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Friday, February 10, 2006

Pork Fat Rules!

Steven Malloy, debunker of junk science, has the details on the latest major study to demolish the myth that dietary fat and cholesterol are bad for you. The article is here. The study involved nearly 50,000 women. According to Malloy:
The most significant result of the $415 million study is that low-fat diets don’t reduce heart disease risk. As the researchers put it, “Over [an average] of 8.1 years, a dietary intervention that reduced total fat intake and increased intake of vegetables, fruits and grains did not significantly reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke or cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women and achieved only modest effects on cardiovascular risk factors. . . .”

Low-fat diets didn’t even improve heart health among the population of women who had heart disease at the beginning of the study. In fact, the low-fat diet regimen was associated with a slightly increased risk of heart disease among these women.
These results are quite a blow to the Diet-Government Complex, that constellation of pharmaceutical companies, food processors, and government bureaucrats that have been pushing low-fat, high-carb diets on us for years. This has been a thoroughly politicized process from the start. (See this New York Times Magazine article, "What If It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?") As Malloy points out, the other major studies have consistently failed to support the fat-cholesterol-heart-disease hypothesis, but the results were always spun to distract attention from the facts. And the news media has always been too willing to merely reprint the press releases.

For the scoop on such things, visit the website of The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics . I'd also recommend Dr. Uffe Ravnskov's book, The Cholesterol Myths.

Somewhere up there, Dr. Atkins is smiling.

As Emeril Lagasse says, "Pork fat rules!"


Machine Ghost said...

*sigh* You shouldn't automatically adopt an anti-government position just because it is consistent with your philosophy and against the actual facts. You blame the media for reprinting press releases, but that is exactly what occured with this study! The devil is in the details. To wit:

Diet Composition (pre% - post%):

Percent Fat: 38 - 25
Saturated Fat: 12 - 8
Polyunsaturated Fat: 7.8 - 5.2
Fiber: 15.4 - 18.1
Whole Grains: 4.7 - 5.1
Vegetables: 3.6 - 5.1

There was LITTLE CHANGE in the amount of fiber, whole grains and vegetables (10% total!) and polyunsaturated fat (which reduces cholesterol) even went down!

How does that compare to a healthy low-fat diet with 15% fat, < 4% saturated and > 45 grams of fiber and 15 or more servings of whole grains, fruits and vegetables? Dramatic results require dramatic dietary changes.

Although both scientists and lay people alike may frequently identify a single dietary element as the cause of chronic disease (e.g. saturated fat causes heart disease), evidence gleaned over the past 3 decades now indicates that virtually all so-called diseases of civilization have MULTIFACTORIAL dietary elements that underlie their etiology, along with other environmental agents and genetic susceptibility.

If anything qualifies as "junk science", it is the media and non-objective or ignorant journalists.

Machine Ghost

Sheldon Richman said...

This might be persuasive if there were no other studies. But all the major studies show only the weakest correlations between dietary fat/cholesterol and heart disease. This is true of the Framingham studies and the big nurses study. Malloy discusses this. Ravnskov's book goes over these and others at great length.

On the other hand, there is evidence that fat, including saturated fat, and cholesterol are protective of health, especially in older people. Framingham confirmed that.

It's always possible to say that people who did not achieve the expected results didn't reduce their fat intake enough, but after years of studies that fail to sustain the hypothesis, the best move might be to give it up.