Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Butter, Cream & Grains of Salt

SPOTLIGHT: Recent peer-reviewed science points in different directions.

BIG PICTURE: Two new studies about dietary fat made the news last week. According to the first, fat is a villain. In the words of a headline at the UK Daily Mail: Fat consumption is the ONLY cause of weight gain! ‘Unequivocal’ data reveals protein and carbs are not responsible for a bulging waistline.

Amongst others, the New York Post, the New Zealand Herald, and the South China Morning Post, also used this occasion to advise the public that dietary fat is unhealthy.

More responsible sources (see here, here, and here) mentioned up front that this study involved mice rather than human beings. This is a good time to recall Richard Harris’ book, Rigor Mortis: How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billions. Chapter Four is titled “Misled by Mice.”

An online version of this study is currently available, and it’s about to be officially published in a reputable, peer-reviewed, scientific journal owned by a reputable academic publishing house.

Yet its conclusion is at odds with a different study in another highly-regarded, peer-reviewed journal owned by an equally esteemed publisher.

Last week, a headline in The Atlantic magazine characterized that research as representing The Vindication of Cheese, Butter, and Full-Fat Milk. The summary at the top of the article reads: “A new study exonerates dairy fats as a cause of early death, even as low-fat products continue to be misperceived as healthier.”

In what appears to be a splendid piece of research, nearly 3,000 humans in their sixties were monitored over 22 years. Rather than relying on memory and subjective reporting, “the dairy-fat levels in the participants’ blood” were empirically measured. During the course of the study, 83% of these people reached the end of their lives.

Those who’d consumed more dairy fat did not die earlier. Nor did they experience more heart disease, heart attacks, or stroke. The real-world takeaway appears to be that butter, cream, and high-fat cheeses won’t put you in an early grave.

TOP TAKEAWAY:  We’re swimming in information. Much of it is contradictory. Those who accuse others of being anti-science would do well to recognize that peer-reviewed science can be found to support nearly every position.


Rigor Mortis: How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billions
Richard Harris


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This entry was posted on July 23, 2018 by in quotations and tagged , , .
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