The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet (& What They Don’t Tell You About The Mediterranean Diet).

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Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

OK, OK. Let's not beat around the bush here.

In health circles, it's kind of old news now that “saturated fat might not be bad for you” and that sugar, starches and vegetable oil might instead be a primary contributory factor to heart disease and other chronic health problems.

So when I got the book “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet” in the mail, I figured it would be the same ol', same ol' advice, like eat your egg yolks, don't be afraid of butter, and drink whole milk instead of skim milk.

But I was actually surprised. Big, fat surprised. Heh.


Because in the book, author and investigative journalist Nina Teicholz not only lays out the most comprehensive history, treatise and full argument as to why saturated fats – the kind found in dairy, meat, and eggs – are not bad for health, but also takes a deep dive into everything from myths behind the Mediterranean Diet, to the heart killing replacement for trans fats you probably haven't heard about yet to the ethics of eating meat and beyond.

The Economist named this book the best science book of 2014 and called it a “nutrition thriller”. The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Mother Jones, Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews named it a *Best Book* of 2014. The British Medical Journal praised the book in an extensive review, and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition said, “All scientists.. and every nutrition science professional…should read this book.”

So who exactly is Nina?

Before taking a deep dive into researching nutrition science for nearly a decade, she was a reporter for National Public Radio and also contributed to many publications, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, The New Yorker, and The Economist. She attended Yale and Stanford where she studied biology and majored in American Studies. She has a master’s degree from Oxford University and served as associate director of the Center for Globalization and Sustainable Development at Columbia University. She lives in New York City.

And I'm guessing she probably has eggs and bacon for breakfast.

During our discussion, you'll discover:

-What compelled Nina to spend ten years writing a 500 page book after discovering shocking cover-ups in the nutrition industry…[10:55]

-What researcher George Mann found in African populations who were subsisting on a diet of organs, meat and blood…[17:30]

-Why Lewis and Clark were so disappointed in the game meat they discovered when traveling West…[27:10]

-How Americans used to eat, and why it's a huge problem that we now eat so much poultry…[34:45 & 38:45]

-What was the “remarking and troublesome omission” from the Ancel Keys study and why the “true” Mediterranean diet is far different than the Mediterranean diet you've probably seen in popular literature…[61:40]

-The surprising truth behind why the Cretans were so long lived…[62:50]

-How when trans fats got banned, they may have been replaced with something worse, and what that worse thing is…[68:35]

-The biggest mistakes that people make when following a high fat diet…[78:40]

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

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

US Wellness Meats

-Book: Deep Nutrition by Cate Shanahan

Chris Masterjohn's podcast on the Kitavan diet and ApoE genotype

Do you have questions, thoughts or feedback for Nina or me? Leave your comments below and one of us will reply!

Ask Ben a Podcast Question

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42 thoughts on “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet (& What They Don’t Tell You About The Mediterranean Diet).

  1. Lisa says:

    I suggest you take a look at research provided by renowned nutrition-based physician and scientist Dr. Michael Greger, who shows conclusively that butter, meat, and cheese are severely hazardous to your health. Dr. Joel Kahn, a prominent vegan cardiologist, is another highly reliable source. Stop dispensing junk “science”!

    1. Ric says:

      Hey Ben, I follow your podcast more than any others. Actually from a lady you interviewed couple years back, I started eating meat again. Funny I’m just reading ‘How not to die’ the Micheal Greger book Lisa mentions. I was googling to see if you had interviewed him. Would be really interested if you can get him on the podcast and challenge each other – still mirky what the ‘truth’ is, (or perhaps each individual is different). Thanks

  2. Simon says:

    Regarding the APOE genotype being talked about this podcast, I tried to look in my 23andme raw data and found that I (and most people) only get genotype data for one SNP (rs7412) and not the other (rs429358) to determine whether you’re APOE e3/e4 or e4/e4. If you’re in that category, you can use this website to “impute” your rs429358 genotype: You get tons of other useful state-of-the-art genetics research data as well, more than LDL/HDL/Alzheimers/etc.

    Ben, you may want to have’s lead researcher on the podcast: Lasse ( According to him, there’s a ton of newer research being done on this topic just in the last year.

    1. Kathleen Smith says:

      Regarding 23andme. Do you have to buy the higher priced kit to get this information or will the basic test kit do the job? Thanks for ur response!

  3. damian says:

    can you please post the transcript for this Ben? :)

    1. Not every single podcast is transcribed, but if they are you will find them a couple of weeks after they go live here:

  4. damian says:

    Hi Ben- is there a transcript for this episode please? :) Need some quotes from Nina- thank you

    1. When the transcript is done, it can be found here: <a href="” target=”_blank”>

      1. Anthony says:

        In response to the writer discussing the 10lbs of grain for 1 lb of beef and impacts of fertilizer run off etc. I am not arguing but I would say: transition to grass fed grazing farms vs feed and fatten lots while omitting chemical fertilizers could lessen the impact. If land that was destined for cities retained use for rural pasture without a deluge of chemical enhancement and local sustainable farming, it would be less of a footprint than urban sprawl. YES, we need a balanced diet than has less consumption of mega chain burger joints and all you can eat rib-lets. There are too many mouths to feed in the world for our “bread baskets”. Those of us fortunate to have choice and abundance should educate ourselves about the best choices for both our lives and that of our community. This article helped spurn thought as readily as watching many of the FOOD INC and similar documentaries did. Like any author defending their sacred cow (pun intended), they often oversimplify or omit contrarian thought. All forms of farming and animal husbandry impact our natural environment. We no longer can afford 6.7 billion hunter gatherers happening onto wild blueberries and driving bison into a dead fall.

  5. Paulina says:

    No evidence that red meat is bad for the planet??? How about 10 lbs of grain for 1 lb of meat? How about cows releasing 70-120 kgs of methane per year? How about the run off of fertilizer from said grain into streams? For a journalist, you’d think would have done her research before making such careless claims, or saying that people are trying to “rope in nutrition” to go along with their story. She would have been better off to let the facts stand for themselves and encourage people to eat organic, locally raised meat than make such sweeping, false claims. I had a hard time believing anything out of her mouth after that.

  6. Kenneth says:

    What about the work of Doctors Kahn, Olsted, Cambell, Esselstyn, Kahn, Ornish, Greger, and others that have both research and examples of reversing heart disease and diabetes on low fat, higher carb, plant based diets? Are they really that wrong?

    1. Here's the deal: you can indeed treat many chronic diseases with that type of diet but the bigger picture here is that the HIGH FAT approach, especially in a wild, ancestral, natural format does NOT cause heart disease in nearly any case aside from familial hypercholesteremia…

      1. Kenneth says:

        Interesting. Thanks for the reply.

        You should have one of those guys on to discuss.

      2. Lisa says:

        Here’s the deal: Drs, Kahn, Esselstyn, Ornish, Greger and Barnard are renowned experts on diet and nutrition, and they are in agreement that butter, meat, and cheese are deadly. Plant-based diet is the only healthy regimen.

  7. Matthew says:

    Hey Ben,

    You mentioned the copious amounts of vegetables you eat in a day. I personally do the same and eat a diet very similar to yours. One issue I have is gas. I was wondering if you do as well. I guess it’s just the plant matter being digested by the bacteria in the large intestine. I don’t have any blotting, discomfort, or constipation. The gas is just more of an inconvenience. What are your thoughts?



    1. I do not. But I chew a ton and use digestive enzymes, colostrum, probiotics, etc.

    2. tanya says:


      Try to watch the fructose content of your vegetables for a week or two and see if that helps. Some of us are more sensitive to fructose than others.

  8. jord says:

    Hi Ben,

    Thanks for that.

    So it’s not necessarily just about the ‘metabolic shift’ and high ketones, but more about increasing mitochondrial numbers, and mitochondrial health?

    The 1-2 year time frame, that would still be the case if you’re saving all carbs for post workout 2-4x per week?

    Would you still be getting benefits from ‘fat adaptation’ if you’re employing regular backloading after hard workouts, And consuming high fats at all other times?

    I guess what I’m trying to get at, can you include carbs and do glycolytic workouts, while still somehow fueling and performing well on fats?

    1. Yep you are indeed correct. It's all about your mitochondria, and yes, 1-2 year time frame is quite typical, even with backloading type of approach. And yes, for glycolytic workouts you can still include carbs, just in moderation. For more, I'd be happy to help you via a personal one-on-one consult. Just go to and then choose a 20 or 60 minute consult, whichever you'd prefer. I can schedule ASAP after you get that.

  9. Jord says:

    When you say it takes 1-2 years to build up enough mitochondrial density to start performing really well on a fat based diet, whats your definition of that look like?

    Does that mean full time ketosis, or having post workout carbs (aka backloading), or just raising fats to 50-60% of your total calories?

    I’m wondering if that time frame would be based on very little carbs in the diet for that entire time, to fully switch your metabolism?

    Or can you include some carbs in the diet, around workouts, and still reap the benefits of using fats for fuel?

    1. Hey Jord, That means not only a high fat intake (not strict ketosis per se), but also utilization of all the mitochondrial health strategies Dr. Minkoff and I talk about here:… and that Dr. Mercola and I talk about here:…

  10. Sven says:

    Hi Ben,

    Are you aware that the listening bar for your podcasts doesn’t format on mobile phones? Whenever the podcast goes for longer than 60 minutes, the bar reaches past the edge of the screen and it’s not possible to go to that part of the podcast.

    Just wanted to let you know. It’s been like this for quite some time.

    1. Thanks for the heads up – this is fixed now!

      1. Sven says:

        Great! All good.

  11. kem says:

    I worried this book would have been a re-write of GCBC. Wrong. It was every bit as good and covered a lot of ground wasn’t aware of. She is a great interviewee. Thanks a lot.

    Oh, I am biased, though. I raise free range cattle on some of nature,s best South Island pasture. There are a few pretty tidy lambs out there that should be getting nervous as well.

  12. Eric says:

    What was the nane of the book on how bad vegetable oil is?

  13. Jon says:

    Having lived in Europe for several decades I feel like I could right several pages on this subject. Colin’s article is interesting many aspects ring true however restaurants and what people eat at home on a daily basis are two different things. Everyone wants to put a spot light on whatever aspect of the med diet fits in with their agenda. Truth is this, all foods are consumed, meat/plant /grain/ fat etc. The key is QUALITY of foods consumed, historically most foods were very simple and minimally processed.

    Bread is consumed daily (often white) and bought fresh daily as it normally has very few ingredients (often sourdough) and hence goes stale the next day. Cold cuts used not to have nitrates or nitrites unlike now. In Italy pasta is consumed almost daily (usually at lunchtime) but in small quantities compared to Anglo countries)

    Lamb etc is eaten but more of a weekly treat than daily staple.

    The Spanish eat lots of white rice and sea food, among other things.

    The French/Italian/Spanish and others often have pastries with breakfast (not very paleo) but that is the reality and I could go on and on.

    Quality ingredients and mostly whole foods is in my opinion the common thread not any particular food group + a healthier mindset around food.

  14. John says:

    dont know where to start….I think all credibility went out the door after Nina said cold cuts etc were ok….sigh!

    If you want to be healthy eat whole foods as close to their natural state as possible and preferably in season…no mysteries there! that is what all blue zones have in common. If you don’t eat meat that is fine, if you do follow Bens way with plenty of vegetables good fats and focusing on quality.

    1. Daveed says:

      Totally John. Nina talks about scientists lying about their work, this is true. Massive cover up, true. Food industry money infiltrating nutrition science to distort findings, true (dairy industry biggest culprit of all). But Nina’s campaign to eat lots of meat and saturated fat (regardless that she wrote a 500-page book, remember she is a journalist with an agenda, NOT a scientist) fails to leave a mark because studies linking many diseases to animal-based consumption were done on humans over decades (not mice over a few months, as she laughs) and participants ARE controlled for alcohol, smoking and disease.

      And whats more astonishing is her ignorance of the most obvious. Fast, fatty, processed meats are okay?!?! Talk about disastrous leaps of logic! Look in the mirror Nina.

      Francis Bacon: “Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true.”

  15. ben says:

    great post by Colin Champ on what the Mediterranean diet really looks like.

  16. Daveed says:

    Let me guess, Nina also denies global warming. Wow, she’s way out there but on a mission…lock up your beloved animals. Legit science links many diseases to animal based consumption. Inuits have more trace minerals and fast so stop comparing Americans to Eskimos, omg. And seriously shrugging off meats cooked at very high temperature or highly processed meats as non carcinogenic…wtf?!? Oh and anything Ben had to say was met with her audible guffaws.

  17. Darren says:

    Good podcast and I will have to try those lard sweet potatoes but the low carb propaganda gets a little much. First it is implied that liver, heart, kidney and other organ meets have a lot of saturated fat when in fact they do not. They are extremely lean. What they do have is a lot of cholesterol so maybe this led to the confusion. Nina seems to imply that a low carb diet is the best diet for most people based on two outlier populations. There are exactly 0 blue zone populations that consume a lot of saturated fat – they do consume fatty meat on occasion but it’s rare. They are mostly plant based. In addition, extremely low fat diets have been used to treat and reverse type 2diabetes (even diets with high amounts of white sugar – see Denise Minger on this). Different diets work for different people – eating tons of fat and drinking bulletproof coffee every day put my apo-B in the danger zone – now I eat a lot less fat and my blood work is a lot better.

  18. Leo says:

    Hi Ben,

    My question is about another topic, if I may. But I think it would be interesting not only for me. I’d like to ask you about atherosclerosis – do you (or any specialist you interviewed) know anything about natural remedies to dissolve atherosclerotic plaque? Also, do you know about enzyme Serrapeptase, which some people claim can dissolve this plaque? I tried to find information about it but couldn’t.

    I would appreciate if you put some light on that in your future forecasts.

    Thank you.

    1. I have some definite thoughts on this. I am not a doctor but would be happy to hop on a call with you. Just go to and then choose a 20 or 60 minute consult, whichever you'd prefer. I can schedule ASAP after you get that.

      1. Matthew says:

        I am a Physician Assistant with an interest in sports nutrition and chronic disease prevention through nutrition. I can tell you that the only way you reverse diabetes (acquired) is by improving insulin sensitivity. In order to improve the effectiveness of insulin, you must decrease overall carb consumption in addition to eating low glycemic index carbs.

        I can also tell you that your lab markers are not as significant as we once thought. What really matters is inflammation. Healthy fat does not cause inflammation. Eating lots of healthy fat to replace carbs is a recipe for success in just about everyone. With minimal inflammation, high cholesterol doesn’t matter! The problem is that people with high cholesterol also tend to have poor dietary/exercise habits contributing to loads of heart disease causing inflammation.

  19. FedererFanatic says:

    Absolute stunning information in this podcast—it shows that scientists are all too human and are susceptible to influence, especially in something as complex and human health. I am a mathematician and frankly it would be IMPOSSIBLE to get away with junk math.

  20. Angela Shaw says:


    I’m so confused when it comes to fats. Please help me to understand better. When you group vegetable oils as all being bad, which ones exactly are you speaking of? I’ve heard you highly tout olive oil- as a dressing, not to cook with- buteven so, isn’t that technically a vegetable oil? What oil or fat do you cook with at home. And what do I look for when purchasing these fats to make sure I’m getting high quality? I usually use coconut oil, but don’t think it’s good to use the same oil everyday. Thanks for any input you have, as always!

    1. You need to read this post Angela:… – that will help a bit. Also this book:

  21. Rick says:

    Hi Ben,

    Please look at the research on TMAO. You can find some of this reviewed on


    1. Andy Lopez says:

      “While eggs and beef are a source of choline and carnitine, two dietary precursors for TMAO, fish consumption produces far higher circulating TMAO blood levels (46-62 times greater) than eggs and beef. [Molecular Nutrition Food Research Jan 2017]”….

  22. Wendy says:

    The problem now is our animals are fed contaminated feed and the poisons are stored in fatty tissue. I still eat as much fat as I can get, however. It’s true, I feel better after eating fat.

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