In my vegan phase, I signed up for emails from Dr. John McDougall, a well-known believer in the vegan and low fat diet. He sent me an email July 4, 2010 in which he referred to a recent article by Dr. Andrew Weil suggesting that sugars and other refined carbohydrates are more harmful than saturated fats .
“We would be much healthier as a nation if we stopped worrying so much about fats, and instead made a concerted effort to avoid processed, quick-digesting carbohydrates — especially added sugars.” He also quotes the conclusion of science writer Gary Taubes that “dietary fat, whether saturated or not, is not a cause of obesity, heart disease or any other chronic disease of civilization.”
Dr. McDougall strongly objected to the conclusions of this article. He states that “starches have fueled the engines of human civilizations for at least the past 14,000 years… populations of people who consume the greatest amounts of carbohydrate are the trimmest and fittest, and also have the lowest incidence of heart disease and diabetes. This truth is confirmed by observing the change that occurs when people from Japan, for example, migrate to the United States or Europe. As they eat less rice (carbohydrate) and more saturated fat (meat and dairy products) they become fatter and sicker.” He states that “The end result of this mixing up of the truth could be that billions of people will be deprived of a real opportunity to live long, disease-free lives.”
I agree with Dr. Weil (as does Michael Pollan) that it is important to avoid refined and processed foods, carbohydrates and otherwise. However, I do not agree that we would be healthier if we stopped worrying about fats, especially since even Dr. Weil acknowledges (in his book Eating Well for Optimum Health) that Omega-3 deficiency is associated with health problems. As for Dr. McDougall, he needs to pay attention to the fact that Omega-3 EFAs are essential nutrients that the human body requires, and that no one who ignores this fact is likely to live a long disease-free life.