'Settled' Science on Saturated Fats Revised

For decades, Americans have organized their diet in a way to minimize their intake of saturated fats like butter and red meat. Vegetable oils and carbohydrates became a bigger part of our diet, because, we were repeatedly told, animal fats led to heart disease. 

Today, however, we are learning that this advice was bogus. A recent landmark health study has concluded that there has never been a link between saturated fats and heart disease. The "settled science" on nutrition wasn't quite so settled.

Writing in Saturday's Wall Street Journal, nutrition researcher Nina Teicholz unpacks a new comprehensive study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine which found that "saturated fat does not cause heart disease." This theory, and decades of government-sponsored nutritional advice can be traced back to one scientist at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Ancel Keyes. His crusade against animal fats began in the 1950s and has misled the public about a proper diet ever since.

Ms. Teicholz observes:

The fact is, there has never been solid evidence for the idea that [saturated] 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.

The new study catalogs a host of problems with Keyes' research into saturated fats. There is little reason to document the litany of methodological flaws here except to note that the research was conducted in a way to validate a preformed conclusion.

It is also noteworthy that America's obesity "epidemic" began at the same time as the government began endlessly recommending a "low-fat" diet. It turns out the fat was replaced with sugar and other carbohydrates that likely worsened our diets.

This article should not be construed as relaying nutritional advice. I believe that everything is better with a pad of butter and a side of bacon, but your mileage may vary. The point is, though, that something we all "know" that has been the recipient of billions of dollars of research and advocacy may not actually be true. 

Teicholz writes:

More than a billion dollars have been spent trying to prove Ancel Keys's hypothesis, but evidence of its benefits has never been produced.

In the early 1990s, the food police at the Center for Science in the Public Interest urged consumers and restaurants to switch from animal fats to trans fats. They succeeded and unleashed a product that has been linked to heart disease. Now, of course, CSPI raises money to ban the very product they previously endorsed and thrust on the public.

Science is never "settled." Something to keep in mind when it comes to political campaigns to ban people from raising questions about climate science.


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