Review: The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet

The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet
The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet by Nina Teicholz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What can I say? I’m blown away by the impeccable research and fact presentation in this book. At first, I thought this would be a mildly interesting book with some interesting insight. Nope. Nina Teicholz brought out the big guns. She lays out her well substantiated thesis and systematically digs in. She “specifically avoided relying upon summary reports which tend to pass along received wisdoms” and she went “back to read all the original studies…in some cases [seeking out] obscure data”. In other words, she meticulously lays out the evidence, slam dunking the point: fat ain’t bad.

My first instinct for a book that venerablizes one food would villainize another. This sort of happens here; those villains being: sugar, white flour, and refined carbohydrates. Most modern health articles seem to easily coincide with this. More paradoxical: “Our rush to banish animal fats from our diet has exposed us to the health risks of trans fats and oxidizing vegetable oils.” This oxidization of vegetable oils was the big one for me.

Now, about that yummy fat. Teicholz goes through the history of fat research, presenting hundreds of footnotes, showing previous cases of extreme selection bias, selective reporting, and overlooking of methodological problems. Furthermore, these clunky studies were presented to the public by the AHA since 1961 and adopted by the USDA in 1980 as health recommendations. Time magazine put it on their front cover, newspapers proclaimed the goodness of low-fat diets, and everyone bought in wholeheartedly.

Teicholz turns that tide through her research, not only using the source material, but often going back to interview the original researchers. She proves with the latest and thorough studies “that a higher-fat diet is almost assuredly healthier in every way than one low in fat and high in carbohydrates.” And she doesn’t just leave it there. She includes a plethora of follow-up information and resource links for you to continue your own fact-finding.

So, yeah, maybe that “steak salad is preferable to a plate of hummus and crackers.” Maybe “a snack of full-fat cheese is better than fruit.” Sounds ludicrous, right? After reading through this well-presented book of studies, don’t be so sure. It makes more sense than ever.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for providing me an electronic review copy of this book. Below are some other reviews and articles about this book that you may appreciate:

The Economist:

Wall Street Journal:

The National Review:!

The Boston Globe:

Amazon purchase page and other reviews: The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet



5 thoughts on “Review: The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet

  1. The artist's room

    I’m interested in what a healthy diet really is, living myself with an illness due to chronic food inflammation. I have been diagnosed after half a life of pain and suffering, because food can make you have the most strange and different symptoms, if your body is predisposed through allergies or traumatic experiences. Muscular pain, neurological problems, bowel occlusions, allergies, etcetera. Now I am studying every piece of information I find, trying to use it well for my case. I am quite stricked by your review and the book. Thanks, I will surely investigate.

    1. ryandejonghe Post author

      I would recommend EAT MOVE SLEEP. The author also has an interesting diagnosis: cancerous growths throughout his body. He has over 200 footnotes that are links on his website. It’s free, too! The book is a good read.

  2. Pingback: Review: What Are You Hungry For?: The Chopra Solution to Permanent Weight Loss, Well-Being, and Lightness of Soul | The Avid Reader – Books, Books, Books!

  3. Pingback: Indie Thursday: Battle of the Bulge | Ryan's Book Review

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