Culture

New Study Concludes Government Fat Guidelines Based on Poor Science

Photo from Flickr, by "Alpha"

It seems that every week we hear of a new study that tells us something completely different from the study before. One week eggs are harmful. The next, they’re all but the elixir of life. A week later, they might as well be cyanide. It’s difficult to keep up.

One constant has been that eating too much dietary fat is bad for your health. In fact, one could call it a scientific consensus.

However, one of the great things about science is that everything is supposed to be questioned, including the accepted notion that dietary fat is bad for you. In fact, Legal Insurrection reports on one study that did and found that fat may not be the poison we’ve been led to believe.

Publishing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Dr Zoë Harcombe of the Institute of Clinical Exercise and Health Science of the University of the West of Scotland researched both the origins and the results of following the dietary fat guidelines that have prevailed in the US and the United Kingdom for almost 40 years. The evidence provides no support for the assertion that low-fat diets are healthier, especially as the incidences of obesity and diabetes have escalated dramatically during the same four decades of the guidelines’ implementation.

Until the introduction of dietary guidelines in 1977, the view of Tanner, from the Practice of Medicine, prevailed “Farinaceous and vegetable foods are fattening, and saccharine matters are especially so” …. In 1960, 13.3% of US adults were obese; 44.8% were overweight. By 2007, 34.7% of US adults were obese; 67.7% were overweight.68 In the UK, in 1972, 2.7% of men and 2.7% of women were obese and 23.0% of men and 13.9% of women were overweight. By 1999, obesity rates had risen to 22.6% of men and 25.8% of women, while 49.2% of men and 36.3% of women were overweight.69 (Health was devolved in the UK in 1999 to the regions of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and thus UK statistics terminated).

The diabetes rate was 2.4% in 1976 in the USA. The introduction to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans reported that 24 million Americans, almost 11% of the adult population, were diabetic and 78 million Americans, 35% of the adults, were pre-diabetic.71 This has recently been updated to 29 million diabetics and 86 million pre-diabetics. A recent review in the Lancet estimated that the lifetime risk for developing diabetes was 40.2% for American men and 39.6% for women. There were 800 000 people with diabetes in the UK in 1980, from a population of 56 million—an incident rate of 1.42%. The diabetes rate in the UK in 2015 was 6.1%.75 The incident rate of diabetes, both in the USA and the UK, has increased more than fourfold since the dietary fat guidelines were introduced.

Harcombe found that carbohydrates were a far more pressing problem than dietary fat for combating diabetes. Additionally, the success so many people have enjoyed losing weight on low carb diets makes it almost indisputable that fat has less of a role in obesity as well.

As LI points out, so many government dietary shibboleths have come crashing down that it’s probably a good idea to just ignore whatever Uncle Sam trots out next as the way to eat.