More Unintended Consequences

Mostly because I’m trained in “The Sciences” I’m very sensitive to overreaching by anyone involved with research, and especially to claims that sound like certainty to the general public.  Global warming is just one of those topics where the good ol’ John Q. thinks that some unidentifiable scientist (the ‘they’ in “they say that…”) knows what he’s talking about.  Nutrition is another.

Found an article online that actually calls out some of these claims a myths, and found it in the most unlikely of places, the N.Y. Times:

Last winter came the news that a low-fat diet, long believed to protect against breast cancer, may do no such thing — this from the monumental, federally financed Women’s Health Initiative, which has also found no link between a low-fat diet and rates of coronary disease. The year before we learned that dietary fiber might not, as we had been confidently told, help prevent colon cancer. Just last fall two prestigious studies on omega-3 fats published at the same time presented us with strikingly different conclusions.

The writer, Michael Pollan, goes on to explain the reasons for this:

The story of how the most basic questions about what to eat ever got so complicated reveals a great deal about the institutional imperatives of the food industry, nutritional science and — ahem — journalism, three parties that stand to gain much from widespread confusion surrounding what is, after all, the most elemental question an omnivore confronts. Humans deciding what to eat without expert help — something they have been doing with notable success since coming down out of the trees — is seriously unprofitable if you’re a food company, distinctly risky if you’re a nutritionist and just plain boring if you’re a newspaper editor or journalist.

Well, that’s not conclusive, perhaps.  But it does make more than a little sense.

Thirty years ago the McGovern Select Senate Committee on Nutrition came out with its famous recommendations to reduce our intake of saturated fats.  The results is demonstrably an obesity epidemic in this country.  Pollan’s recommendations; eat food.  Eat foods that your grandmother would recognize as foods.  Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number (those are signs that what your looking at is heavily processed).  There’s more advice, but the big one is still, eat less.

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