Saturated fats used to be as easy to discuss with patients as cigarettes: avoid them! But for the past fifteen years, we’ve been drowned in a sea of misinformation created by the food industry. This deliberate distortion of the truth ignores decades of established research and has led millions of people to embrace a diet high in saturated fat. Many will suffer the consequences: diabetes, dementia, high cholesterol, and heart disease.
For healthcare providers, it’s difficult to speak confidently with their patients about a healthy diet when both of them can’t see the facts through the haze of fiction. That’s where Dr. Evan Allen comes in. With his new book Oversaturated: A Guide to Conversations about Fats with Your Patients, he’s cutting through the confusion with an up-to-date, thorough review of all the research that makes the case against saturated fat so compelling. He wants to help his fellow doctors focus on lifestyle first, with surgery and medication as last resorts. By doing so, he knows doctors can stop bandaging the complications of overconsumption of saturated fat. In fact, they can do something rare: genuinely improve the health of their patients.
I caught up with Dr. Allen to learn the tipping point that led him to write the book, his favorite idea that he shared with readers, and how he’s implemented that idea in his own life.
What happened that made you decide to write the book? What was the exact moment when you realized these ideas needed to get out there?
The media landscape over the last fifteen years has been deliberately shifted by industry funded papers that attempt to alter the perception by both healthcare providers and the general public that saturated fat is dangerous and leads to the development of common chronic diseases like vascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. This has been largely successful with huge numbers of healthcare and layperson books being written that argue that all the evidence against saturated fat is fraudulent and that, in fact, diets high in saturated fat that raise cholesterol levels are beneficial. I looked for a book that gave a counter-narrative and couldn’t find one.
From my perspective, the weight of the scientific case against saturated fat was so strong that I felt it was necessary to have a book that distilled down that case into a readable, accessible format that someone could read quickly and understand fully in a short period of time.
What’s your favorite specific, actionable idea in the book?
My favorite idea is getting rid of the top sources of saturated fat: cheese, pizza, grain-based desserts, dairy-based desserts, and chicken. People who dramatically reduce their saturated fat intake can see remarkable benefits in their health. Some of those benefits will affect long term risk factors like blood cholesterol or vascular dilation ability (involved in heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver, etc). Other benefits will accrue more quickly, like improvements in erectile dysfunction and chronic back pain due to less arterial plaque buildup.
The best part is, it’s easy to experience these benefits. Just cut out the top five sources — or at least drastically reduce how often you eat them — to cut your saturated fat intake way down.
What’s a story of how you’ve applied this lesson in your own life? What has this lesson done for you?
My personal health has benefited massively from a large reduction in saturated fat intake, which I started right after my son was born. I previously had chronic urticarial vasculitis which I developed while in the military. After reducing my saturated fat intake, I have not had any further flares of this condition. I also had asthma with intermittent wheezing at night, and this issue has also been resolved. My overall energy and activity level are higher than they were when I was 15 years younger, and my racquetball game improved dramatically as well.
I lost 45 lbs and my high cholesterol and fatty liver resolved. This makes me much less likely to develop heart disease or diabetes in the future, which my family is often thrilled about!
For more advice on reducing your saturated fat intake, check out Oversaturated: A Guide to Conversations about Fats with Your Patients on Amazon.