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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.