THINGS ARE HAPPENING FAST

A spate of articles have come out about changes in the attitude toward low-fat verses low-carb diets and their impact on health.

This one http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/02/AR2010030202091.html from the Washington Post, titled, Atkins diet’s return reflects idea that saturated fat shouldn’t be demonized by Jennifer LaRue Huget, cites two recent studies reported in the March issue of The Journal of Clinical Nutrition, from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. The first found no evidence that saturated fat intake was associated with a greater risk for cardiovascular or coronary heart disease, and the second suggested that carbohydrates and being overweight are the “true culprits.” Ms. Huget says, “…the latest science has many experts reconsidering saturated fat.”

The first study http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/91/3/535 reaches the conclusion that: “…there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD….”

The second study http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/91/3/502 ends with this statement, “…dietary efforts to improve the increasing burden of CVD risk associated with atherogenic dyslipidemia should primarily emphasize the limitation of refined carbohydrate intakes and a reduction in excess adiposity.”

Another article, End the War on Fat; It Could Be Making Us Sicker, by Melinda Wenner Moyer, was posted on Slate.com: http://www.slate.com/id/2248754/. The illustration that accompanies the story shows a fat Uncle Sam chowing down on potato chips. Ms. Moyer says: “Thirty years ago, America declared war against fat.…But heart disease continues to devastate the country, and, as you may have noticed, we certainly haven’t gotten any thinner. Ultimately, that’s because fat should never have been our enemy. The big question is whether the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, due out at the end of the year, will finally announce retreat.”

But to me, the most astonishing change is reflected in the April issue of Cooking Light Magazine, that bastion of low-fat, “healthy” eating. They are now saying that it is OK to eat chicken WITH THE SKIN ON and even to eat fried foods occasionally! The magazine’s new editor, Scott Mowbray, announced his “new rules for healthy eating” in the January/February issue. Mowbray says he wants to “generate dialogue and discussion” about the “changing science” that guides our understanding of nutrition. Although the magazine hasn’t changed its position that some sugar is fine (and a chocolate cake on the cover certainly sells magazines), they now say that eggs don’t raise your blood cholesterol, that saturated fats may help balance “good” and “bad” cholesterol, and that adding salt to vegetables can help retain nutrients lost in the cooking process.

Dietitian Lona Sandon responded for the American Dietetic Association with a surprisingly frank admission that the danger for nutrition experts is in appearing to deliver conflicting messages. “It’s confusing, and people get aggravated” when they hear inconsistent nutrition information. “They throw their hands up and say, ‘I won’t listen to anyone.'”

Ms. Moyer (Slate article above) agrees with that assessment: “Will this new research on fat and carbs be reflected in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines? According to Meir Stampfer, a Harvard professor of nutrition and epidemiology who worked on the 2000 guidelines, scientists on this year’s committee know perfectly well what the evidence says. But few researchers want to shake the status quo or risk confusing the public. Robert Post, deputy director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, admits that when it comes to nutritional recommendations, ‘…simple messages, few messages, targeted messages, are very important.’ Ultimately, then, policymakers have to choose between keeping the message consistent and actually getting it right.”

What they fail to realize is that the refusal to change their advice to match emerging science is already undermining their credibility. The public would be far more likely to support them if they would acknowledge the existing science. There is no disgrace in changing your mind when the evidence changes. Refusing to alter your position when you know it is wrong is indefensible.

© 2010, Judy Barnes Baker

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