Science, Diet, and Arrogance

 

One of the most read articles in the Wall Street Journal over the past few days has been a piece discussing recent research challenging the conventional wisdom about the health risks of saturated fat:

“Saturated fat does not cause heart disease”—or so concluded a big study published in March in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. How could this be? The very cornerstone of dietary advice for generations has been that the saturated fats in butter, cheese and red meat should be avoided because they clog our arteries. For many diet-conscious Americans, it is simply second nature to opt for chicken over sirloin, canola oil over butter.

The new study’s conclusion shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with modern nutritional science, however. The fact is, there has never been solid evidence for the idea that these 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.

I’ve always felt that health science, especially nutrition, was one of the best examples of the limits of science and the need for a bit of humility when confronting enormously wide landscapes with countless variables (a criticism that we could just as easily apply to global warming or, even better, the “science” of politics and human behavior).  

In fact, It can serve as a great introduction to conservative concepts: deference to thousands of years of (dietary) experience, rather than less than 50 years of “research” mostly sponsored by an agenda-backed industry or underpinned by ideological motivations.

Thoughts?

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  1. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    This is a perfect case study in what happens when personal egos drive research, and when mass hysteria (fueled by reporters) drives legislation.

    This article could have gone into more details too, like how basing a diet purely on calorie intake is so flawed.  Turns out the equations are far more complicated, and 2000 calories of 1 food can be far more nutritious than 2000 calories of another food.  This has led to pushing of products like diet sodas, which are toxic, yet still perceived as being somehow better than regular sodas.  Turns out that artificial sweeteners trigger insulin production, so drinking them actually makes you hungry.  If you already have problems with insulin resistance (early indicator for Type II diabetes), this is catastrophic, as insulin is itself rather toxic.

    • #1
  2. user_1938 Inactive
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    I wonder if soon dietary science will take giant leaps forward thanks to direct and prolonged internal observation via nanites.

    • #2
  3. Tuck Inactive
    Tuck
    @Tuck

    GKC: …deference to 1000s of years of (dietary) experience of humans, rather than less than 50 years of “research” mostly sponsored by an agenda-backed industry or philosophy. Thoughts?

     I think you’re spot-on here.  As this was a core push of the Progressive movement, and a massive failure, I think we need to hang it around their necks.

    I’ll note also that the premier organization pushing scientific exploration into what constitutes a healthy diet is called the “Ancestral Health Society“, what could be more reactionary (conservative) than that?

    And no, Aaron, I don’t think we’re going to see a technological fix for this.

    • #3
  4. Albert Arthur Coolidge
    Albert Arthur
    @AlbertArthur

    GKC: It can serve as a great introduction to conservative concepts — deference to 1000s of years of (dietary) experience of humans, rather than less than 50 years of “research” mostly sponsored by an agenda-backed industry or philosophy.

     I have had the experience of people telling me, “we’re not built to eat meat.”

    No, seriously.

    Look, I have no problem with people choosing to follow certain diets. It’s their choice. It’s nothing to me.  Just don’t tell me that humans are not naturally omnivores. All of human history proves you wrong.

    • #4
  5. Kelly B Member
    Kelly B
    @KellyB

    Albert Arthur:

    GKC: It can serve as a great introduction to conservative concepts — deference to 1000s of years of (dietary) experience of humans, rather than less than 50 years of “research” mostly sponsored by an agenda-backed industry or philosophy.

    I have had the experience of people telling me, “we’re not built to eat meat.”

    No, seriously.

    Look, I have no problem with people choosing to follow certain diets. It’s their choice. It’s nothing to me. Just don’t tell me that humans are not naturally omnivores. All of human history proves you wrong.

     Not to mention physiology – vegans have to get their B12 via supplementation or coprophagy (not that I know any who do the latter), carnivores/omnivores do not.

    • #5
  6. Lee Inactive
    Lee
    @Lee

    I absolutely agree. There is nothing so personal as one’s health, and the idea that the (recently) received wisdom of what constitutes a healthy diet and lifestyle may have actually damaged us ought to cause some deep-thinking on the need to exercise caution before discarding all our traditional wisdom.

    I’m curious to see how the ancestral health movement might continue to bring together conservatives, libertarians and liberals by focusing on the need to question shoddy science, eliminate subsidies that keep poor quality food cheap, and fight to maximize free choice regarding food and business. There are many ways to illustrate why conservative principles are best, but the food and health angle may be the most appealing to the most people. 

    • #6
  7. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Here’s another example of bad science ruining health:

    A legislator in Connecticut wants to FORCE schools to only serve skim milk.  Skim “milk” can hardly be called milk.  It is just a chemical soup and terrible for you.

    All based on the erroneous anti-fat crusade, coupled with rampant nannyism.

    • #7
  8. njberejan@gmail.com Inactive
    njberejan@gmail.com
    @TarasBulbous

    Don’t be so sure that the ancestral health movement will bring the political sides together. Just recently, I saw the comments section of an article about the Paleo diet on io9 flooded with leftists stating that eating paleo is “wasteful” and “a first-world diet.” Remember, livestock supposedly add to Co2 levels and global climate change, and staple crops like rice, wheat and corn are all the third-world can afford. 

    It is becoming quite obvious, though, that the low-fat, high-carb “balanced diet” was very misguided. Obesity rates rose after fat was demonized. Try going on a high fat/moderate protein/low carbohydrate diet, and you might be surprised to see how much weight can be lost with minimal time spent on a treadmill. Just remember to lift heavy stuff from time to time. If anyone here struggles with their weight, just give it a try. I recommend checking out the basic info at Mark’s Daily Apple.

    Also, LOL at those vegans trying to tell us we’re not meant to eat meat. But we are meant to eat tofu shaped like meat? Maybe that’s why we have the sharp teeth.

    • #8
  9. Lee Inactive
    Lee
    @Lee

    @ Taras Bulbous
    No doubt, though I was thinking  specifically of people already into ancestral health who also happen to trend left. When their raw milk or grass fed beef is taken away, they get pretty cranky and stop thinking of government as a friend and start seeing it as an obstruction. 

    • #9
  10. njberejan@gmail.com Inactive
    njberejan@gmail.com
    @TarasBulbous

    Ah, yes, I get you now. It is fun to revel in that cognitive dissonance. “But…but…Michelle says…”

    • #10
  11. Kelly B Member
    Kelly B
    @KellyB

    Taras Bulbous:

    Don’t be so sure that the ancestral health movement will bring the political sides together. Just recently, I saw the comments section of an article about the Paleo diet on io9 flooded with leftists stating that eating paleo is “wasteful” and “a first-world diet.” Remember, livestock supposedly add to Co2 levels and global climate change, and staple crops like rice, wheat and corn are all the third-world can afford.

    I thought that this article was an interesting way to argue against that statement, although I’m not a huge fish fan. Now if they can come up with a similar set-up for cattle…

    • #11
  12. njberejan@gmail.com Inactive
    njberejan@gmail.com
    @TarasBulbous

    Interesting article, thank you. I saw someone make a similar set up out of his swimming pool and some chicken wire on an episode of Doomsday Preppers.

    • #12
  13. Lee Inactive
    Lee
    @Lee

    Kelly B:

    I thought that this article was an interesting way to argue against that statement, although I’m not a huge fish fan. Now if they can come up with a similar set-up for cattle…

     Very interesting article. I actually know a guy who has something like an aquaponics set up, though he grows his strawberries in dirt watered with the fish water. Best berries I’ve ever had. He sells his tilapia to restaurants at several dollars per fish and he’s got thousands of fish in the tanks at a time. It’s pretty impressive.

    Unfortunately, I sense that the problem some people have with paleo or meat-eating in general is less about the purported environmental impacts and more about being joyless, dried up scolds who revel in human misery and seek to control everyone. 

    • #13
  14. PHenry Member
    PHenry
    @PHenry

    The politics of modern centralized medical research does not allow for the following:

    1. Everyone’s chemistry is different, so what will make one person fat will not make everyone fat, what is unhealthy for one person is not unhealthy for all persons. 
    2. Just because some percentage of people who do X get Y does not mean X causes Y
    3. Just because massive amounts of X can be shown to cause Y does not mean small amounts of X cause Y

    So instead, due to the latest study that appears to show correlation between X and Y, we have our medical and political professionals try to force all people to change their lifestyles to adapt to the latest study result, despite the fact that the results usually are the opposite of the last study and or conventional wisdom.  Like fat/carbohydrates.
    It’s health’care’ by fad, and it is not beneficial.  Just follow the pronouncements on coffee’s harm/ benefits over the last 10 years and you can see that it is all bull.

    • #14
  15. PsychLynne Inactive
    PsychLynne
    @PsychLynne

    I work with a scientist who gets a fair amount of media requests for interviews.  She specializes in physical activity and weight management after cancer, so also deals with nutrition.  She notes that we don’t really know about diet after cancer, but that keeping your weight in a healthy range and eating a balanced diet seems to work well–but we don’t know for sure.  Ironically, the reporters often make the leap of saying “so you’re saying eat mostly vegetables…or vegetarian or low fat”  She often has to correct their biases….so kudos to the WSJ reporter.  Good info getting out there.

    • #15
  16. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    A heavy intake of saturated fats does cause obesity and looking beyond the disease factor, who wants to walk around with a muffin top? Vanity is as sound a reason to watch fat calories as any.

    Taras Bulbous:

     “But…but…Michelle says…”

    I’ve been dying to say this for 6 years and thanks for the opportunity : Michelle- look in the damn mirror. 

    • #16
  17. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Pointing out that Michele is fat is like pointing out that Hitler was not blond. Nobody can hear you!

    • #17
  18. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    iWc:

    Pointing out that Michele is fat is like pointing out that Hitler was not blond. Nobody can hear you!

     That’s ok; it makes this calorie counter feel better to vent. :)

    • #18
  19. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Taras Bulbous:

     Try going on a high fat/moderate protein/low carbohydrate diet, and you might be surprised to see how much weight can be lost with minimal time spent on a treadmill.

     

    I disagree with this; one needs to be on a low fat/high protein diet with grilled/baked/broiled fish and chicken and plenty of steamed vegetables, yams, and salad. Minimal amount of dressing and no sauces, but lemon and lime juice with plenty of spices (I highly recommend Penzey products) are allowed. No bread/rice/potatoes/or other ‘white’ stuff. Avoid butter; use a teaspoon of olive oil instead.

    The best part of this diet is NO portion control. Eat as much as you want.

    • #19
  20. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    EThompson:

    Taras Bulbous:

    Try going on a high fat/moderate protein/low carbohydrate diet, and you might be surprised to see how much weight can be lost with minimal time spent on a treadmill.

    I disagree with this; one needs to be on a low fat/high protein diet with grilled/baked/broiled fish and chicken and plenty of steamed vegetables, yams, and salad. Minimal amount of dressing and no sauces, but lemon and lime juice with plenty of spices (I highly recommend Penzey products) are allowed. No bread/rice/potatoes/or other ‘white’ stuff. Avoid butter; use a teaspoon of olive oil instead.

    The best part of this diet is NO portion control. Eat as much as you want.

     Well, this conversation was entitled diet, science and arrogance.

    • #20
  21. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Southern Pessimist:

    EThompson:

    Taras Bulbous:

    Try going on a high fat/moderate protein/low carbohydrate diet, and you might be surprised to see how much weight can be lost with minimal time spent on a treadmill.

    I disagree with this; one needs to be on a low fat/high protein diet with grilled/baked/broiled fish and chicken and plenty of steamed vegetables, yams, and salad. Minimal amount of dressing and no sauces, but lemon and lime juice with plenty of spices (I highly recommend Penzey products) are allowed. No bread/rice/potatoes/or other ‘white’ stuff. Avoid butter; use a teaspoon of olive oil instead.

    The best part of this diet is NO portion control. Eat as much as you want.

    Well, this conversation was entitled diet, science and arrogance.

    Really? According to your profile, you’re an MD and should know better. 

    • #21
  22. Rocket City Dave Inactive
    Rocket City Dave
    @RocketCityDave

    Albert Arthur:

    GKC: It can serve as a great introduction to conservative concepts — deference to 1000s of years of (dietary) experience of humans, rather than less than 50 years of “research” mostly sponsored by an agenda-backed industry or philosophy.

    I have had the experience of people telling me, “we’re not built to eat meat.”

    No, seriously.

    Look, I have no problem with people choosing to follow certain diets. It’s their choice. It’s nothing to me. Just don’t tell me that humans are not naturally omnivores. All of human history proves you wrong.

     I’ve lost 135 pounds over the last year switching from the well-rounded diet the government recommends to one where I eat 90% meat, 9% cheese/butter and 1% vegetables (mushrooms, pickles, jalapenos, olives). My blood pressure has fallen and my cholesterol is still below 100.

    There’s a lot of human variation and for some of us the well-rounded diet may work. For some of us that government recommended diet is a death sentence if followed.

    • #22
  23. Lee Inactive
    Lee
    @Lee

    EThompson:

    Taras Bulbous:

    Try going on a high fat/moderate protein/low carbohydrate diet, and you might be surprised to see how much weight can be lost with minimal time spent on a treadmill.

    I disagree with this; one needs to be on a low fat/high protein diet with grilled/baked/broiled fish and chicken and plenty of steamed vegetables, yams, and salad. Minimal amount of dressing and no sauces, but lemon and lime juice with plenty of spices (I highly recommend Penzey products) are allowed. No bread/rice/potatoes/or other ‘white’ stuff. Avoid butter; use a teaspoon of olive oil instead.

    The best part of this diet is NO portion control. Eat as much as you want.

    I’m glad it works for you, but the thought of a lifetime of the above makes me want to cry.

    A fairly high fat diet lets me easily manage my blood sugar. It may not be for everyone, but upending the conventional nutritional wisdom made a tremendous difference in my life and health. And besides, I enjoy the subversiveness of frying stuff in pastured pork lard and blending butter into my coffee. It freaks out all the right people.

    • #23
  24. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Rocket City Dave:

     

    I’ve lost 135 pounds over the last year switching from the well-rounded diet the government recommends to one where I eat 90% meat, 9% cheese/butter and 1% vegetables (mushrooms, pickles, jalapenos, olives). My blood pressure has fallen and my cholesterol is still below 100.

     WOW! Congrats!

    • #24
  25. njberejan@gmail.com Inactive
    njberejan@gmail.com
    @TarasBulbous

    Of course, different diets will work for different people. Plenty lose weight eating a “clean” diet such as EThompson describes. For me, it’s not sustainable, because without sugar and without fats, food is so boring. I have been able to lose weight with minimal effort and no calorie counting by allowing myself to fill up more quickly on satiating, delicious fats (often from red meat!) and occasional fruits to satisfy my sweet tooth :)

    One thing we can both agree on, I think, a diet high in processed grains and sugars will make you fat (presuming a modern fairly sedentary lifestyle.) And what is the base of the traditional food pyramid? Grains and sugars.

    • #25
  26. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    skipsul:

    This has led to pushing of products like diet sodas, which are toxic, yet still perceived as being somehow better than regular sodas. Turns out that artificial sweeteners trigger insulin production, so drinking them actually makes you hungry. If you already have problems with insulin resistance (early indicator for Type II diabetes), this is catastrophic, as insulin is itself rather toxic.

    Last I heard, there was no evidence of artificial sweeteners causing insulin production. I agree with eating less carbs, especially mostly pure carbs like french fries, which densely packed with calories while being quickly digested leading to more hunger and more calories. These do cause insulin spikes.

    I also don’t care for the word “toxic” because it’s completely vague. Why is it toxic? How does it compare to the toxicity of everything else we are exposed to on a typical day? What exactly am I increasing my risk of and by how much? It’s a catch all term that claims something is bad for you, usually coupled with words like “artificial” and “unnatural,” because those types of things are obviously going to tend towards “toxicity.”

    Sorry Skip, not meaning to pick on you.

    • #26
  27. user_348375 Inactive
    user_348375
    @TrinityWaters

    For a seriously deep take on these disagreements about fat, protein, etc., read Grain Brain and Wheat Belly.  We changed our diet radically and both feel so much better!. Meat’s back on the menu, boys!  Whole grain is outta here!

    • #27
  28. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    • #28
  29. user_28714 Thatcher
    user_28714
    @BarbaraDuran

    Diet and nutrition comments usually spark so many arguments they make mere political differences look like trifles.  I therefore won’t even try to suggest that others follow my lead, but will just report that I began eating the Atkins/Taubes/Paleo way a dozen years ago — gave up wheat, sugar and most carbs in favor of natural fats — achieved my goal of a 30-pound weight loss in about a year and have kept in off ever since by following the same regimen.  I’m never hungry and we dine very well at our house.  All of my vital signs improved too.  It may not be for everyone, but I’m sold.

    • #29
  30. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    @Mike – had to be brief before, but many artificial sweeteners do seem to trigger insulin production.  I’d have to go back and dig out some old refs on the subject – but here was 1 study on sucralose from last year.  Basically, artificial sweeteners do seem to triggre insulin, which makes you hungrier than you otherwise would be.  Aside from hypoglycemia, there are long term problems.

    There are a number of forms of Type II, my own is insulin resistance*, meaning I don’t metabolise insulin properly.  Excessive insulin can, especially when often repeated, can damage other organs in the body.  Hypoglycemia is just the immediate effect.

    *This field is something of a family obsession since we were all correctly diagnosed about a decade ago.  The so-called “balanced diet” and older diabetic diets were ruinous to my health, and to my sisters, mother, and grandmother.

    • #30
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