Is Fat Consumption Causing Obesity?

by Ann Marie Michaels on September 9, 2008

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The Overflowing American Dinner Plate

(Click here to see the chart close up)

Is fat consumption causing obesity?

According to a recent article in the NY Times, The Overflowing American Dinner Plate by Bill Marsh, Americans are eating 59% more fat today than we did 30 years ago.

Stephan (last name unknown), a doctoral candidate in neurobiology and author of the Whole Health Source blog, disputes this.

He says that we eating the same amount of fat we did 30 years ago. He says that what has increased is our consumption of industrial processed vegetable oil:

The problem is, we aren’t eating any more fat than we were in 1970. The US Centers for Disease Control NHANES surveys show that total fat consumption has remained the same since 1971, and has decreased as a percentage of calories. I’ve been playing around with the USDA data for months now, and I can tell you that Marsh misinterpreted it in a bad way. Here are the raw data, for anyone who’s interested. They’re in easy-to-use Excel spreadsheets. I highly recommend poking around them if you’re interested.

The reason Marsh was confused by the USDA data is they have a column in the “fats” spreadsheet called “total fat”. But “total fat” is a misnomer, because it doesn’t include fats from meat and milk. What it reflects is primarily concentrated fats like vegetable oil, butter, lard and shortening. That’s what has increased by 59%, and it’s almost exclusively due to increased use of industrially processed vegetable oil (butter and lard have decreased). Total fat has remained the same because we now eat low-fat cuts of meat and low-fat dairy products to make up for it! Source: Whole Health Source

We’re eating the same amount of fat we did 30 years ago. And yet, “fat” is being blamed for the spike in American obesity.

Perhaps we should look instead at the increase in grains and sugar in our diet. We’re eating 42% more grains (90% of those are refined grains) and 17% more sugar (with a huge increase of high fructose corn syrup).

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