Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
BIG PICTURE: Generations of physicians and nutritionists have urged the public to cut back on dietary fat. In recent decades we’ve eaten less red meat, less butter and lard, fewer eggs, and consumed all manner of low-fat products such as skimmed milk. Since 1960, however, obesity has doubled in America, diabetes has increased seven-fold, and heart disease remains the leading cause of death.
The scientific underpinnings of the low-fat philosophy are, in fact, highly suspect. Influential scientists cherry-picked their evidence and shouted down their critics. Science is supposed to be self-correcting, but as Nina Teicholz explains in The Big Fat Surprise, politics interferes with this process.
A 1977 US Senate committee report, followed by the 1992 introduction of America’s Food Pyramid, entrenched the low-fat orthodoxy. When governments embrace a school of thought, competing viewpoints are de facto delegitimized.
Free thinker scientists then find it difficult to secure research funding and to get their findings published in medical journals. The media also takes sides. From women’s magazines to television programming, the low-fat drumbeat has been relentless. Meanwhile, the late cardiologist Robert Atkins (who advocated eating plenty of fat, but few carbohydrates) was ridiculed.
Teicholz says the scientific case against saturated/animal fat has finally collapsed. Avoiding starches and sweets now appears to be dramatically healthier than avoiding fat. If this is true, the eat-plenty-of-grains-and-pasta Food Pyramid has profoundly harmed public health.
TOP TAKEAWAY: Governments told us bacon and eggs were unhealthy. They encouraged high-carbohydrate breakfasts of cereal, toast, and orange juice. And then diabetes went through the roof.
|The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet
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