Skip to comments.Saturated Fat and Skepticism
Posted on 05/07/2014 2:40:30 PM PDT by neverdem
The scientific community is not immune to politics, bias, and self-interest.
The headline looks like a hoax saturated fat does not cause heart disease but its real. This news is more than just another example of changing health guidelines. Its a cautionary tale about trusting the scientific consensus.
For more than 50 years, the best scientific minds in America assured us that saturated fat was the enemy. Animal fat, we were instructed, was the chief culprit in causing obesity, Type II diabetes, and heart disease.
Throughout my adult life, I have conscientiously followed the guidelines dispensed by the health arbiters of our age. Trusting utterly in the scientific research of the American Heart Association, the CDC, and the USDA, I accepted the nearly universal wisdom of the medical and nutritional experts.
Boy, did I accept. I practically banned red meat from my diet for decades. Butter? Only on special occasions. Cream? Do they still make it? Lean chicken, turkey, and fish combined with complex carbohydrates and of course, lots of fruits and vegetables, were the ticket, I was certain, to the best odds of avoiding heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. When the Atkins diet craze swept the country I shook my head sadly, half expecting my friends who indulged in it to keel over from heart attacks.
Now, the Annals of Internal Medicine declares that beef, butter, and cream do not cause heart disease. Women whose total cholesterol levels are high live longer than those with lower levels.
This is not just reminiscent of Woody Allens 1973 movie Sleeper its nearly word for word. In the future, Allen joked, wheat germ and organic honey would kill you but deep fat, cream pies, and steak would be regarded as health-enhancing.
How could the experts have been so wrong for so long?
Nina Teicholz, writing in the Wall Street Journal, notes that there has never been solid evidence for the idea that these fats cause disease. We only believe this to be the case because nutrition policy has been derailed over the past half-century by a mixture of personal ambition, bad science, politics, and bias.
It seems that the founding father of the saturated-fat theory was a sloppy researcher. In the 1950s, Ancel Benjamin Keys studied men in the U.S., Japan, and Europe and concluded that poor diet caused heart disease and other pathologies. He examined farmers living in Crete, Teicholz writes, but studied them during Lent, when they had given up meat and cheese for religious reasons. Still, Keys was apparently charismatic and convincing, and while subsequent research was mixed on the question of fats, cholesterol, and disease, the whole nutritional/governmental blob had become too committed to the low-fat orthodoxy to turn back easily.
From the initial anathematizing of eggs, dairy, and fat, the experts have been slowly walking it all back. First, eggs were removed from the evil list. Next we were told that dietary cholesterol actually didnt seem to be correlated with blood cholesterol at all. Then the experts explained that some fats werent bad, wait, olive oil was positively good for you. And so on. Today weve nearly arrived at Woody Allens future. A breakfast of eggs and bacon is, according to the newest understanding, no worse for you than oatmeal. (Though sugar remains forbidden.)
Arguably, the health establishments embrace of the wrong ideas about nutrition have made the U.S. fatter and sicker than we might otherwise have been. Weve increased our consumption of carbohydrates by 25 percent since the 1970s, which may be the reason that Type II diabetes is reaching epidemic levels. The switch to vegetable oil from butter and lard may have increased rates of cancer and Alzheimers disease.
The moral of this story is not to ignore science, but to stay skeptical. The scientific method remains the best way yet devised to ascertain truth. But the scientific establishment is hardly immune to politics, fads, bias, and self-interest. Bad science is endemic. As The Economist noted in October, half of all published research cannot be replicated . . . and that may be optimistic.
Our experience with nutrition science over the past half-century should arm us with doubt about climate science too. The point is not to ignore scientific data but to treat all studies, models, and predictions with a degree of skepticism. Dont accept the argument from authority: That the entire medical establishment endorsed the war on saturated fat did not make it true.
Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2014 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
That's my best guess for the article being referenced in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Neither Mrs. Charen nor Nina Teicholz gave the title of the citation or gave an author.
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I love animal fat! :-)
Mmmmmm ... dead cow
I don’t know what’s healthy or unhealthy anymore. And they’re not saying either. Just take some acetaminophen, 10 lbs of bacon, 100 grams of dark chocolate, and don’t worry about illegal aliens.
Nah, it's even better than that. The real answer is Dark Chocolate.
For 40 years I have been following this stuff and am now a healthy over 70. The most important thing I feel I have done is avoid sugar, products with white flour, white rice and pealed potatoes. So far as past history and animal fats, remember many of our ancestors and even grandparents were engaged in hard physical labor much of the day which burned up the fat and conditioned the circulatory system. My recommendation to myself and others is eat plenty of low carb vegetables and fruit, some whole grains, and modest amounts of other things like fish, fowl, meat, dairy including butter (but not synthetics like margerine), and an occasional sin splurge like ice cream.
I love the fat on a juicy steak. I do, however, prefer lean hamburgers, turkey, bison or Kobe.
I don’t mix proteins such as cheese in my omelet. Gross and I also don’t care for pizza with any meats. All veggies and a super crisp crust, otherwise I just knock off all the goodies and eat them, tossing the crust, which I rarely like.
White bread? Can’t stand the taste, except if there is a ton of peanut butter and jelly on it but, I don’t buy white bread.
Whole wheat everything is best.
Eat 2-3 things at a meal. Protein, Starch(red potatoes are excellent, sweet and don’t require butter - hate Idaho or baking potatoes and will only eat the skin) and veggies or fruit.
If you are going to junk out then that counts as a meal or even two. You are done for the day. Big bowl of popcorn with a stick of butter? two meals.
Milkshake? 300 calories and counts as a meal.
Eat tons of veggies. They fill you up, are delicious, chock full of vitamins and minerals and H20, which we all need.
BP 120/80 and 50 years old.
This guy has been eating 3-5 eggs a day all his life and I am so friggin happy to hear this lol
Promotes heavy duty Kodachrome dreams.
If it improves your health while you’re sleeping, I’ll take it.
It’s got Sugar so it’s likely bad, but the entertainment is great.
I’ll tell ya what really gets me, when I was a kid we would have a Pork-Roast or Chops. The meat would be rimmed with fat -crisp and crackling. Delicious !
Now, they are breeding pigs to be lean with no or minimal fat.
Boy, do I miss the good old days...
You are correct, but there are manufactures out there who are addressing the refined processed sugars and are only using low glycemic pure cane crystals which is a big first.
We have an 80 year old Mexican who works for us, he is still doing manual labor, he eats 3 dozen eggs a week. He buys a beef kidney once a week and other organ meats.
Thanks for the post.
“The real answer is Dark Chocolate. “
Promotes heavy duty Kodachrome dreams.
fasting does that too.
I eat almost exclusively meat, animal fat and leafy vegetables.
Cholesterol cut in half by eating lots of animal fat
All blood tests excellent.
Avoid carbs, especially corn and products thereof. Whole wheat is no good either. Throw out the margarine and bring on the real butter. Drink whole milk, not 2%, not skim. Never buy "fat free" anything because they take out the fat and re-thicken with corn starch. Following the above diet I lost 108 pounds in seven months.
I’m writing this from the docs office.
276 lbs - 5’7”. 52yo
Same type diet I’ve lost 80lbs. My BP- 120/70. Resting heart rate - 52. Total cholesterol - 150. HDL- 57.
Yes I do exercise.