Last fall, government health experts admitted their decades-long advice to cut fat from your diet was wrong. All wrong. Then, in February of this year, the government experts made another admission: They were wrong about cholesterol too. They even lifted the longstanding restrictions on so-called “high cholesterol” foods, including perfectly healthy foods like eggs and shellfish.
Well, well, well.
This government committee of health “experts” is finally starting to figure out some important facts. First, there is no relationship between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol. Second, there is no evidence blood cholesterol affects heart disease risk. Third, fat is not the culprit when it comes to heart disease. In fact, the body needs healthy fats.
Of course, the real science on cholesterol and fat has been around for almost four decades. And I’ve been talking about it for decades to anyone who would listen. I’ve also been writing about it over the past three years since we started publishing my Daily Dispatch and monthly Insiders’ Cures newsletter
I spend a lot of time exploring how the government could get it so wrong for so long. It’s worth investigating–unless you already decided to never trust what the government says about anything, ever.
But I like to think of myself as an optimist. Might there be a chance we can get something useful out of the government, given all the billions it forces taxpayers to pay each year for medical research?
I learned the truth about cholesterol and fat in 1976 from my studies in veterinary medicine. But veterinarian scientists first observed the importance of cholesterol and fat in the diet by observing primates (humans’ closest relatives) during the 1950s and 1960s.
By the 1970s, human studies confirmed what little effect high dietary cholesterol has on heart health. And they announced these findings to scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the mid-1980s. I know because I personally witnessed it.
Also in the 1980s, Edward H. Ahrens, Jr., a real scientist at Rockefeller University, prominently criticized the cholesterol and dietary fats doctrine. He warned health authorities, arguing “they were not acting on the basis of scientific evidence, but on the basis of…an untested idea.”
Unfortunately, millions of Americans followed the government’s flawed dietary advice over the next half-century. They cleared their plates of meat, eggs, cheese, liver, and shellfish. And they ate more grains, pasta and starches. They cut fat intake by 25 percent and increased carb intake by more than 30 percent.
But following this flawed advice did far more harm than good. In fact, Americans ended up with skyrocketing rates of obesity, Type II diabetes, and cardiometabolic heart disease.
So, what in the world took these government experts so long to see the truth that’s been uncovered since the 1950s?
Recently, the New York Times–the “paper of record”–covered this incredible government blunder in an Op/Ed piece. (That fact alone proves what a huge story this is. In fact, we used to joke we could sort the important medical discoveries from all the junk, flak and noise that fills the academic research journals by seeing if the story made it into the Times.)
The New York Times, in a predictable effort to find a politically correct answer, said the food industry “muddied the waters” through its lobbying.
But that’s a poor excuse for government failure. (Though, who can tell the difference anymore anyway?)
First, what kind of doctor or scientist substitutes food industry press releases for scientific evidence? Second, I think we all remember some of the food industry “lobbying” from the 1980s and 1990s. The most memorable campaigns (maybe because they were actually true) supported egg and meat consumption.
Remember the “incredible, edible egg” campaign? And who can forget Robert Mitchum’s intonations about “beef–it’s what’s for dinner”? (The traditional folk melody called “Napoleon’s Retreat”–better known as the square dance from Aaron Copeland’s musical suite “Rodeo”–famously accompanied these ads. Perhaps this theme didn’t just represent the retreat of Napoleon, but also the retreat of science, considering beef consumption decreased substantially after these ads first aired.)
The New York Times Op/Ed piece did explain how the government used several flawed studies from Harvard’s School of Public Health in the 1970s and 1980s to justify its poor dietary advice. But if the government experts had done any digging at all, they would have discovered those studies were indeed flawed.
Actually, scientists at Harvard knew they were flawed. In fact, a leading scientist from Harvard told us about the cholesterol/fat myth in that NIH meeting I attended in the early 1980s. I guess the government chose not to listen to that Harvard scientist. In any case, my political bosses at NIH rarely listened to any real science, as I have reported before.
In 2011, the National Institute of Statistical Sciences did finally re-examine Harvard’s key “findings” about the supposed harms of dietary cholesterol and fats. And they could never reproduce these supposed harms in clinical trials on humans.
(Government health experts, please take note: When you can never duplicate a result, it means you can’t trust the initial finding.)
The New York Times piece also pointed out the government’s dietary guideline advisory committee still recommends restricting salt intake. Although the Institute of Medicine now admits salt restriction is unnecessary.
Perhaps this government dietary committee just couldn’t go that far. After all, they now have two huge strikes against them. And you know the old saying, three strikes and you’re out! Frankly, they should have been thrown out decades ago.
This same committee is plodding ahead anyway, also deciding on no real evidence that we should all start eliminating lean meat from the list of recommended healthy food choices. They made this decision based on no evidence at all. (Sound familiar?) And it makes no sense. If we have even fewer protein choices, it will force Americans into eating even more unhealthy carbs–the real killers.
The New York Times speculated that a meatless diet “could be” healthy for all Americans. But to their credit, they warned, “then again it might not be.”
But there’s really no doubt about it. As I’ve reported many times before, studies show most people who don’t eat meat are deficient in B vitamins, vitamin D, and key minerals. Plus, as they get older and eat less meat, they’re deficient in protein and lean muscle mass.
So–perhaps we should forgive the journalists at the New York Times for not knowing more about the human diet and nutrition.
But what about all the “expert” dieticians, doctors, nutritionists, scientists, and assorted government hangers-on who all make a good, full-time living pretending to know it all
What’s their excuse?
Bottom line: Do yourself–and your health–a favor by ignoring all the brain-dead cardiologists, dieticians and nutritionists who still have the audacity or stupidity to warn us about cholesterol, eggs, meat, salt, and saturated fats.
- “The Government’s Bad Diet Advice,” New York Times (nytimes.com) 2/20/2015