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

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  4,468 ratings  ·  608 reviews
In The Big Fat Surprise, investigative journalist Nina Teicholz reveals the unthinkable: that everything we thought we knew about dietary fat is wrong. She documents how the low-fat nutrition advice of the past sixty years has amounted to a vast uncontrolled experiment on the entire population, with disastrous consequences for our health.

For decades, we have been told that
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published May 13th 2014 by Simon Schuster
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Ed Yes it is. I would not recommend How Not to Die as Ms. Schmechel does. I dug into some of Dr. Grieger's citations and found that he distorted data in…moreYes it is. I would not recommend How Not to Die as Ms. Schmechel does. I dug into some of Dr. Grieger's citations and found that he distorted data in some instances in order to draw conclusions that were false, but fit with his agenda. His goal is to push a vegan diet, which is fine. A proper plant based diet is healthy, but no more healthy proper omnivorous diet. As a PETA-type animal rights activist, he takes to distorting data to malign animal-based foods. It was completely unnecessary. (less)

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Sep 03, 2016 rated it liked it
I start this review with a disclaimer: I am a registered dietitian, the "nutritionist" profession that Teicholz spends 336 pages discrediting, berating, and I'd go so far as to say vilifying. It was a little hard not to take it personally after the umpteenth snide comment dripping with condescension.

With that being said, Teicholz does not miss the mark entirely, and there are many reasons to praise this book. The research, though problematic at times (we'll get to that), is thorough, and for a
Jun 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-read-books

*** Original review on June, 2014, after the first read

For two years now, I have been in the camp of Ornish and Essylstne on nearly zero-fat vegan diet. I had been diligent and scrupulous in my diet and exercise, toeing the line from my previous education in biostatistics, also inspired by vegan converts such as Bill Clinton. My overall health has improved significantly, but the reasons may not be what I thought.

Suffice to say that I have come to this book with a critical mind to examine the
Jun 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book has turned my world upside down. Since my dad was diagnosed with high cholesterol in his 40s, and his sister and I vied for highest cholesterol counts in the tristate area, the family went low-fat. At that time, low-fat was horrible tasting. Horrible. All the joy was sucked out of eating.

Now comes Nina Teicholz to review the data, all the data, and expose the low-fat lie. I am so disappointed in every cholesterol/heart disease guru who pushed this regimen, every doctor I have seen in
Jul 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews
Good book that points out the importance of a balanced diet and essential fats as a part of it.

Saturated fats are not bad and if you do not consume them with carbohydrates, you will be doing good to yourself. This was the point that led the scientific community in the wrong direction in the 50s, thanks to Ancel Key`s (nutritionist) prejudice and press support on the cholesterol hypothesis.

Jun 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is un updated and more accessible version of the story told in Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease. It was worth hearing all this again because the conventional wisdom is so pervasive that one needs to be reminded about the actual evidence. The author does a good job going over specific studies to illustrate why the prevailing low-fat dogma is wrong.

Nerd addendum:
To fact-check, I looked up one of these papers--a trial in
Lauri Rottmayer
May 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book! Nina Teicholz digs deep to uncover the truth about nutrition as we've known it for 60 years revealing how fats aren't the bad guy.

What I liked the most about this book was that it was confirmation of what I have learned on my own experiment, party of one, me. I've always been a student of healthy eating. When the low fat/high carb recommendations came out, I was right there. No fat? Even better. What did that get me? A big butt.

Several years ago, I stumbled up on the
Feb 24, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If you're thinking about going Paleo and are looking for evidence to support that decision, this is the book for you. If you're skeptical about the benefits of an animal-based diet, you probably won't appreciate it so much.

(view spoiler)
The Big Fat Surprise is a dense, but interesting, compilation of information documenting why the low-fat/heart-healthy diet hypothesis is not based on solid scientific study. In fact, it may cause many of the problems it was developed to prevent!

The author goes through an exhaustive review of the history and studies how the low-fat diet became the basis of what is considered to be a preventive measure to diet related heart disease. Even today, this is the fundamental treatment for preventing
MrsJoseph *grouchy*
Nov 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: need-to-review

4.5 stars rounded down to 4 stars!

I purchased The Big Fat Surprise on 27-Jan-2015 - it stayed on Mt. TBR for 1 year, 3 months.

I want to start this review with a little information about me:

I am currently an omnivore and I consume all foods with the exception of bananas (allergy). I do have a rather severe lactose intolerance but I can consume cooked milk products and most other forms of dairy in limited amounts.

Historically, the women in my family have
Rachel (TheShadesofOrange)
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
4.0 Stars
This was a fascinating and persuasive non fiction book that analyses the flawed research that has incorrectly villianized fats over the decades. The information was detailed, yet accessible to general readers like myself. The author's arguments appeared to be quiet sound and well researched. As a result of reading this book, I have reevaulated my own long-held beliefs about healthy eating.
Jun 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Ok, so you know that vegetable fats like margarine and canola oil are good for you, right? And animal fats like butter, tallow, and lard are horrible for you - of course they are, because that's what nutritionists and the American Heart Association and the USDA have told us our whole lives. But have you ever stopped to wonder what this advice is based on?

It turns out that they are based on a whole bunch of pretty shoddy evidence. Nina Teicholz, a food writer, sets out to examine why scientists
Jun 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Big Fat Surprise is revelatory. I consider this essential reading for anyone interested in health and modern diet. It offers a powerful challenge to the governing paradigm that a low fat-high carb diet with lots of fruits and vegetables is the healthiest way to eat.

The goal of this book is to look closely at the history of the science behind that low fat-high carb diet and determine if the data actually supports it. Especially impressive is the fact that Ms. Teicholz doesn't simply rely on
Feb 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, medicine, 2015
This book exceeded my expectations in both form and content. The author assembles a devastating case against the low-fat diet that has been recommended by doctors and government agencies as a way to prevent heart disease. My interest was piqued because my family--dutiful "compliers" with health advice, one and all--zealously partook of the low-fat carb-fest that was the 1980s through 1990s. Several of my family members now have serious health conditions that I can hardly say were caused by this ...more
Heather in FL
So... now not only do I have to hate food companies, I apparently have to hate the FDA, American Heart Association, countless scientific and government organizations, Congress, scientists and all the other people who pushed this low-fat diet concept based on flawed science and inflated egos.

And I've had my eyes opened, at least somewhat, to how the science community works. I thought -- silly me -- that scientists were focused on proving their theories...finding the truth. It never dawned on me
Kelly Witwicki faddegon
May 04, 2016 rated it did not like it
The author's subtitle and conclusion are an incredible leap from the information she presents. She says heart disease is more complicated than sat fat, fat, or cholesterol, and refined carbs seem pretty harmful. She failed to present a single point of evidence on "why butter, meat and cheese belong in a healthy diet" -- and I don't mean "a piece that I accepted as evidence," I mean literally not one single item explicitly in favor of eating animals, just evidence suggesting that fat isn't bad ...more
May 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I read this for NetGalley.

Thank you, Nina Teicholz, for researching and explaining why saturated fat, which is essential to good health, became vilified by most American nutritionists and physicians, and why its role in healthy nutrition should be restored.

This book successfully challenges and repudiates the vilification of saturated fat and raises the question about the nutritional soundness of the low-fat diet, the prudent diet and the extensive use of polyunsaturated oils in the American
Andy Grove
This probably won't appeal to many people but since I've been reading a lot about this subject and am now eating pretty much the opposite of the US food pyramid I was curious to read the history to see how we ended up being given such apparently misguided advice on nutrition. The book is very comprehensive but unsurprisingly it comes down to a few strong personalities, money, politics and vested interests (the American Heart Association convinced us to move away from saturated fats to toxic ...more
Jun 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really informative book about how the nutirtion industry and scientific community that support them are essentially either corrupt or just so egotistical that they believe their own poor evidence to support their claims.

Before i bought this book I first heard the author on the Joe Rogan podcast and she really knows a lot of about the science behind nutrition, so when i bought this book i was expecting the same however, i would say only about 10% of it is about the nutritional science
Kate M
Jun 04, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is very well researched and Teicholz mentions often how science is supposed to work--such an important lesson for the layreader. I say supposed to work because this book clearly shows that politics and rhetoric have been controlling what science the general public hears about, at least as far as nutrition is concerned. On p. 36 is a good example: "Keys wanted his hypothesis to be presumed right until it was proven wrong"--Teicholz makes a crucial distinction here for the reader--that ...more
Maureen Fitzpatrick
Feb 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
Highly repetitive; the author's complaint is that others cherry pick evidence, which she proves by cherry picking evidence. Ignores facts to suit her claim (for example, she claims colonial Americans must have eaten most meat as leafy vegetables didn't store well--as though grains, cereals and tubers didn't exist. Then she says heart disease must not have been too much of a problem because the small percentage who made it past 60 didn't complain of heart pains, which makes sense since 18th ...more
David Friedman
May 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I just finished her book. It is a fascinating history of nutritional science in the last 100 years. The book is really an historical page turner. No one has looked at the nutritional science of our time more comprehensively. This book will change our lives.
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing

We have all read studies or seen documentaries that tell us how being vegetarian or vegan leads to better health, lower cancer rates, etc. and it has even caused many of us to change how we eat. Nina Teicholz read all these studies (not just the summary conclusions) to understand them. In this book, she sheds a new light on so many studies and whether the conclusions that were drawn were accurate. I got sick and healed with protein and fat. Now I
Aug 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is going to set nutrition experts and to a lesser degree medical experts back on their defensive heels. Everything we have been told by the powerful American Heart Association (AHA) about heart health has been wrong. A man named Ansel Keys had established with faulty studies and a persistent personality that saturated fats lead to heart disease. He instituted these beliefs in the AHA as the AHA began as an organization.

Other well done studies contradict Ansel Keys but they were
Feb 28, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf, non-fiction, health

My first DNF this year. I've only had two in the last year.

I had a tiny suspicion I wasn't going to like this when I read what this book was about. I picked it up anyway because a part of me usually enjoys books like this.

I got about 100 pages into it and just couldn't do it any more. She says she was but a humble food critic or whatever....I had a hard time buying that because this book was so so so incredibly slanted. I wanted to know if private parties helped her fund this book and all the
David Quijano
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz was the second book that Malcolm Gladwell recommended on his podcast about the evolution of the McDonalds french fry recipe. Whereas The Case Against Sugar (the first book he recommended) was mostly a hit job on sugar and carbs with some defense of fatty foods, this book is the opposite, focusing on the virtues of dietary fat (specifically saturated fat), with some mention of the ill effects of sugar.

The gist of the book is this: all of the studies that
May 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I listened to this audiobook in 2015 and was tremendously impressed. Its fascinating, eye-opening, and scrupulously researched. Having recently heard NIna Teicholz on a podcast (Science Salon), I decided to listen this book again. I was, and am, completely persuaded that our leading healthcare organizations have completely misled the public about nutrition and diet over the past fifty years. In that time, Americans have been told to cut out saturated fat (full-fat dairy, butter, red meat, etc.) ...more
I wasn't completely convinced by the author's premise that we can eat as much steak and butter as we want for optimum health. HOWEVER, I don't necessarily think this book is really about advising readers on what should be their optimum diet.

This book for me was more about teaching the reader how to understand the politics and dynamics at play in the intersection between nutrition science and government agencies, and how to critically question the nutrition advice the public is provided by
Kristi Richardson
This is a long book. It is well researched and from a Food Critic there is little surprise here that she comes out strongly for the Atkin's diet, High Fat, High Protein, Low Carbs.

Ms. Teicholz shows many flaws in previous studies on low fat diets especially. I believe she is correct in her assumptions but I think she missed out when deciding the best way was the Atkins way. To me what she seemed to prove was that the human race is different, while the Inuits may survive on seal blubber and
Carol Bakker
Oct 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The most astonishing revelation of 2018 (for me) is the toxicity in vegetable cooking oils. Dr. Cate Shanahan calls it The Silent Killer in our food. Prior to July I hadn't heard a hint, not one whiff of warning. But, think about it: vegetable oils simply didn't *exist* one hundred years ago; yet, today they can be found in almost every processed food.

This launched me on a quest to learn more and deepen my thin grasp of dietary fat. Enter Nina Teicholz. She gives the reader a tour through the
Shane Hawk
My liking of this book is biased by my dietary choices.

With that being said, Teicholz put a massive amount of research into her book. I equate it to be a popular science version of Gary Taubes 2007 book Good Calories Bad Calories. I would recommend both to the curious, but preface Taubes book as being less accessible to laymen and chock full of in-depth analysis of nutritional research. Teicholz managed to take the bulk of GCBC and sift out the extra details that may cause the Everyman to get
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