After a conversation with my friend Amanda the other day (Inspired.), I had a bit of a revelation... not everyone thinks the way I do. It should be obvious, of course, but sometimes you just need a little kick in the pants. We were talking about conventional registered dietitians and the trends we see as we work our way into the profession. Unfortunately, we've noticed that many RDs are closed-minded and resistant to hearing anything that challenges their beliefs... the precious "facts" they learned in school, the gospel that comes out of the USDA dietary guidelines... when in fact they haven't put any real thought into it themselves.
I guess I just tend to have faith in people. I assume that someone who went through the 4-5 years of school and 1200 hours of supervised practice to become a nutrition professional would have learned, somewhere along the way, to think for themselves, instead of taking every word of what someone else says to be the absolute truth. Isn't that what we go to school for?? To learn how to think for our fucking selves? To become adults with conviction who actually stand for something, instead of being sheep and following the pack??? Is that not what education is all about?
It just absolutely kills me when I meet someone who is a grown adult and still thinks in such a naive manner. If you disagree with something I say that's fine. There's room for disagreement in nutrition. Just don't be a fucking moron about it and come back with "that's not what we learned in school". Nutrition isn't as clear as black and white, it's mostly gray... everything exists on a spectrum.
Nowhere is this more apparent than on the topic of saturated fat.
You all know how much I love to talk about saturated fat; it just happens to be the main topic with which I STRONGLY disagree with the mainstream, and it provides a great example of what I'm talking about. The vast, vast majority of nutritionists and dietitians think saturated fat is the devil. Why? Because that's the message we're bombarded with at every turn... the grocery store, TV, magazines, nutrition class, your doctor's office, the hospital, the fucking DMV. It's everywhere and the message is loud and clear: Saturated fat is bad and it will kill you.
Of course this is the popular position to take. Most dietitians wouldn't even think twice. But have they even thought about it? Have they even considered that there's another side to this argument? You have to consider the other side too. Here are the facts...
- Replacing saturated fats in the diet with omega-6 polyunsaturated fats increases risk of death from all causes, despite reducing cholesterol levels.
- People who eat more saturated fat over the long term have the same cholesterol levels as those who eat less saturated fat.
- Two major meta-analyses in 2010, which included a combined 41 studies, and 1,566,127 participants, showed no connection between saturated fat intake and heart disease.
- Every one of the seven countries in Europe that eat the most saturated fat have less heart disease than every one of the seven that eat the least saturated fat.
- Eggs, which are high in saturated fat, are not harmful and may even be beneficial for heart health.
- Virgin coconut oil, nearly 100% saturated fat, prevents LDL oxidation, targets fat loss in the abdomen, and may improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
- Dairy fat consumption promotes healthy cholesterol levels, and has virtually no association with cardiovascular disease
Can you make an argument for avoiding saturated fat? Yes you can. But you'd have to ignore all of the above to do so, and you'd have to be downright simple to proclaim it unquestionably "bad".
Levels and levels (not shades) of gray
And of course, just because saturated fat isn't "bad" doesn't mean it's "good". This brings up another level of gray... can't we choose a middle ground? Maybe that saturated fat is "not harmful"? I don't think eating it will make you live forever, but it won't kill you any sooner either. It's a neutral food, safe to eat as a source of calories but lacking any life-saving health benefit. And how much do we need to eat?? Yet another level of gray. I say don't concern yourself with it... Many healthy cultures get between 10-15% of their calories as saturated fat precisely for that reason... they don't think about it. They don't eat low-fat cheese, they don't throw away the yolks, they eat real butter, and they don't concern themselves with the fat content. Eat the real food you like and don't worry about the fat, that would be my advice.
But the gray goes deeper... because saturated fat is a catch-all term for several different fatty acids, all of which behave differently in the body. And beyond that (confused yet?), we have to consider the fact that food is more complex than we know. Demonizing a food just because you don't like ONE of its chemical constituents, of which it has THOUSANDS, just doesn't make a lot of sense.
Do you see why I'm peeved? I'm sorry, but I don't have a lot of patience for nutrition professionals who are ignorant enough to believe they know it all because they have a degree and passed the RD exam. Life isn't black and white; nutrition is NO exception. Grow up and think for yourself, you're embarrassing the rest of us.
Don't get me wrong, I am in no way insinuating that I'm always right. I'm not; I've been wrong a million times and I plan on a million more. But that's part of the journey. If you're not a little confused about nutrition, then you just haven't delved deep enough, and that's the damn truth.
I strongly believe that if you want to be successful in this field, and life in general, you need to be committed to "learning". Never stop learning. Unfortunately, in my experience, many RDs are more committed to "knowing". And that scares me.