In The Big Fat Surprise, investigative journalist Nina Teicholz reveals the unthinkable: that everything we thought we knew about dietary fat is wrong.
For the past 60 years, we have been told that the best possible diet involves cutting back on fat, especially saturated fat. But what if the low-fat diet is itself the problem? What if the very foods we've been denying ourselves — the creamy cheeses, the sizzling steaks — are the key to reversing the epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease?
In this captivating, vibrant, and convincing narrative, based on a nine-year-long investigation, Teicholz shows how the misinformation about saturated fats took hold in the scientific community and the public imagination, and how recent findings have overturned these beliefs. She explains why the Mediterranean diet is not the healthiest, and how we might be replacing trans fats with something even worse.
With eye-opening scientific rigour, The Big Fat Surprise makes the groundbreaking claim that more, not less, dietary fat — including saturated fat — is what leads to better health and wellness. Science shows that we have been needlessly avoiding meat, cheese, whole milk, and eggs for decades and that we can now, guilt-free, welcome these delicious foods back into our lives.
Read Caroline Baum's Review
Forget everything you thought about weight loss and fat. Turns out, eating it does not make you it. That's a pretty big reversal to swallow I know, but by the time you've read this compelling analysis of how we came to believe that the Mediterranean diet was the one to follow, that there was no more health enhancing ambrosia than olive oil (and other vegetable oils) and that we should avoid butter, cream and meat, you too will realise how misguided most diet advice has been till now and how it has been determined by inconsistent weak science. Meanwhile voices presenting an alternative viewpoint have been smothered.
This is clear, well-written, and more importantly well-researched, unbiased health journalism that documents the complex route that led to the developed world's current obesity epidemic by making the wrong choices. Guaranteed to have a significant impact on the way most of us regard fat, sugar and carbohydrates until the next big diet shock comes along.
About the Author
Nina Teicholz wrote on food and nutrition science for Gourmet and Men’s Health magazines. She was a reporter for National Public Radio for five years, covering Washington, DC, and Latin America. She also contributed, on a variety of topics, to The New Yorker, The Economist, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Salon, among other publications. In addition, she served as the associate director for the Center for Globalization and Sustainable Development at Columbia University. Teicholz was a student of biology at Yale and Stanford universities and earned a graduate degree from Oxford University. She lives in New York City with her husband and their sons.
`Nina Teicholz reveals the disturbing underpinnings of the profoundly misguided dietary recommendations that have permeated modern society, culminating in our overall health decline. But The Big Fat Surprise is refreshingly empowering. This wonderfully researched text provides the reader with total validation for welcoming healthful fats back to the table, paving the way for weight loss, health and longevity.' -David Perlmutter, M.D., author of the New York Times bestseller Grain Brain`This meticulously researched book thoroughly dismantles the current dietary dogma that fat-particularly saturated fat-is bad for us. Teicholz brings to life the key personalities in the field and uncovers how nutritional science has gotten it so wrong. There aren't enough superlatives to describe this journalistic tour de force. I read it twice: once for the information and again just for the writing.' -Michael R. Eades, M.D., author of the New York Times bestseller Protein Power`It's a big book that initially is very similar to the fantastic Good Calories, Bad Calories (2007). But once you've read the first chapters you realise that this book is so much more. It's an updated version with a somewhat different focus - and for most readers probably far more entertaining, clarifying and upsetting. This is the definitive story on how fear of fat was based on how ambitious researchers and well-meaning politicians took short cuts and ignored the lack of real evidence.' - Andreas Eenfeldt, M.D., author of Low Carb, High Fat Food Revolution`A page-turner story of science gone wrong: what Gary Taubes did in Good Calories, Bad Calories for debunking the connection between fat consumption and obesity, Nina Teicholz now does in The Big Fat Surprise for the purported connection between fat and heart disease. Misstep-by misstep, blunder by blunder, Ms. Teicholz recounts the statistical cherry-picking, political finagling, and pseudoscientific bullying that brought us to yet another of the biggest mistakes in health and nutrition, the low-fat and low-saturated fat myth for heart health.' -William Davis, M.D., author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Wheat Belly <`This book should be read by every nutritional science professional as a guide to risks of hubris ... and to the consequences of basing public policy on belief as opposed to evidence of positive, beneficial effects ... All scientists should read it as an example of how limited science can become federal policy ... Teicholz compiled a historical treatise on how scientific belief (vs. evidence), non-government organisations, food manufacturers, government agencies, and moneyed interests promised more than they could deliver and, in the process, quite possibly contributed to the current world-wide obesity epidemic.' -American Journal of Clinical Nutrition`[Teicholz] has a gift for translating complex data into an engaging forensic narrative ... [The Big Fat Surprise] is a lacerating indictment of Big Public Health ... More than a book about food and health or even hubris; it is a tragedy for our information age. From the very beginning, we had the statistical means to understand why things did not add up; we had a boatload of Cassandras, a chorus of warnings; but they were ignored, castigated, suppressed. We had our big fat villain, and we still do.' -Wall Street Journal`Impressive ... This book shook me ... Teicholz has done a remarkable job in analysing (the) weak science, strong personalities, vested interests, and political expediency.' - Richard Smith, former editor of British Medical Journal`A remarkable new book ... a fascinating, detailed, and highly readable investigative history of how some of America's most trusted scientific institutions went off the rails.' -Washington Monthly`To eat, or not to eat?' For many people these days, that really is the question. For the past four decades, we've been told to stay away from red meat, dairy and cheese - foods high in saturated fats - because saturated fat is bad for the heart.' - National Review Online`The author skilfully recounts the tragi-comic tale of how it has been possible for an ostensibly science-based culture to be so out-to-lunch about the food we eat.' -Gene Epstein`This is a striking study, thoroughly researched and carefully footnoted, which may well change the way you eat. I, for one, won't ever hesitate to order a steak again.' - Financial Times`A devastating new book ... [The Big Fat Surprise] shows that the low-fat craze was based on flimsy evidence. Nina Teicholz, an experienced journalist who spent eight years tracking down all the evidence for and against the advice to eat low-fat diets, finds that it was based on flimsy evidence, supported by an intolerant consensus backed by vested interests and amplified by a docile press.' - The Times`Teicholz's book shows that not only are foods rich in saturated fat not harmful to our hearts, but they actually are good for us ... Read Teicholz's excellent book and tell me you aren't convinced she's right.' - Chicago Sun-Times`The Big Fat Surprise should become mandatory reading in every science class ... Teicholz describes the human story of how bad science became federal policy, especially concerning the question of heart disease. - Minneapolis Star Tribune`Journalist Teicholz combs the science, or lack thereof, to learn how the fats in the American diet grew horns and cloven hooves. `Almost nothing we commonly believe today about fats generally and saturated fats in particular appears, upon close examination, to be accurate,' writes the author. Appallingly, those are still fighting words when it comes to the mandarins who fashion our national health agenda, those crazy pyramids that flip on their heads now and again like the magnetic poles. Like a bloodhound, Teicholz tracks the process by which a hypothesis morphs into truth without the benefit of supporting data. The author explores how research dollars are spent to entrench the dogma, to defend it like an article of faith while burying its many weaknesses and contradictory test results. In this instance, Teicholz zeroes in on the worries over skyrocketing heart-disease figures in the 1950s. Some (flawed) epidemiological work suggested that serum cholesterol deposited plaque in arteries, leading to coronary disease. This type of associative simplicity is that spoonful of sugar: the easy fix everyone wants when long-term, clinical tests are needed to appreciate the complex processes involved. This desire to corner the bogeyman targeted the world of fats, and it has stayed that way despite all the evidence and advancements in medical science, especially endocrinological studies, that have pointed to other biomarkers. Galling, though hardly unexpected, is the role played by money and the power we let it bestow. There were reasons the food industry wanted to stick with trans fats as opposed to saturated fats, and Teicholz tics them off, and there are reasons that the next great hope, vegetable oils, have dangerous health issues hidden instead of heralded. Sixty years after the fat attack, `a significant body of clinical trials over the past decade has demonstrated the absence of any negative effect of saturated fat on heart disease, obesity, or diabetes.' Solid, well-reported science in the Gary Taubes mold.' - Kirkus (starred review)`Journalist Nina Teicholz, in her book The Big Fat Surprise (tabbed by The Economist as one of the best books of 2014) makes a compelling case. It is a thorough, and shocking, piece of investigative reporting. Meanwhile, her inquest on the matter of the questionable bans isn't merely a retrospective. This is not an academic dispute. It has urgency.' -Forbes`Atkins may have been right all along. According to Nina Teicholz's research, the low-fat frenzy of the past half-century was based on bogus - if well-meaning - science. How this became federal policy and shaped generations of American dieting is a deeply compelling cautionary tale.' -BuzzFeed Books`This is the book that contributes to finally dismissing the old fear of fat. When the book The Big Fat Surprise came out in June last year, major American newspapers praised it. It has become a New York Times best seller and The Wall Street Journal appointed it one of the best books of the year.' -Dietdoctor.com`The Big Fat Surprise is a fascinating historical and technical account of a dreadful scientific misunderstanding ... For anyone with a passing interest in their health, and the most salient scientific knowledge that informs it, this is required reading.' - The Fat Emperor`The blame for our current dietary problems cannot mainly be placed at the door of big food corporations.' -Spiked-Online`Teicholz has a knack for discovering long-lost research ... The Big Fat Surprise - well written and hard to put down - should help Americans wake up - certainly a few, and hopefully a great many - before it is too late.' -Sally Fallon Morell, co-founder and president of The Weston A. Price Foundation, author of Nourishing Traditions`Teicholz's book is well worth reading. It is an eye-opening dissection of some of the long-held nutrition myths we have accepted as fact.' -Sylvia R. Karasu, M.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Weill Cornell Medical College`At last: the whole truth about the luscious foods our bodies really need!' - Christiane Northrup, M.D., ob/gyn physician and author of the New York Times bestsellers Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom and The Wisdom of Menopause`This fascinating book raises important issues as Americans battle obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The author provides an extensive bibliography of scientific literature, notes, and a glossary. VERDICT: Thought provoking and well worth purchasing.' - Library Journal, starred review`Reading Nina Teicholz's outstanding book The Big Fat Surprise was a bit like watching the movie Titanic. The story was long, but also so well written, I was never bored. And even though I already knew about the impending disaster, I found myself mumbling `Oh, no!' as each misstep brought it about - as if the story could end any other way ... This is a fascinating book, even if you already know the broad outlines of the story. I highly recommend you add it to your library.' -Fathead`First of all, Teicholz writes like a dream ... Teicholz has the facility of Michael Pollan, with a sharper intellect, more warmth, and a less condescending attitude. She assumes her audience is smart enough to follow her through the maze of science without wanting to stop to examine every risk ratio ever produced. At the same time, she brings us with her into those difficult moments in an interview when she has to ask a nice person a hard question. And she does ask some tough questions.' -Adele Hite, MPH R.D.`The Big Fat Surprise is a cross between a Who's Who of the food policy world and Edward Gibbon's extensive work The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: it offers a complete record of the nutrition paradigm shift, from the birth of the diet-heart hypothesis, to the fabrication of the Mediterranean Diet, to the study of the Atkins Diet in action. Teicholz leaves no stone unturned, and in her digging unearths many hidden truths about conventional nutritional wisdom that have somehow never reached the mainstream' -Paleo Magazine`Could a single man, Ancel Benjamin Keys, indirectly be responsible for more mayhem than any other figure from the 20th century? Keys' so-called `diet-heart hypothesis' convinced a generation to eschew eating fat and turn instead to sugar, carbohydrate and processed vegetable oils for nutrition. It may turn out to be one of the most deadly ideas of modern civilisation.' - Caloriegate.com`The Big Fat Surprise is a truly remarkable and persuasive book in that it is extremely well written, fully accurate in fact, and sincerely heartfelt in approach. Sentiments most often expressed in comments by readers are: I could not put it down.' -Ketopia`Journalist Nina Teicholz examines decades of research on nutrition and, for me, makes a convincing case that much current wisdom about the effect on heart health of eating fats vs. eating carbohydrates is based on inadequate science ... The nutrition field is very controversial - and as a consumer I would like to see and to understand valid conclusions based on science ... Teicholz's book seems to me to be an important contribution to the ongoing debate.' - Jay M. Pasachoff, Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy at Williams College`This is the most provocative and assumption-shredding food book I've read in years. With exhaustive reporting and lucid science explication, Teicholz drives home her central thesis: that dietary fat, even (if not especially) the saturated kind, is actually good for us ... All in all, a must read.' - Mother Jones`Teicholz may be the Rachel Carson of the nutrition movement, and I hope her book is remembered long enough for us to reverse course and begin to make real progress for the next generation.' -Forbes
Number Of Pages: 496
Published: 25th June 2014
Publisher: Scribe Publications
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 23.5 x 15.4 x 3.6
Weight (kg): 0.65