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Why Is Junk Food Unhealthy? It's The FAT

Why is Junk Food Bad for Your Health? It’s the FAT (mostly) but NOT the Saturated Fat

One of the central concepts in Deep Nutrition is this: Food is far more than calories. Food is information that helps our DNA do its job. And so when we talk about how processed food affects our health, there are more important effects than obesity to consider. I say more important because they are often irreversible, including the disruption of facial geometry.

But first I want to point out that there’s one ingredient in processed food that’s more important to avoid than all the rest. (If you already know what it is, scroll to the video below for the discussion about facial changes).

Everyone agrees junk food is unhealthy.

Nobody recommends basing your diet on potato chips. But we’ve been terrifically unclear on precisely why potato chips and other processed foods are bad for our health. Some point to salt. Some point to saturated fat. And some point to sugar and highly refined flour. It’s true that sugar and highly refined flour are empty calories and nobody should base their diet on them. But what about the salt and saturated fat?


Jesse Watters
Life changing

Deep Nutrition changed my life.

Jesse Watters
Fox News Primetime host
Saved my life

I would like to thank you for literally saving my life. Back in February, I had to be hospitalized while on vacation in Phoenix with an A1C of 11% and had to start taking 2 types of insulin and 2 other meds. I read the Fatburn Fix in April, and followed the program to a tee, and I’m down by 15 pounds, 6.8 A1C, and only one once weekly diabetes medicine. Prior to reading the book, it was almost impossible for me to lose weight as a diabetic. 

Leontyne Tompkins
I feel free

For the last month, I have really been reading all labels on everything. I have completely remove those 8 oils you talk about. I must tell you, I feel great! I have more energy and I am now 197 lbs (have always been around 205 to 210lbs). I eat potatoes with real butter, grass fed steak, pasta with the right toppings. I eat everything! I seem to crave less sugar. I love it! 

Robert Kirkendall
I feel so much better

I had terrible aches and pains everywhere in my body, my hands, shoulders and knees. I feel so much better and the way I feel is motivating me every day! Thank you

Mike Deb Wootan Burcin
Better than ever

I am an anesthesiologist in Orlando and a huge fan of both of your books! I have been incorporating your principles for the last 10 months and feel that my health is better than ever.

Marnie Robinson, MD
My allergies disappeared

The biggest difference for me (and a surprising one) is that my allergies have almost completely disappeared! This is a big deal for me, because I’ve had allergies most of my life and they have often affected what I do which is a teaching music in [a public school district].  In general, I feel much better and have more consistent energy throughout the day.

Erica Turrell
Heart Palpitations have Stopped

I’ve lost 20+ pounds (also fasting 16-24 hours daily) and haven’t had palpitations except for one occasion — I had a mini bag of Fritos for the first time in July. And, I feel better now on a daily basis than I ever did all through college.

Mike Wright
Deep Nutrition and Fatburn Fix reader
Mitzi Wilkinson Champion
I’ve lost over 50 pounds

I’ve lost over 50 pounds. I’m 56 years old. Cutting processed food and unhealthy fats from my diet was one of the first things I did on my health recovery journey...I went cold turkey off the bad oils. Emptied my pantry into the trash and just started eating real food

Mitzi Wilkinson Champion
Knowledge I didn’t know I needed

Your Fatburn Fix book is amazing, my friend. Thank you! I’m an Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and I know my stuff. This is the extra layer of knowledge I didn’t know I needed. Well done!

Jennifer Dillman
Fatburn Fix reader
Lost a solid 20 lbs and my bloodwork is great

I have lost a solid 20 lbs and my bloodwork (after 3 months of eating your way) was even better! I was metabolically healthy (per your book) before I read your book, but barely. Lowering my weight, sealed the deal! I have been talking about you and your book to anyone who will listen...Thank you for all you’ve done and what you continue to do! You are changing lives for the better!

Missy Cramer
FatBurn Fix reader
Lost 20 lbs I could never shed

I love your Fatburn Fix!  Has helped me so so much!  I have had the dreaded weight all my life - 20 or so pounds I could never shed.  I have lost that now. I only eat 2 meals a day lunch and dinner with a glass of milk or cappuccino around 4 to hold me over. No snacking and not bad oils.  It has been the key to unlocking my fatburn.  I work out in the am and believe I am burning fat for energy not from food!

Lauren Smith
I feel great

My waist is four inches smaller. I feel great and many of the minor aches and pains that I had (knees and lower back) are gone. Also, my muscle tone is amazing, even though I have not increased my workout routine.

Richard Janelle
Completed Dr Cate's online course
Kent Matthes
The go-to for strength and conditioning coaches

Whenever I advise my clients about eating to perform I go straight to what I have learned from Dr. Cate. Her book Deep Nutrition has become the go-to for strength and conditioning coaches across the country.

Kent Matthes
Major League Baseball Agent with WME Sports
Ken D Berry
Dismantles the lie

Dr. Cate dismantles the lie that seed oils are healthy, which may the biggest lie about nutrition and health because it’s so insidious.  

Ken D Berry, MD
Author of Lies My Doctor Told Me
Dr. Drew Pinsky
She knows the chemistry

Dr. Cate alerts us to the harms of seed oils and she’s convincing because she knows the chemistry better than anyone.

Dr. Drew Pinskey, MD
Globally recognized internal medicine and addiction medicine specialist, media personality, LoveLine Host, and New York Times bestselling author
Kelly Starrett
No one is better at communicating nutritional truth

Dr. Cate has had the single greatest impact on how we talk to people about fueling for both performance or durability. While we all are a little unique, the foundational principles of human nutrition are immutable. If you are looking to create a more durable, resilient body, no one is better at communicating nutritional truth than Dr. Cate.

Dr. Kelly Starrett
Physiotherapist coach and New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author
Brian Lenkzes
Highly recommend The Fatburn Fix

Dr. Shanahan has had a significant impact on my practice of medicine. I am known as a Low Carb Doctor, but I never really appreciated the negative effects of processed seed oils on the health of my patients. I highly recommend The Fatburn Fix to my patients and have a loaner copy in my waiting room. It is amazing how quickly blood sugars and overall health improves with cutting seed oils. It is not just about the carbs!

Dr. Brian Lenkzes, MD
CEO of LowCarbMD San Diego, co-host of Low Carb MD Podcast and host of Life's Best Medicine Podcast
Chris Kaman
Respected in the sports world

Dr. Cate reordered my diet when I was with the L.A. Lakers, and the benefits, for me personally, were felt immediately and have served me to this day. I’ve come to take real food so seriously I started a small family farm. I know of no M.D./nutritionist more respected in the sports world than Dr. Cate Shanahan.

Chris Kaman
NBA Player
Mark Sisson
Brought seed oil issue front and center

Cate brought the seed oil issue front and center. Healthy fats matter. So much so that I created an entire product line to swap out bad fats with good.

Mark Sisson
Founding Father of the Primal/Paleo Movement
Dallas Hartwig
Optimal health starts with food

If you want to understand how optimal health starts with food, start with Dr. Cate. Her book Deep Nutrition leaves you with an appreciation of the profound relationship between our genes and the planet, inspiring us to be good shepherds of both.

Dallas Hartwig
Attribution author of The Whole 30
Dwight Howard
Helped me with endurance

Deep Nutrition really helped me with endurance. I started to feel better as a player. I was able to run more, I was able to be more active …and I just decided to keep going with it to this day.

Dwight Howard
NBA Player
Paul Grewal
Silver bullet for me

Dr Cate’s teachings helped me lose 60 pounds like it was nothing. It was like a silver bullet for me.

Paul Grewal, MD 
Dr Grewal Internal Medicine, MD, author of Genius Foods
Joesph Mercola
Radically improve your health…

Dr. Shanahan has provided a solid reference that deserves a place in the library of anyone who is seriously interested in nutrition. Her perspective on the vital role that healthy fat has in our diet is novel and, if implemented, can radically improve your health.

Dr. Joseph Mercola
Author of Fat for Fuel and Founder of Mercola.com
Dave Aspery
Pull up a chair…

I have based my work on the idea that getting the right kinds of healthy fats into your body and avoiding the worst fats is essential to optimal health. I've interviewed dozens of the world's top experts about this, and I know of no one who speaks more eloquently on this topic than Dr Cate. If she’s talking fats, pull up a chair. Take notes.

Dave Asprey
Author of the Bulletproof Diet
The key to unlocking my fatburn

I love your Fatburn Fix!  Has helped me so so much!  I have had the dreaded weight all my life - 20 or so pounds I could never shed.  I have lost that now. I only eat 2 meals a day lunch and dinner with a glass of milk or cappuccino around 4 to hold me over. No snacking and not bad oils.  It has been the key to unlocking my fatburn.  

Lauren Smith
Saved my life

I would like to thank you for literally saving my life. Back in February, I had to be hospitalized while on vacation in Phoenix with an A1C of 11% and had to start taking 2 types of insulin and 2 other meds. I read the Fatburn Fix in April, and followed the program to a tee, and I’m down by 15 pounds, 6.8 A1C, and only one once weekly diabetes medicine. 

Leontyne Tompkins
> Tears of joy

 I'm crying tears of joy and appreciation for all you've done for me and my health! Without Deep Nutrition and Fatburn Fix, I would literally still be in the vicious cycle I'd been fighting all my life! In a nutshell - I am no longer a compulsive overeating addict suffering under the crushing 'thumb' of all food and alcohol.     

Penni Wicks

There’s actually no evidence that either salt or saturated fat are inherently unhealthy.

Let’s start with salt. Scientists who are not beholden to the processed food or pharmaceutical industries have been trying to tell us—for years—that salt is not the reason junk food is unhealthy (more info/references below).

Salt is the only natural, healthy ingredient in junk food.

Salt is something our bodies need, and so our bodies are very good at sensing salt. We’re so good at sensing salt that when our food is oversalted we spit it out. And, our kidneys easily eliminate salt in the event we do consume too much. So it’s hard to get too much salt into your body and it’s even harder to keep too much salt in your body.

In fact, this is an experiment you can try at home if you’re adventurous, reasonably healthy, and have a blood pressure cuff. Check your blood pressure. Then eat as much salt as you can, but not junk food. Then check your blood pressure every hour for six hours. Chances are it won’t change much if at all. (If you have kidney, liver, or heart disease, don’t do this). What you may notice is a sudden increase in thirst for water. That’s your kidneys talking to you. If your body already has plenty of salt, then your kidneys notice the extra and make you thirsty to help eliminate what you don’t need.

Salt is the healthiest ingredient in junk food, but you can add salt to everything healthy and make it taste even better!
Salt is the healthiest ingredient in junk food. You can add salt to everything healthy and make it taste even better! Shown here is crystal, Kosher salt on a fancy avocado egg toast with chive, radish, and basil. Image Courtesy: adam-niescioruk-IMRg8BKF4lg-unsplash

As far as saturated fat goes, the conflicts of interest behind this fake news idea that saturated fat clogs our arteries should be common knowledge by now, but unfortunately, they’re not. If the idea that saturated fat is good for your health—even though it will raise your LDL—is new to you I’ve linked to a few resources below that will blow your mind.

If you want to understand whether saturated fat makes junk food unhealthy, you can do this very simple experiment.

Just check the ingredient labels on junk foods like chips, cookies, crackers and you’ll notice they’re not cooked in saturated fat-rich fats. Whether you shop at Whole Foods Market or The Dollar Store, the ingredients labels on most products in your kitchen right now most likely list something like the following: VEGETABLE OIL (CONTAINS ONE OR MORE OF THE FOLLOWING: COTTONSEED, CORN, CANOLA, SOYBEAN, SUNFLOWER, SAFFLOWER).They’re mostly made with, and cooked in, seed oils, which I call The Hateful 8.

The AHA promotes the seed oils used in junk food as healthy.

The American Heart Association says saturated fat is bad for us and they encourage us to consume oils that are low in saturated fat. Seed oils cost about 1/4 of what animal fats cost, and 1/10th the cost of olive oil. Seed oils need no refrigeration. Animal fats do, which further drives up the cost of foods made with saturated-fat-rich animal-based fats.

What a happy coincidence for the junk food industry that saturated fat-rich ingredients are not just less healthy but also more expensive than seed oils! Of course, I’m being facetious. The fact that the processed food industry relies on seed oils is the one and only reason the AHA says seed oils are healthy.

Why does it matter what the AHA says? Because the AHA educates doctors, nurses, dietitians and controls the Dietary Guidelines For Americans, which says that if schools, hospitals and other institutions that rely on government funding want the money they need then they can’t serve meals with more than 10% of their calories from saturated fat.

Why does it matter what the AHA says? Because the AHA educates doctors, nurses, dietitians, and controls the Dietary Guidelines For Americans (DGA). The DGA mandates that schools, hospitals, and other institutions that rely on government funding can’t serve meals containing more than 10% of calories from saturated fat.

Once you start looking, you’ll find seed oils are the ingredient common to the worst of the worst junk foods.

Seed oils are toxic. This is not a new, fringe idea. The scientists who study these oils and their effects on health have been trying for 150 years to reduce their toxicity. I’ve linked to a free lecture below, which you’ll enjoy if you’re a chemistry geek. Here’s the concluding slide from the lecture.

Oil scientists can't control "lipid oxidation" in foods made with seed oils. Why are they trying? Because when the fatty acids in seed oils get oxidized, they turn into potent toxins that damage DNA and distort our growth during childhood.
Oil scientists can’t control “lipid oxidation” in foods made with seed oils. Why are they trying? Because when the fatty acids in seed oils get oxidized, they turn into potent toxins that damage DNA and distort our growth during childhood.

If you’re not a chemistry geek, you might enjoy the exchange at 44:38 where I ask one of the world’s most distinguished oil scientists the question, “If plant oils are so toxic why not go back to lard and tallow?” and he basically says that he would love to recommend the elimination of unstable seed oils in favor of traditional, more stable fats but can’t because of mandates to follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which come from the AHA.

And thanks to the AHA, not only are we eating toxic seed oils instead of the nourishing fats our bodies need, we’ve been eating them in greater and greater quantities over the past 70 years.

In the video below, I suggest that the health consequences of eating these oils in such excess include disruption to our skeletal growth and that there is reason to believe these detrimental nutritional effects may be magnified between generations.

If this is true, then time may be running out for our species.

This video was made during a dinner presentation in the greater Washington DC area during the production of a film called Food Lies, by Brian Sanders and Jay Hanamura. It will blow your minds (and hopefully will be released soon).

The dinner was an incredible, sold-out event. It was a 6-course meal that took those of us in attendance through 6 million years of human culinary and evolutionary history. Interestingly, every course was accompanied by some alcohol!! “Accidental fermentation” they call it—and we’re not the only species to enjoy this particular type of accidental fermentation. The recording took place after all 6 courses were served, hopefully, you can’t really tell.

The filmmakers Brian and Jay belong to a quietly growing movement that I am proud to be part of and that considers food as a force of nature that helped create our human anatomy, physiology, and genetics. Members of the movement believe that our health today depends on eating the same kinds of foods we ate in the past, and this belief emerges from a field of science called epigenetics, which deals with how genes interact with their environment. This belief aligns with the philosophy of Deep Nutrition, and, in fact, Deep Nutrition is still the only book that breaks down the four elements common to all ancestral diets.

Our view of nutrition is born of respect for the wisdom of the past, specifically, the reason we want to understand how our ancestors ate is because it’s thanks to them that we exist today and all evidence suggests they were far healthier than most of us are today, lifespan statistics notwithstanding.

This movement uses terms like Ancestral Health, Ancestral Eating, and Ancestral Diet to describe our focus. We are the people who respect science and natural law. In fact, many of us see science and the rules of nature as one and the same because good science probes the inner workings of natural law.

The video above reflects my opinions and not necessarily those of the entire Ancestral Health Movement.

The part of the video where I talk about how we instinctively recognize the geometry of functional growth and that beauty is partly in the eye of the beholder but partly built into the fabric of the universe is going to ruffle some feathers. You might want to watch it now, while you still can!

A Few of The Famous Folks in the Ancestral Health space:

Further reading:

Salt not associated with health problems: https://academic.oup.com/eurheartj/article-abstract/41/35/3363/5917753

Conflicts of interest among those claiming saturated fat is unhealthy: https://drcate.com/cholesterol-what-the-american-heart-association-is-hiding-from-you-part-1/

THE SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE ON SATURATED FATS from a not for profit website dedicated to nutrition policy https://www.nutritioncoalition.us/saturated-fats-do-they-cause-heart-disease

A “users guide” to saturated fat: https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/saturated-fat (scroll to heading “Saturated fat and health risks: the evidence to date”)

Oil scientists have been unable to prevent toxins from forming in seed oils for 150 years, and they’re still trying. Here’s a lecture by one of the most widely respected oil scientists in the world: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_U_9vvpDWo  Please listen at 44:38 to find out how he answers my question “if plant oils are so toxic why not go back to lard and tallow?”

Dr. Cate

With over two decades of clinical experience and expertise in genetic and biochemical research, Dr. Cate can help you to reverse metabolic disease and reshape your body.

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