Saturated fat good, sugar bad

Yesterday there was an article in the paper ‘Why I’ve ditched my anti-cholesterol drugs for good‘ where Haroun Gajraj (a vascular surgeon) has lowered his cholesterol levels from terrible to good. He got rid of the sugar in his diet and started eating animal fat, after a University of Cambridge study showed that saturated fat is ok now (or at least that no link between it and heart disease was shown, obviously more research is needed, perhaps there’s a teeny tiny effect that could be spotted if you only studied more people).

This is interesting as it was pointed out to me as news, even though Gary Taubes described this in his 2007 book The Diet Delusion which I read last June. A 460 page summary of all the research over the last 150 years (not including notes). But the information is not real until it is in the papers.

Haroun Gajraj pointed out that perhaps sugar is the real culprit (spoiler: sugar is definitely the real culprit). This reminds me of the graph Gary Taubes quoted in his book Sugar vs diabetes


Here we can see that sugar consumption in England and Wales (dotted line) ranged from 65ish to 100ish pounds/person/year and it was almost perfectly tracked by diabetes deaths (black line). I know it’s obvious now but at the time they though diabetes was caused by high fat and the treatment was low fat, high carb diet, they didn’t pay attention to this graph and the attendant data. Fortunately access to insulin and the invention of antibiotics to treat side effects of insulin after the war, started to break up this particular correlation.

This ties in to Keyes’ Seven Countries study of heart disease, which invented the idea of the Mediteranian diet due to the health of the islanders of Crete and Corfu, and noted the health of the Japanese. The Islanders were getting less than 16 pounds of sugar and no white bread (off the bottom of this chart) and the low fat Japense diet was equally low sugar, less than 40pounds/person/year in 1963 and still under 50pounds/person/year in 1980. Contrast that with England and Wales when, at the height of sugar rationing, we never ate less than 60pounds/person/year, and the US in 2008 weighed in with 133.7pounds/person/year.

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