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. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    skipsul:

    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.

     May I ask how you were diagnosed? Was it with a glucose load test? How much did your numbers raise after? I’m concerned about developing it sometime in the future. What does your diet look like now?

    • #31
  2. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Mike H:  May I ask how you were diagnosed? Was it with a glucose load test? How much did your numbers raise after? I’m concerned about developing it sometime in the future. What does your diet look like now?

     Glucose load test, but it was easy for my endocrinologist to pin as both of my sisters, mother, and grandmother had already been pegged, and my other symptoms were similar.  

    I’m OK if I stay away from carbs, stick to lean proteins and some fats (all the butter I want, eggs for breakfast, unsweetened peanut butter, etc).  My daily limit is about 20g of carbs a day from any source.  Artificial sweeteners do cause drops in my readings, and the sugar-alcohols often used in “diabetic” foods cause blood sugar swings and horrendous other effects I won’t detail here (maltitol and its variations esp.).  

    One sister has gone radical paleo and done wonders.  The other sister has been in denial and suffers for it. 

    • #32
  3. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    skipsul:

    Mike H: May I ask how you were diagnosed? Was it with a glucose load test? How much did your numbers raise after? I’m concerned about developing it sometime in the future. What does your diet look like now?

    Glucose load test, but it was easy for my endocrinologist to pin as both of my sisters, mother, and grandmother had already been pegged, and my other symptoms were similar.

    I’m OK if I stay away from carbs, stick to lean proteins and some fats (all the butter I want, eggs for breakfast, unsweetened peanut butter, etc). My daily limit is about 20g of carbs a day from any source. Artificial sweeteners do cause drops in my readings, and the sugar-alcohols often used in “diabetic” foods cause blood sugar swings and horrendous other effects I won’t detail here (maltitol and its variations esp.).

    One sister has gone radical paleo and done wonders. The other sister has been in denial and suffers for it.

     20g of carbs?! Do you eat vegetables? No beans, nuts?

    • #33
  4. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Mike H: 20g of carbs?! Do you eat vegetables? No beans, nuts?

     Some nuts, only certain veggies.  Root veggies are high in carbs.  Beans and I don’t work well together.

    • #34
  5. Frozen Chosen Inactive
    Frozen Chosen
    @FrozenChosen

    Eating well is not just about weight loss – it’s about avoiding cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure.  Atkins/South Beach/Paleo diets may help you lose weight but good luck avoiding long term health problems.

    If you want to be healthy you need to eat nutrient-dense foods – you need to Eat to Live

    • #35
  6. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    I live by the theory that happiness is stored in the belly.

    ;-)

    • #36
  7. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

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

    @Lee: I surely didn’t mean to make you cry! :)
    Just for the record I don’t approve of vegan or vegetarian diets (nor does my doctor) but after decades of eating “clean” proteins and vegetables, this gal born and raised on fried chicken, rice and gravy and a stick of butter served with cornbread (!) has truly grown to appreciate the taste of food in its natural state. Naturally, I generally don’t like French cuisine, but love Spanish (paella) and Japanese (sashimi). As for less exotic foods, olive oil and good spices certainly help to make them not only palatable but very satisfying.

    • #37
  8. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Frozen Chosen: Atkins/South Beach/Paleo diets may help you lose weight but good luck avoiding long term health problems.

     For many people, these diets see long-term decreases in blood cholesterol & blood pressure, the key factors in heart disease.  

    Cancers are another issue, and environment and heredity play huge roles there.

    I’d rather take my chances of cancer in my 60s or 70s by low-carbing it now, than taking the “balanced diet” approach and being dead of a stroke by 50 like my uncle (who had the same metabolic heredity as me).

    • #38
  9. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Misthiocracy:

    I live by the theory that happiness is stored in the belly.

    ;-)

     That’s because you’re a guy! I propose the next nutritional topic be about: The Evils of Sodium.

    Bueller? Anyone?

    • #39
  10. Lee Inactive
    Lee
    @Lee

    EThompson:

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

    @Lee: I surely didn’t mean to make you cry! :) Just for the record I don’t approve of vegan or vegetarian diets (nor does my doctor) but after decades of eating “clean” proteins and vegetables, this gal born and raised on fried chicken, rice and gravy and a stick of butter served with cornbread (!) has truly grown to appreciate the taste of food in its natural state. Naturally, I generally don’t like French cuisine, but love Spanish (paella) and Japanese (sashimi). As for less exotic foods, olive oil and good spices certainly help to make them not only palatable but very satisfying.

    Nothing wrong with simply prepared food, it was the advice to “avoid butter” and the lack of beef, lamb and pate that made me sniffle. ;-)

    • #40
  11. user_28714 Thatcher
    user_28714
    @BarbaraDuran

    Frozen Chosen: Atkins/South Beach/Paleo diets may help you lose weight but good luck avoiding long term health problems.

     What sources of evidence do you have for that, FC?  A low carbohydrate paleo diet IS composed of nutrient-dense foods.  Living on meat, fish, eggs, cheese, salads, berries and cruciferous vegetables certainly seems nutrient dense to me.

    • #41
  12. Frozen Chosen Inactive
    Frozen Chosen
    @FrozenChosen

    Barbara,  I’m not a nutrition scientist but from what I’ve read meat is not nutrient dense and can have negative long term health consequences.  See here

    I’m not vegan or vegetarian but I am cutting way back on the amount of meat I eat, including chicken and fish.  There are better sources of protein available.

    • #42
  13. neutral observer Thatcher
    neutral observer
    @neutralobserver

    The most interesting diet advice I ever heard (and I wish I could remember where I heard it) is:

    Eat real food
    Not too much
    Mostly plants

    What has worked best for me is eating small portions of highly satisfying food.  Avoids the ‘Snackwell Effect’ and keeps the cravings down.

    • #43
  14. Frozen Chosen Inactive
    Frozen Chosen
    @FrozenChosen

    EThompson:

    Misthiocracy:

    I live by the theory that happiness is stored in the belly.

    ;-)

    That’s because you’re a guy! I propose the next nutritional topic be about: The Evils of Sodium.

    Bueller? Anyone?

     I’m with you on the evils of salt, ET.  I’m cutting way back on the salt in my diet so I don’t stroke out when I’m 60.

    • #44
  15. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    I have pretty much tuned out “the experts” when it comes to diet.  The reason is that every other year, it seems a new study is published that says “The old study was wrong, eating batter-fried bacon is actually good for you.”  How many times have the medical “experts” changed theirs minds about:

    Coffee
    Red wine
    Salt
    Fats
    Exercise

    So, I follow Neutral Observer’s advice, with slight modifications:

    Drink real beer
    Not too much (except during football season)
    Mostly vegetable toppings on the pizza (gotta have pepperoni, though)

    • #45
  16. Ontheleftcoast Inactive
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Google scholar: search terms insulin, artificial sweetener

    Tissue culture system: Sodium saccharin (1.0–10.0 mM), sodium cyclamate (5.0–10.0 mM), stevioside (1.0 mM) and acesulfame-K (1.0–15.0 mM), all of which display a bitter taste, augmented insulin release from islets incubated in the presence of 7.0 mM d-glucose.

    Sucralose didn’t.

    On the other hand, the stevia glycosides also seem to increase insulin sensitivity.

    • #46
  17. Ontheleftcoast Inactive
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    The issue with meat is that without LOTS of greens and some starches you get undesirable gut flora. 

    Just remember, our paleolithic ancestors didn’t just eat muscle meat. Or mammals. Or vertebrates. Or every day.

    Almost certainly some genetic terrain that makes some diets better for some folks, too.

    • #47
  18. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    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.

     Late responding as usual. I am indeed an MD. I studied science and diets but majored in arrogance. Lighten up, the science of nutrition is far less settled than climate science and we all know how solid that field is.

    • #48
  19. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Southern Pessimist: Lighten up, the science of nutrition is far less settled than climate science and we all know how solid that field is.

     Ooo!  Does this mean that there’s still hope I can live a healthy life solely on Entenmens Donuts?  Please say yes!  I miss those so.

    • #49
  20. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    skipsul:

    Southern Pessimist: Lighten up, the science of nutrition is far less settled than climate science and we all know how solid that field is.

    Ooo! Does this mean that there’s still hope I can live a healthy life solely on Entenmens Donuts? Please say yes! I miss those so.

     I am sure it will be a good life but maybe not so long. There will be a scientific study someday that proves that longevity is overrated anyway.

    • #50
  21. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Southern Pessimist:

    skipsul:

    Southern Pessimist: Lighten up, the science of nutrition is far less settled than climate science and we all know how solid that field is.

    Ooo! Does this mean that there’s still hope I can live a healthy life solely on Entenmens Donuts? Please say yes! I miss those so.

    I am sure it will be a good life but maybe not so long. There will be a scientific study someday that proves that longevity is overrated anyway.

     I’ll take what I can get.

    • #51
  22. user_56871 Thatcher
    user_56871
    @TheScarecrow

    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.

    If X is “continue to insist that saturated fat causes heart disease”  and Y is “pocket HUGE fees for licensing your “Heart Healthy” sticker”, then with the American Heart Association X and Y are always correlated.

    • #52
  23. Lee Inactive
    Lee
    @Lee

    Southern Pessimist:

    There will be a scientific study someday that proves that longevity is overrated anyway.

    I think that study will appear right about the time Medicare runs out of money to take care of the Baby Boomers.

    • #53
  24. captainpower Inactive
    captainpower
    @captainpower

    Lee:

    Southern Pessimist:

    There will be a scientific study someday that proves that longevity is overrated anyway.

    I think that study will appear right about the time Medicare runs out of money to take care of the Baby Boomers.

    Who wants to live forever?

    http://youtu.be/d6w97LL4j2g 

    • #54
  25. Frozen Chosen Inactive
    Frozen Chosen
    @FrozenChosen

    captainpower:

    Lee:

    Southern Pessimist:

    There will be a scientific study someday that proves that longevity is overrated anyway.

    I think that study will appear right about the time Medicare runs out of money to take care of the Baby Boomers.

    Who wants to live forever?

     Not Freddy Mercury, that’s for sure

    • #55
  26. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    captainpower:

    Lee:

    Southern Pessimist:

    There will be a scientific study someday that proves that longevity is overrated anyway.

    I think that study will appear right about the time Medicare runs out of money to take care of the Baby Boomers.

    Who wants to live forever?

    Frozen Chosen:

    captainpower:

    Lee:

    Southern Pessimist:

    There will be a scientific study someday that proves that longevity is overrated anyway.

    I think that study will appear right about the time Medicare runs out of money to take care of the Baby Boomers.

    Who wants to live forever?

    Not Freddy Mercury, that’s for sure

     Kudos to captainpower who seems appropriately named. Every conversation on this site should end with, or at least include, a classic rock anthem. And that was a good one.

    • #56
  27. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Who wants to live forever?

    I surely don’t because my classic anthem is Frank’s Sinatra My Way. :)

    • #57
  28. user_44643 Inactive
    user_44643
    @MikeLaRoche

    I love red meat and fine cigars, and I certainly don’t want to live forever.

    • #58
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