34 Is the American Heart Association Misleading Us About Coconut Oil

InForm Fitness Podcast


Adam Zickerman and Mike Rogers discuss a recent USA Today article citing The American Heart Association’s report advising against the use of coconut oil (http://bit.ly/USAToday_CoconutOil_AHA).

However, could this study contain some flaws? Could the trusted, highly respected  AHA actually be skewing the results of their study?  Adam and Mike breakdown the data behind the recent AHA study and point out the obvious flaws that could be misleading the population to eliminate natural oils (such as coconut oil) for unnatural oils (such as canola oil).
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Intro:               Interestingly however, the age the experts do not make the same efforts, at all, to scrutinize the trials that do support their hypothesis. If I’m going to err, it’s going to be with saturated fat, a natural substance that human beings have been living with and evolving with since the beginning of time. People listen to this and they’re acting like juveniles. They have this idea that they can’t let go of and damn it I’m right, and I’m going to skew it to show that I’m right, but you know what, this isn’t a game. They’re not cheating at a game right now, people’s lives are at stake here and industries are at stake here. Millions and millions of people’s health is at stake here. They’re telling people to get rid of what is seemingly
natural to human beings, instead, eating things that are not natural, that is not something we evolved [with]. We don’t know, we don’t know, but God, if you don’t know, don’t make those kinds of huge recommendations like that, it’s scary.

Tim:                 Hey InForm Nation, welcome to episode 34 of the InForm Fitness Podcast.
Twenty minutes with New York Times bestselling author, Adam Zickerman and friends, and I really think today, this episode, might be the first twenty minute episode we’ve had in quite a long time. There are many reasons for that. One of them is the fact that Sheila Melody is actually off, galavanting around France as we speak so she will not be joining us.

Mike:               She’s such a windbag anyway, she keeps on rambling and rambling. That’s why we’re going for over 45 minutes.

Tim::                Poor Sheila, she just keeps talking and she won’t let us get a word in edgewise, right?

Mike:               Sheila!

Tim:                 She is throwing things at her radio right now, listening to this.

Adam:             Oh Mike, putting down Sheila without here being here to defend herself.

Mike:               I’m supposed to be like really ironic, because we all know that I’ve got nothing to say and keep talking.

Adam:             That was a jump because I didn’t think I was being sarcastic.

Tim:                 Well of course, for those of you who are new to the podcast, the voices you’re hearing…

Adam:             That’s what my wife tells me, she always has to explain to me…

Mike:               Well I wasn’t prepared to defend myself so that’s why I sort of pivoted.

Tim:                 You’re hearing the voice of Mike Rogers, the general manager of InForm Fitness there at InForm Fitness Headquarters.

Mike:               There goes the twenty minutes.

Adam:             The real windbag of this podcast.

Tim:                 I just can’t keep my mouth shut. Of course the man you just heard is the founder of InForm Fitness, Adam Zickerman, and Adam, a few episodes ago, we spent a lot of time talking about your ketogenic diet. That ninety day journey that you embarked upon, right towards the beginning of 2017, and you had tremendous results with this new diet plan, and we’ve yet to see your blood work results. I’m assuming that’s coming pretty soon, but the items that you mentioned, the food that you were eating on this diet were some items that we’ve been told for decades to stay away from. Saturated fats and such, and this is the title or the topic for today’s podcast.

Adam:             Yes, yes. So saturated fat has been vilified for the last fifty years and continues to this day to be vilified by the American Heart Association. With a recent advisory they put out, can’t be more than a couple of weeks ago at this point, and I
remember when it came out, Mike ran to me and said, Adam, did you see this? Right, Mike?

Mike:               Yeah, so I was like, Adam, did you see this? Just like that. Adam, pause, did you see this?

Tim:                 Just for effect.

Mike:               Here’s the deal. We’re always bringing things to each other’s attention, when we see something published online, and frankly the first thing I saw was about two weeks ago, was a headline that says, it turns out coconut oil is bad for you.

Tim:                 I saw the same thing.

Mike:               Says the AHA, and I was like whoa, okay, well I cannot wait to read this because…

Adam:             The AHA, the American Heart Association, this revered institution.

Mike:               I get very excited about it, and I’ve been excited to actually read studies, not just articles, ever since I read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes about, I don’t know, twelve or thirteen years ago.

Adam:             That long?

Mike:               I don’t know when it was, who knows, it was a long time ago it seems like, but anyway, he wrote a fantastic book and through the research in that book, which really, really was talking about carbohydrates and fats and proteins and
everything, but the thing is, through his research, you learn and he brings attention to the idea of studies themselves that get published and the articles on the studies. So ever since then, when we get access to an article that says, carbs are good for you or protein is bad for you, or fat is bad for you, or whatever — we want to
actually read them, see what they’re saying, and often times, we’re finding that only four people were involved in this study, or it was only observational
research. Or only 25,000 people were interviewed on paper and they sent it in through the mail or something.

Adam:             No follow up in any of those.

Mike:               So basically the scientific method wasn’t really, really used, but the thing is, when the American Heart Association, the very, very reputable organization that is
respected by your physicians who are giving you advice and all sorts of stuff. It’s a shame to see that often times, this stuff is much more questionable than it is substantive. So anyway, I saw this article and it’s funny because a couple of months ago, I get clients who send me articles with similar types of headlines. Like Mike, Mike, you see, this came out of Tufts University by the American
Diabetic Association or stuff like that, and I’m like, well, it was only sponsored. They’re trying to tell you that whole grains was good for you, but the study was sponsored or paid for by General Mills and the Department of Agriculture, two organizations that want you to eat more Cheerios. Then you look at the study
itself and it has almost nothing to do with the headlines. Sometimes things are
interpreted in such ways, anyway so Adam prepared a little — he wrote out a nice little commentary and I think this is going to be a little bit of a unique podcast
because it may seem a little lecturey, but we’re going to hopefully have a little discussion about it, but we’re going to keep it short and sweet, and he’ll explain why.

Adam:             So when Mike brought this to me, and I had already heard about it, but I was rolling my eyes about it before I even read it, when he brought it to me. I said, yes, Mike, I did hear about it but I haven’t actually read it yet, so of course, I
ended up reading it that evening. It’s like thirty pages long, and well, quite
honestly, it’s a complete rehashing of what the AHA has been saying and arguing for fifty years now. There is nothing, believe it or not, in it that was new. I don’t want to sound conspiratorial, but whatever reason, the American Heart
Association continues the cherry pick studies, old, flawed studies by the way, that support their hypothesis. They can’t get over the fact that they believe and will do anything to support this belief that saturated fat causes heart disease. Again, this has been going on for like fifty years, and unfortunately, they’re using pretty shady techniques to come to these conclusions. Techniques that are basically
cherry picking the studies that support their argument. Now the big travesty here to me is that I don’t understand why the whole scientific community and the press for that matter, the media, aren’t screaming dirty pool. It baffles me that they’re not saying, hey, you’re rehashing the same old crap that you’ve been rehashing for the last fifty years. Maybe because most people feel that saturated fat must be bad for me. Maybe everyone believes that saturated fat must be bad for them.
After all, you’ve been hearing it for the last three generations. Anyway, so I have to say, first and foremost, that I don’t know whether saturated fatty acids or SFAs or saturated fat is bad for you. I don’t know. I don’t think they are, but I don’t know for sure, because we don’t have enough evidence to say that. With all the studies that have been done, we still can’t definitively say that saturated fatty acids are bad for us and cause cardiovascular disease and kill us early. No studies have shown that yet. No good studies anyway, but the thing is, the AHA doesn’t know this either, but they want so badly to believe that saturated fat is bad that they talk themselves into it, and manipulate the facts to fit their belief. Therefore the AHA included, only the research that supported what they know must be true and that is saturated fat is bad. Now the AHA concluded that only four trials, four clinical trials, have ever been done with what they say is sufficiently reliable methodology, to allow them to assess the value of replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fat. They’ve concluded, by the way, that this replacement will reduce heart attacks by 30%. 30%, that is such a huge number to say and advise people and tell people, based on such horrible and selective clinical trials. Now, the AHA experts have systematically picked through all the other studies and found reasons to reject all of the studies that didn’t find such a large positive
effect, meaning that 30% reduction in heart disease, including such a significant number of studies that happen to suggest the opposite. That saturated fat
definitely does not cause heart disease. For those trials, they rejected them and told you why they rejected them, they were flawed for this reason and that reason, bias, not blind studies, the sample sizes were too small, and that’s fair enough, they’re correct. Interestingly however, the age the experts do not make the same efforts, at all, to scrutinize the trials that do support their hypothesis. Included in some of those studies that they rejected, to include in their hypothesis, are the Minnesota Coronary Survey, the Sydney Heart Study, and the largest single ever conducted so far called the Women’s Health Initiative; all rejected because they had flaws in their research, and by the way, these studies happen to all refute the hypothesis that saturated fa causes cardiovascular disease. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Now, the four studies, the four, the measly four studies that they did use to support their hypothesis that saturated fat is bad, are, first of all, old studies. They were all conducted in the sixties. One of them, for instance, is called the Oslo Diet Heart Study. So I did some digging about this Oslo Diet Heart Study, and lo and behold, Gary Taubes who Mike just mentioned, did the digging for us. Gary is the author like we said of Good Calories, Bad Calories, and is pretty much the national face, maybe even the worldwide face for pointing out how poorly these studies have all been done, and how we have this worldwide bias around saturated fat. Anyway, what he found about the Oslo Diet Heart Study are the following. First of all, all of the subjects of the Oslo Heart Study were at high risk for heart disease, or had already had some kind of heart attack or episode. So all of the subjects had heart disease. The subjects are randomly put into two groups; half of the patients ate a low saturated fat and high polyunsaturated fat diet with intensive counseling, for years, continuous instruction and supervision. The control group ate whatever they were supposed to eat, this was a Norwegian diet back in the sixties, with no counseling, no counseling. I repeat, no counseling. The control group got no counseling but the high polyunsaturated fat and low
saturated fat diets had intensive, their words, intensive counseling. It wasn’t the blind study, all the physicians involved also knew whether their patients were
assigned to either the intervention group or the control group, and the intervention group, by the way it turns out, thank you to Garry Taubes for uncovering this. The intervention group also ate half of the amount of sugar as the control group. Half of the amount of sugar, and by the way, the intervention group was eating less than 50 grams of sugar a day. That’s practically a ketogenic diet by the way, to have that low — now, one group gets a healthy diet and intensive counseling for years. The other group gets nothing. In science, this is called performance bias, and you have to watch out for performance bias. It’s the equivalent of doing a drug trial without a placebo. It is literally an uncontrolled trial, despite the
randomization, it was an uncontrolled trial based on these facts. We would never accept a trial like this for a drug, but we are for diet. Now not only that, but the variables were more than — there was more than one variable changed here. If we found that they were eating half the sugar, now we don’t know if it’s a fact that they were eating or not eating saturated fats that caused this drop, or maybe it was the fact that they stopped eating sugar that caused this drop in cardiovascular
disease. So we don’t know! This study needs to be rejected, and they rejected all the other studies for reasons less than that, but they didn’t reject the Oslo Study and it needs to be rejected. Now, there was another study they used out of the four that was called the Predimed Trial. Yeah!

Mike:               Excuse me.

Adam:             Yeah, that’s a big trial obviously. Predimed Trial, that truck liked it. Probably the most famous study that made the Mediterranean Diet so popular. This was also included by the AHA and guess what, I’m not going to get into all the details, you can look it up yourself, but the same issues existed as the Oslo Study. The same kind of problems associated with that as well, must reject. Same problems, no
intervention for the control group etc etc, must reject. So here’s the kicker. The AHA experts actually acknowledge that they’re discussing the same decade old trials, and that these trials cannot resolve this controversy. This is what they say in this advisory that just came out.

Mike:               It actually said it in the advisory.

Adam:             I’m going to read this from the study, which is funny because again, the press doesn’t talk about this comment, they talk about how they just said 30% reduction is necessary in saturated fats, and coconut oil is — since it’s 82% saturated fat, that’s the number one thing that should go, coconut oil. Alright, this is what they wrote. “The core trials reviewed in this section were started in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Readers may wonder why at least one definitive clinical trial has not been completed since then. Reasons include the high cost of a trial having upward of 20,000 to 30,000 participants needed to achieve satisfactory statistical power. The feasibility of delivering the dietary intervention to such a large study
population and technical difficulties in establishing food distribution necessary to maintain high adherence for at least five years, and declining CVD incidence rates, caused by improved lifestyle and better medical treatment. These linked
issues must be managed to obtain a definitive result. Remain the central
considerations for dietary trials on cardiovascular disease and indeed are the
overarching reason why few of these trials have ever been done.” So they’re
basically saying…

Mike:               They’re basically negating any conclusions that they have from the study that they just published.

Adam:             They’re basically saying that a study, to really, definitively prove that saturated fats are bad or good can’t be done. That they quit, they quit, they’re saying it can’t be done. So why are they including trials that support their argument, because they aren’t even close to those kinds of standards. Of course, by the way, I talk about the Women’s Health Initiative Study that was rejected by them. That was rejected by them because they didn’t have the numbers of participants so that’s why they rejected that. Really it’s probably because it didn’t prove their point, their belief. Okay, one last point. If I’m going to err, it’s going to be with saturated fat, a natural substance that human beings have been living with and evolving with since the beginning of time. The polyunsaturated oils, other than olive oil of course, are manmade, foreign objects in essence to our body. So before I
subscribe to these weak AHA recommendations, I am going to need a lot more compelling evidence to accept a foreign object as more — as healthier for me, as opposed to saturated fats which are something we’ve been eating as humans for our whole lives. So I’m not going to just jump ship now, especially since I had such great success, personally, with eating saturated fat. It’s true that I haven’t had my blood work done, but all signs say that I am actually in better shape right now than I was. I lost weight, my back problems went away, I’m definitely not as
inflamed basically, and again, this inflammation I’m talking about is because our bodies are fighting these foreign objects that they’re not meant to eat. And I’m sorry, if you told me to choose between coconut oil and canola oil, I’m going
coconut baby, bring it on.

Mike:               In defense of what they’re saying, what the AHA is saying, it is very, very
difficult to isolate variables over a statistical — a significant amount of
statistically significant people, but Adam was just mentioning, if I’m going to err towards one thing, based on what we see and what we can infer from what’s in front of us, it makes a lot more sense to at least go towards something like that. That’s what basically they’re showing us in this study, is that they haven’t
successfully been able to isolate this variable and show the ramifications of it. They can create all sorts of correlative evidence but really, that’s what they should be saying, is AHA has found some correlations that saturated fat may be bad for you, but we have not proven it, and in fact, there are certain situations where
people have had ketogenic diets with high saturated fat and have very successful results in improving their cardiovascular system.

Adam:             But they rejected those studies, saying they were flawed. I thought, their studies aren’t flawed, the ones they’re using, they’re not flawed but the other ones are.

Tim:                 Or ancient.

Mike:               Right, I’m just saying that there really is just no proof, and to actually prescribe that type of thing. To be such a highly respected organization which most doctors, they tell their patients, based on this type of evidence or whatever is published. Who knows how many of them actually read the studies.

Adam:             That’s the real crime here. People listen to this and they’re acting like juveniles. They have this idea that they can’t let go of and damn it I’m right, and I’m going to skew it to show that I’m right, but you know what, this isn’t a game. They’re not cheating at a game right now, people’s lives are at stake here and industries are at stake here. Millions and millions of people’s health is at stake here. They’re telling people to get rid of what is seemingly natural to human beings, instead, eating things that are not natural, that is not something we evolved [with]. We don’t know, we don’t know, but God, if you don’t know, don’t make those kinds of huge recommendations like that, it’s scary. It really scares me.

Mike:               It’s the conclusions, there’s a context — for example, saturated fat actually could be bad for your cardiovascular system if it is the context of eating a lot of
carbohydrates. Seriously —

Adam:             We don’t know if it’s bad because it’s in the context of carbohydrates or if it’s the carbohydrates themselves, we don’t know. When you’re changing all these
variables, that’s the point, we don’t know. Who knows if it’s bad, I don’t think it is bad for us. The [Inaudible: 00:23:36] is to prove that saturated fats are bad for us before you tell us not to eat them.

Tim:                 So where are those studies, where are those studies as to whether or not the
combination of various foods —

Adam:             They are right, they are right by saying that it would take a huge, huge effort. I mean Gary Taubes started NuSI to really try to raise money that would do a study, once and for all, try to get to the bottom of this, but it’s nearly an
impossible task.

Tim:                 Just to get it funded?

Adam:             Funded and done, but hopefully, who knows.

Mike:               I personally think it will happen in the future because you want to get volunteers to participate in studies, and the thing is, if saturated fat has been vilified
historically for a long enough time, it’s literally — I think there are some people who think there’s an ethical dilemma in saying hey, let’s see if we stuff some
people with saturated fat and see how they’re going to do. It’s kind of like, hey, let’s see how heroin is going to be for some people and how not heroin is going to be. I think sometimes because of the history that saturated fat has become, there may be somewhat of an ethical dilemma in actually trying to recruit those people.

Adam:             That’s true, so maybe they’re not just bad infantiles that are afraid to bruise their ego. Maybe they’re just afraid because they’ve said that saturated fat is not so bad, maybe they’re afraid that we’re going to start all of a sudden eating bacon for breakfast every single day. You know what, that might be okay compared to
eating boxes of cereal every day.

Mike:               More and more every day, there are more and more people having a paleo style lifestyle, or a ketogenic lifestyle, and we’re seeing a lot more people who are
doing these, quote unquote, alternative diets, that are actually, people are having incredible health benefits from it, so I think —

Adam:             And we’re going to interview one of those people by the way, Annie.

Mike:               One of our clients will be on one of the podcasts coming up in the next…

Adam:             She worked with a dietician, not a hack like us. She worked with a real dietician, and her trainer is telling her to just eat fat and she had great results with a low carbohydrate, relatively high saturated fat diet.

Tim:                 Let’s get her on relatively quickly if we can too because in this podcast, the life of this podcast, we’re looking at about 34 or 35 episodes, and the lion’s share of the podcasts are about exercise and intensity, that’s pillar one, but today we’re talking about pillar two and nutrition. So I think this is an area of your three pillars with exercise, rest and recovery and nutrition, one that we really need to spend a little bit more time on to help our audience really embrace the Power of 10.

Mike:               It’s great to hit all the pillars and everything, but we just want to have credibility for what we’re trying to say. We don’t make conclusive claims until we really,
really know.

Adam:             Not like the AHA does.

Mike:               And that’s the thing. It’s great to see people who are doing some of these, quote unquote, alternative diets against what the American Heart Association has
prescribed, and have had incredible success with their fitness goals and their health goals as well, so I think Adam’s is another exhibit and we’re going to get the scientific results soon I’m sure, but anyway — I think this podcast is very, very important because we hope that it brings to attention that we don’t just read the headlines. See if you can click on the actual study, see if you can understand it the best you can. Consult somebody, bring it to your doctor and say hey, what about this, what about that, or someone who you think might have a better idea of what they’re talking about, but we do need to be a little dubious on some of these organizations that the medical world has put a lot of stock in.

Tim:                 Mike and Adam, thanks for a great discussion here on the InForm Fitness Podcast. Now InForm Nation, we invite you to read that USA article titled, “Coconut Oil Isn’t Healthy, It’s Never Been Healthy,” then review the American Heart
Association’s study for yourself, titled, “AHA, Presidential Advisory on Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease.” And of course for your convenience, we’ll have a link to the article and that study in the show notes. You might remember we were hoping to have special guest bodybuilder and biomechanics expert, Doug Brignole on the show this week, but we had some Skype issues that we hope to have resolved here in the next couple of weeks. So looking forward to having Doug on the show with us very soon. If you’re an exercise enthusiast and maybe you found this podcast via a search through iTunes, I Heart Radio, Stitcher, TuneIn, or even on YouTube, but you haven’t yet given this Power of 10, slow motion, high intensity strength training a try for yourself. What are you waiting for? Click on over to informfitness.com for locations across the U.S. Now if you’re not near an InForm Fitness location, you can click the link in the show notes and that will direct you to Amazon, so you can pick up Adam’s book: Power of 10, The Once a Week Slow Motion Fitness Revolution, because inside the book you’ll find several demonstrations of exercises that you can perform in the
comfort of your own home, or even at a local gym. Thanks again for listening to the InForm Fitness Podcast and for Adam Zickerman, Mike Rogers, and Sheila Melody of InForm Fitness, I’m Tim Edwards with the InBound Podcasting