Ep. 131 – Bucking the Biggest Medical Lie: How the Foundation for Your Good Health Starts with the Foods You Eat with Dr. Cate Shanahan

Your trusted source for nutrition, wellness, and mindset for thriving health.

Today, we are excited to have Dr. Cate Shanahan joining us as our guest. Dr. Cate is a board-certified family medicine physician and a globally recognized metabolic health expert who has changed the nutrition conversation. If you have heard that vegetable oils are unhealthy and that bone broth is part of a healthy diet, that was thanks to Dr. Cate’s books, blogs, and her work with the LA Lakers and other legendary sports franchises. 

Dr. Cate started her career with a traditional, Western medicine mindset which does not focus on food as an integral part of health and wellness. She went through all her medical training, hoping to find the underlying cause of her sports injuries, but unfortunately never got there. Then she got sick with a knee infection, and when nothing else worked, she started to question everything she had ever learned about nutrition. 

In this episode, Dr. Cate shares her journey to wellness, tells the story of the biggest medical lie, and explains the trap people get sucked into with certain aspects of the medical system. She also explains how the foundation for your good health starts with the food you eat. Stay tuned today to hear those stories, and learn how to best support the complex physiology of your body so that it can function at its normal and fullest level.

“I ultimately discovered that my medical training, the nutrition part of what doctors still learn, is based on a lie.”

Dr. Cate Shanahan


  • Dr. Cate explains what fueled her desire to learn more about health and wellness.
  • How biochemistry gave Dr. Cate the confidence to go against what she had been taught.
  • Why seed and vegetable oils are your number one health enemy.
  • The “hateful eight” oils that you should always avoid eating.
  • The story behind the biggest medical lie. 
  • The story of the origin of the American Heart Association.
  • The American Heart Association is the source of the current nutritional dogma.
  • What the profits over health mindset has led to.
  • The shift that Dr. Cate experienced while living in Hawaii.
  • The effects that seed and vegetable oils have on the body over time.
  • The truth about cholesterol.
  • Why seed oils are a driving factor for the pandemic.
  • Some critical steps you can take towards changing to a healthier diet.

Connect with Dr. Cate Shanahan

On her website  

Books by Catherine Shanahan MD:

Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food

The Fatburn Fix: Boost Energy, End Hunger, and Lose Weight by Using Body Fat for Fuel

Food Rules: A Doctor’s Guide to Healthy Eating

Book mentioned:

Spontaneous Healing by Andrew Weil

Connect with Cynthia Thurlow

About Everyday Wellness Podcast

Everyday Wellness is not just another health podcast. Your host, Cynthia Thurlow (nurse practitioner and nutrition/IF expert) has over 20 years of experience in clinical medicine and wellness. Her mission is to bring you the best, science-backed yet practical information to improve your physical and mental wellness every day. She is a busy mompreneur and knows how important your time is. She has designed this podcast to be short in time and big on impact. She interviews a variety of guests in the field of health and wellness, and discusses important issues, and provide practical strategies that you can use in your real life.


Presenter: This is Everyday Wellness, a podcast dedicated to helping you achieve your health and wellness goals and provide practical strategies that you can use in your real life. Now, here’s your host, nurse practitioner, Cynthia Thurlow. 


Cynthia Thurlow: Today, I am so excited to have Dr. Cate Shanahan. She is a board-certified family medicine physician and a globally recognized metabolic health expert who has changed the nutrition conversation. If you’ve heard that vegetable oils are unhealthy, and that bone broth is part of a healthy diet, that was thanks to Dr. Cate’s books, blogs and our work with the LA Lakers and other legendary sports franchises. Good morning, it’s so nice to have you with us.

Dr. Cate Shanahan: Thank you, Cynthia, this is really a thrill to be here with you.

Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah. I think it’s part of our story makes us explains how we’ve gotten to where we are today. My understanding is you started with a more traditional western medicine mindset, which we all know doesn’t really focus on food as a really integral part of health and wellness. So, through your journey, what really spurred your desire to learn more? I know that you also have a very strong biochemistry background, which might have fostered that scientific curiosity about learning more about the foods that we’re eating, but actually where did that come from?

Dr. Cate Shanahan: When I got sick. I had gone through my entire medical training, hoping to get to the underlying cause of actually my own sports injuries, and I didn’t really get that. So, I got sick, I had to question everything that I had learned about nutrition at some point when nothing else worked. I couldn’t walk. I had an infection in my knee, that’s what I ultimately figured out myself. There was no answer from the orthopedic surgeons and the various specialists that I went around and trying to get help from. Ultimately, my husband pointed out to me that my diet was based on sugar at the point of time and threw a book at me called Spontaneous Healing by Andrew Weil, where I found information on essential fatty acids that I found perplexing, the omega-3 and omega-6 that everybody hears about now, but this was way back 20 years ago, almost. 

I was perplexed, because I hadn’t heard about it in medical school. He was talking about them as they’re essential fats, and that was just shocking that that was something that my training, that I paid a lot for [laughs]. As doctors, I’m sure you’ve worked with enough doctors, we study pretty hard and we feel we’ve got the most fundamental stuff pertaining to help, it should have been covered. That made me mad. I wanted to get to the root of it. I ultimately discovered that my medical training and what doctors do learn, the nutrition part of it, is based on a lie. That was fascinating and infuriating, and it changed everything about the way I practice medicine after that.

That’s how I got into it because I discovered we’d been lied to and the biochemistry background really enabled me to go against– it gave me the confidence to go against what I had learned. That’s not easy. I’m sure you’ve been through that process yourself. It’s very lonely. This, again, 20 years ago, on the island of Hawaii, before Google was a thing, I was the only doctor talking about butter was a good thing, and maybe we shouldn’t worry about our cholesterol. That was something to get to that place. I couldn’t have done it without having a very strong biochemistry background. I leaned on that biochemistry, because I see that as the math of the body that tells us how the blueprint of the human body comes together. We do learn– I don’t know about what you learned, but medical doctors, we have to take a lot of cellular physiology, and then systemic physiology, how it all fits together. All that stuff is really complicated and fascinating. But without really the grounding on how our diets could be impacting that, we can’t think about how our diets could be impacting that. I had this strange schism, and you probably had it to where it was all about calories.

I was reading all this stuff about the complexity of the human body, and even something as simple as just how does our blood clot and how does it not clot? There’s tables of clotting factor cascades and the intrinsic and extrinsic pathways and then the platelets and that’s a whole another thing. You’re spending a week just learning this one aspect of life. It’s all made out of molecules, complex information. Yet, what we think about our food is not the complex information. It’s just energy. That’s why I was at the time having hundreds and hundreds of calories of sugar and simple carbohydrates. And it never dawned on me that stuff was too simple, there’s no information in that. Then, the whole seed oil thing is that’s just basically giving your body misinformation. It just makes all of this complex physiology that’s supposed to be functioning, impossible to function at its normal, fullest level. I was basically disabled from an infection that my body should have been able to fight off, but I wasn’t giving myself the right– well, I wasn’t eating the right diet, as simple as that. 

Cynthia Thurlow: It’s such an incredible journey because for so many of the healthcare providers that come on, it’s been an illness, or it’s been some type of situation with a loved one, a child, a family member, that has certainly spurned their desire to look a little bit more at the nutritional piece, which is so foundational to our health, as we both know. I think for myself after years and years and years of working in cardiology, and we know cardiology is very pharmaceuticals driven. It’s procedures, it’s pharmaceuticals, and I was seeing an increasingly sicker population, despite multidrug therapy and all these interventions that we were doing in surgeries, and I kept thinking to myself, “There has to be more to it than this.” I know much to your point about when you kind of take a stand against what is considered to be conventional knowledge, sometimes people might look at you a little skeptically, or they may just tell you, “You’re wrong.” Thankfully, for the most part, because I was talking about food, most of the physicians and other NPs and PAs I work with are like, “No, you’re just this weird nutrition person.” But it all starts with food, and that’s really what we’re talking about. 

You went through this process, you had this awareness, you dove into the research. I think the thing that I’ve really appreciated about a lot of the information that you’ve shared, and the books that you’ve written is really talking about the danger of seed oils, as we’ve touched on very briefly, but let’s talk about what that is, because the unfortunate thing is that the highly processed, highly cytotoxin foods that most westernized countries, and especially United States, are consuming are full of these seed oils. Let’s unpack what they are and what they do to our bodies and how detrimental they are. I hope for everyone that listens to this podcast, really understands that this is at the focal point of why we are dealing with so much food addiction, there’s so much inflammation, so much illness, but I will let you kind of dive into this because this is really your area of expertise. Certainly, I’ve learned a lot through you, and I know my listeners will as well.

Dr. Cate Shanahan: Seed oils and vegetable oils are the same thing, different names for the same thing. What they are is they are your number one health enemy. If you can get them out of your diet, that is the very first foundational step to enabling your body to function normally. Earlier, I was talking about empty calories. Well, these are worse than empty calories. These are calories that are full of inflammation-promoting fatty acids, and it’s like filling your body with something that actually impairs your body’s ability to do anything. Any process in your body, it’s going to be more difficult. What are they? What are they literally when you’re looking at them in the store? There’s three C’s, I call them The Hateful Eight, because there’s a total of eight of them. There’s 3 C’s, three S’s you’re going to find in the grocery store. Then there’s two more that are mostly in restaurants, and I’m talking about even like good sit-down restaurants where you might be paying $100 for a night out. 

The three C’s are corn, canola, cottonseed, the S’s are soy, sunflower, safflower. Then, in the restaurant you also get the rice bran and the grape seed oils. You also get something called blends, like if you ask for olive oil, sometimes the servers will tell you, “Yeah, we have olive oil,” but because the container back there says olive oil blend and they themselves don’t know that it could be 1% olive oil and 99% canola or soy. A lot of folks have no idea how that they can be following a healthy diet and still getting a lot of these in their body because even if you don’t eat junk food, they’re in junk food, they are basically well reason– everybody knows junk foods bad, nobody argues about that. But no one has really said this is what makes junk food bad. One of the things is sugar. Everybody knows sugar is bad for you. 

The other thing that it’s just not talked about is the oil. Like chips and Twinkies and cookies and pastries and everything that we know isn’t healthy, you look at the ingredient, one of those seed oils is in there. But it’s also in a lot of foods that we wouldn’t think to look for like peanut butter and things that are considered healthy are part of like a vehicle of you eating healthy. If you want to have salad, well, good luck finding a salad dressing that doesn’t either lie about being made of olive oil, because when you turn it around, it might have a drop of olive oil in there, but just like the blend situation, it’s one of The Hateful Eights is first, and things that you wouldn’t expect, like energy bars or protein bars that these things are supposed to be sort of healthy-ish. They’re in dried fruit. It’s in so much stuff that today, unless you’re purposefully avoiding it, you might be getting 80% of your fat calories from these things. 

It’s important to understand a little bit, just a little bit about why are they bad, and that comes down to the chemistry of the fatty acids that they’re very high in these kinds of fatty acids called polyunsaturated fatty acids. The other type of fatty acid you might have heard of is saturated fatty acid, that we’ve heard of in the context of, “Oh, that’s the bad one. It’s bad because it’s going to raise your cholesterol and clog your arteries. You’re going to get heart attacks from it.” That’s why they say things like steak is a heart attack on a plate. The cardiologists will tell you, you probably heard that, working in that environment, probably you heard that a billion times. But that is actually part of the biggest medical lie ever laid on the plate, literally, of the American population. Now, the global population, the whole world is under this delusion that saturated fat is unhealthy and polyunsaturated fatty acids can do you no harm. Really, the polyunsaturated fatty acids, they’re death in a bottle. They couldn’t be worse. But the reason that they’re bad for us is so multi layered and complicated and kind of hard for doctors to get our heads wrapped around, that it’s just not really easy to explain in a single medical-sounding sentence. It’s not easy to design a single study to show that these things aren’t healthy. There’s no interest in designing a single study. This was the original medical lie, and it was a medical lie for a reason that I can go into, if you’d like to hear the story. [chuckles] 

Cynthia Thurlow: No, I think that listeners would definitely be interested. I think through knowledge comes power, and for some people that are unaware of where the science diverged one direction, and then the processed food industry and lobbyists pushed another direction, I think it’s important to understand this is where one of those key times where our health got hijacked.

Dr. Cate Shanahan: Yes. So, it goes way back to a man named Ancel Keys and the American Heart Association, back in the 1940s, and 50s. The American Heart Association at that time, was a collection of doctors. It was not a money-making organization, and it was really geeky doctors who wanted to get together and share their insights about various types of heart disease. At that point in time, heart attacks were becoming increasingly common, and they were alarmed about that, because not too long prior, doctors could have gone– cardiologists, could have gone their entire careers without seeing a heart attack, which at that time, they call it a coronary because the arteries in the heart are coronary arteries. The pivotal point in history for nutrition science basically occurred when the American Heart Association voted to start accepting funding from industry so that they could become more influential, more powerful, just be a more successful organization. Money drives everything. That could have been okay. It could have been okay, but where they went over to the dark– I’m not saying money is the root of all evil, because you can be responsible, but where they went over to the dark side is when a man named Ancel Keys wormed his way into the leadership of that association, promoting the idea that was his idea, and he wanted to be to stake his claim in history for coming up with this brilliant idea, that it was increasing dietary fats that were causing these coronary attacks. 

None of the science that he did was what anyone who looks at it has considered quality science. I think he wasn’t really interested in the truth. Because Ancel Keys was more interested in proving that he was right, and not really interested in getting to the real root of the problem, he compromised all kinds of research that he was doing, using a variety of clever tactics, like statistical sleight of hand where he would show that the countries that ate the most fat had the most heart attacks, and this was from a famous study where he used seven countries to show the correlation, but there were many other countries he didn’t include in the study, that had he included them, there would have been no correlation. He did a variety of other tricks, and actually I recently blogged about that on my website, drcate.com. For anyone interested, it’s a real important pivotal point in our history of the country actually, because it really changed everything about the way we eat and our health. 

The key thing that Ancel Keys did that helped to make him influential was he had already likely established deep relationships with companies like Procter & Gamble, who were the manufacturers of processed food, because he was involved in feeding the army during World War II with the K-ration and that K in there was for Keys. The way he fed the military was just by giving them processed food, so they got canned meat, a couple crackers, chocolate, cigarettes, chewing gum, just stuff you could get off the shelf. None of that was particularly– you wouldn’t die of starvation with that stuff, but it’s certainly not anyone’s idea of healthy food. I think that was where he started to develop relationships with processed food manufacturers. The key thing with the American Heart Association was that he played a role brokering a deal where Procter & Gamble would fund the American Heart Association to the tune of $1.7 million. Procter & Gamble’s product was Crisco, which is hydrogenated vegetable oil. So, here’s the American Heart Association getting their biggest ever infusion of cash, really their first infusion of cash, and it’s putting them in bed with makers of vegetable oil. No surprise that to this day, the American Heart Association still recommends vegetable oil, which is just a term, it’s an industry term for any one of those three C’s and three S’s. It’s synonymous with seed oil, but it’s more of a term that you’ll see on a ingredients list, you won’t see seed oil on the ingredients list. That’s the American Heart Association’s origin story. 

The American Heart Association is a real powerhouse, controlling what doctors learn and what doctors think. They have a dozen publications that are all medical journals that are considered the gospel truth. They fund millions and millions of dollars of research every year. Where does that money come from? Big Food, well, the makers of vegetable oil. I think it’s either Monsanto or Dow, it’s one of their big ones. And Big Pharma, and then hospital organizations. These are the folks who are leading medical nutritional thought, and they’re in bed with people who really don’t care about our health and sell products that either make us sick or make money when we are sick. It’s all a mirage. None of it is creating health because as you and I know, health comes from nature. It doesn’t come from drugs, it doesn’t come from medical interventions or procedures, and it certainly doesn’t come from food that didn’t exist before factory, industrial processing was invented. Yet, that’s what the American Heart Association preaches today and still teaches doctors and nurse practitioners and physician assistants, nurses, trainers, everybody, they are the source of the current nutritional dogma, them. But why should we trust them? [chuckles] 

Cynthia Thurlow: It’s no wonder, there’s no objectivity. Isn’t that at the basis at the root of science is that we are meant to question dogma. We are meant to not just make assumptions, we’re meant to actually look at the research. When it’s cherry-picked like that, for anyone that’s listening, this has influenced every single aspect of your life. Whether you realize this or not, this is how pivotal and important this shift was, that this lack of objectivity is fostering the education and knowledge of the people who treat you when you’re sick, the pharmaceutical industry. It’s influencing the food that you’re having available at your stores, and much to your point, it’s profits over health, and that is really the status quo. What that has led to is, is increasingly metabolically inflexible, obese and sick population, which I think is a true tragedy. I’m sure for both of us, I’ve been around on the earth long enough to know that things were very different when I was growing up. Trying to explain to my children in the 70s and the 80s when I was growing up, you didn’t see a lot of childhood obesity. You just didn’t see copious amounts of fast food everywhere you went. It was a special occasion to go out to eat. It wasn’t something we did every night. I’m sure for you, you probably have watched all these shifts and how troubling it is, as a clinician, and as a human being, to watch people’s health really suffering.

Dr. Cate Shanahan: I didn’t really have a clue about that, until my eyes were open to so many things when I was on Hawaii, because that’s where I had this personal health crisis, was on the island of Hawaii. It was there that I also observed some really important things about just the shift in human health, because Hawaii at that time when I was there, this was in the early naughts from 2000 to 2010. The folks who are in their 60s, had grown up where there was almost no electricity. That means no refrigeration. That means your food, you’re going to be catching it, growing it yourself, you made everything, everything was massively fresh, they didn’t have refrigeration. Of course, there were canned products and famous– their famous national animal is spam, not national but state. The 65-year-olds who were my patients at that point in time, they were healthier than their own children and grandchildren. They were working full-time physical labor jobs in their 60s, and then they would go home and make dinner from scratch. If they had extra time, they would maybe do a workout video. It was like these people are unstoppable energy bunnies, it’s not just like that they weren’t overweight. They may be actually had a few extra pounds, some of them, but their health was just astounding, and just how quickly it dropped off between generations was troubling and shocking. I really wanted to understand where that was coming from. So, that’s where my first book, Deep Nutrition, I talk about, what is it that it takes to build a healthy human. My eyes were also open to the kinds of foods that these folks ate. 

Hawaii is really a melting pot of a lot of different nationalities. Where I was, was heavily, heavily Filipino influenced. They would raise own goats, they would hunt pig, and they would use every part of the animals, so that when you go– you would go to one of these family buffets, and it would be just this buffet full of colorful, but totally foreign and even intimidating foods where like– there was one thing that was purple and yellow, and green, and the purple was liver, the yellow was egg yolk, and then the green was some kind of vegetable I’d never heard before my life. The tastes were so intense and crazy. That was an eye opener, because my idea of a healthy meal was lean meat and maybe some brown rice or some kind of wheat flour-based bread and an uninteresting vegetable. Uninteresting because we couldn’t use butter or any kind of fat to really liven them up. 

So, on a very another very simple level, the food that we really need to be optimally healthy, has so much more complexity and inflammation in it than the food that we get today. Then when you throw on top of it, these foods that are basically toxins waiting to happen, they are slow, developing toxins, the vegetable oils, they have to build up to a certain concentration in our body fat, which takes years to happen. When they do, then they promote inflammation, and they just disrupt our hormones and lead to obesity by way of causing diabetes. That’s what I talk about in The Fatburn Fix that it’s these seed oils that make ourselves dependent on sugar. When our cells are dependent on sugar, that’s the beginning of diabetes, it’s not what you commonly hear, which is that we’re eating too much sugar, and that’s the driver, insulin is the driver there. It’s the seed oils that make our cells want more sugar. The driver is that our bodies change so fundamentally that our fasting blood sugar setpoint actually elevates. That’s what leads to all this metabolic disease.

Even in a normal weight person. Most folks respond to this change to this physiologic need for more sugar by snacking, and ultimately, it’s very difficult to control your calorie intake. So, you end up overeating and getting overweight, but some folks just are able to maintain their weight at a normal level, but the way they compensate for the empty calories is by becoming malnourished. What that translates to is autoimmune diseases and digestive system problems. We have so many kids now, they talk about the obesity epidemic, but there’s kind of a scarier epidemic. Obesity is reversible and easily, we know how to do that now. The Fatburn Fix lays it out and lots of other books can help too, but of course mine is best. 

Cynthia Thurlow: It’s a wonderful book. I [crosstalk] -agree. 

Dr. Cate Shanahan: [laughs] Thank you. What’s harder is you have children who have food intolerances, or their digestive system doesn’t allow them to eat healthy foods. So many people have you worked with, where they say, “Well, okay, I’m able to change my diet, but my child doesn’t want to eat anything other than chicken nuggets and those fish crackers,” like three foods, because they’re either intolerant or their tastes won’t allow for it, they don’t enjoy it. There’s something fundamentally wrong with that development of that child’s appetite system or their digestive system that relates to all this malnutrition. That’s the more insidious and really terrifying part of all this, is that we’ve fundamentally changed a lot of children’s ability to eat healthy. We can talk about what we’re supposed to be doing, but when you try to bring it home to the dinner table with your family, and you’ve got a child who just refuses, that’s a battle we’re not really armed to fight. Well, what do you do about it? You need a lot of support. The key thing is you have to have doctors, your healthcare providers, whether they’re naturopathic doctors or functional medicine doctors, they need to be on your side about what a good diet is, because if you’re fighting that battle, you’re fighting your own health battle, then you’re fighting these dinnertime battles, it’s insurmountable.

Cynthia Thurlow: I think there’s so much confusion about what nutrition is, what does that look like. I think there are these camps that people fall in. They will have success, whether keto or low carb or carnivore or vegan diets, and they have success, which I think is wonderful, because we all have to find our ways. I have strong preferences about one of those four I just mentioned, which I don’t want to dive down that rabbit hole, because that’s sticky. The point being that people are so confused, they don’t know what to eat, because they get on and they look on social media, they read a blog. I think one of the things that I really love and appreciate about your work is that you really make the information very accessible for people to understand, really talking about the damage that the seed oils, vegetable oils cause, they’re very inflammatory, but they actually– into the cell, the mitochondria, which is the powerhouses of our cells, they actually damage the mitochondria. That is one of those other aspects of seed oils that are so nonbeneficial. When we’re touching about metabolism, because I get this question all the time, and I’m sure you do as well, we’ve been so conditioned that we worry about calories, and what we need to be far more concerned about is the quality of the food that we’re consuming. 

When you’re working with someone, when you’re speaking to people, because this comes up quite a bit, people will always say, but there’s so much that I have to do, and I always say no slow and steady wins. Small, simple changes. A lot of your message, which I’m hoping everyone is hearing, is the most important change you can make right now is to remove these inflammatory oils from your life. It means that you are going to have to read a lot of food labels. One of the things that I do with some frequency is I do videos, and I’ll go to Costco or Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, and my only thing that I say is, no soy, no canola. Beyond that, I’m willing to try it, I’m willing to look at this product. It’s so hard, especially Trader Joe’s, in particular, because it’s in everything. The point being it is worth to make the effort so that you pull these things out of your diet so you can take step one towards a healthier lifestyle. 

Dr. Cate Shanahan: Everybody agrees that those are the unhealthy oils, except for the source of this original lie in the first place, which is the American Heart Association, and the doctors who are influenced by them. That part of it is not really controversial. You can have people who’ve had success with going gluten free or going dairy free, or a vegan diet or a keto diet. What they all have in common in their success is that they’ve eliminated the seed oils, and they’ve started eating either more whole food plant-based oils or more whole food animal-based oils or a combination. I think it’s important to understand that the only reason that we think saturated fat is unhealthy is because this organization has been lying to us about it for 60 years.

But the thing, the little seed of fear that they create is this idea of cholesterol clogging your arteries, because it’s true that if you eat fewer vegetable oils and you start eating more saturated fat, whether it’s from plant or animal, your cholesterol numbers are going to go up. We’ve also been conditioned to believe by the same organization that that is a problem. So, a key thing that really helps is to realize that high cholesterol, even though everyone will tell you it’s a problem, is not a problem. We don’t have any good evidence showing that it is a problem. In fact, I’ve just completed a post about this on my website. We have evidence showing that if you lower your cholesterol levels with seed oils that you die sooner, doesn’t protect you from heart attacks and it increases your chance of dying from cancer or infectious disease and even dementia. The reason that this saturated fat lie persists in spite of the fact that no one in the real health space, I think, actually even talks that way, like the things that I mentioned functional medicine and naturopath, they don’t talk about saturated fat being bad. It’s really only the medical field. We’ve all been just brainwashed that by the American Heart Association, and all the folks that depend on them, and that’s the American Diabetes Association. The American Diabetes Association, they don’t have any doctors. They just point to medical doctors, and they point to the American Heart Association. Same with the American Cancer Society, they point to nutrition information from the American Heart Association. The entire consumer market of nutritional information is dominated by the American Heart Association. They make their money telling us these two lies, that polyunsaturated fats are healthy and that cholesterol is going to clog your arteries. But it’s just simply not true.

That’s another part of the complexity of this trap, and it really is a trap that people get sucked into, in the medical system is a trap. We do help people in some ways with emergency medicine, and we’re pretty good with antibiotics and lifesaving stuff like that. But the rest of it, the chronic disease management, the cardiology aspect of it, the cancer aspect of it, the stroke aspect of it, that is a lot of just creating sickness, because we’ve been telling people to follow a diet that creates sickness, and then conveniently, we can sell medications to manage the sickness. It all comes down to this one lie about seed oils and vegetable oils being healthy, and saturated fat and cholesterol being unhealthy. That’s really the origin of all of it. It’s the original sin. 

Cynthia Thurlow: It’s so disturbing on so many levels. As I was preparing for our discussion, and as I mentioned before, my intermittent fasting group is reading your book, and they’re loving it. They’ve given me so much feedback. Actually, some of the questions that we’re discussing today are things that they’ve identified that they’re curious to know more about. As you’re unpacking these vegetable oils, and you start to see how it’s very pro inflammatory, so creates a lot of inflammation, which impacts your satiety hormones. This is important for people to understand. It’s not just you don’t have enough control, it’s your body has been hijacked. It’s this satiety gets impact, and impacts the hypothalamus. It impacts leptin resistance, which is that key satiety hormone, and the more adipose tissue or fat tissue you have, the more leptin resistance you have, so your brain’s not getting communication that you’re full, and that’s why you can sometimes see someone sitting in a fast food restaurant that’s morbidly obese, that’s eating a massive meal, and their body, they literally are nutritionally starved. That’s really what that comes down to. And then, how this impacts your carbohydrate addiction, it’s like following these little clues, it’s absolutely astounding. As a clinician, as a human being, as a mom, I mean, this book, to me is one of the most important books I’ve read in the last year, because it really just all makes so much sense. 

Now, I’m going to pivot a little bit because I promise this is all relevant to what we’re talking about. as we’re continuing on the pandemic, and I think most of us are on pandemic, we’re kind of pandemic fatigued, we’re doing our part, we’re doing the things we’re being asked. But no one’s really talking about what I perceive to be the real pandemic, the metabolic and flexibility, the obesity, the diabetes, that is really making people certainly much more susceptible to the complications from this virus. I’d love to get your thoughts on what you’re thinking now that we’re heading into seemingly like month 8, it seems like it’s never going to go away. But as we’re moving forward, what are the things that are occurring to you that are of concern? And why aren’t we having the dialogue? Everyone wants to focus on the fear mongering but let’s talk about the real elephant in the room, is the fact that we’ve got this metabolically diseased population that is going to be much more susceptible to complications.

Dr. Cate Shanahan: Absolutely. The reason coronavirus kills people isn’t that it’s such a horrific and aggressive virus that takes over our body over the course of days or weeks, it’s because it’s evolved to capitalize on the fact that people are walking around with pro inflammatory body fat. So, it’s really the inflammatory conditions that are killing people. We get inflammation in the lungs that translates to fluid in the lungs or ARDS. We get inflammation in the blood vessels, that translates to this cytokine storm and all these blood clots that are occurring and causing young folks to have strokes. They don’t even have to be overweight. This is the thing that is just so key is, I would say– actually I did say on national TV, that if we had taken away seed oils, just magically wiped them out five years ago, the coronavirus would not be killing anybody, but the same groups that the flu kills, which is the extremes of age, the very old and maybe the very young, but actually the coronavirus doesn’t seem to be able to infect the very young the way the flu virus can. It truly would not be a thing. It wouldn’t be such a scary pandemic. 

The reason it’s scary is because young people are being not only gravely sickened and sent to the hospital, but they’re dying. If they don’t die, they don’t come out of the hospital the same because they’ve got these chronic things, like fatigue, brain fog, and sometimes they’ve suffered strokes. That inflammation came from the fact that their body fat is full of seed oils. When I was on Real Time with Bill Maher, and his audience is probably– [crosstalk] Yeah, he’s probably got like 10, 20 million people worldwide. I said, “I challenge anyone, I want to hear from you actually, if you’ve had these things out of your diet for a year even, but certainly five years, and you had a case of coronavirus, and you’re under 65 and you had to go the intensive care unit, I want to hear from you. Tell me, you’re going to prove me wrong.” I have not heard from a single person. I heard from a lot of people, I had like thousand people more than that a day on my website or book sold out. We went up the New York Times bestseller list. Thank you. But nobody has said, “Oh, I cut these out and I got sick,” except one person who also had Lyme disease. That’s another caveat, if you have like end-stage–[crosstalk]  

Cynthia Thurlow: Mitochondrial dysfunction. 

Dr. Cate Shanahan: Yeah, exactly. Beyond that, these seed oils are really the driving factor, in my opinion for the pandemic. I think if you stop eating them on day one, you’re doing yourself good, because every day that you consume these things, they’re going into your gut and causing inflammation there, and that’s where your immune system really faces its first set of challenges. It begins actually in your gut, because you eat all these different foods, it’s so complicated in there, what is friend or foe in there? And if your immune system and your gut is facing inflammation, it has just a really hard time figuring things out. Then, the inflammation also lays out the red carpet for pathogenic organisms, which also brings you down a notch, in terms of the efficiency of your immune system and your ability to fight off infections, and on and on it goes.

The seed oils, they’re the worst possible invention that makes us sick, but we don’t hear about them, and they’re flavorless. So, we don’t think about them. They don’t sustain life. [chuckles] We consume– and yet Harvard and Tufts, they say we ought to be eating more of them, as if completely unaware that we’re already eating– 80% of our calories are already from these things, we’re already eating way more of them than we are of saturated fats, especially whole food based saturated fats, not saturated fats that come from like margarine in the process of hydrogenation. 

Actually, after me, after I was on Bill Maher, I was the first doctor to talk about really anything in several years on Real Time with Bill Maher. Then, three weeks after I’m on, they bring in somebody from Tufts, a man who is this 50 something, tall, very authoritarian looking, to reassure folks that, “No, no, Harvard has it right. We really need to be eating more seed oils,” because I said they’re the problem. They had somebody come on just three weeks later to correct the information that this woman gave out. That we have this standard, if I weren’t a doctor, I can play one on TV, kind of looking character that has all the weight and might of Tufts and all kinds of Ivy League credentials behind them, but he didn’t say anything other than– nutritionally, he had no insights. All he did was just parrot the usual, well, we need to move more and eat less, and PS, if you go to my website and see what I recommend about nutrition, I say we’ve got to be eating more seed oils. We’re not eating enough. 80% doesn’t quite cut it. This is the reason that we have all this so-called confusion, but it’s on purpose. As soon as you become comfortable with the idea that that is on purpose, that the confusion is on purpose, that there’s no conflicting research, there’s only conflicted research.

Cynthia Thurlow: I’m so grateful that you had that opportunity to share that message because if thousand people reached out to you, imagine how many more you impacted that maybe didn’t immediately go to your website or didn’t immediately buy a book, but you’ve got people starting to have that discussion. I always say to people that sometimes when I have to dispel dogma, my favorite one is that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I love your caveat that if you’re going to have breakfast, make sure it started with some fats and some protein instead of carbs. It’s starting that narrative, and being a disruptor sometimes can be a lonely place, but it’s so absolutely necessary. Clearly, if calories in, calories out was effective, if exercise, eat more, exercise more, eat less was effective, if all these kind of antiquated dogmas are really effective, then why would we have this increasingly obese population? I’m so grateful for your work. 

I want to be very mindful of your time. Give listeners a couple things they can do right now other than really be cognizant of your soils, ask questions when you’re in a restaurant, if you’re in an area of the country where you can actually go out to eat, asking what things are cooked in and looking at food labels. But what are some other things people can do, like slow steps? Because I think some of the concern is always, it’s expensive to make a lot of changes all at once. It’s also very hard to do that. What are some of the more important ones that you feel like if you have to pick a couple that are the most critical, what would they be in your estimation?

Dr. Cate Shanahan: The first one is going to be build yourself a healthy breakfast, because breakfast is the most important meal of the day, not to screw up. We set ourselves on a sugar-dependent path if we have a high carb breakfast, and we can set ourselves on a fat-burning path if we have a high healthy fat breakfast, but we’ve got to have things like eggs or cream. What I have for breakfast every day is coffee with about a cup of milk and about probably an eighth of a cup of cream, and that’s raw actually too because I think it’s so much more delicious when it comes from cows who got grass, and I don’t have lunch. I don’t get hungry for lunch. That’s because my metabolism is really able to– it’s flexible, so it switches from burning the calories and whatever you just ate to burning your body fat. But not everybody can do that right off the bat, and that’s what The Fatburn Fix is, really supposed to help you navigate how you get from where you are, where are you first of all, and how do you get from wherever you are to where you can burn your body fat better. So, it really starts with building a breakfast that puts you on the right path for the rest of the morning, and in many ways the rest of the day. So, that’s one thing.

Then, another thing is just to adopt the idea that there really truly is no such thing as a healthy snack. Actually, part of the plan in The Fatburn Fix book is part of the first phase where I’m not focusing on weight loss, I’m focusing on metabolic health optimization. I get people close to a keto diet. There’s keto snacks all over the place, and fat bombs and all this kind of stuff. Any kind of a snack you have is going to block your fat burning, because you just ate some calories and your body is going to use those calories instead of having to do the work of taking those calories and putting them in storage as fat. Meanwhile, it’s burning your body fat at the same time, it doesn’t do that. You start burning those calories instead of your body fat. So, it blocks your body fat burning. I think that stopping snacking is essential before you’re ready really even for a lot of the intermittent fasting that folks do, because I find that when you are not good enough yet at burning your own body fat, your metabolism– it’s not you are not good, obviously, your metabolism hasn’t recovered yet, it’s not flexible enough, where you can burn your body fat. If you try to do some of the time-restricted feeding or intermittent fasting, you end up stressing yourself mentally because it’s just not easy. You’re not ready for it. Your hunger is really a key indicator of your metabolic health.

So, that’s what I teach in The Fatburn Fix. I think that’s kind of a key message for folks listening is, if you’re experiencing hunger, that’s a sign that you’re not really ready to focus on restricting calories in a way that makes you lose weight, because ultimately, you do have to eat less calories than you consume. But that’s not easy or really healthy to do when you aren’t burning your body fat because if you’re already– let’s say you want to lose 50 pounds, but on a daily basis, you’re already at your current– whatever your weight, your calorie intake is to maintain that excess weight, it’s excess calories. Say it’s 2500 calories, and maybe you need really 1800 or something. If you’re already hungry, how are you going to be able to ever cut out calories if you’re already hungry? You’re already eating 2500 calories, so you might not really be ready. Some people can start losing weight right away, because they build their meals so the meal itself sustains their energy, and then kind of slides them into being able to release their stored energy more efficiently, so that you actually do start burning some of your body fat. But if your metabolism is more damaged, that’s not going to happen, and you’re going to end up producing more sugar out of your own muscle, and that’s just not healthy. 

So, that’s why I really like folks to understand where they are in their metabolic health process of going from a fat burner to a sugar burner. That’s what the Standard American Diet does, it makes fat burns into sugar burns. What a healthy diet does is it takes sugar burners and makes them fat burners again. But you have to understand where you are on that spectrum so that you can understand how flexible you are. that determines whether or not you’re really ready to lose weight. That was a long-winded way of saying that one of the key take-homes is paying attention to hunger is more important in energy levels, is more important than paying attention to the number on the scale for a certain point of time. Once you get your hunger under control, and your energy levels have improved, now you can start paying attention that number on the scale.

Cynthia Thurlow: Well, this has been just a delight for me. I look forward to having you back in 2021 and seeing what you’re doing. How can my listeners find you? Obviously, I’m a huge proponent of your books. I have both of them. I always proudly like to mention the amount of earmarking I do with red pen, is a sure sign it’s a good book in my estimation, and one that will be very valuable to my listeners. How can people find you? How can they find your blog? Obviously, I have to finish watching that episode with Bill Maher, which I thought you’re masterful in.

Dr. Cate Shanahan: Thank you. My website is drcate.com, that’s D-R-C-A-T-E dotcom. That’ll lead you to the books and other resources that I have. I also have a lot of good free resources. Please, if you come sign up to be a subscriber, and you’ll get a lot of support, I think, from being part of the community, because it really takes more than one person working alone, and your podcast has probably inspired numerous people. I love it when I hear people are gathering together and forming little groups about this. Like just yesterday, I was speaking to somebody who has a physical therapy practice, and it’s a husband-and-wife team and they have required their all their staff to understand this aspect of nutrition, so they had them all read both my books. Now, that’s a community, now they can support each other. They can talk about how do you solve all the problems that we’re facing when we’re just trying to be regular folks, living our lives, not having our lives focus on thinking about food? How do you make it easy? That sort of collective consciousness is key.

Cynthia Thurlow: I absolutely agree. Thank you again for your time today and have a wonderful rest of your week.

Dr. Cate Shanahan: Thanks so much, Cynthia, it’s been really nice meeting you and talking to you.


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