Yesterday, I heard this report on NPR and now see a New York Times editorial on the same topic was published on Tuesday. Fat-free food is really unhealthy for us. The mainstream media is finally admitting it. I don’t know why they are suddenly noticing a recent study when they ignored all the previous studies, but I’m grateful for it.
This is not just good news for those of us wanting better food and food habits. It is also a valuable lesson about what happens (and is happening!) when politics leads science. Thus, from the NPR report:
Scientists had evidence that foods with saturated fat such as eggs and meat could raise LDL cholesterol. But there were a lot of complexities that scientists didn’t yet understand, and not a lot of data.
So, when Sen. McGovern, a Democrat from South Dakota, called his hearing, he summoned the likes of Nathan Pritikin, a longevity guru who believed you could reverse heart disease with diet changes. And he called as a witness a Harvard University professor who pointed to the harms of overconsumption of fat.
The hearing led to the creation of the first set of dietary guidelines for Americans.
“The thinking of the day is that you wanted to reduce fat,” says science writer Gary Taubes, author of Why We Get Fat.
He adds that once fat was fingered as the villain, the thinking was that any way Americans could get fat out of their diets would be a good thing.
“And if we did it by merely replacing milk and cheese and fatty meat with carbohydrates, with pasta and potatoes and rice,” Taubes says, the theory was that we would live longer, and be thinner.
So, one of the top goals listed in the original dietary goals: eat more carbs.
But there is more to what happened. McGovern selected his experts according to his own ideas, including his loyalty to American grain farmers.
Once the power of the government had issued a scientific conclusion as an edict, all the other doctors and health scientists fell into line. Funding became available for extending and proving the mandated conclusion.
You would think that a country with thousands of doctors would be safe from damaging the nation’s health over a fad. You might expect these thousands of educated medical professionals to use their brains and their knowledge to question premature and flawed dietary guidelines.
But that only happened in a few cases. They were regarded as marginal weirdoes.
In how many other areas were (and are!) scientists led by funding and propaganda to support bogus science?
I would love to think that this sudden admission might make people more willing to question other areas of manufactured consensus, like global warming. But I’m not too optimistic.