"Cereal Killer" Author Refutes the Low Fat Diet Dogma
|Al Watson: "Cereal Killer" author
Why-Low-Carb-Diets-Work is honored to provide an exclusive and detailed interview with Al Watson, author of the groundbreaking books "Cereal Killer" and "21 Days to a Healthy Heart." Al is a maverick in the best sense of the word. Cereal Killer is at once a devastatingly thorough intellectual assault on the low fat "balanced diet" dogma promoted by the likes of the USDA and the American Heart Association and a passionate call to action.
In many ways, Cereal Killer is -- in the words of an Amazon reviewer -- the "Readers Digest" version of Gary Taubes’ Good Calories Bad Calories, the book that inspired Why-Low-Carb-Diets-Work. It is succinct, punchy, and full of great info that even low carb veterans may not know. Unlike GCBC, which demands a big time investment, you can rip through Cereal Killer in an afternoon. I guarantee it will leave you feeling empowered, riled up, and hungry for action... and well as a fresh steak (from a grass-fed, humanely treated cow, of course!)
Welcome, Al, and thank you again for doing this Q&A.
You have written two great patient advocacy books: 21 Days to a Healthy Heart and Cereal Killer. For this latter work, you spent a decade researching! In Cereal Killer, you build an awesomely compelling case that the low fat diet -- stoked and supported by big cereal and grain companies -- has singularly decimated America, causing her citizens to get fat and suffer all sorts of nasty health problems. I found the book easy to read -- you have a gift for explaining things simply -- and it got me all fired up. What sparked your interest in this topic?
I was 9 years old when my father died during heart surgery at age 50. Because I learned that heart disease “runs in the family,” heart disease became something I wanted to avoid as I grew older. Like many middle class families in the 1960s, our family followed the “expert advice” from the American Heart Association (AHA) and began avoiding eggs and butter, switching to cereal, margarine, and Crisco shortening. During my college years at the University of Minnesota, I became a vegetarian and married one.
But, over time, my wife and I gained weight, felt sluggish, and became consumed with hunger and food cravings. We became confused about diet and heart disease – like everyone else. After 8 years with AT&T Company, I had shed my vegan lifestyle and ended up in the herb and nutritional supplement business where I came face to face with the huge inconsistency in nutritional advice on how to prevent and reverse heart disease.
In one corner, there was Dean Ornish and Julian Whitaker – MD’s - preaching “low fat” and then there was a fiery Dr. Atkins proclaiming “high fat.” Both couldn’t be right! In earnest, I began researching “diet heart” issues. As a history graduate, I began looking at heart disease from a historical perspective and discovered the controversial 1980 “low fat” Dietary Guidelines.
I began researching heart disease and the history of the federal government’s involvement in dietary guidelines. The lack of scientific evidence for the emphasis on carbohydrates spoke for itself. It occurred to me that on a large scale, my family and the American people had been duped. The original 1980 “low fat” dietary guidelines had spawned a “low fat era” with “low fat foods” increasingly associated with record levels of chronic disease – including obesity and diabetes.
After attending the Atkins vs. Whitaker debate in New York City in April 1997, I became convinced that Atkins was right. During the debate, Atkins cited extensive clinical data to support his higher fat diet, and he looked healthy and trim. His vegan opponent, Julian Whitaker, did not have a good command of science and metabolism, and he appeared to be 30 or more pounds overweight.
At this juncture – inspired by Atkins – as people today are inspired by Gary Taubes - I began work on 21 Days to a Healthy Heart which I published in June 2002. This was one of the few books at the time that warned the American public about the dangers of excess carbohydrates in combination with those still largely not talked about trans fatty acids.
|21 Days to a Health Heart
I particularly liked your chapters 8-10, in which you debunk common misperceptions people have about cholesterol, lipids, and saturated fat. How anyone could read those chapters and still come out in favor of the conventional restrictions on fats and cholesterol is completely beyond me. Have you had any luck convincing skeptics of your point of view?
Yes. As the owner of a company that manufactured and sold cayenne pepper circulation formulas, I had several thousand mail order customers who now had an opportunity to read my first book and try my “21 Day Plan,” which included restricting carbohydrates “Atkins style” and going back to our traditional healthy fats like butter and lard. I have dozens of testimonials from a wide range of people who feel they avoided heart disease and heart attacks by returning to the higher fat whole foods diet I recommended.
You advocate responsibly-farmed food and praise websites like EatWild.com and MinnesotaGrown.com as well as family farms like Earth-Be-Glad Farm. I am totally on board with you here and think that the corporate food system utterly sucks. But do you think eating corporate-farmed meat is unhealthy? Or is it merely okay-but-not-ideal?
Yes, in excess, for individuals and our society, commercial grain-fed animal food is harmful, especially when combined with the consumption of vegetable oils (like Canola), recommended in the Dietary Guidelines, which are also rich in omega 6 linoleic acid. Too much omega 6 – and not enough omega 3 - increases our risk of all chronic diseases. In contrast, pasture-raised beef, lamb, and chicken provides an ideal ratio of omega 3 and 6 – protecting us from chronic disease.
While grass-fed pastured meat and eggs may cost more, they are more nutritious. As an example, “free range” eggs from small producers provide ten times more vitamin E and lecithin than commercial eggs (a University of Minnesota study).
For families on a limited budget - and grass-fed beef, lamb, and chicken can be more expensive or harder to locate - less expensive full fat commercial hamburger – a source of omega 6 - can be balanced by also emphasizing omega 3-rich sardines, mackerel, and herring.
The urgent priority is to minimize omega 6 by staying away from deep-fried fast food and strictly avoiding commercial vegetable oils. Avoiding these excess sources of omega 6 will allow for a safer consumption of grain-fed meat, which, otherwise still constitutes nutrient-dense food.
Any butter is better than no butter; the same applies to red meat. In a perfect world, people would be educated about buying directly from farmers and small producers – supporting local farms and local economies.
4. Whom do you trust when you have burning questions about health/diet science?
There is no doubt that Dr. Robert Atkins was right – and his decades of clinical success
are proof. No other doctor reversed diabetes and heart diseases as he did. Today, on the internet, there are many reliable sites – including your own why-low-carb-diets-work.com – that provide scientifically correct information. A litmus test for these sites is whether or not they support a whole foods higher fat diet. If they don’t – skip them!
I am very pleased that my latest book, Cereal Killer – has been referred to as the “Reader’s Digest version” of Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories. I feel my book is an easy-to-read introduction into “right eating;” Good Calories, Bad Calories provides the extensive, definitive proof that you should do so!
As for research and advocacy organizations, I highly recommend http://westonaprice.org and Price-Pottenger Foundation. The latter’s Price-Pottenger Journal of Health and Healing (Summer 2010) will include a cover story I wrote about the failed 2010 “low fat” Dietary Guidelines.
5. Do you think the low fat diet can ever be dethroned?
Yes, “low fat” is coming to an end! A reading of the transcripts of the 2010 committee meetings reveals a weakening of the low fat dogma. Dr. Eric Rimm from Harvard actually said there was no evidence to support the limit on fat at 30 to 35 percent, but, in subsequent meetings, he bit his tongue!
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines will see a reversal of “low fat business as usual.” Why? Because the 13-member 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) has been caught red-handed – selecting studies that support the low fat status quo while disregarding or ignoring recent credible science that demonstrates, in effect, that saturated fat is not associated with heart disease (Krauss’s meta-analysis) and the Emory study showing that sugar at 25 percent of calories – ok in the proposed guidelines – is actually associated with heart disease.
We are in the midst of a national type 2 diabetes epidemic and not one member of the 13-member committee mentioned “blood sugar” or hyperinsulinism – the two common denominators of type 2 diabetes - what the CDC in Atlanta has referred to as a “dangerous runaway train.” This monumental failure to cite all of the scientific evidence will – by 2015 – bring down the 30 year old mantra: low fat = good health.
6. What is it going to take for people to finally open their eyes?
Today, 75 million Americans are pre-diabetic or diabetic. The number of diagnosed diabetics is projected to double in the next 25 years (University of Chicago study). The financial, medical, and personal costs are incalculable. As these facts unfold during the next five years, the outage will reach a tipping point and we will experience a new non-violent American Revolution in favor of our children, grandparents, and future generations.
7. How can we in the low carb community coordinate our actions and message more effectively?
If these proposed “low fat” 2010 Dietary Guidelines, announced on June 15, 2010, becomes the law of the land, the low carb community must band together and find a law firm that will – pro-bono – for the public good - file an injunction against the implementation of these guidelines on the basis that the 13-member DGAC – charged with relying on the latest scientific evidence – has, in effect, ignored the latest scientific evidence. In the midst of a national obesity and diabetes epidemic, this constitutes a “breach of contract” and a betrayal of the American people.
What can your fans look forward to in the near future? Do you have any cool projects upcoming?
My website, http://dietHeartPublishing.com, is an ongoing project to provide definitive information about these failed 2010 Dietary Guidelines and to provide a “Low Carb Internet Directory” to help information seekers find the reliable information about diet and nutrition that has been missing in this country for 30 or more years. I am also working on a new book called Fat as Food and Medicine – an expansion of those chapters in Cereal Killer (8-10) that you especially liked.
Thanks Al! We really appreciate your thorough and generous answers to these crucial questions.
For more info about Al Watson and his books and work, please check out his official website
Check out the Amazon reviews of "Cereal Killer." (you can read my full review there, too)
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