For decades, the accepted science claimed diets lower in fat and higher in carbohydrates are healthier. When Robert Atkins published his Diet Revolution in 1972, he received condemnation. The American Medical Association even called it a “bizarre regimen.” Because of that, any research into Atkins’ claims was considered in “the realm of unscientific fantasy.”
What blew my mind was when Taubes stated little scientific evidence existed that diets high in fat contribute to heart disease, obesity, or Type 2 diabetes. The push for a diet low in fat is based more in politics than science.
In his 2002 article in the New York Times, “What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie,” Taubes wrote,
It was Ancel Keys, paradoxically, who introduced the low-fat-is-good-health dogma in the 50s with his theory that dietary fat raises cholesterol levels and gives you heart disease. Over the next two decades, however, the scientific evidence supporting this theory remained stubbornly ambiguous. The case was eventually settled not by new science but by politics. It began in January 1977, when a Senate committee led by George McGovern published its ”Dietary Goals for the United States,” advising that Americans significantly curb their fat intake to abate an epidemic of ”killer diseases” supposedly sweeping the country. It peaked in late 1984, when the National Institutes of Health officially recommended that all Americans over the age of 2 eat less fat. By that time, fat had become ”this greasy killer” in the memorable words of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and the model American breakfast of eggs and bacon was well on its way to becoming a bowl of Special K with low-fat milk, a glass of orange juice and toast, hold the butter — a dubious feast of refined carbohydrates.
In the intervening years, the N.I.H. spent several hundred million dollars trying to demonstrate a connection between eating fat and getting heart disease and, despite what we might think, it failed. Five major studies revealed no such link. A sixth, however, costing well over $100 million alone, concluded that reducing cholesterol by drug therapy could prevent heart disease. The N.I.H. administrators then made a leap of faith. Basil Rifkind, who oversaw the relevant trials for the N.I.H., described their logic this way: they had failed to demonstrate at great expense that eating less fat had any health benefits. But if a cholesterol-lowering drug could prevent heart attacks, then a low-fat, cholesterol-lowering diet should do the same. ”It’s an imperfect world,” Rifkind told me. ”The data that would be definitive is ungettable, so you do your best with what is available.”
Some of the best scientists disagreed with this low-fat logic, suggesting that good science was incompatible with such leaps of faith, but they were effectively ignored.
Taubes noted a paradigm shift in nutrition science. Today more scientific evidence showed diets with enriched carbohydrates and refined sugars caused heart disease, obseity, and Type 2 diabetes.
As I listened to this, I thought about that scale.
I thought about my mother and father, who both have heart disease.
I thought about my father and my brother, who both have Type 2 diabetes.
I pulled out my ear buds and turned to my wife:
“I’m going back on the protein diet.”