|Hell yeah Sweden|
Since 2004, the Swedish have experienced a rise in the popularity in low carb, high fat diets. The study that came out was a 25 year observational study that considered the diet of 140,000 Swedish people based on self reported surveys on what they ate, their body weight, and serum cholesterol. They conducted the study as a result of Sweden having the highest rate of heart disease of any country in the 1970s. In1985, the country introduced its intervention campaign. The study was designed to observe lifestyle and diet, and make connections to heart disease in an effort to help Sweden overcome it's high rate of heart disease.
To the bewilderment of the lower-carb minded community, the study seemed to show that when people cut their carb intake and replaced it with fat, over time their cholesterol levels went up, as well as their BMIs and therefore, risk for heart attack. As a result, there were a flurry of commentaries and articles such as Atkins diet found to be bad for the heart and this sassy article: Time to Retire the Low Carb Diet Fad. The study also noted that over the course of the 25 year study, BMI steadily increased along with alcohol consumption (something that I felt worth noting, but the articles above did not).
Another interesting point was that towards the beginning of the study the Swedish were leaning more towards a low fat high carb diet and then as low carb diets grew in popularity, they switched gears. However, the BMIs of the population studied went up (not exactly steadily, but up nonetheless) regardless of diet breakdown.
|It's probably just because of the Swedish chef....|
The study does not look at HDL vs LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, or even if the high levels of cholesterol observed in the study even led to heart disease. Current research suggests that total cholesterol alone is a pretty scant indicator of future heart disease, and the breakdowns and ratio's of these numbers are far more important. This population of Swedes could be enjoying great health with high levels of HDL and low numbers of the small sticky LDL, but we just don't know either way. There are no mortality statistics in the entire report, which is odd considering that the whole reason people fear heart disease is that essentially, it can kill you. The study even notes : “our study design does not allow a causal evaluation of the relationship between the increased fat intake since 2004 and the increased cholesterol values after 2007.”
So the question we must ask ourselves is: Why does the media see fit to alert the public to the dangers of a diet, when the diet itself was not extensively studied and a causal relationship was not established between a high fat diet and cholesterol? A commentary on the blog MarksDailyApple wisely even observed: "there was a four-to-six-year lag between the rise in fat consumption and the 2008 cholesterol jump – implying that Sweden’s fat-feasting took half a decade to affect blood values." The conclusion that the low carb craze that took over Sweden being the singular culprit for high cholesterol levels seems pretty sketchy to me.
I think that the main take away from all of this is that people need to be far more skeptical of what the mouthpieces in the media are touting. As we are all painfully aware, loud eye catching headlines are far more lucrative than "Study Shows That Cholesterol in Swedes Went Up--- We Don't Really Know Why." Before anyone decides to undertake a life changing diet plan, they need to do their own research and decide what is best and what is going to work for them. Unfortunately, the American public has gotten quite comfortable listening to the contradictory advice of the government and health guru media icons who seem to have a new mind blowing cure for metabolic diseases every few weeks. The best advice anyone can give is be skeptical, and be proactive towards your health goals, rather than letting others make choices for you.