In this debut guide for physicians, a medical doctor argues that saturated fat is killing people and that health care workers aren’t doing enough to educate patients about its dangers.
Trendy diet plans, such as the ketogenic and Atkins diets, have promised to help people shed pounds while loading up their plates with steak, butter, and cheese. But there’s a problem, argues Allen, a family practitioner and a member of the American Board of Obesity Medicine: An overwhelming body of scientific evidence indicates that a diet high in saturated fat raises bad low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol, and can lead to serious ailments, including Type 2 diabetes, dementia, heart disease, and gout. However, through a combination of clever marketing and faulty studies, Allen asserts, the food industry has “worked hard to distort the truth,” convincing people that foods such as eggs and coconut oil are unambiguously healthy. Popular diet gurus and news media willing to report the results of any scientific study don’t help, but doctors share a big part of the blame, he says. They can help by not only talking frankly to patients about their diet, but also modeling good behavior: “As healers, our disdain for saturated fat needs to be nearly as pervasive and persistent as our contempt for cigarette smoking,” Allen writes. Some readers won’t want to hear the author’s blunt message that everyone should limit their saturated fat intake to 6% of their daily calories. (He cites a 2017 American Heart Association study that lists the current average for Americans as nearly 12%.) A vegan himself, Allen cites a mountain of evidence that significantly cutting back on animal products and eating more fruits, vegetables, and grains is better for long-term health—and that evidence is indeed persuasive. He also clearly highlights flaws in research that purports to show the benefits of a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. Vivid examples, such as a discussion of the heart attack that killed Emmy- and Golden Globe–winning actor James Gandolfini, effectively drive the author’s point home. Although this book is written for other doctors, its no-nonsense, conversational style will make it equally accessible to readers who aren’t medical professionals.
An urgent wake-up call about the hidden dangers of fad diets.