael
    @Nadyka, take a look at Mark Sisson's carbohydrate intake curve

    it's not necessary to be at < 50g carbs/day every day to lose weight but some people may feel better. later if you try ketosis drink more water, eat more fat and eat more salt.

  14. Michael
    BTW for those of you who missed it:

    Is It Time to Retire the Low-Carb Diet “Fad”?

    "First and foremost, this study has nothing to do with low carbers, or even heart disease: it’s an observational study of Swedes Not Further Specified (SNFS). Researchers pulled 25 years’ worth of data from 140,000 folks in the North Sweden Diet Database, averaged everyone’s food intake, averaged everyone’s total cholesterol, and made some pretty graphs."

  15. @ Michael
    I agree with you. For a long time I thought Wholehealthsource was the best source of dietary information that was until the insulin showdown saga.
    I agree for some people the idea of palatability./reward in association with super-sizing may be a contributory factor BUT I became obese without ever eating out, eating fast food, drinking soda, excessive eating or consuming sugar/fructose.or sweets/ bought ice creams.
    I gained weight while eating "healthy" low fat, wholegrain, skim milk, and regular portion sizes. While I wasn't eating excessively, I was always hungry and often had to eat something while I was preparing a meal because I was so desperate for food.(Now I know this was hypoglycemia)
    I became more sedentary as I grew fatter, but following Dr Dahlqvist's plan after listening to Taubes online lecture and reading GCBC and without counting calories, simply changing the carb content of my meals and increasing fat content led to weight loss which I haven't regained.but I have regained some mobility, I don't think there are any other factors involved except elimination of wheat, bread, cakes, biscuits and refined carbohydrates. and the increase in coconut oil butter and no fear of saturated fat.
    I'm not quite sure how Guyenet differentiates palatability/reward from food addiction but to be honest I don't spend sufficient time there any more to want to invest the time or make the effort to understand what he is saying. I don't believe the food I eat now is any more or less palatable or less rewarding than the food I ate prior to becoming obese. It's just more satisfying so rather than needing to eat before a meal is due as was the case now I sometimes skip meals if not hungry or too busy/interested.
  16. Takeda
    Well of course there is a huge push against any change in the status quo ... the anti-statin industry makes 12Bn a year so of course they want us all to be fat and taking their drugs as we all fall into a haze of neurological decay caused by their poison, diet drinks, low-fat yogurt, etc.

    The thing that's starting to piss me off is the prevalence of 'Celebrity Chefs' and their celebration of the status quo of 'healthy cooking' that's low-protein, low fat and high carb ... We need to find our own 'Celebrity Chef' that embraces the LCHF/Paleo diet and can show that it's not all crap!

  17. Nigel Kinbrum
    I'm just going to leave this here:-

    Look at Figs 1, 2, 8, 9 & 11.

    Coronary mortality is strongly associated with total fat intake/%E & animal protein intake.

    Coronary mortality is strongly associated with sugar intake.

    Coronary mortality is strongly associated with annual income.

  18. erdoke
    So what? All these are not only associated with, but obviously caused by taking breath. None of those who completely stopped breathing developed mentioned diseases. Or any other for the record...
    Most of us here have not only examined the evidence available, but actually tested and have adopted LCHF as a lifestyle. Regardless of your apparent dislike, it works and we feel good. Stop pretending that you came here, because our health is your primary concern. You have an irresistible internal push for spreading some word. The only, but not at all negligible issue is that we could not care less about tried and failed fad diets anymore. We are nice people, so don't expect to be shot, dear bogus messenger.
  19. Nigel Kinbrum
    erdoke said...
    "So what? All these are not only associated with, but obviously caused by taking breath. None of those who completely stopped breathing developed mentioned diseases. Or any other for the record..."
    I'll tell you "So what!"

    When a study produces an association that's in favour of LCHF diets, you're all over it like a rash, blogging & Tweeting it for all to see. That's called "Confirmation bias".

    When a study produces an association that's not in favour of LCHF diets, you're like "But association doesn't prove causation!" That's called "Shifting the burden of proof", a tactic used by denialists.

    You're quite right. I don't care about you.

    What I care about is science. Some of the utter garbage I see on low-carb/keto & Paleo blogs (e.g. rampant carbophobia & ultra-high fat intakes - eating a stick of Kerrygold butter a day) is giving low-carb/keto diets & Paleo diets a bad name.

    That bothers me, which is why I debunk pseudoscientific BS as & when I see it. I see it here.

    Go on. Shoot me. See if I care.

    P.S. If you can be bothered to read my blog (Google my username), you'll see that I fully support low-carbohydrate diets for people with certain medical conditions (e.g. Insulin Resistance, Metabolic Syndrome, Type 2 diabetes etc).

    I also offer solutions to help those problems, backed-up by quality peer-reviewed evidence.

    Reply: #70
  20. erdoke
    "What I care about is science."
    Seemingly we are on the same side then, but why I have a strange feeling that we face a blog troll here?
    I happen to be a scientist, what's more trained and working in molecular biology, this way do not take such claims easily. On top of that I do know the scientific society from the inside, apparently having an insight what confirmation bias means. A nice example is the history of the science of cholesterol and saturated fat and the resulting nutritional advices. I do understand what it means when you get no funding for a study regardless of the quality of the setup, just because it is not (fully) in line with the mainstream acceptance of theories (!), or even if you are a genius in finding resources and carrying out the studies, there is no way that the major papers accept it for publishing. If the work is big and apparently not bogus then it gets published and subsequently buried... It had happened through decades with high quality studies or highly influential observational studies. Just remember the Framingham study at 10 years and then again at 30 years.
    As a scientist, I still question many widely accepted theories and try to look into the background data these are based on. It is definitely not easy and I'm not 100 % convinced anything when it comes to nutrition for example. This is why I don't have my own blog to persuade others with my belief and have never trolled vegan or whatever forums with my different views on nutrition.
    This is what I don't see behind your comments and why I tend to question above claim. The respect for science and for the scientists who work hard to find explanations to not well understood phenomena and to find solutions for problems affecting plenty of people. Science is not a bunch of papers gathered into folders and used at different forums to argue for beliefs...
    I can just reiterate that based on what I have read so far, cholesterol or LDL in general are not the primary cause of atherosclerosis. There is a relation and even a predictive factor, but no evidence for causation (just yet?). Many times in fact higher cholesterol, or even higher LDL-C together with higher HDL-C has been found to be protective, especially in women.
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