Carbohydrates, Not Saturated Fat, Are Correlated with Cardiovascular Disease

We’ve been told for many decades now to avoid saturated fat to lessen our risk of heart and other cardiovascular disease. But as with so many other pieces of mainstream health wisdom, the doctors and scientists got that one wrong, not that there was such great evidence to begin with. Instead, their recommended macronutrient, carbohydrates, not saturated fat, are correlated with cardiovascular disease. It’s time to end the lies.

What the Health

You may have heard of the new documentary film “What the Health”, which blames meat for the epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and advocates veganism for health.

I can’t review this movie because I saw only some of it. I had to leave the room after watching some of it because I couldn’t stand the incredible mendacity on display in both the interviewees’ answers and the tone of the film. In any case, seeing some of it and realizing how popular it’s become prompted this article. Most people, not knowing any better, take that stuff at face value because of doctors in the film and because it confirms their biases about meat. (Nina Teicholz wrote a solid takedown of the film’s lack of a base in actual science.)

Saturated fat does not cause heart disease

In a recent article, we saw that red meat, contrary to what you’ve heard for years, is a health food.

The main component of meat that’s been thought to be involved in cardiovascular disease is saturated fat.

Yet, a recent meta-analysis (an analysis of other studies) found, “Saturated fats are not associated with all cause mortality, CVD, CHD, ischemic stroke, or type 2 diabetes…”

The study did find an association of a particular type of fat with all-cause mortality as well as coronary heart disease, and that was trans fat, the type found in hydrogenated vegetable oils used in processed foods.

Another study from a few years ago, one of whose authors was Ronald Krauss, a very big name in this field, concluded, “… there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD.”

The doctors in “What the Health” must be aware of these studies; if so, they’re being willfully misleading, and if not, are willfully ignorant.

It beggars the imagination that a food that humans have eaten for millions of years, sometimes to the exclusion of anything else, suddenly causes heart disease and obesity. The consumption of red meat has actually declined since before the obesity epidemic (although poultry consumption has increased), and the consumption of grains has increased. See the following chart (source).

 

 

Carbohydrate consumption is linked to cardiovascular disease

If saturated fat isn’t linked to the incidence of cardiovascular disease, the biggest killer in the developed world, what is?

Carbohydrates, especially refined carbohydrates from grains.

A study that was published last year, Food consumption and the actual statistics of cardiovascular diseases: an epidemiological comparison of 42 European countries, found that “The most significant dietary correlate of low CVD risk was high total fat and animal protein consumption.”

Yes, you read that right. The more fat and the more animal protein people ate, on a population basis, the less cardiovascular disease they had.

The study also found that “The major correlate of high CVD risk was the proportion of energy from carbohydrates and alcohol, or from potato and cereal carbohydrates.” [My emphasis.]

The following chart illustrates the correlation between the amount of carbohydrates (and alcohol) in the diet, by country, and the total CVD mortality in women.

 

The study found that animal fat did indeed raise cholesterol levels, but that “the relationship between raised cholesterol and CVD indicators in the present study is always negative.” The higher the cholesterol, the lower the CVD rates.

The major correlates of high CVD risk were:

  • carbohydrates, especially refined, high-glycemic carbohydrates (potatoes, cereal grains, sugar)
  • distilled liquor
  • sunflower oil

The major correlates of low CVD risk were:

  • fat and protein intake
  • fruits and wine
  • vegetables

As always, correlation does not equal causation. Other important factors relating to CVD deaths that this study found were smoking, BMI, and level of healthcare expenditure.

But these associations appear to exonerate saturated fat from animal sources, such as meat and dairy, from causing heart disease and stroke. And they imply that carbohydrates are a problem.

Conclusion

The above-cited study states, “The obvious fallacy of the ‘saturated fat hypothesis’ can be demonstrated by the example of France – a country with the highest intake of animal fat in the world and the second lowest CVD mortality (after Japan).”

Ergo, saturated fat does not cause cardiovascular disease, despite what the makers of “What the Health” would have you believe. The film is just more lies from the mainstream.

The authors also state,

Our results do not support the association between CVDs and saturated fat, which is still contained in official dietary guidelines. Instead, they agree with data accumulated from recent studies that link CVD risk with the high glycaemic index/load of carbohydrate-based diets. In the absence of any scientific evidence connecting saturated fat with CVDs, these findings show that current dietary recommendations regarding CVDs should be seriously reconsidered.

Why would carbohydrate consumption be associated with CVD? Likely because they can lead to insulin resistance, which is probably the true cause of heart disease, as well as a major risk factor for cancer.

So eat meat in the knowledge that can improve your health, not decrease it, and cut back on the consumption of refined carbohydrates.

Added 7/24/17: There’s another ongoing study, results apparently not published yet, the PURE study, led by Salim Yusuf, M.D., a prominent cardiologist. The PURE study is also epidemiological like the above cited study, and exonerates saturated fat and points toward carbohydrates as increasing the risk of CVD. Dr. Michael Eades discusses it here.

PS: For more on how to live a longer life through, among other things, fewer refined carbohydrates, see my book, Stop the Clock.

My most recent book is Best Supplements for Men.

PPS: Check out my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.

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Leave a Comment:

55 comments
MG says July 23, 2017

Friendly printer button is gone again, it would be nice to have for old school people who like to contaminate the planet with paper.

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    P. D. Mangan says July 23, 2017

    Thanks for bringing that to my attention. A recent Word Press update screwed up some other things too. I’ll get it back.

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Bernie says July 23, 2017

As a middle aged man I am now seeing that nearly everything I was taught about health, race and sex is 100 percent wrong. So what value does this phalanx of academics, doctors and journalists provide society? None. Yet they spend their days producing lies, talking points and junk science. All while picking up nice paychecks of course.

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Mellie says July 23, 2017

Great post! You hit the nail on the head!

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    P. D. Mangan says July 23, 2017

    Thanks, Mellie!

    Reply
Aaron says July 23, 2017

Not sure about the ‘…..humans have eaten for millions of years’ statement being true (as we’ve only been about a few hundred thousand years). Great article though.

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    P. D. Mangan says July 23, 2017

    Thanks, Aaron. I agree, depends on exactly how one defines human. A broad definition might encompass more than a million years, narrower, a few hundred thousand.

    Reply
    Caitlin says July 24, 2017

    I think they are referring to the entire genus of “homo”, which came about 2.5 million years ago.

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Lance Risbey says July 23, 2017

This exposure of mainstream “conventional wisdom” first came to my notice a couple of decades ago, with publication of “The G.I.Factor”, & then the enlarged version, “The New Glucose Revolution”, by Jennie Brand-Miller et al (University of Sydney, in New South Wales, Australia). It makes sense but mainstream Doctors & Dieticians are slow to drop the “Saturated Fats” theory.

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Bill says July 23, 2017

Great Post PD !!
I suspect we all need this kind of post occasionally to reverse the endless programing popular junk diet programs favoring veganism. ( I just typed ‘virganism’ then by mistake. I corrected it but it is an interesting typo. )

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    P. D. Mangan says July 23, 2017

    Thanks, Bill!

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    Ole says July 23, 2017

    Bill, you seem to have overlook the word ‘vegetables’ and ‘fruit’ in the list of major correlates of low CVD risk. You can also easily get all of the essential amino acids from vegetables, meaning that you can replace some of the animal protein with vegetable protein. As a side benefit, you will reduce the amount of toxic byproducts from animal protein fermentation like ammonia, amines, phenols and sulfides. And no, I am not a vegan 😉

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      Bill says July 24, 2017

      Ole, I did not comment on fruit or vegetables. But as it happens I am a keen organic gardener with lots of winter vegies in the ground right now : lettuces, snow peas, kale, brocoli, red giant mustard, celery, coriander, parsley, leeks, red onions etc. And I have in he past 2 years planted 37 different fruit trees.. All of them are young and have not yet fruited. But in time I’ll enjoy the bounty and share it with the roselas, cockatoos and possums maybe…

      But I’m also enjoying my cheeses, my cream ( in black coffee, yum ! ), real organic butter, lamb chops and steaks, tuna, wild caught salmon and especially anchovies with salt. A balanced diet !

      Reply
        Ole says July 24, 2017

        Exactly. Balanced 🙂

        Reply
Pstty says July 23, 2017

Sick of hearing what’s good for you or not. Enjoy life.!

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Steve says July 23, 2017

Spot on keep up the good work

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Dr.v.k.singh says July 23, 2017

Ofcourse ur food matters a lot but eating a heathy diet n not doing enuf exercise is more harmful than eating freely n exercise a lot.dont make u a snail….u will live longer ..healthy n happily.
EAT A LOT & WORK HARD.

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Sean says July 23, 2017

It’s usually a good idea to understand the studies you cite when making such a bold claim.

Another supplement salesman who shouldn’t even be allowed to say the word science.

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Clare Wignall says July 23, 2017

I notice you don’t say a word on the terrible suffering animals go through.

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    Nick says July 24, 2017

    Snowflake-me thinks animals shouldn’t be made to suffer in providing for our nutrition. There’s no reason why they should need to. The fact that they do sometimes is because of ever-increasing industrialisation and de-regulation of the sectors involved, coupled with pressure to drive prices ever further down. Look at the number of hours one has to work today in order to afford a pound or kg of meat compared to 50 years ago.

    I personally try to put my money where my mouth is and eat only products from animals raised and processed humanely, when not also organically.

    (Is that what they call “virtue signalling”?)

    (But none of this is really germane to PD’s post, which is simply about what does or does not cause CVD.)

    Reply
      P. D. Mangan says July 24, 2017

      Nick – thanks. What’s going on here is that I got a link on Twitter from Joe Rogan, who has 3.5 million followers there. Hence a lot of first time readers. Also a lot of people upset that their pet theories are being trashed, which is my specialty.

      Reply
Kate Prudence says July 24, 2017

I personally have fiund chicken and gish have given me amazing health all my life .the wrong advice changes all the time its just eat fresh food mainly organic it works .

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Kate Prudence says July 24, 2017

Really good article .i personally have found eating chicken and fish along with organic veg etc has given me amazing health all my life .its just about eating fresh food keeping the treat foods to a minimum .

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    P. D. Mangan says July 24, 2017

    Thanks, Kate. I agree that no processed food is the best policy.

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Stuart Mather says July 24, 2017

P.D I wonder if any of these studies trying to finger saturated fat, or protein, or carbohydrate have ever tried to control for people who just eat too much food ?
I’m sure if you overeat any one macronutrient your health outcomes won’t be good, including CVD risk There are just too many cultures who eat moderate amounts of carbohydrate who live spectacularly long lives and have done (both) for millennia to demonize carbohydrate,
Somebody who eats a lot of low nutrient density/ high G.I carbs won’t do well I think CVD would probably be the least of their problems Psst don’t tell the fast food chains!.
Humane slaughter of animals – whether or not intended for human consumption is a no brainer isn’t it?
Humans are pretty useless at even treating ( let alone slaughtering ) each other humanely after all.
Animals are a long way down the list.
Also, I was a bit disappointed that you tried to dismiss some comment Ole made in another thread with the ‘Are you a vegan’ question Why is somebody who questions carbohydrate phobia more likely to be a &%$# VEGAN $%&*?
I’m not a vegan either. In fact vegans who do so for nutritional reasons are probably as misguided as someone who eats too much saturated fat – particularly at the expense of carbohydrate..
But doing so for ethical reasons is entirely admirable isn’t it?
If you eat sprirulina/ insects as part of your vegan protein intake, it isn’t exactly difficult to get plenty of high quality protein/fat/and micronutrients anyway.
It’s worth noting that there aren’t any (zero, seriously) blue zoners who eat a lot of saturated fat..
‘Don’t get me wrong, Saturated fat in moderation (just like a small amount of polyunsaturates) is surely as healthy as any other macronutrient. Isn’t MODERATION the key?
Humans can be so….. excessive.
It’s worth noting that the butyrate that well fed (fermentable fibre) commensal gut bacteria churn out to maximize your health/longevity is considerably more saturated than any dietary fat – even stearic acid.

Just stop eating too much Easier said than done in a world of delicious, readily available food of course.

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    P. D. Mangan says July 24, 2017

    Hi Stuart – too much food, sure, but I wonder how possible it is to become obese/diabetic if you eat little in the way of refined carbs and sugar. Not only does insulin remain low on a low carb diet, but it’s very sating. There was some overfeeding study, done in a prison I think, where they could easily get men to eat 10,000 calories a day, so long as it was carbohydrate. Otherwise they couldn’t do it. And the men who ate 10,000 high carb calories were still hungry.
    As for animal welfare, well, you’re talking to an ex-vegan, so I sympathize. However, the way I see it, I didn’t make the rules. All of nature devours itself, and the deaths of animals in nature are normally of the cruelest kind, cruelty that makes almost anything man does seem little in comparison. Animals are eaten alive, or they starve to death, or die from horrible diseases and parasitic infections. That doesn’t mean that humans can do what they like of course, but it helps to put things in perspective. Man has been hunting, killing, and eating animals for as long as humans have existed, and evolution has shaped us so that we need meat for optimal health. As I say, I didn’t make the rules.
    As for Blue Zones, there’s a lot more going on there than meets the eye. Okinawans ate a fair amount of pork; they also ate less rice than on mainland Japan, so is that the longevity secret? Or is it that they stay active and are closely involved in community and family? Or that they eat fewer calories? Or that they live in sunny areas and get lots of vitamin D?

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      Stuart Mather says July 24, 2017

      P.D Interesting response. Thanks.
      And I do take your point that ‘nature’ is characterised by unbelievable cruelty I can’t even watch otherwise fascinating nature documaentaries because they show (inevitably) an endless procession of one animal devouring another alive in a timeless orgy of hunger driven violence.

      But suffering is suffering, whether it’s ‘natural’ or not. And humans are in the fortunate position of rising above all that desperation and being capable of enuring that the animals we raise and them kill for food are treated humanely
      Of course I’m not about to stop eating my evolutionary due of meat.. Veganism is nutritional nonsense. No doubt about it. Ethically justifiable if it rocks your boat though I suppose.
      But as I’ve already pointed out, if you really do want to avoid eating animals, it’s really easy to get plenty of animal protein by eating insects or spirulina.. Even horses get about two hamburgers worth of animal protein daily just by the insects in the grass they eat. Stabled horses should always get a small amount of meat meal in their supplement ration.
      The Okinawans may well eat less rice than mainland Japanese. But they still eat plenty. As well as various tubers and pulses Low carb they ain’t. Nor do they eat ‘a lot’ of pork fat. They eat some certainly, but more as a flavouring in other dishes.
      That’s my main point. NO (zero) blue zoners eat a low carb diet. Nor do any eat a high fat diet.
      But they ALL eat a lower calorie – than advanced western societies, which wouldn’t exactly be difficult after all
      Somebody who eats a high fat diet is by definition eating a high calorie diet – there’s just so many calories in fat. It doesn’t take very much of the foods Bill so gleefully reports eating to be on a one way calorie ticket to a shorter life. Even if he doesn’t die of CVD. the evolutionary imperative of keeping calories low will get him sooner than he would have hoped.
      But I do take your point about refined high glycemic carbs in a western diet. Humans are such slaves to their tastebuds after all.

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        Bill says July 25, 2017

        Stuart, did you bring me into your comment to PD hoping for a response from me ?

        I do think you are really being presumptous. You don’t know the complete picture. For example : you do not know :
        1 : What I eat
        2 : What quantities
        3 : When I eat
        4 : Whether I fast occasionally,
        5 : What OTC supplements I take,
        6 : Whether I ‘work out’ regularly & intensively
        7 : What my normal work is and how physically demanding it
        8 : Whether I smoke
        9 : Whether I drink alcohol and if so a little or a lot of what kind
        10 : Other activities which are ‘protective’…
        So it would be nice if you withdrew comment. In short you are treading on personal space and not welcome mate. OK ?

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          Stuart Mather says July 25, 2017

          No need to be hypersensitive ‘Bill. My comment was in response to you singing the praises of consuming lots of fat. Which is by definition a high calorie diet.
          There may well be various ‘protective’ measures you can take to redress the shorter lifespan so doing imposes on any organism on the face of the earth.
          I suppose it all comes down to how many backwards steps you are prepared to take. And consuming a high calorie diet is simply a backward step, no matter how much exercise (Resistance or not) you do Ask any competitive athlete.

          Please resist the temptation to take things personally Bill..

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          Bill says July 25, 2017

          Only ignorance provides you with the belief that you know my diet and can make comment on it. Ignorance is bliss.

          I know not a thing about your diet, so I will refrain from making any comment it & your health.

          Now that is a courtesy to you, born out of my awareness of what I do not know..

          You are lacking in that.

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Bill says July 24, 2017

PD I know it’s nice to have the exposure ..But I have enjoyed the quiet thoughtful way that we’ve all read and commented here till now… But it feels like we’ve been joined by a whole lot of virginistic vegans. And they are upset. Bugger !

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    Stuart Mather says July 24, 2017

    Bill, I’m intrigued. What’s a ” virginistic vegan”?

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      Bill says July 24, 2017

      Just an accidental typo Stuart which I decided to give meaning to. There is an old implication in some cultures that being a ‘Virgin’ equals being ‘Holy’ …
      Vegan ~ ”virgan ‘ ~ virgin~ holy ~ & virganistic.. 🙂
      But I am not suggesting or recommending it .

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Jon says July 24, 2017

Thank you, I’m sick and tired of the vega-nazi propaganda. This cult of cow huggers are poisoning minds, as well as bodies with their nonsense data and agenda. I’m sure they’ll dismiss these facts and reply with their own altered “truth”. Nina Teicholz’s article was brilliant as well.

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Peter B says July 24, 2017

PD, I appreciate your point and value your discussion.of this complicated subject. Sadly, you won’t convince many people by talking about ‘lies from the mainstraim’. Please don’t talk yourself into an underdog position, your as mainstraim as anybody else..

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    P. D. Mangan says July 24, 2017

    Thanks, Peter – do you mean that I’m assuming that my perspective isn’t as valuable when I characterize my view as not mainstream? Or that writing about “lies” turns people off?

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JG says July 24, 2017

Ever since Joe had the Cowspiracy guys on and they had too many facts and proven studies it has been a thorn so I think he didn’t want them back to try to debate “What The Health”. My mistake for switching to a starch based diets full of carbohydrates. I have never been more fit and energetic in my life. Eating low fat zero cholesterol food like rice and potatoes is great for your health. The World Health Organization study labeling red meat a group A carcinogen IS real. I think that also pissed a lot of people off. Yeah in the end I agree with most people that say ” live how you want and eat what makes you happy ” – who knows how long we got here. Diet wise, however this article doesn’t hold up. How can you eat tons of carbs loaded with zero cholesterol and 2% daily fat and that is worse for your heart?

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    P. D. Mangan says July 24, 2017

    To answer your question, it’s because cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease. Much more likely that high insulin from insulin resistance plays a causative role.

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      JG says July 24, 2017

      And neither does excess fat that doesn’t get burned? What is causing heart attacks for all the fat people if it’s not cholesterol? Confused……..

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        Bill says July 25, 2017

        JG It suits the mainstream medicos just great to have you ignorant or confused. That way they are in charge of your health and you pay for all the appointments, procedures and drugs… They are then on a winner.

        But you ??? Well check out the actual data matey..Older folk with low cholesterol die earlier !
        And saturated fat does not contribute to your arteries being clogged with ‘gunk’. Now that’s another misleading medico myth.

        But fundamentally it is YOUR life that you have in your hands. Give it to the statinologists if that’s your pleasure.

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          JG says July 27, 2017

          Bill, your statement there is essentially saying it is healthier to have high cholesterol. Is that what you believe? Just want to clarify……

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          Sean Meyer says July 27, 2017

          I’m not quite sure what he’s trying to say there either, but to answer your question from the things I’ve learned over the years….high cholesterol in general is one of the least important things to look at.

          Yes, a high number of LDL combined with a low number of HDL is deadly…but if you have high(er) HDL, then in most cases – that’s a good thing. Why? Because HDL is the cholesterol that comes through and sweeps up LDL, the cholesterol that creates plaque and clogs arteries.

          In other words, I think your question is very narrow and boxes him in for a lose-lose situation…something that provides no value to anybody.

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          Bill says July 27, 2017

          As PD says, in older populations, high LDL-C is associated with longer lives.

          On the other hand high triglycerides and low HDL-C is associated with a shorter life..

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          Bill says July 27, 2017

          An additional note JG : You might find this book ( an actual paper book ) useful.
          Paul J Rosch (editer ) ” Fat & Cholesterol Don’t Cause Heart Attacks, and Statins are not the Solution”, Columbus Publishing UK, 2016.

          It’s an excellent book available via Amazon with chapters by many different experts on this area.

          In it Dr Malcolm Kendrick contributes Chapter 12: entitled “Cardiovascular disease is primarily due to blood clotting”, pages 225-240.It is an excellent explanation of why CVD happens in the human body. I have read a lot around this subject in the past year. This seems to be the cutting edge in our scientific understanding. What’s more Kendrick writes in a way that is actually easily read and understood. He translates the scientific mumbo jumbo. Now that is remarkable !!

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          P. D. Mangan says July 27, 2017

          Seconded, that’s an excellent book. Just about to read it for a second time.

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Sean Meyer says July 24, 2017

Excellent post P.D., thanks for sharing this. I watched “What the Health” this weekend and was absolutely floored after seeing some of the comments, especially where a doctor mentioned that sugar and carbs weren’t the reason for diabetes.

It was sickening how “off” most of these comments were and had a clear agenda that didn’t involve human health.

With that said, I do think the documentary made a few good points…just for the wrong reasons.

For example, I do think that TOO MUCH meat can contribute to cancer, but from the research I’ve done…it never comes back to the meat itself – it’s always traced to back to the age old culprit, glucose (if your body has too much protein, it’ll convert excess amounts into glucose…which feeds cancer cells).

Anyway, I could talk about this for days – but thanks again for writing this…it scares the hell out of me how many people think that documentary has any credibility.

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    P. D. Mangan says July 24, 2017

    Thanks, Sean.

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Guliano Cricenti says July 24, 2017

This article has completely ignored the fact that carbs consumed alongside saturated fat is the issue. Saturated fats and animal proteins alongside carbs in pair insulin sensitivity in the muscle, this adipocytes take up the glucose

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    P. D. Mangan says July 24, 2017

    No, you’re wrong about that.

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Chris Harrey says July 24, 2017

I think if you sat, watched, and ‘digested’ the doco – Cowspiricy it would make you realise a real problem while also showing what the agricultural industry is really like. They may have even created a few of the stats you have referenced.

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Issam says July 24, 2017

The information is not entirely correct. Healthy diet is just eating fresh food vegetables and. Little meat as possible staying away from processsrd food . Basically having Mediterranean diet

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Review of The Ketogenic Diet for Beginners | Is It Good for Weight Loss? says September 6, 2017

[…] lot to take in? Don’t worry, I understand. There’s a lot of information out there, but here’s a great article that breaks it down in more […]

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Sam says September 11, 2017

How can you comment on a movie that you didn’t even watch? It definitely has vegan quackery involved, but something it opened my eyes to were refined carbs and sugar and processed meat and dairy. You’re basically saying the same thing as them but it sounds like you’re okay with processed meat?? After watching the way this stuff is processed and what they are fed is pretty foul and disgusting. If anyone is eating that crap they’re asking for it. I personally developed rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis and uveitis (something that has no history in my family at all) and I ate a lot of meat. Completely ignorant to the fact that it’s processed into poison.

I don’t trust any meat or dairy unless I get it myself. I don”t want to be a vegan but for now I am because in New Mexico, I don’t know where to find anything that isn’t processed to poison except what I grow myself.

So please, enlighten me as to what meat and dairy is truly safe and which carbs and sugar are refined?? Everybody uses these words but doesn’t bother to point out what really is healthy. Probably because they have no idea themselves.

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    P. D. Mangan says September 11, 2017

    All sugar is refined. Refined carbs are those that are processed by grinding or removing parts of it, such as flour, corn meal, white rice, etc.

    You were eating a lot of meat and got those problems, but what else were you eating?

    Also, the post has very little to do with the movie, and I only commented on the part that I saw. However, I see people recommending it everywhere.

    Reply
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