Does eating fat make you fat? That’s the question nutritionists asked and answered in the 1970s. The determination was yes, fat clogs your arteries, and for the last 50 years, USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans have reflected this belief.
Over and over again, Americans were told to reduce their consumption of saturated fats and increase their intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Yet, Americans today are sicker, fatter and unhappier now than ever before.
Were the experts wrong? It’s becoming increasingly clear that they were, but you won’t hear them admit it anytime soon. After all, careers and reputations are at stake, so let’s stick to the course, drumming the same nutritional mantra in the hope that Americans will finally just eat less and lose the weight.
That same old advice has become tiresome, and it looks like beef may soon return as a hero to the center of the dinner plate.
A recent article featured on the Observer titled, “Health authorities continue to fail us,” writer Pete Ross explains how consumers are ditching 50-year-old nutritional advice that was based on faulty science and are opting for a diet that includes plenty of saturated fats from meat.
Ross writes, “Research conducted over the last 30 or so years reveals there is no evidence the consumption of saturated fats causes heart attacks or strokes; cholesterol’s role in developing heart disease is actually much more complex than we’ve been led to believe. In fact, despite constant protests from nutritionists and government authorities, the research actually shows that low carb diets are significantly more effective than low fat diets. And yet, the government’s dietary recommendations have changed very little.
“Much of the nutrition research occurring even now is still muddying the waters. For example, we hear so often that red meat is bad, but it is almost always studied alongside processed meats and the results extrapolated for both. Look at any study and the actual line is ‘red and processed meats.’ On what planet is it reasonable to consider a piece of salami, cured with nitrates and other preservatives, in the same category as unadulterated, grass-fed steak?
“The media certainly has their place in our current predicament as well. When it comes to nutrition, they don’t care what data and research is reliable—they care about what’s going to give them a great headline and arouse emotion in readers. Who could forget in late 2015, when the WHO announced bacon and other processed meats as a level-one carcinogen in the same category as cigarettes?
“The news immediately broke everywhere that bacon was as bad for you as cigarettes, when the reality is that 50g of bacon a day is going to increase the absolute risk of cancer by a 0.01 percent—hardly something to get worked up over. Unfortunately, the headline, ‘Bacon isn’t too great for you as we all suspected, so don’t eat it too often,’ isn’t as good as, ‘Bacon is in the same category of carcinogen as cigarettes, so eating it gives you cancer!’”
There’s an undercurrent of change happening in nutritionists’ circles, and I’m very excited about the opportunities this presents for U.S. beef producers. With some effort, we could soon see ribeye steaks touted as a health food. And no longer would the consumer have to feel guilty about consuming a juicy cheeseburger. Athletes will be grabbing beef jerky as their preferred workout fuel. And pot roasts will be the go-to healthy diet meal for busy families.
We have a serious opportunity to capitalize on this growing momentum, but it’s going to require some strategic rebranding and a fundamental change in consumer thinking. It’s time for our industry to get to work; our consumer is seeking this information. Are we ready to give it to them?
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.