The 9 Biggest Lies of Modern Nutrition

A picture of Nutrition LiesAs you probably know by now, I believe modern nutrition to be infested with a lot of corruption and misinformation.

In this article, I’ve listed the worst examples, but unfortunately there is plenty more where that came from.

Here are the 9 biggest lies of modern nutrition.

1. Saturated Fat is Bad For Your Heart

Probably the most damaging mistake of all is the claim that eating saturated fat leads to heart disease.

This myth was based on political decisions and bogus studies that were discredited a long time ago. Yet, our beloved professionals refuse to admit that “artery-clogging-saturated-fat” is harmless.

Yes, it does raise LDL cholesterol, but it is a benign subtype of LDL (large, fluffy type). It also happens to raise HDL, which has a protective effect (1, 2, 3).

The reality is that saturated fat doesn’t have any effect on heart disease (4, 5).

2. Reducing Sodium is Good For Your Body

Our beloved authorities on nutrition and health generally tell us that it will improve our blood pressure and health to reduce sodium in the diet.

In fact, many authorities recommend amounts as low as 1500-2300mg of sodium (4-6 grams of salt).

As outlined in this article, diets that are too low in sodium may actually lead to serious health consequences and higher mortality (6, 7, 8, 9).

The recommendation for healthy people to limit salt intake seems unnecessary at best and potentially harmful.

The best thing to do here is to limit your intake of processed foods, which add the greatest amount of sodium to the modern diet (along with other nastyness).

Adding some salt to your meals to make them palatable is absolutely fine and may even be healthy.

3. Eggs Are Bad For You

Eggs are, in my opinion, one of the healthiest foods on the planet.

They have been demonized in the past due to their high amount of saturated fat and cholesterol. But, as outlined above, saturated fat does not increase chances of heart disease.

Additionally, dietary cholesterol doesn’t really raise blood cholesterol and there have been many studies on egg consumption that fail to show an association with cardiovascular disease (10, 11, 12).

The fact is that eggs are incredibly nutritious. The yolk is very high in healthy fats, quality proteins, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and the egg white is a great source of protein.

Eggs are also very satiating and should be considered an awesome weight loss food (13).

4. Sugar is Bad For You Because it’s Empty Calories

Conventional wisdom would have you believe that the only reason sugar is unhealthy is that it’s “empty calories”, providing a lot of calories without any essential nutrients.

Sugar does provide empty calories, but excess sugar (fructose) consumption can also lead to many symptoms of the metabolic syndrome (the biggest health problem in the world). It is quite literally toxic for your liver (14, 15, 16).

This only happens during periods of caloric excess, which is the norm for many western nations. This does not apply to fruit and other natural foods with a low energy density. Period.

5. Polyunsaturated Omega-6 Fats Will Improve Your Health

It is generally accepted in the science community that polyunsaturated fats do improve health and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

However, the situation is more complicated than that. There are two different types of polyunsaturated fats that we need to get from the diet, Omega-6 fatty acids and Omega-3 fatty acids.

As you’ve probably heard a million times, Omega-3 fats are good for you. You get a lot of them from fish and fish oil supplements. Me and the dietitians agree on that one (17).

However, excess consumption of Omega-6 is most likely harmful and may lead to increased inflammation in the body.

This is the fat you get from processed seed and vegetable oils, something that is often recommended in modern nutrition but is probably doing you harm (18).

6. Carbs Should Be 50-60% of Your Calories

Governments all around the world recommend we eat a low-fat diet with 50-60% (give or take) of our calories as carbohydrates.

Obviously, this doesn’t make a lot of evolutionary sense as we evolved eating a lot of fatty animal foods and didn’t have any grains until 12.000 years ago.

The fact is that this macronutrient ratio is wrong and should actually be the exact opposite. It leads to more favourable health outcomes to eat a low-carb, high-fat diet.

Such diets lead to bigger improvements than a government-approved low-fat diet. Improvements in body fat, blood sugar, insulin levels, blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides. Basically, the main biomarkers of health that we care about (19, 20, 21, 22).

7. Low-Fat Foods Are Healthy Options

Following the war on fat came a massive range of low-fat food options.

Like we’ve already covered, the war on fat was unfounded and therefore low-fat foods are useless to improve health.

The fact is that these foods taste like garbage without fat. For this reason, food manufacturers need to replace the fat with sugar, artificial sweeteners and other unnatural chemicals. Otherwise no one would eat them.

The added sugar can lead to disease, like outlined above. The artificial sweeteners are also associated with many serious diseases in epidemiological studies, including (ironically) weight gain (23, 24, 25).

8. Everyone Should Eat Whole Grains

For some reason, our beloved nutrition authorities think it’s a good idea to base our diet around foods that are low in vital nutrients.

Not to mention the fact that these foods were introduced to humans only about 12.000 years ago, which is a very short amount of time on an evolutionary scale.

As outlined above, low carbohydrate diets (no grains) lead to very favorable health outcomes, suggesting that grain (and sugar) restriction is extremely healthy.

Many grains (wheat, spelt, rye, barley) contain gluten, which can lead to a variety of health problems (26, 27, 28).

An important fact that is often forgotten is that grains have a vastly inferior nutritional value compared to meat, eggs, seafood, fruits and vegetables (29).

The non-gluten grains are most definitely less unhealthy than the gluten-containing ones, but other grains still contain a host of anti-nutrients like lectins and phytic acid.

So, grains aren’t just low in nutrients, they actually have substances that steal nutrients from other foods.

9. Eating Fat Makes You Fat

It seems intuitive that eating fat will make you fat.

The stuff that is building up below the skin and making us look soft, is fat. Therefore, eating it should give your body even more of it.

But it really isn’t that simple. Fat, despite having a higher caloric value per gram than carbohydrate and protein (9kcal vs. 4kcal), eating a high-fat diet doesn’t lead to weight gain in humans.

Of course, this depends on the context. A diet that is high in sugar, refined grains, processed foods and fat, will be fattening, but it’s not because of the fat.

In fact, diets that are high in fat (and low in carbohydrates) lead to more weight loss than diets that are low in fat (30, 31, 32).

10…?

I know there’s a lot more where that came from. Feel free to add to the list in the comments!


 

61 Comments

  1. Anna, check this out..check the citation as well!!

  2. #8 has been the hardest to convince people of, but I always say that there is nothing good in grains that you cannot get elsewhere at a lower cost (in terms of calories, and anti-nutrients).

  3. Saturated fat as trans fat, hydrogenated, is bad. It should be specifically separated and avoided as sugars, fructose, grains.

    • Dr, Motley says:

      Of course but there both completely different. All trans fats are bad.

    • Steve Wang says:

      Trans fats have a double bond somewhere with the carbon chains ‘trans’ to each other. A saturated fat does not contain double bonds – they are ‘saturated’ with hydrogens. Thus, as Dr. Motley has said already, saturated fats and trans fats are in fact different.

  4. Kris, I found a lot of your material repeated in this article in the Guardian (UK) today – http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/jun/11/why-our-food-is-making-us-fat

    Seems like you’re starting to make a difference!

    All the best.

    • People might finally being realizing that we’ve all been eating low-fat for 30 years, getting fatter and fatter all the time!

    • Kristjan says:

      That is a great article, thanks for sharing.

      I’m afraid I’m nothing but a very small pawn in a very large game. I’m doing my best though :)

  5. Eva LaRoche says:

    #10 Soy Is Good For Everything

    NOT!!!!!

  6. 10. Eat Less, Exercise More

    Calories in/calories out is one of the biggest myths in all of nutrition, if you ask me. The more time I spend studying this stuff the more it becomes clear that calories are only important secondarily to the macronutrient profile of the diet.

    • Stuart Phillips says:

      You mean the first law of thermodynamics is a myth… wow? A calorie is a calorie, can’t refute that Graham. What that calorie does in your body may be important, but it’s still a calorie!

      • Oh, I’m not saying that the law of thermodynamics is a myth – I’m saying that there are more ways to use those calories other than storing them as fat or burning them on a treadmill.

        The macronutrient profile of your diet (and to a smaller extent, the micronutrient profile) dictates how those calories are used in your body.

        • True – the calorie profile will dictate how it’s used. But the bottom line is still a calories in / calories out. Every one of those little rascals can be used for energy. And if you’re in a calorie deficit, it WILL be used for energy.

          Calorie deficit = weight loss. If you (or anyone) disagree with that, I urge you to prove it wrong. Eliminate ANY macro, food group, food type, change your meal timing, eliminate breakfast, eat breakfast, etc. Whatever you can come up with. Do that protocol for 2 weeks making certain you are taking in more calories than you are burning and let us know the results. Follow that with 2 weeks of calorie restriction of any type and report those results.

          Any takers?

          P.S.
          I’m not trying to hijack this post or argue any of Kris’ recommendations on nutrition. Kris is doing a great service here. I’m only pointing out that regardless of the method you choose for weight/fat loss, the first rule IS going to be calorie restriction. There’s just no other way.

          • No one is arguing that you don’t have to have a calorie deficit. But that’s like saying you have to lose weight in order to lose weight. It’s a foregone conclusion.

            If the goal is a lower number on the scale, sure, restrict calories and the number will go down – with up to 40% of that being lean muscle.

            Focusing on the number of calories you eat is the worst way to lose weight. There are hormonal mechanisms in place to deal with fluctuations in caloric intake that have evolved in us over millions of years. If you know the science, and base your diet on it, you can eat as many calories as you want, and your body composition will continue to improve.

        • I do hard-core Paleo/Primal and I also did a Paleo-keto diet (including all the superfoods like bone broths, offal, sea veggies, kefir, fermented foods, coconut oil etc), and if I hadn’t restrict calories below 1100 (I’m small framed), I wouldn’t lose any weight. My blood test didn’t show any thyroid problems btw, so I don’t know how all these people lost weight on Paleo or keto, because I can’t. In fact, I’ve seen many stories like mine from FEMALES. Males seem to be losing weight the way you and the Paleo doctrine is proposing. But for many women that I’ve read online, they had to restrict calories. There’s something at play here. BTW, 9 months later, I’m still borderline obese. I still do low-carb Paleo with enough fat, bouncing in the range of 1500-2200 calories per day (and without cheating, since I’m grain-intolerant), and I haven’t lost a single pound since March (which was the last time I heavily restricted my calories). Explain that…

          • I can’t explain this with 100 words worth of information. Your thyroid is not the only thing involved, and the whole thing is extremely complicated.

            If you restricted calories to 1100 and it was carbs and sugar, you would lose less weight and it would be more muscle lost and less fat. My point remains that the number of calories consumed is only important in the context of the macronutrient profile of the diet.

            Without a lot of time and tests, it would be very hard to tell exactly what is going on in your specific case.

          • You said you haven’t lost any weight on the scale, but has your body comp changed? Are you “firmer”? Just wondering… sometimes the scale doesn’t tell the whole tale.

          • Eugenia, I agree! Women are different! Hormones and leptin (the master hormone) resistance play a huge role in weight gain/loss, es. for women. Leptin signals your cells to release fatty acids to be burned for fuel and if your cells are ignoring it (i.e. resistant), your weight loss won’t be proportionate to the amount of work you put into it.

            Re: thyroid – tests are usually not interpreted by the newer (and narrower) functional medicine ranges, so just because your tests were “normal” doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t a problem. I was told I was “normal” for a decade before finally being diagnosed with autoimmune thyroid disease. Standard thyroid panels don’t usually include TPO antibodies, and often even Free T3, so a lot of thyroid disease gets missed.
            Chris Kresser has some great articles on thyroid issues and http://www.thyroidbook.com has a good practitioner directory of people who know what they’re doing when it comes to endocrine health.

      • That might be true if there was no output from the system. Me, I like to poop, pee and sweat once in awhile.

        • Eugenia says:

          Given that I had IBS-D for years, the poop still comes out daily (albeit healthy now). And ketosis has been diuretic. I occasionally go run too (although others haven’t lift a finger and lost weight). So these three factors don’t apply to me. I still have to restrict calories to lose weight (more info on my diet on my comment above).

  7. Ken Kinstle says:

    Hey Kris great post and I will be sharing this with my networks. So many things that we learn new about health and nutrition. Those old false ideas die hard.. Thanks

  8. Kristjan's Friend says:

    My head is spinning a bit. Maybe you’ve covered this really quickly, or my sugar level is a bit Low. Anyway, Kristjan, Am I following you if I plan to avoid the center aisles of the grocery store, and Cook food for myself?

    I might have my feet steady on the path already.

  9. Great post Kris!

    The terrible effect that sugar and artificial sweetners have on cravings make points 4 and 7 even stronger!

  10. Abby de Beer says:

    Great article :-)

  11. Kristen says:

    Thank you! I teach this daily and of course right now I can’t add to your list of 9 (c’est la vie) but I hope the whole world has read this list of 9 and acted positively on the information.
    K :-D

  12. 10. Eating all that bacon will clog your arteries with cholesterol. If only I had a dollar every time I heard or read that one. It’s a completely failed logic used by people who don’t realize that body cholesterol is produced by the liver. Vegetarians’ livers produce cholesterol as well. It’s the most essential macronutrient without which people get sick and die.

  13. Thank you for this article. Very well sourced and written.

    The only thing I would question is the studies involving artificial sweeteners. Some context is needed there I believe. Most people who consume “diet” products are already fat themselves or think that drinking a diet soda allows them to consume more food because it doesn’t “count” for anything.

    • Diane Smith says:

      I had to quit diet sodas and other stuff with artificial sweeteners in as they were stalling my weight loss and giving me terrible cravings for sweet foods and I got back all my high insulin symptoms – shakes, trembling, acne, gum infections……

      Now I don’t touch anything with artificial sweeteners in.

  14. David Samuel says:

    Hi Kris, after followed your tips on from your articles, I am happy that I lost 20 kg within 4 months plus. Thanks a lot Kris, may God bless you.

  15. ‘You are sick because you are fat.’ No! You are fat because you are sick. Looking at this different than what we have been told gives us a better starting point for better health.

  16. Takk Kristjan, I remember when I introduced Iceland to these principles in 1993, and Icelanders thought I was nuts! It’s great to see that Iceland has come a long way:) With education we avoid medication. Treat the deficiency, not the disease.

    Thanks again for sharing,
    Coach Raul Rodriguez & Jorie McDonald

  17. You’ve blown every point out of proportion by talking about the extremes. Everything should be taken in moderation and not consumed in excessive/minimal portions. The “authorities” are not telling you to avoid eating salt, fat & sugar altogether as you have alluded to, they’re telling you to avoid eating them from processed foods seeing as people rarely read nutrition labels. You should have taken a less sensationalistic angle for convincing people to eat healthily.

  18. Shannon Anderson says:

    The authorities are not telling us to avoid salt and fat altogether? LOL, 90% of doctors will tell you to avoid fat and salt all together, because this is what they’ve been told, they’re considered authorities. They AREN’T telling us to stop eating sugar, simply because if they did the mass industry of low fat foods would crash. I 100% agree with everything written in this article. I’ve been sugar free and following these principles for almost a year and i just fell of the wagon last week, now i feel soo unhealthy. But this is just what i needed to get back to it! Thank you!

  19. I wholeheartedly agree with Graham, it’s about hormonal responses not calorie counting. Eugenia, you may like to have a look at the “Metabolic Effect” site, they also have a fb page that is very informative. I think their protocols may help you. The premise is that there is no “once size fits all” solution. By experimenting with individual hormonal responses to foods, one can effectively tailor their diet to create weight loss.

  20. 10. Everyone should drink 8 glasses of water every day. This is such rubbish. How much water you need depends on your diet, what you drink, the temperature, your size, your gender, your activity level etc. There is no hard and fast rule for how much to drink. IT DEPENDS!

  21. #10 – You should get your serum cholesterol down as low as possible and statins are good way to do this.

    Poppycock! I spend a lot of time with my clients explaining the real meaning of “healthy cholesterol levels”.

  22. Nick Warhead says:

    They are not saying how this ties in for people who have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Diabetes.

  23. #10. Formula is just as nutritious as human milk.

    This myth is advertised by industry all over the world, encouraging mothers to throw good food away and give their babies an inferior substitute. Non-human milks trigger diabetes and play a role in the obesity epidemic. Non-human milk increase the chances of: cancer, immune system disorders, and gut disease; contain MSG, phytoestrogens, genetically-modified corn and soy, aluminum, and sodium perchlorate. None of those things have to be listed on the label.

  24. Great article, simple and powerful! Will definitely share!

  25. In general, I agree with low carb diet. However, I have some concern about overeating too much meat/egg (yolk) will lead to your pH level to be too acidic which is a magnetic for all types of diseases. Can you help comment on this?

  26. I thought it was eating too much carbohydrates that are broken down into sugar that causes blood to become acidic?

    • I don’t think foods affect blood acidity at all, correct me if I’m wrong.

      It would take a lot of stress to change the pH level even a little bit, since the body has powerful buffering mechanisms to maintain the level in a very narrow range.

  27. Hi Kristan – here’s a link that explains a bit about the body’s ph balance:
    http://www.naturalnews.com/027280_alkaline_body_balance.html

    • Kristjan says:

      Naturalnews.com isn’t a very reliable source. If you look at the bottom, the references for the article are both sales pages for supplements.

      I honestly haven’t done much research on the acid/alkaline type of diet, but what I’ve learned in physiology at school is that the body maintains the blood pH value at a very narrow range.

  28. Thanks for having a look Kristjan – naturalnews.com was just the first link I could find on the subject.

    I have read about it in other places too. What I understand from what I have read is that yes your body does keep the the blood pH value at a very narrow range but if you eat a lot of foods that are acidic then your body will take minerals such as calcium from bones and teeth to restore the alkaline balance and over time this has a detrimental effect on health. The main culprit for creating an acid balance in the body is sugar and foods that break down into sugar – i.e. starches.

    I am sure you can find reliable info on this if you do some searching. I may be wrong but I think that quite a lot of the Paleo people are aware of this and the importance of maintaining an alkaline balance in the diet.

  29. Referring to your number 2 reducing sodium is good for your body.
    I believe this statement to be true actually. For those living in Western society reducing the amount of excess salt in our diet is good for our health.
    You state “diets too low in sodium may lead to serious health consequences”. Your reference hyperlink “this article” goes to Chris Kresser’s website who has referenced mostly epidemiological studies (and you know those studies prove NOTHING they must be clinical randomised controlled trials to draw an absolute conclusion – you even said that on another of your posts), a cochrane review which finds no link to “serious health issues” as you have put it, and controlled trial that concludes “Low-salt diet is associated with an increase in IR. The impact of our findings on the pathogenesis of diabetes and cardiovascular disease needs further investigation”- ie INCONCLUSIVE.
    But in one way you are right that diets too low in sodium can lead to serious health consequences . If we restrict sodium to extremes, we would get really sick, in fact we would be dead (a serious health consequence). Because in western society the only way to eat too little sodium would be to starve/ to eat nothing.
    I do agree with your comment that we need to decrease consumption of processed foods. 77% of sodium in your diet comes from processed foods. Basically majority of food in packaging has sodium added to preserve the product. This is how we manage to eat so much salt. Added salt while eating makes up only 6% of our salt intake.
    So who is going to choose the low-sodium products instead?

  30. If you are eating a low carb, paleo type diet that doesn’t include processed foods then it is quite easy to end up taking too little salt.

    I know because it happened to me. The symptoms are fatigue, weakness, feeling faint and dizzy and mental confusion. Low carb also causes your body to excrete salt whereas the standard western diet causes the body to retain salt.

    So, if you are low carbing and avoiding processed foods you will most likely need to add salt to your food. On the other hand if you are eating the standard American diet of processed foods that have salt in them then you do have to try to lower your salt intake as it is very easy to end up taking too much.

    • I agree that it is generally unnecessary to restrict added salt on meals if you are on a paleo diet. I am talking about the general population though.
      Also the paleo diet is the diet of our ancestors. They did not add table salt and thrived.

  31. Here is a reference to salt and the paleo diet. It is not the only reference I have come across, I have read similar from many different sources. It seems that our ancestors did indeed add salt to their diet and understood it’s importance.

    ‘the evidence is that the people of the Lenggong Valley in Malaysia were not only eating salt 200,000 years ago, but had created tools for grinding it. And animals will eat/lick salt whenever they find it. Virtually all animals consume it.’

    • Added salt in the diet was/is for taste and to preserve the food for longer, not sustenance.
      There was adequate amounts of sodium naturally in the cells of the animals and plants they consumed.

      • Ok, they didn’t have TV dinners and didn’t and add salt from a salt shaker but ancient peoples did understand the need for salt and went to great lengths to ensure they had adequate amounts in their diet.

        This is taken from the book ‘The Art & Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by by Phd Stephen D. Phinney MD and Rd Jeff S. Volek – ‘Whole books have been written about the history of salt. Wars were fought over access to salt. Roman soldiers were often paid with a measure of salt, hence the origin of the English word ‘salary’. Hunters and their prey, herders and their cattle, all shaped their actions and habits around access to salt. The reason, of course, is that salt (sodium) is necessary for life.
        Humans did not need to know chemistry to understand the value of salt. Salt deprivation leads to lightheadedness, fatigue, headache, and malaise. Aboriginal cultures could figure out that if they drank from one spring, they began to feel lousy, but if they drank from that other one, they’d feel OK. The Inuit knew which ice to melt for water to boil their meat. Sea ice loses its salt content with age. Fresh ice had too much salt, fresh snow had none, whereas older sea ice was just right. Inland hunters followed their prey to salt licks and salt springs. These waters were prized forcooking, and some cultures learned to dry these waters to make dry salt. But the universal dependable source of salt for inland hunters and herders alike was blood. Blood was collected from freshly killed animals using the emptied stomach as a container, whether from a bison on the Great Plains or from caribou or muskox on the tundra. A liter of whole blood contains about 2 grams of sodium, so 500 ml per day would ward off acute symptoms of salt depletion. Among the Masai living in hot inland Kenya, the consumption of blood was a staple of their culture (along with meat and milk). Even in the 1920’s, long after British trade had provided them access to dry salt, the Masai still bled their cattle to provide each hunter with a token 50 ml of blood per day[6]. Given another century of perspective, perhaps the perjorative phrase misrepresenting many aboriginal cultures as ‘bloodthirsty savages’ might better be replaced by the phrase ‘bloodthirsty savants’.’

  32. Suzanne Perry says:

    Best resource for me: Gary Taubes books. Why We Get Fat is the most accessible to the layperson. Not a diet book, but a history of how we got to this current obesity epidemic. It names the perpetrators of the bogus fat-heart disease link. The big watershed moment for me was the Stanford A-Z study in 2007 which showed the low carb diet to be the most effective in reducing weight, cholesterol and a couple of other markers. The Stanford scientist who announced the results had been a vegetarian for more than 20 years, he said that it pained him greatly to report the results.
    Yet 5 years later, I have not spoken to a Health professional who understands these facts. All their training weighs against the truth. Fat is BAD. Nothing will change their mind.

  33. Why does everyone feel there has to be a ‘one size fits all solution’?
    We are all different, no two people are the same (including identical twins to an extent).
    Some people will benefit from a low carb diet to lose weight. Some won’t. Some will benefit from a low fat diet. Some won’t. You can’t just state that a low carb diet is the most effective way to lose weight for everyone and group everyone together. That is naive.
    A lot of it depends on your genetic make-up, an emerging health area we are just starting to uncover now – nutrigenetics.

    • I agree that everyone is different but everyone also has a lot of similarities – we are all human and we all are the result of millions of years of evolution. None of us evolved to eat masses of refined sugar, wheat flour, processed foods and additives. The conventional dietary advice we get these days to eat low fat and lots of starchy carbohydrates has failed the majority of the population. Healthy fats are important for many functions of the body and cutting them out of your diet is not good for anyone. Some people can manage to eat more carbs and not have problems but many, many more are suffering from metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease and obesity because of the high amount of sugars and starches in their diet.

  34. 10) Artificial Sweeteners Are Preferable to Sugar

    Aspartame, Splenda and the rest….poison. I will never consume these again.
    (And obese people who drink diet soda, stay obese….)

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