More from the “settled science” file. A global scientific consensus backed by heavy-handed government action has been telling you what to eat for decades. They were wrong. The obesity epidemic is the result. — RDM

by Matt Ridley
April 22, 2016

I live on a dairy farm. I love full-fat milk, butter and, above all, double cream. As a child I drank milk unpasteurized, straight from the cow — and I grew to be almost 6ft 6in, so it cannot have been all bad.

Nonetheless, I believed fat was bad for me because the medical establishment said so again and again. From time to time I made ineffectual efforts to take up margarine and even that watery stuff they call skimmed milk.

But cream remains a guilty pleasure.

I assumed that behind the advice to cut out the cream lay hard evidence from well-controlled trials.  Yet it turns out I have often been lied to by the diet police over the years.

There is no evidence that dietary fat is a big cause of heart disease, or obesity — and we have actually had the facts on this for decades.

It’s a shocking miscarriage of scientific justice.

Professor Christopher Ramsden, of the US National Institutes of Health, has gone back and re-analyzed a randomized controlled trial from 45 years ago in Minnesota that was never published fully.

It showed that people who switched from butter to vegetable oils were at ahigher — not lower — risk of death.

In the trial, 9,423 patients in mental hospitals and a nursing home were fed on diets containing either meat, butter and shortening, or corn oil rich in polyunsaturated fats. The scientists who organized the trial expected the corn-oil eaters to survive better, but after more than four years it was the fat eaters who were more likely to be still living.

So inconvenient was this finding that the scientists who did the study took 16 years to publish it and then concealed their results in caveats.

Only now are we able to learn the full truth.

Prof. Ramsden finds much the same is true for other studies that used randomized controlled trials (the gold standard of medical proof). There is zero evidence that vegetable oils can prevent heart disease and only a small hint that cutting out all fats from the diet can help — albeit bringing other risks.

This is just the latest of many strikes against the butter bashers and cream critics.

The whole theory that saturated fats from animals cause heart disease by upping cholesterol is as full of holes as a Swiss cheese.

It always has been, we can now see.  Right from the start, in the 1950s, those laying the blame on diet for the epidemic of heart disease got it wrong.

The scientist who championed the fat theory, Ancel Keys, was a political bully who ostracized and silenced his critics, while basing his argument on a flawed study of seven selected countries, which left out countries such as France that inconveniently had high-fat diets and low levels of heart disease.

Even then, his results only produced a weak correlation.

Journalist Nina Teicholz, in her book The Big Fat Surprise, documents how the anti-fat fanatics reviewed each other’s papers, funded each other’s projects and drove the doubters out of dietary science.

The vegetable oil industry poured money into the American Heart Association, which became a powerful lobby for the message that saturated fats were bad.  The American government first issued low-fat diet guidelines in 1978 and Britain soon followed suit.

Heart disease has declined but that’s largely because of the decline in smoking. Meanwhile, obesity and diabetes increased, largely because we switched to eating more carbohydrates, especially sugar, which make us hungrier.

Lately, scientists are performing a screeching U-turn on dietary advice, away from demonizing fats and towards demonizing carbohydrates. In the case of obesity, they cannot quite bring themselves to admit it. They want to tell us not to eat sugars, yet they won’t exonerate fat.

This is typical in science. When paradigms break, you rarely hear scientists say: “We were wrong.” They tiptoe away from their previous position, while politicking and jealousy keeps heretic researchers off the key committees.

This is overtly true in the world of dietary science, where Teicholz and diet critic Gary Taubes are still treated as pariahs, even as more and more scientists quietly adopt their position.

This month, Teicholz was disinvited at the insistence of fellow speakers from a slot speaking at America’s National Food Policy conference. They don’t want her argument heard that too many scientific findings are being systematically ignored in the US Dietary Guidelines, which still recommend replacing fat with carbohydrates.

In the science behind food advice it is mad simply to put both sugar and fat in the “bad” category. The shelves of supermarkets are still groaning with low-fat foods; the websites of diet preachers are still calling for people to eat less saturated fat as well as less sugar. Fast food, so hated by the kale-and-quinoa crowd, is often described as full of “fat and sugar.”

Yet the science is now crystal clear that eating lots of fat is actually less likely to make you fat than eating lots of carbohydrates. There is a good physiological reason for this.

The pancreas reacts to high levels of glucose in the blood by secreting more insulin to regulate the blood glucose level. Insulin encourages the body to burn sugar rather than fat for energy. But insulin also orders fat cells to accumulate fat (made from sugar in the liver) for later use. So the more sugar you eat, the more fat gets laid down and the less gets burnt off.

So the anti-fat message remains entrenched.  The World Health Organization still tells us to “shift fat consumption away from saturated fats to unsaturated fats.”  In New York, Nina reports that children are not even allowed to bring full-fat milk to school.

The American Heart Association still insists on claiming that “eating foods containing saturated fats…(will) increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.”

The AMA is wrong.  It has been paid by the vegetable oil industry for decades to say this. Eat butter if you want to.  Just lay off the carbos.

— Matt Ridley is the author of The Rational Optimist, and as 5th Viscount Ridley is a Member of the British House of Lords. This article was originally published at To The Point News.