Recently published paper in BMJ, of the title above:
BMJ 2014; 349 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g7654 (Published 15 December 2014)
Jean Mayer, one of the "greats" of nutrition science, said in 1965, in the colourful language that has characterised arguments over diet, that prescribing a diet restricted in carbohydrates to the public was "the equivalent of mass murder."1 Having ploughed my way through five books on diet and some of the key studies to write this article, I’m left with the impression that the same accusation of "mass murder" could be directed at many players in the great diet game. In short, bold policies have been based on fragile science, and the long term results may be terrible.
An analysis of the data from the Seven Countries Study in 1999 showed a higher correlation of deaths from heart disease with sugar products and pastries than with animal products.13 John Yudkin from London had since the late 1950s proposed that sugar might be more important than fat in causing heart disease,4 but Keys dismissed his hypothesis as a “mountain of nonsense” and a “discredited tune.” Many scientists were sceptical about the saturated fat hypothesis, but as the conviction that the hypothesis was true gripped the leading scientific bodies, policy makers, and the media in the US these critics were steadily silenced, not least through difficulty getting funding to challenge the hypothesis and test other hypotheses.
It might be expected that the powerful US meat and dairy lobbies would oppose these guidelines, and they did, but they couldn’t counter the big food manufacturers such as General Foods, Quaker Oats, Heinz, the National Biscuit Company, and the Corn Products Refining Corporation, which were both more powerful and more subtle. In 1941 they set up the Nutrition Foundation, which formed links with scientists and funded conferences and research before there was public funding for nutrition research.
Recognising that the fat hypothesis was falling apart, some scientists, particularly Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology at Harvard (whom I’ve also met), began to promote the Mediterranean diet, which comes in many forms but is essentially lots of fruit, vegetables, bread and grains (including pasta and couscous), little meat and milk, and plenty of olive oil. Such a diet is much easier to eat than a low fat diet, and a combination of vested interests, including the International Olive Oil Council and a public relations company Oldways, which promoted the diet, has—together with the natural seductiveness of the Mediterranean region—made the diet popular. But the science behind it is weak, as a Cochrane review found,20 and some of the evidence comes from R B Singh, whose research is suspect.21
Last but not least and somewhat related to the above topic, some science fun stuff. Enjoy!
The Demise of Science? Hundreds of Computer Generated Studies Have Been Published in Respected Scientific Journals.