How can I say “death by expert advice”? In recent decades the diet “dictocrats” (e.g. the government, doctor groups, institutions such as disease-specific charities and well-meaning consumer groups) encouraged the population to avoid dietary fats. The “experts” even warned us about eggs which I consider a near perfect food. Folks turned instead to carbs (most of them refined junk). The effect of that unfortunate advice (which was not based on science) was an epidemic of obesity, diabetes and increased risk for heart disease and cancer. We have literally been experiencing death by expert advice.
The 2015 official government-backed Dietary Guidelines do contain some good advice–e.g. to cut down on intake of sugar. The guideline “gurus” have softened their position on eggs somewhat and are slowly backing away from condemning fat in general. But, they have hung onto biases in favor of restricting salt and saturated fat. However, there are glimmers of hope that we are headed toward a more rational and historically defensible diet.
There never has been good science showing a link between saturated fat intake and heart disease. Likewise, there has not been strong evidence that saturated fat raises blood cholesterol levels. (For that matter, there isn’t even good support for the practice of lowering blood cholesterol as primary prevention of heart disease.) Now a study of 35,000 Dutch citizens actually turns the saturated fat edict on its head. I like the way People’s Pharmacy (PP) summed up the results on their website: “The [study] authors concluded that people who consumed high amounts of saturated fat were not at a greater risk for coronary artery disease. In fact, those who ate more foods containing saturated fatty acids were actually LESS likely to develop clogged coronary arteries. If people consumed highly processed high-carb foods instead of eating saturated fat, their risk of heart disease climbed significantly.” [I added the bold and caps.] Read the short PP article. Of course, this news doesn’t give us license to pig out on junk food because it often contains sugar and chemicals in addition to the butter or other saturated fat.
I have often wondered where the government’s Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee gets the information that it bases its recommendations on. Well, apparently so did diligent Mayo Clinic Researcher Edward Archer, PhD, MS (article one and article two). Here is my summary of what he found:
- The Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (SR2015) was based on studies that simply asked people in interviews and surveys what foods they had eaten.
- Science has not proved that gathering information from people’s memory is reliable. In fact, most evidence seems to say exactly the opposite. Using 2 independent methods Dr. Archer showed that in a major study that is often used as a reference for guidelines (the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey or NHANES) up to 88% of the calorie intake estimates appeared to not be plausible or even capable of sustaining life.
- The way some of these study inquiries are structured actually encourages people to recall intake incorrectly.
- There is no way to independently cross check or duplicate the results of that kind of investigation. That means the method isn’t considered science.
- Also, the physical activity component was not adequately addressed.
- In a letter, Dr. Archer stated his belief that making public policy based on conclusions from the shaky recall method is “a scientific fraud and a waste of taxpayer funding”.
It could be worse. Because people change behavior based on these official guidelines they can actually result in death by expert advice. Even if you and I know better than to follow errant advice contained in them, a wide variety of public policies reflect them…including food labeling laws, school lunches and subsidies of many kinds. I wish our presidential candidates could be persuaded to discuss this type of high-impact issue instead of the nonsense currently being “debated”.