It's only fair to share…

Mediterranean diet

A survey has shown that nearly half of American adults believe there are conspiracies in health to cover things up. This sounds crazy but lets reserve judgment for the minute.

Here is something that should concern all of us.  Whilst we hear about the wonders of medical research and how important it is that we give it more funding, not all is well in medical research land.  The following is from The Economist “A recent series of articles in the Lancet noted that, in 2010, about $200 billion (an astonishing 85% of the world’s spending on medical research) was squandered on studies that were flawed in their design, redundant, never published or poorly reported”.

Not everything we do in life will work out so it is to be expected that some research will be useless. And we know that knowledge evolves so what we thought was right last year can be shown not to be right today. But 85% is a high number.

We don’t use leeches in medicine anymore because we know better. Yet the doctor using them in the 17th century was using the best knowledge available at the time.

What matters more is what happens when conventional thinking is proved wrong. Dr John Ioannidis showed previously that between one third and one half of “major” medical findings are not confirmed when retested. If our current ideas are shown to be wrong then we need to cast them aside.

This week another major review has shown that there is NO association between fats in the diet and heart disease. That’s right- none! This is after 40 years of people being told fats are bad and billions spent on medications to lower cholesterol in the blood stream.

A review of over 600,000 people over 18 years found no difference in heart attack rates in people eating a low fat or high fat diet. “My take on this would be that it is not saturated fat that we should worry about” in our diets said Dr Rav Chowdhury of Cambridge University and study lead author.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation — which co-funded the study, said: “This analysis of existing data suggests there isn’t enough evidence to say that a diet rich in polyunsaturated fats but low in saturated fats reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.”

I would add that this is not the first review to demonstrate this. Previous studies on 350,000 people also showed no link between dietary fat and heart disease. And a large prospective study last year confirmed that a Mediterranean type diet is the only one, which reduces heart disease.

Yet some refuse to change their tune. In contrast to the acceptance of facts by the British Heart Foundation, others have a different view. Quoted in the West Australian Robert Grenfell of the Australian Heart Foundation said they maintained that there was a clear link between saturated fat intake increased cholesterol and heart disease.

You can form your own view on this.

The best take on all this came from Dr Frank Hu of Harvard who told the New York Times “The single macronutrient approach is outdated. I think future dietary guidelines will put more and more emphasis on real food rather than giving an absolute upper limit or cutoff point for certain macronutrients”.

In other words- eat real foods and in particular foods that are found in a Mediterranean type diet. You know the ones – fruits vegetables fish nuts, berries a bit of dairy and red meat and for those who like it a bit of red wine. A traditional Japanese diet has similar components.

And of course there is more to health than just diet. So exercise, sleep relaxation and relationships matter too.

With so much research being wrong and health authorities refusing to concede when it is, maybe the conspiracy theorists have a point.