We are constantly told that medicine is based on scientific evidence. This chorus is never louder than when professors, academics and health authorities seek to disparage as “unscientific” anything that they don’t like or which challenges their particular view of the world.
This was seen in full flight with the attack on Dr. Oz in the US last week, I don’t agree with all his ideas but so what? Among his academic critics was a doctor who had been to jail for defrauding Medicaid and another who consults to GMO companies. The fact that Oz is calling for labeling of GMO foods (which I agree with) is thought to be behind the attack.
You might expect then that major recommendations about health and diet would be rigorously tested and assessed before being promoted to the public. This would apply even more when the recommendations lead to a major change in people’s dietary behaviour. And it would be consistent with the screams by these same academics and public health figures for “evidence based” or “scientific” medicine.
Sadly you would be wrong. An absolutely damning review published in February in the BMJ finds that the introduction of low fat guidelines in dietary recommendations in the USA and UK (this applies in other countries like Australia too) had absolutely NO basis.
Let me repeat this. There was never any scientific basis to recommend a low fat diet. To quote the researchers; “Dietary recommendations were introduced for 220 million US and 56 million citizens in then UK in 1983, in the absence of supporting evidence from randomised control trials”.
The best they could muster were studies on 2647 males where one group had lower cholesterol. But, and it is a big but, there was no difference in rates of heart disease or all cause mortality between the lower and higher cholesterol groups.
Another study in the 1970’s, which became very influential showed a reduction in cholesterol levels in one group of men eating a low fat diet. Yet this same group had a high death rate. The total numbers were small but the low cholesterol was latched onto by the true believers in the fat is bad mantra and brigade and the study was used as a basis to promote the low fat diet fad.
More then 30 years later the truth is finally emerging from the shadows.
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee in the US announced earlier this year that it was dropping it’s warning about dietary cholesterol, which was no longer “a nutrient of concern”.
So after years of being harangued about butter, cheese and meat to name but three, we find out that the “experts” had no basis for their claims. A low fat diet makes no difference. In fact it is actually worse – but that is another whole article.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for a mea culpa from public health authorities or government health departments. They will either ignore this or seek to spin it somehow.
The take home message is the low fat fad is now over. Dietary advice from “authorities” is in my view permanently tarnished. Rather than ask authorities, we should ask our grandparents about what they ate when they were young. It was real, not manufactured food. It was cooked on the day it was eaten. It went off if not eaten in a few days. It did not have labels or ticks on boxes.
These simple guidelines are easy and free. Follow them.