Deciding Which Direction is Best
Conflicting "scientific studies" regarding what characterizes a healthy diet saturate our media daily. For example, it's been well established that saturated animal fat promotes chronic disease, yet due to popular (and misguided) news reports this fact has been rejected by those who support a high-fat/protein, low-carb diet. Similarly, we've heard that eggs are bad for us, only to find out the next day they are supposedly good for us. Sorting through all of the "evidence" can be quite challenging, resulting in much confusion. Thankfully, Dr. Michael Greger spends countless hours doing the work for us. The video below helps us evaluate conflicting dietary claims.
Let's examine a popular way in which large food industries conduct their studies. Egg consumption for example has always been a controversial topic. Although the latest studies involving more than 300,000 people indicates that there is an association between egg consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, not every study showed evidence of harm. Dr. Greger clarifies this by saying "Even though the totality of evidence points to harm, the egg industry can cherry-pick out studies that show no apparent effects." (These single studies are the ones that large food industries use to promote their unhealthy products.)
You may be wondering why not all studies show significant harm if eggs are so unhealthy. Dr. Greger says it's due to Dr. Geoffrey Rose's concept of a sick population. "If an entire population is sick, then the range of 'health' may not be sufficiently broad enough to establish a significant association." For example, if a study was conducted on participants that smoked several packs of cigarettes a day, there would not be a way to determine whether or not smoking was a risk factor for developing lung cancer since the study did not include any non-smokers. In the same way, conducting a study on alcoholics would produce similar results. Consuming one or two more drinks would not reveal significant changes in the degree of intoxication.
Studies showing that eggs or saturated fat are not harmful are intentionally conducted on select groups of unhealthy individuals that already have high cholesterol, who are overweight, have insulin-resistance, and are eating a rich diet high in saturated fats and cholesterol. Dr. Greger's video "Eggs and Arterial Function" explains in more detail how this creates a "plateau effect" in which our bodies "max out on cholesterol absorption." These individuals purposely selected for these studies average 400mg or more of cholesterol a day. Their cholesterol levels are already elevated and won't be affected with the addition of a few eggs. (Similar to the studies done on smokers and alcoholics.) Once a person has consumed 400 to 800 mg of cholesterol in a day, adding more (like with an egg) causes little rise because the bowel cannot absorb much more cholesterol. Poor-quality studies, often funded by the egg industry, add to the false information they use to vindicate their products. The actual impact of cholesterol in eggs is seen when people who eat little cholesterol are fed eggs.
Healthy Longevity's article "Cracking down on Eggs and Cholesterol" sums it up nicely by stating, "Several controlled experiments have found that overweight (compared to lean people) and insulin-resistant (compared to insulin-sensitive) people are less responsive to dietary cholesterol. This likely explains why researchers who have financial or personal connections with the egg industry have specifically selected overweight and insulin resistant participants with a modestly high baseline dietary cholesterol...will show little response when egg intake is increased."
As you have seen, studies can be manipulated on unhealthy products in order to produce favorable outcomes. These results are then widely publicized showing how animal products are not associated with serious health risks. Heart disease is our leading cause of death; everyone who is middle age or older who eats an animal-based diet is at high risk of dying from this dietary-induced disease. We encourage you not to risk your life in order to satisfy momentary food cravings. Every bite we take either fights disease or promotes it. As Dr. John McDougall likes to say, "People love to hear good things about their bad habits." According to Dr. McDougall, consuming injurious foods is the "slowest form of poison!" Protect yourself and your loved ones by adopting a whole-food, delicious, plant-centered diet today!
For more information regarding how our dietary guidelines are flawed and how the food industry markets unhealthy products, click on the following links:
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