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Melinda Wenner Moyer: The war on fat may be making us sicker

One of the links I got from a reader this morning was to the subject article in The Dallas Morning News. Very worthwhile read, very nice dealing with the science and best of all, wide in scope.

Thirty years ago, America declared war against fat. The inaugural edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published in 1980 and subsequently updated every five years, advised people to steer clear of "too much fat, saturated fat and cholesterol" because of purported ties between fat intake and heart disease. The message has remained essentially the same ever since, with current guidelines recommending that Americans consume less than 10 percent of their daily calories from saturated 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. The foundation for the "fat is bad" mantra comes from the following logic: Since saturated fat is known to increase blood levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol, and people with high LDL cholesterol are more likely to develop heart disease, saturated fat must increase heart disease risk. If A equals B and B equals C, then A must equal C.

And then she goes on to summarize the scientific broad strokes that all add up to a simple conclusion. Lots of stuff there and the implications should be obvious to anyone paying attention.

And in the end?

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.

Better a dead & maimed public than a "confused" one, I guess. Or, more likely, "few researchers want to shake the status quo or risk" pissing off Big Agra & Big Pharma, losing their golden eggs.

If indeed these researchers "know perfectly well what the evidence says" then they’re essentially the equivalent of paid hit men if they allow the genocide to persist unfettered. And who are they for the 2010 guidelines, yet to be published? What are they up to?

Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer and Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt today announced the appointment of 13 nationally recognized experts to serve on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. The Committee members are made up of prominent medical and scientific researchers from universities and scientific institutions across America that are leaders in their field.

Selected for their expertise in dietary intake, human metabolism, behavioral change, and health, the new Committee will advise the Secretaries on any nutritional and dietary revisions necessary to the existing Dietary Guidelines. Following their review of the scientific literature; listening to and receiving public comment; and deliberating in open forums, the Committee will prepare an advisory Report that will be submitted to the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services and used in setting the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The Dietary Guidelines are based on the preponderance of scientific, medical, and related knowledge and inform both the general public and government policy makers on ways to improve the overall health of the American public through proper nutrition. As mandated by Congress, the Dietary Guidelines are reviewed for revision every five years. The administrative responsibility for supporting the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee alternates between Departments. The Department of Agriculture has the administrative lead for the 2010 revision; the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion is the agency within the Department that is leading the effort. The first Committee meeting will be October 30-31, 2008, in Washington, DC.

So given Ms. Moyer’s avalanche of evidence that buries the saturated fat myth miles deep, combined with the statement that "[t]he Dietary Guidelines are based on the preponderance of scientific, medical, and related knowledge," I guess we’ll know soon enough whether the secretaries and their 13 nationally recognized stooges are liars and paid hit men or people with the courage to stand against Big Government, Big Agriculture and Big Parma. And who are the stooge candidates?

Linda V. Van Horn, PhD, RD, LD, (Chair) Professor and Interim Chair, Department of Preventative Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL. […]

Naomi K. Fukagawa, MD, PhD, (Vice Chair) Professor of Medicine and Associate Program Director of the Clinical Research Center, University of Vermont and Fletcher Allen Health Care, Burlington, VT. […]

Cheryl Achterberg, PhD, Dean and Professor, College of Education and Human Ecology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH. […]

Lawrence J. Appel, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine, Epidemiology, and International Health (Human Nutrition), Division of General Internal Medicine, and Director, ProHealth Clinical Research Unit, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, MD. […]

Roger A. Clemens, DrPH, Associate Director, Regulatory Science, and Adjunct Professor, Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Science, The University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA. […]

Miriam E. Nelson, PhD, Director, John Hancock Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition, Tufts University, Boston, MA. […]

Thomas A. Pearson, MD, PhD, MPH, Senior Associate Dean, Clinical Research and Albert D. Kaiser Professor, Department of Community and Preventive Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY. […]

Rafael Pérez-Escamilla, PhD, Professor, Nutritional Sciences and Public Health, University of Connecticut, and Director, Connecticut Center of Excellence for Eliminating Health Disparities among Latinos, Storrs, CT. […]

Xavier Pi-Sunyer, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Chief, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Nutrition, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York, NY. […]

Eric B. Rimm, ScD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA. […]

Joanne L. Slavin, PhD, RD, Professor, Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN. […]

Christine L. Williams, MD, MPH, Vice President and Medical Director Healthy Directions, Inc., and former Professor, Clinical Pediatrics, and Director, Children’s Cardiovascular Health Center, Columbia University, New York, NY.

We’ll have to wait & see but so far the reports I’ve heard are not encouraging and while I’m sure there will be dissenters in the ranks, how they’re judged should be determined by how loud and how long they scream against the prevailing insanity responsible for the maiming and early deaths of millions. This is a serious matter. These people should be held accountable for what they produce. If anyone has any knowledge concerning the direction things are going, please let us know in comments.

At any rate, this is a great mainstream article to have in your arsenal. Pass it around liberally. Hat’s off to Ms. Moyer.

Update: It appears the linked article originally appeared in Slate. I saw that last week and somehow it didn’t grab me like it did this time. At any rate, now there’s two links in case someone you send it to might respond better to one than the other.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

34 Comments

  1. Shara on April 4, 2010 at 18:27

    Great post! I have been passing this around all evening.
    Sometimes it just feels like I losing battle trying to explain this to people though…
    I won’t stop spreading the information though.

  2. ToddBS on April 4, 2010 at 18:46

    This was actually in Slate of all places about a week ago: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2010/03/end_the_war_on_fat.html

    It’s always nice to see mainstream media coming on board something that you believe in. Though, I fear that publicity could also make things worse as the backlash from the establishment might be visited upon us tenfold. It’s a bit like the raw milk debate. Why government feels they need to regulate it is beyond me. It’s almost as if they have classified it as a narcotic or something. I read recently a statement from the FDA (or maybe USDA, not like they’re that different) about the dangers of raw milk consumption. Between 1998 and 2008 raw milk consumption was indicated in about 8 hospitalizations and 2 deaths. In ten years. How many hospitalizations and deaths during that same period happened with foods that the government has regulatory control over? A fair sight more than that.

    • Richard Nikoley on April 4, 2010 at 19:02

      Funny. I saw that but somehow did not take it the same way. Weird. Perhaps format, or maybe just frame of mind and attention cycles.

  3. Lute Nikoley on April 4, 2010 at 19:27

    As for me and my house, we will eat what we
    believe to be real food. I am not going to
    follow the advise of “Grant Whore” and government
    gangsters. My view of people who look to government
    for their nutrition the same as I do those who
    follow fundamentalist Reliligion in following
    men, rather than God. I know exactly what
    the dietary recommendation will be, and all the
    sheeple doctors will follow as sheep to the slaughter.

  4. John Paul on April 4, 2010 at 19:28

    I know a simple good way to gauge the so called “expertise” of the 13 people. Each one of them submit a picture of themselves wearing nothing but their underwear. We will instantly see who has the right “expertise” when it comes to what to eat. I wonder if being healthy is a prerequisite in being chosen as one of the 13 experts? The education is very impressive but credibility is paramount.

    • Richard Nikoley on April 4, 2010 at 19:33

      Not a bad idea at all, John Paul.

    • Theresa on April 4, 2010 at 21:48

      John Paul – an excellent idea, but, a horrific visual if these people all follow CW…

    • Sonagi on April 5, 2010 at 18:52

      No need to see these emperors of dietary wisdom nearly naked. The dieticians and nutritionists who’ve come to speak at our school were all visibly overweight. One very chubby woman with a thick waist that screamed metabolic syndrome told the kids it was okay to eat sugar-sweetened cereal because they were still getting whole grains. My colleague almost had to restrain me from rushing at the woman and screaming, “She’s lying! Don’t listen to her, kids, unless you want to end up looking like her!” Sadly a few of the youngsters in the audience already do.

      • jo on October 2, 2010 at 06:26

        It’s often the case that people major in an area which is in fact their own greatest personal challenge.. Doesn’t add credibility though!



  5. Dave, RN on April 4, 2010 at 20:24

    I think we’re in trouble, folks. Here’s some of the “comments” for the new guidlines:

    “In harmony with the Cancer Guidelines issues by the World Cancer Reserach Fund and the work done by
    Neal Barnard, (Reversing Diabetes) T. Colin Campbell (The China Study) and Caldwell Esselstyn
    (Clevelandclinic on Reversing CHD) and in view of ecological consideration, would it not be wise to take another and more serious look at the advantages of a more plant-food centered low fat diet diet high in vegetables, fruits and legumes? Many of us in the field of epidemiology view the scientific evidence as rather compelling”.
    Dr. Hans Diehl

    And another:

    “It is essential that the Dietary Guidelines address Americans as they are. That is, most Americans are overweight, the vast majority have the beginnings of atherosclerosis, if not fully developed cardiovascular disease, and many have other diet-related health problems, such as hypertension or diabetes. It is a mistake to draft Guidelines as if Americans are healthy and trim. By way of introduction, I am a physician and clinical researcher who studies the clinical effects of nutritional interventions. More and more research shows that low-fat, plant-based diets are most effective for prevention and treatment of chronic diseases that plague our nation. In light of recent publications highlighting the benefits of low-fat vegetarian and vegan diets (see attached), I think that a critically important question in need of an Evidence-based Review by this esteemed committee is, ?What role can low-fat vegetarian and vegan diets play in the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, particularly obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer??
    Thank you,
    Neal Barnard, M.D.

    And that’s just the first two I looked at. More reading revealed more lunacy. They’re so bad, they’d make great fodder for posts about “educated” people making ignorant recommendations.

    I can see where these new guidelines are going to end up. More of the same garbage from our government.

  6. Dave, RN on April 4, 2010 at 20:32

    Oh my God. I’ve read more of the comments. It looks like the public comment board for the new food guidelines is being taken over by vegetarians. It’s all “eat more plant food” and “decrease meat and animal fat intake’ talk.
    We need to spread the word and get us paleo folks making comments.

    • Kent Cowgill on April 5, 2010 at 06:01

      Dave,

      I had clicked through to that as well, and am as disgusted by it as you appear to be. I was really hoping to see at least one in the first handful of comments I viewed that might show someone with at least half a clue. Sadly (but I suppose not surprisingly) I was disappointed 🙁

  7. Melinda Wenner Moyer: The war on fat may be making us sicker … on April 4, 2010 at 20:35

    […] from:  Melinda Wenner Moyer: The war on fat may be making us sicker … Post a […]

  8. sandra on April 4, 2010 at 20:42

    “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.”

    This is infuriating! I was vegan for 2 years and vegetarian for longer as I thought this was a healthy way to eat… I also got breast cancer in my 30’s.

    School food is horrific as has been mentioned here, but it will not get better until these guidlines change…

    What about getting together a petition to send to these folks?

  9. David Brown on April 5, 2010 at 05:47

    I’ve been watching the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee carefully and reading the comments. I haven’t submitted comment yet as I’m waiting to learn what they’ll say about omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The committee on fats is scheduled to discuss omega-3s this month. I anticipate little mention of omega-6s except perhaps to endorse this review: http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000252

    It’s interesting that this particular Committee is taking about two years to revise the Guidelines. There’s been some good added sugars research since the previous revision so perhaps the new Guidelines will shift at least some of the blame for clogged arteries from saturated fat to fructose. Perhaps not.

  10. Hillary on April 5, 2010 at 09:09

    Wow. That was a great article! I thought the author did a good job of clearly laying out how cholesterol works. I really hope people will start taking this to heart. Let’s start cooking our food in lard again instead of “vegetable oil” (corn oil).

    I love how many people think the government is completely full of shit about most things, but take to heart everything the government says about diet. What is it about that?

    • Richard Nikoley on April 5, 2010 at 09:37

      Well Hillary, it goes the other way, too.

      I’m continually frustrated by those who know the gov’t is full of it about diet & health, but wise protectors in all other areas.

      • Hillary on April 5, 2010 at 11:19

        True that. I guess I wonder how so many people can easily question the government’s foreign policy, or health care plan, or social security, but simultaneously take the bogus food pyramid as gospel, when it was created by the same government who mucks up constantly.

        One theory I have is that people believe the fat/cholesterol myth because they think they can “picture” how it works. Like when people think of “clogged arteries” they see something that looks like butter or lard. So to them it just makes sense that butter or lard would “clog” the arteries. I mean, it can clog the sink, right?

        PS – If I hear the phrase “balanced diet” one more time I might seriously lose it. I cannot stand that term.



      • Carla on April 5, 2010 at 12:04

        I agree about the artery clogging imagery, it is counterintuitive to most people. It is hard to think that grainy white sugar or fructose molecules are responsible for extra adipose tissue and serum fat.

        What I tell all my chickavegetarian coworkers (to make it more intuitive) is that the cellular membranes use the saturated fat in your body to repair itself. I would prefer to have my membranes repaired with saturated fat than strange designer oils that just recently entered the human food chain. Its like having a lot of holes in your wall and patching them up with a pictures of brick and drywall instead of brick and drywall, after a while that room is going to be pretty drafty.



      • gallier2 on April 5, 2010 at 14:11

        Tom Naughton had an excellent piece last year on that “clogged sink” image

        http://www.fathead-movie.com/index.php/2009/09/14/bogus-science-is-draining/

        In the comments I made the point that my sink is clogged by rice not by fat.



      • gallier2 on April 5, 2010 at 14:01

        There’s also the fact that the food pyramid is issued by the USDA not by the NIH or FDA. This should give a clue to the bias involved. When one knows how a big organisation works (I know I’m an EU official) know that all work published by that organisation will be in the interest of that organisation (and contrary to the standard libertarian position it makes no difference (or is even worse) if that organisation is private (I’ve also worked several years in the private sector in one of the biggest German corporation (starting with Sie and ending with mens), the modus operandi is the same, the objectives not). So when people say “there are no conspiracies” they should take a better look, it’s how big organisations work. period. (or why would they need calls to more transparency etc.)



      • ToddBS on April 5, 2010 at 15:00

        I too have worked many years (15) for a large corporation. A fortune 500 corporation. I agree that there is little difference between the way a government entity operates and a corporation. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that a corporation – the bastion of capitalism that it is – functions as a socialist state internally. There is actually a growing movement, or I guess maybe just getting more vocal, of anti-corporate libertarians.



  11. Eileen on April 5, 2010 at 09:25

    Now this is making the rounds:

    http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1000252
    (essentially telling us to eat more PUFA to avoid coronary events)

    I’m glad I finally found a source of leaf lard.

  12. Sonagi on April 5, 2010 at 18:43

    War on fat, war on poverty, war on drugs, war against terrorism, war on illegal immigration. Why is that when our government declares war on something, we end up worse for it?

  13. J/G on April 5, 2010 at 19:06

    Please. If anything, I expect the report to somehow officially tie eating animal fat with destroying the environment. That’s hot on the other side lately. Open up another front.

    Was stunned that this piece showed up in Slate, btw.

  14. James on April 5, 2010 at 19:25

    I noticed the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee was chosen by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Ed Schafer, and Mike Leavitt, former Health and Human Services Secretary.

    Mike Leavitt is a politician with a bachelor’s degree in economics and business. Leavitt came under strong criticism in 1998, while Governor of Utah, when he defended polygamy. He was later forced to backpedal and claimed that polygamy should be against the law. He also came under criticism for racking-up $700,000 worth of flight time in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Emergency Response aircraft to promote Medicare while forcing the CDC, during 2 separate emergency occassions, to privately charter a different plane since the CDC’s Emergency Response aircraft was in use for political reasons by Leavitt. There has also been controversy over Leavitt’s family charitable foundation, the Dixie and Anne Leavitt Foundation, which has provided the family with big-time tax write-offs for around $9 million in donated assets, a third of which have been loaned back to Leavitt family businesses.

    Ed Schafer, another politician (former governor of North Dakota) holds a (unkown) bachelor’s degree from the University of North Dakota, and an M.B.A. from the University of Denver. Schafer was in office (Secretary of Agriculture) just a few days when a major scandal concerning cruelty and unsafe food production erupted at the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company, where he took the uncanny position that there was no need for a ban on downed cattle in the food supply. Schafer, who takes his responsibility in promoting big industrial agriculture (an obvious conflict of interest, regarding U.S. dietary recommendations) very seriously, was quoted saying in November, 2008, “America’s agriculture continues a positive growth – a fifth straight year of record crop receipts, historically sound farm asset balance, and the third-highest net cash income over the last 33 years.”

    The result of Schafer & Leavitt’s collective lack of qualifications regarding nutrition, controversial political/business practices and conflicts of interest was to put together a Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee completely void of even one individual representing “lower-starch/sugar” research experts, despite the fact that several prominent starch/sugar-aware researchers/practitioners were nominated. These nominations included Eric C. Westman, M.D., M.H.S from Duke University, Mary C. Vernon, M.D. from The University of Kansas, Richard D. Feinman, Ph.D. from SUNY Downstate, Stephen Phinney, M.D. from The University of California-Davis, and Jeff S. Volek, Ph.D. from The University of Connecticut.

    These outstanding folks were rejected.

    Expect nothing but more recommendations to eat more of the the heavily subsidized, high-starch foods that have become so profitable for big industrial agriculture and, indirectly, the pharmaceutical industry, who makes billions treating the symptoms of eating a diet high in sugar, starch, and high fructose corn syrup.

    • Lute Nikoley on April 5, 2010 at 20:51

      Just exactly what makes these people any better than the Nazis of WWII? I am sure that the policies of this government are responsible for more deaths than Hitler, Stalin and Mao combined.

      • James on April 6, 2010 at 07:52

        The Nazis didn’t lose the war.
        They just had to move.



  15. Aaron Curl on April 5, 2010 at 19:28

    It wasn’t until I lost 60 pounds eating paleo did I start doubting the governments agenda. People who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk should not be trusted. I now believe in conspiracy theories.

  16. Dave, RN on April 6, 2010 at 10:33

    An unhealthy population that’s dependent on the government to do and think for them is much easier to control.

  17. Ellen on April 6, 2010 at 16:53

    Excellent article! Thanks for pointing it out. I am blown away by the idea that a “simple,” and “targeted” message could be more important than a correct one! How can anyone who knows the guidelines ought to be changed not change them?? I’m keeping my fingers crossed that someone will have the gumption to speak up and challenge the status quo. With high-fructose corn syrup replacing fat in thousands of processed “diet” foods, it’s going to have to be a brave person. Supermarket shelves would look very different under new guidelines!

  18. mehitabel on April 6, 2010 at 21:33

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

    “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall….”

  19. 04/07/10 – Endurance Training on April 6, 2010 at 22:13

    […] The war on fat may be making us sicker – Free The Animal Brian is sporting a pretty sick OHS […]

  20. Jeanne Shepard on April 7, 2010 at 05:28

    I was contacted by a NYTimes reporter who is doing an article about this, and he contacted me because he read the comments and noted that I was concerned about industry pressure (big agra).
    I hope this concern gets expressed in his article.

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