Nina Teicholz on Unstoppable with Kara GoldinInvestigative journalist, Nina Teicholz, joins me on today’s episode of Unstoppable to talk about the truth about FATS and how we’ve been fooled by nutrition science.

Nina is the author of the international and New York Times bestselling book, The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet. Her extensive research over the last decade uncovered the politics behind science and how our low-fat diet phenomenon actually makes us fatter.

In turn, The Big Fat Surprise has received several awards from publications like Economist, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Mother Jones, and Library Journal.

Listen in to today’s show as Nina tells us about how saturated fats (the kind found in meat and cheese) is actually good for you and why we have been told to believe otherwise. She’s incredibly captivating, and I think you’ll find this episode fascinating.

 

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Unstoppable with Kara Goldin on Apple Podcasts

“For the first two years of writing, I thought I was writing a book on trans fats so I did nothing but talk to hundreds of vegetable oil executives. It became clear to me how much they did steer science, going back to the ‘40s.” – Nina Teicholz

Show Notes:

  • How did our nutrition science get it so wrong
  • Why low-fat diets can be bad for you
  • How vegetable oil companies play a big role in nutrition research
  • Who funds studies published by NIH
  • How does bureaucracy play a role in health education
  • What is the Ketogenic diet
  • Why saturated fats are controversial

“In all kinds of food, fat is what provides flavor, texture, substance, and so in order to replace that taste you often have to replace it with sugar.” – Nina Teicholz

Links Mentioned:

Facebook | LinkedIn | Twitter | The Big Fat Surprise

“I really feel passionate that we need policy that is evidence-based on this subject so that people can trust it and get healthy again. I think that is absolutely crucial for the health of the country.” – Nina Teicholz

Transcript

Kara: So, Nina, so excited to have you hear this morning. Really, really appreciate your time and coming over. As I mentioned right before we got live on the call, that I’m a huge fan, and I read your book a little over a year ago and was really, really excited to really hear your perspective on fats. I was exceptionally excited because I’m a big believer in this as well, that not all fats are created equal. And sometimes when you’re really pushing to thinking that you’re doing the right thing by doing diet fats it’s probably wrong. So I was really, really excited to see your book, The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet.
Yeah, so I just want to ask you a bunch of questions, not a few questions, because I’m so excited to be here. But just first of all, I’d just love to sort of hear why you decided to write this book. I mean, what was sort of the impetus to actually go out and write it?
Nina: Well, first of all, thank you for having me on your show. I’m delighted to be here. And it is a good question why I spent really almost a decade researching this subject. It did not start out as a crazy, obsessive project. I was supposed to write a book on trans fats, because I had written an investigative piece on that subject for Gourmet Magazine, and that kind of broke the story open in the early 2000s on trans fats. And I got a book contract to write about that.
But as I was researching this subject of fat, you know, good fat, bad fat, how much fat, nonfat, which is what Americans have pretty much obsessed about most in their diet over the last 50 years, I realized there was just this much bigger story about how we had seemingly gotten it wrong on all fats. The fats we thought were bad were actually good. The fats we thought were good were bad. I mean, it was just this incredible discovery.
So it really took an enormously long time to get to the bottom of all that. You have to read so much science and really understand the science and the politics, because it turns out to be more of a story about politics even than science. So I really just backed into writing it. I never thought that I would write this book. And I should say that when I started I had been a vegetarian for more than 20 years. I mean, not a strict vegetarian, but I definitely didn’t eat any red meat, and no butter, definitely no cream, and very little meat of any kind. And for listeners, I mean, you have to understand, like, by the end of all of my research I put a picture of a roasted rack of lamb on the cover of my book. Which, now I know was [crosstalk 00:03:23].
Kara: I’m sitting here looking at it right now, yep. With the little halo over it.
Nina: Yeah. I mean, I never thought I would ever have done that in a million years. So it really just was this incredible journey of discovery.
Kara: So you argue that cutting back on fat, this notion of the lowfat diet is hailed as a healthy diet, but that’s false. What’s actually wrong when you cut out the fat; the good fat out of your diet?
Nina: When you go on a lowfat diet, there are only three macronutrients to eat in food: there’s fat, protein, and carbohydrates. So if you cut fat, which is what Americans were told to do, and they started doing in the early 1960s, really as a way to … they were told to do that in order to avoid getting a heart attack. Originally, it was to avoid getting a heart attack, and then it was, well, so fat has more calories per gram than carbohydrates or protein, so you might as well just cut back on fat to avoid all the calories, so it was an obesity argument.
So in 1965, Americans were eating about 43% of their calories as fat. And then we were told to go on diets that were anywhere between 25% and 35% in fat. That was a lowfat diet, and Americans did that. But what the consequence was, is that if you cut back on fat, people tend to then ramp up carbohydrate consumption. And many people will remember the Food Pyramid. We were told to do that. We were told that big bottom slab of the food pyramid is all carbohydrates: grains, pasta. We were told to eat a lot more of those. So instead of having beef stew for dinner or chicken, we were told to have grains, like rice, pasta, and beans, which is also carbohydrates, and vegetables, which are good for you, but a lot of them are pretty starchy and full of carbohydrates. And altogether we increased our carbohydrate consumption since 1970 by more than 30%.
Well, what’s wrong with that? Well, carbohydrates, it turns out, there’s a large and growing body of science that shows that carbohydrates turn out to be uniquely fattening. And it’s not … I mean, definitely sugar seems to be the super fuel in fattening people. But really, just an excess of carbohydrates altogether. Even too much rice, even too much wholegrain pasta, or whatever you’re having, it tends to make people obese, and then diabetic. And it does that because anytime you eat carbohydrates it becomes glucose in your bloodstream. Glucose triggers the release of insulin, and insulin is the kind of all hormones for fat deposition. It socks away fat. Then, you’ve also go fructose, which is the other part of sugars. And fructose goes directly, and is metabolized by the liver, and too much fructose leads to fatter liver disease.
So we started eating a lot more glucose and fructose in the last 30 years. And there’s quite a lot of science to show that that is what promotes the obesity and diabetes epidemics.
Kara: I 100% agree. So the politics, you touched on this at the beginning of the call, but the politics around this, I have very strong opinions as I’ve dug into lots of initiatives around a lot of what you’re talking about too, particularly around sugar and the sweeteners, and kind of the politics around that. But I’m so curious what your opinion is around, when I look at things like meat, and cheese, and dairy, and poultry, I think of those industries as having big lobbyists. Right? Do you think that the grain industry is just filled with more power? I mean, how did we get this way? How did they get noisier? How did that end up getting more juice in terms of people wanting and thinking that that was the better thing?
Nina: Well, this isn’t … a big question you’re asking, which is how did our nutrition science get it so wrong. Right? How did we come … And it’s not just telling people to eat a lowfat diet. But the other part of it is telling people to, instead of saturated fats, which is the kind of fats found in animal foods and in palm oil and coconut oil, instead of those fats, to start consuming what are vegetable oils, basically, which are called polyunsaturated fats. So we were told to make this huge shift in the type of fat that we ate. That’s the other part of my book, which is … Actually, that was also wrong; to tell us to stop eating the fats in all those natural foods like in meat and cheese. Those are natural fats. And it turns out that they do not cause heart disease, and it turns out that they are probably protective against heart disease. And much of the science was just manipulated.
So how did we get it so wrong? That’s a big question. And the answer is not a simple one, but I can kind of pick off for you the main factors. Yes, industry played a role in it: big soy, big grain, but also the vegetable oil companies: Monsanto, ADM, Bunge, Cargill, Unilever. I mean, some of the biggest companies in the world. And they were really in there from the very beginning, funding research. They contributed a lot of money to the studies that were done, all the early studies on vegetable oils were funded by some of these companies. Some of these companies even … For one, they were very close to the national institutes of health. In one city, they actually … there was a vegetable oil employee working on the study. They provided all the foods for them. They’ve always been very powerful in this debate in nutrition science. And they remain so. They are still there. They give a lot of money to Harvard. Harvard scientists work very closely with them. Tufts scientists work very closely with them. And so they’re still very much in the mix.
And yet, we’ve heard a lot about the sugar industry kind of trying to … I mean, you have to understand, all industries try to manipulate science. It feels like there’s no … All industries are trying to do the same thing. And some of them, they’re legitimate reasons. Like, they see, like, “Okay, the NH is not going to fund every study that needs to be funded. And where is that money going to come from?” So they fund the study. And it isn’t necessarily to be manipulative. And the scientists who take the money aren’t necessarily being bought off by that money. But I could tell you from the research that I did, which, remember, for the first two years of writing I thought I was writing a book on trans fats, so I did nothing but talk to hundreds of vegetable oil executives. And it became very clear to me how much they did steer nutrition science, going back, really, to the 40s.
So that’s one factor, which is industry has influenced science. But another factor, and I think it’s equally big, equally important, is to say the scientists themselves became completely, utterly enamored with their own hypothesis, which was called the diet heart hypothesis: that saturated fats and cholesterol cause heart disease. And that goes back to the hypothesis that sort of came to the fore in the 1950s when heart disease had come from pretty much out of nowhere to becoming the nation’s number one killer; so a state of panic in the country about what caused heart disease.
And in that moment, the scientist named Ancel Keys, who sort of filled this void and said, “Look, it’s saturated fat and cholesterol that cause heart disease.” He was this very persuasive, sort of aggressive scientist. And his hypothesis became ascendent, and adopted; adopted by the national institutes of health, adopted by the American Heart Association. So all of these large institutions adopted this hypothesis. And generations of scientists fervently believed this to be true.
So what happened was that even as they tested this hypothesis in clinical trials, and the clinical trials could not confirm the hypothesis, they’d test thousands, and thousands, and thousands of people on this idea. They took out the saturated fat out of their diet, took out the cholesterol, replaced it with vegetable oils. At the end of those experiments, they could not see any benefit for heart disease. And yet, those studies, some of them weren’t published, they were ignored. One of them I found in an NIH basement had never been published. I mean, really an amazing story of denying the science, cherry picking the science, because the scientists themselves were so in love with their own idea about what causes heart disease. And that is actually still true, because it’s still widely believed that saturated fat causes heart disease. And if you’ll permit me to go on for one more minute I [crosstalk 00:13:49]-
Kara: No, no. I love this. Yeah, we love it. No, it’s very interesting.
Nina: Well, it is complicated. That’s why I sort of … I know I warned you at the outset. But when a hypothesis such as this one becomes institutionalized, which is to say it’s adopted by large institutions, American Heart Association, National Institute of Health, but also then with the start of the US Dietary Guidelines, the entire federal government adopts this hypothesis. Right? Starts telling Americans, “Avoid saturated fat and cholesterol.” And at that point, it becomes almost impossible to change the science. Because institutional science is really almost like an oxymoron. What good science needs is to constantly question itself, to be flexible, nimble, and able to change when there are new observations. And that is the very opposite of what is demanded by institutions. Institutions need constancy, consistency, they need to be not flip flopping on the public. They need to kind of stay the course.
So when it became clear that … when this idea became adopted by all these enormous government, you know, official institutions, now every government … and we exported this idea to every government in the world, and the WHO. So then it becomes almost impossible to reverse out of this thoroughly entrenched idea, which now has entire bureaucracies surrounding it. So that’s the situation that we’re in today.
Kara: Yeah. And I guess how, like, in a perfect world, I mean, how do you reset the standards? Right? I mean, I’ve been very close to this as well looking at things like the American Heart Association and some of the standards that they’ve adopted based on the government guidelines that you’re talking about as well. And I mean, I look at all of it and just say, “Wow, it’s so confusing to the average consumer that’s just trying to do the right thing. They’re just trying to live a healthy lifestyle. They look for these labels, they look for guidelines.” And yet, when you actually tell them that it might not be correct, that there’s a lot of bureaucracy around it, I mean, people from all walks of life, all incomes, all educations, they’re just surprised. Right?
So how do we actually reset the standards and redo it? I mean, if you were running that, what would you say would be the way to do it?
Nina: Well, first of all, I just have to double down on your expression of sympathy to the poor, confused, average consumer of this information, because it’s incredibly hard to know. I mean, why believe me over your cardiologist? The reality is, I studied this science for more than a decade now, and know every single study, and most cardiologists get maybe a day of nutrition training at most in their medical school, but they’re still considered the experts, and I’m not. And that’s fair. I mean, we should be able to trust our experts. It would be a better world. I would be happier living in a world where I could trust our expert advice. But this situation, and it’s not the only one like this, but where the expert advice is wrong.
And we have demonstrable evidence for it. The nation, since the obesity epidemic … There’s this incredible chart that, if you want to post on your website along with this podcast, there’s an amazing chart showing obesity being at a fairly low level in America, and then it turns sharply upwards the very year, in 1980, when the US Government issues the very first dietary guidelines, because that’s when the whole food supply changes. Right? We go from beef, to regular beef, to lean beef, lowfat dairy. And those guidelines affect the advice that is dispensed in every doctor’s office, every hospital, every nurse, every nutritionist, every dietician, they all download their advice from the dietary guidelines, every school, everything changes. They’re so powerful.
So if I were to map out how to change this, I think that you would need to get to the dietary guidelines. Because it really is this top-down system. Those guidelines are just downloaded to every professional association, and medical association, and everything. They determine military rations. Right? “Oh, our military is obese.” They determine school lunches, “Oh, our children are getting obese.” They determine so much.
I mean, while I think that there has to be some kind of huge educational campaign to try to reeducate, or uneducate Americans at a half a century of wrong dietary advice, I think you also really have to change that policy so that we’re no longer getting this constant flow down of information that’s just incorrect. You know? We’re being told to eat more and more … Well, they call it a plat-based diet now. But, you know, that’s grains. You’re talking a high grain, high carbohydrate diet.
Kara: Yeah. And I think the industries, you know, talking about the early 80s too, I’ve read some information on this too, how the different industries that were affected by some of the challenges too, the dairy industry, as well as the meat industry, just to survive ended up, unfortunately, having to do some things to their, you know, adding hormones and lots of other things to their meats, too. So I think it’s actually challenging for consumers too to find the right milk to buy, the right meats to buy. But it’s a lot different than it was even, what, 40 years ago. So over the last, I mean, you talked about how it’s changed over the last 60 years, but in particularly the last 40 years I’ve just seen that it’s just become harder and harder to actually get the quality in these foods. But I think that a lot of it is due to these industries really having to survive.

Nina: Yeah. I mean, there’s all kinds of issues with that. We are a nation … we’re just … part of that is the issue of having to face hundreds of millions of people. How do you do that and also give every cow their own pasture? How do you do that?
So there are questions of … I mean, it’s like any other industry trying to create massive amounts of product for a nation that is just growing exponentially year by year. But part of it has to do with some of the weird, unintended consequences that came about by, you know, like, what happened in the milk industry, for instance. So since 1970, consumption of whole milk, regular milk, the kind that comes out of a cow, is down by almost 80%. It’s just a crash of the whole milk market, because everybody was told to drink lowfat, or nonfat milk instead. Right? I remember that transition in my household where we went from-
Kara: Absolutely.
Nina: And, actually, my story is perfectly emblematic of what went on for Americans everywhere, which is that we switched from getting whole milk in a bottle, which was delicious, to lowfat milk when we went through our own little nutrition transition in the 70s. And we started drinking lowfat milk, which is tasteless. I mean, it’s not very good.
So then I decided the only kind of milk that I would drink is chocolate milk, because it tastes better. So I drank chocolate milk, which is, you know, I don’t know why my mother [crosstalk 00:22:52]-
Kara: Allowed you to do that. Right, yeah.
Nina: But that’s full of sugar. And that’s what we’re seeing. So flavored milks, the kind of milk that has replaced whole milk is this sweet flavored milk, because when you take the fat out of food, this is true in many different kinds of foods, in salad dressing, peanut butter, in all kinds of foods. Fat is what provides flavor, texture, substance. So in order to replace that taste, you often just have to replace it with sugar, or what they call in the industry a kind of fat-replacer, which is almost always carbohydrate-based. So lowfat foods are almost always higher in sugar.
Kara: 100%. And now gluten-free, and all the rest of these other industries as well. So they’re filled. You trade off in those categories for, in that case, the wheat, the gluten, but then you’re ending up putting in more and more sugar. But that’s another book.
Nina: Yeah, that’s true.
Kara: So when you look at the dietary fat, and people are listening to you, what are the key things that you think that you absolutely need to cut back on these certain types of food?
Nina: Sorry, what are the types of food you need to cut back on absolutely?
Kara: Yes.
Nina: Well, one thing I just want to say is that one of the profound things to realize about understanding nutrition is that there’s no one right diet for all people, and that people who are what I would call metabolically healthy, like … And we all know what those people are like. Those are like the 19 year old boys who can eat anything, and they don’t gain weight. There are some people who are just … they’re healthy. Their metabolisms are healthy. They can eat a lot of carbs, and process them, and they don’t see any ill effects. I’m not saying I still think a high-carb diet is bad for anybody for many reasons, but I’m just saying, those people can tolerate more carbohydrates.
If you’re somebody who is obese, diabetic, pre-diabetic, or has heart disease, or, I mean, there are other kinds of conditions that seem to be related to excessive carbohydrate consumption, Alzheimer’s is one, but the evidence is not quite as firm there, but definitely for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, then you really need to cut back on carbohydrates more significantly. And you replace it not with protein, protein stays pretty much constant, but you replace it with fat.
So people should stay away from, especially those refined carbohydrates, but really, if you have a metabolic disease, or you’re metabolically unhealthy, you just need to cut back on carbohydrates altogether. And that even means things that seem like healthy foods, but you really just can’t eat too many of them. Like fruit: fruit is really high in sugar. Too much fruit will bust the limit for some people on sugars. This juicing of fruit can really … can be like having a chocolate bar, I mean, in terms of the way it affects your body.
So it’s really not one food. It’s just saying that people have to be cognizant of the amount of carbohydrates they’re taking in if they’re struggling with these conditions. There’s something called a ketogenic diet, which is people who really go way low on carbohydrates and very high in fat. I’m talking like 75% of their calories is fat. And that has extraordinary results for people who are really obese, you know, stubborn obesity, people with diabetes. People with diabetes have been able to completely reverse out of their diabetes diagnosis with these diets. That’s data from a clinical trial that’s underway, been going on for a year now, where nearly 60% of the people after a year completely reversed their diabetes.
Kara: By just cutting out-
Nina: So it’s a very powerful diet. Sorry?
Kara: I was just trying to dig into the clinical trial a little bit more. So just by … they were reversing the type 2 diabetes by doing what?
Nina: By going on … the intervention is a ketogenic diet, which is less than 20 grams a day of carbohydrates, which is very low, and 75% is fat, and protein is moderate. And that is a study that has over 400 people enrolled in it, all diabetic. And at the end of a year, their one-year results are that something like 89% had greatly reduced their insulin medication or gotten off of it altogether, and almost 60% had completely reversed their diabetes diagnosis as defined by their level of H1AC.
Kara: That’s amazing.
Nina: I mean, those are stunning results. Well, I mean, they’re especially stunning because the standard of care right now is that diabetes is a progressive, chronic disease that can only be managed, and it’s just like a death sentence. There’s no way to reverse it, according to the American Diabetes Association, which is supposed to be on the cutting edge of this research.
Kara: Yeah. No, absolutely. And I think that there’s also … I mean, there’s a high correlation from what we’ve heard from some other people that we’ve interviewed, too, around not just sugar and things like juice and carbohydrates what they turn into, but also these diet sweeteners that are being encouraged to be consumed in our diet, too, which is a whole other piece of it, too. But I’d be really interested to see that. Because I know type 2 diabetes, when I started my company, Hint, was about 2% of the population. And the Center For Disease Control is now saying … And that was almost 13 years ago now. But now, the Center For Disease Control, the latest statistics are over 40% have type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. And it’s not clear, because a lot of people don’t even know that they have this. But I think that the correlation of everything that you’re talking about around carbohydrates, and these juicing diets, and also these diet sweeteners I think are a huge contributor to it, too.
I mean, I’ve been for many, many years a big proponent. I think going back to one of your stories about the lowfat milk, I remember my mom saying, like, only having skim milk in the house. And we did the exact same thing that you did; was put Quik in there, or add something to it because we thought it was so terrible tasting. And when I finally got out on my own I said, “Screw this. I’m going to have whole fat milk.” So I’ve always had friends looking at me saying, “Really? You have whole milk?” And I’ve been a big believer that there are certain types of fats that are better for you. But you’ve got to still search, I think, for the better foods that are quality. Because, unfortunately, a lot of the foods that are on the market today too are cut with all kinds of extra stuff in it, no matter what category they’re in. And you’ve got to know sort of what you’re also buying, which is confusing for consumers, too.
So just in terms of studying, and what are some of the other things that you’re seeing today? I mean, you’re obviously in the research arena, and were super interested in health. And I can only imagine when this book came out, I mean, did you have to deal with a lot of the naysayers out there? And did that end up leading you to think about, “I’ve got to do some deeper research into some other factors around nutrition and diet?” Just, overall, what’s next?
Nina: Well, yeah. I mean, my book and me personally have been, right, the center of some storm of controversy, because the main thesis of my book is that saturated fats are not bad for health. And saturated, the caps on saturated fat, it turns … I was really just interested in saturated fat. But it turns out that the caps on saturated fat are what limits consumption of meat. The reason people don’t eat a lot of meat, especially red meat, is that they fear it’s high in saturated fat. Although, I want to say all foods are a mixture of fat. So your average porterhouse steak, only 1/3 of the fat in that steak is saturated. Then, another 1/3 is the kind of fat that you get in olive oil. So it’s not like meat is 100% saturated fat. Everything is a mixture. Bacon-
Kara: And you’re not encouraging people to go out and buy potato chips. I mean, that’s not really what we’re-
Nina: No, no, no. No, potato chips are made from polyunsaturated vegetable oils, which have been shown in clinical trials to cause, cause cancer. So I definitely would not be eating polyunsaturated fats. I definitely think that saturated animal fats are healthier. But that is of course very controversial, and probably the most active group in the food world are the vegan, vegetarian folks who, many of them are motivated by animal welfare concerns, or environmental concerns. I mean, all of which I understand and completely sympathize with. But I think then they sort of tread into the diet world to try to say, “Well, this diet is, you know, a diet with meat, or cheese, or butter is unhealthy.”
And they’re very, very well-organized, and very active, and they have … So they’ve really gone after me and my book. They really don’t like it, because if saturated fats are okay, then there’s no reason that people should not eat … I mean, as I said, that’s been the limiting factor on people’s consumption of meat and dairy. And there’s really no reason that those foods should be limited. I mean, there are a lot of good reasons to eat those foods. They’re very, very high in many of the essential nutrients that we need and we can’t get from plant-based foods.
So there has been a storm of controversy around this whole idea. And I think now, I mean, my book was published, and the couple of years since then, I mean, the science, there’ve been more and more scientists looking at the same science that I did, and looking at all the clinical trials on saturated fat, looking at the whole body of evidence on saturated fat, and coming to the same conclusion. So in fact, now there’s over a dozen serious scientific papers by independent researchers all over the world saying, “Actually, saturated fats do not cause heart disease. We got that wrong.” I mean, papers from, really in countries all over the world now.
So there’s a lot of controversy going on about this. And I continue to write articles about this, and op-eds about this. I’m interested in work in Washington to try to actually change the dietary guidelines so that they are evidence-based, you know, that they’re actually based on good, rigorous clinical trial evidence, which they are not currently. I’ve written about that for an article in the British Medical Journal. So I just continue to write about all of this and try to be active.
Again, I really feel passionate that we need policy that is evidence-based on this subject, so that people can trust it and get healthy again. I think that’s just absolutely crucial for the health of the country.
Kara: Yeah, absolutely. Do you feel like with this new administration you’re getting … you know, we’ve had changes in who’s actually running a lot of these groups. Do you feel like you’ve been able to make headway in actually potentially getting some listening around that? Or are you just in the beginning of those conversations?

Nina: You know, I think there is interest in this kind of change, but there is so much uncertainty about this administration that it’s hard to know at this point what will happen. But it’s definitely … I mean, just going back to the politics of this … And it shouldn’t be a partisan issue, right? Everybody should want the better health of the country, and everybody should want the dietary guidelines to be able to better fight obesity and diabetes. Right? That shouldn’t be a red state/blue state divide of any kind. But the reality is that the Obama administration, and particularly Michelle Obama, she was pushing for lower-fat milk, and non-fat milk in the schools, and she was pushing for low-salt in all the lunches, school lunches. None of that was based on good scientific evidence. So, unfortunately, even though I think she honestly meant well, that was not helpful advice.
So there’s probably very few democrats that would want to undo that legacy that she gave to nutrition. And I should say, you know, like, I’m from Berkeley, California, so I’m clearly not a Trump supporter. But I think that there probably is more opportunity in a Republican administration to make some headway on getting some better science behind the guidelines.
Kara: Yeah, I hope so. I hope so.
Nina: Ironically.
Kara: Because, yeah, I think it’s challenging. As somebody said to me, I’ve just become so cynical over the years, and I came at this, came at my company, Hint, from a purely consumer perspective on wanting to launch a product that didn’t have sweeteners in it, because I had found that I was drinking diet soda and had gained all this weight, and was just really surprised when I cut out the diet soda that I dropped in a span of six months over 50 pounds, just by getting rid of diet sweeteners. And when I started to really look at the industry as a whole and really actually start to get Hint out into the industry, too, on store shelves, and in schools, I just found shocking, shocking things that were allowed to go on.
For example, the milk industry actually defined for the public school system the fact that carbonated water could not be sold in schools. And the reason-
Nina: Why?
Kara: The reason why they decided … Well, someone gave them the role to actually write the document that said, “This is what schools will be allowed to do.” And so I think that they got their white milk cut out of the schools, and they inserted chocolate milk, and really, they were looking at, “Well, we don’t want soda to go into schools, so we’ll say anything with carbonation in it.” And the challenge is, is that later on this thing called carbonated water came out, and so carbonated water, getting that undone in these school contracts has just been unbelievable. And when I finally went and tried to dig in and get to the bottom of who actually wrote this, I was just absolutely shocked to hear that the dairy industry was the one that did this.
And we worked pretty closely with Michelle Obama on the Drink Up initiative. And to actually undo things once they’re actually rolled out is just, it’s really hard. I can’t say that it can’t be undone, but the fact that the dairy industry, ultimately, a huge set of lobbyists were really controlling what was going into our kids’ school system. And, of course, they don’t really care about carbonated water. They’d obviously love to sell more milk products. But what they were really trying to do was keep the soda out.
So I started to … that was 12 year ago. Then, I have since then run into things like the whole soda tax. And although we’re not involved in that because we don’t have sugar or diet sweeteners as part of our initiative, I’ve looked at a lot of the funding that goes into the soda tax across the country; is not just the Cokes and the Pepsis of the world, but it’s also the Monsantos, and the sweetener industries. And I’ve also seen some pharmaceutical companies that, by the way, are also funding type 2 diabetes. It’s just, I mean-

Nina: Ironically.
Kara: It’s ironic, and it’s frightening. And when I hear that there’s some big initiative that’s been put into place, I just have learned to dig a little deeper to really understand who’s behind this. So while I think that the guidelines … I absolutely agree with you that these guidelines should be changed, I’ve just been really surprised. At surface level I used to think, “Oh, well, it’s as simple as, you know, are the grain lobbyists stronger than the meat and dairy lobbyists? And is that why this started taking off?” But then the pharmaceutical industry, like the stuff that they’re funding because they want to sell more drugs for those diseases are also … it’s happening. And it’s really, really sad.
Then, unfortunately, a lot of these large pharmaceutical companies and people on their boards are also funding a lot of government officials, too. So it’s really kind of a mess, and it’s sad, because I think, ultimately, the consumer loses in this whole thing.
Nina: Yeah, I mean, it’s like if you want the fast track to cynicism, just study the food and nutrition industry.
Kara: Yeah. No, start a beverage company. That’s what-
Nina: And, you know, the sad thing is you could replicate that in any area of the food industry.
Kara: 100%.
Nina: And I can tell you that it’s just so … it is everywhere you look, and it is so profound. I mean, you know, when I started studying the science and there was Harvard scientists who were on take from vegetable oil companies publishing papers about vegetable oils being good for health. Then, I mean, there’s a scientist, not a scientist, but sort of somebody attached to Yale, and he publishes, he just … There’s just sort of names for rent or for hire.
Kara: 100%.
Nina: And yet they’re also on all the TV shows, and they’re quoted by all the journalists, and they’re on all these websites. And who are the websites funded by? These health websites, they’re all funded by pharmaceutical companies. Even the medical websites with medical advice for doctors are funded by pharmaceutical companies. So there’s no safe space really that’s truly just about good science and the interest of the public health. Even the main group in Washington that is supposed to represent the public interest, called Center for Science in the Public Interest. Who are they funded by? They’re funded by a bunch of, well, I mean, I know this sounds crazy to many people, but there is such a thing as big fruit and big vegetables. You know?
Kara: I am with you.
Nina: And their industries. They’re big industries, too. And they want their agenda promoted. So there really just is no … there’s no space where it’s really just purely in the public interest. So that’s why, in fact, what I’m doing as VC of this group called the Nutrition Coalition, which is … receives no industry support, I myself receive no industry support, and we are purely about good, rigorous science, policy based on rigorous science, purely in the public interest. And we are raising money from individuals how, in fact, most of them are former diabetics who figured out that everything the government told them is wrong and was making them sick, and are so grateful for having recovered their health that they’re willing to fund our efforts so that other people can have the same information.
And, ultimately, I think that’s where change will come from, from the vast groundswell of people who understand that official advice is making them sick and fat, and that that must stop. You know? It just must stop. Because-
Kara: I totally agree.
Nina: Yeah.
Kara: Yeah. No, I love it. I love it. Okay, well, Nina, thank you again. The Big Fat Surprise. Where’s the best place to purchase this?
Nina: You know, it’s available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, on my website. If you go to my website there’s also an independent bookstore that I am particularly affiliated with that will send you a signed copy if you want. So just the regular places.
Kara: Love it. Okay. Well, thanks again. And it was so nice chatting with you. I really applaud your efforts, and I love that you’re pushing forward. And hopefully maybe you and I will see each other in Washington at some point pushing on these big people to change for the consumer.
Nina: That’s good. Well, thank you for having me.
Kara: I love it.
Nina: I look forward to that, too. Great.
Kara: Thanks so much, Nina.
Nina: Thanks, Kara.
Kara: Okay. Talk to you soon.
Nina: All right.
Kara: Bye-bye.
Nina: All right. Bye-bye. Thanks again.