Myths and Truths About Nutrition

Myth: Heart disease in America is caused by consumption of cholesterol and saturated fat from animal products.

Truth: During the period of rapid increase in heart disease (1920-1960), American consumption of animal fats declined but consumption of hydrogenated and industrially processed vegetable fats increased dramatically. (USDA-HNIS)

Myth: Saturated fat clogs arteries.

Truth: The fatty acids found in artery clogs are mostly unsaturated (74%), of which 41% are polyunsaturated. (Lancet 1994 344:1195)

Myth: Vitamin B12 can be obtained from certain plant sources such as blue-green algae and fermented soy products.

Truth: Vitamin B12 is not absorbed from plant sources. Modern soy products increase the body’s need for B12. (Soybeans: Chemistry & Technology Vol. 1 1972)

Myth: Animal fats cause cancer and heart disease.

Truth: Animal fats contain many nutrients that protect against cancer and heart disease; elevated rates of cancer and heart disease are associated with consumption of large amounts of vegetable oils. (Federation Proceedings July 1978 37:2215)

Myth: Children benefit from a low-fat diet.

Truth: Children on low-fat diets suffer from growth problems, failure to thrive, and learning disabilities. (Food Chemistry News 10/3/94)

Myth: A low-fat diet will make you “feel better . . . and increase your joy of living.”

Truth: Low-fat diets are associated with increased rates of depression, psychological problems, fatigue, violence and suicide. (Lancet 3/21/92 Vol. 339)

Myth: To avoid heart disease, we should use margarine instead of butter.

Truth: Margarine eaters have twice the rate of heart disease as butter eaters. (Nutrition Week 3/22/91 21:12)

Myth: Americans do not consume enough essential fatty acids.

Truth: Americans consume far too much of one kind of EFA (omega-6 EFAs found in most polyunsaturated vegetable oils) but not enough of another kind of EFA (omega-3 EFAs found in fish, fish oils, eggs from properly fed chickens, dark green vegetables and herbs, and oils from certain seeds such as flax and chia, nuts such as walnuts, and in small amounts in all whole grains.) American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1991 54:438-63)

Myth: The “cave man diet” was low in fat.

Truth: Throughout the world, primitive peoples sought out and consumed fat from fish and shellfish, water fowl, sea mammals, land birds, insects, reptiles, rodents, bears, dogs, pigs, cattle, sheep, goats, game, eggs, nuts and milk products. (Abrams, Food & Evolution 1987)

Myth: A vegetarian diet will protect you against atherosclerosis.

Truth: The International Atherosclerosis Project found that vegetarians had just as much atherosclerosis as meat eaters. (Laboratory Investigations 1968 18:498)

Myth: Low-fat diets prevent breast cancer.

Truth: A recent study found that women on very low-fat diets (less than 20%) had the same rate of breast cancer as women who consumed large amounts of fat. (New England Journal of Medicine 2/8/96)

Myth: Coconut oil causes heart disease.

Truth: When coconut oil was used for 7% of the calories provided patients recovering from heart attacks, the patients had greater improvement compared to untreated controls, and no difference compared to patients treated with corn or safflower oils. Populations that consume coconut oil have low rates of heart disease. Coconut oil may also be one of the most useful oils to prevent heart disease because of its anti-viral and anti-microbial characteristics. (Journal of the American Medical Association 1967 202:1119-1123; American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1981 34:1552)

Myth: Saturated fats inhibit production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins.

Truth: Saturated fats actually improve the production of all prostaglandins by facilitating the conversion of essential fatty acids. (“Tripping Lightly Down the Prostaglandin Pathways,”westonaprice.org)

Myth: Arachidonic acid in foods like liver, butter and egg yolks causes production of “bad” inflammatory prostaglandins.

Truth: Series-2 prostaglandins that the body makes from arachidonic acid both encourage and inhibit inflammation under appropriate circumstances. Arachidonic acid is vital for the function of the brain and nervous system. (Ibid.)

Myth: Beef causes colon cancer.

Truth: Argentina, with higher beef consumption, has lower rates of colon cancer than the US. Mormons have lower rates of colon cancer than vegetarian Seventh Day Adventists. (Cancer Research 1975 35:3513.

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