The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it. ... In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. George Orwell

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Are some diets "mass murder"?

Recently published paper in BMJ, of the title above:

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (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.


john said...

Since heart disease is lower in Mediterranean areas, follow their diet: Eat like they do, but don't copy their tendency to consume full fat dairy or fatty lamb; those must be paradoxes. Add more grain and unsaturated fat, since we know those are good.

...Interesting how that rhetoric and logic works on a lot of people.

Stan (Heretic) said...


That is Dr. Willett's logic! I remember years ago when he replaced the standard bad dietary theory that he used toprogagate, that fat is bad and carbs are good, with a slightly less bad - a doctored (*) so-called "Mediterranean" diet on the basis on his marginal Nurses Studies. He knew well how far it is safe to go while still maintaining the flow of "research" grants. However, in science, a half truth is still a full lie!

(*) I am calling it doctored "Mediterranean" (in quotes) because many of the real Meditteranean cuisines like Spanish, Greek or French, tend to be high in pork, high in lamb and high in fish. Contrary to a popular belief, vegetables are not the main source of calories, but fat is! Oh, and they of course do use olive oil but they don't cook in it - they cook in pork fat!

It' a similar kind of distortion like with that infamous "Okinawa" diet that was supposed to be based on some bogus vegetables while it turned out that the main staple food is in fact pork and fish.

Some "scientist" just never give up, just keep lying while cash is flowing, until they get pink-slipped. In that respect I am an optimist! 8-:)

Stan (Heretic) said...


John, I just noticed your interest in physics. I am curious if you follow the recent (last few years) developments in twistor theory (see R. Penrose and others) I am fascinated by the idea of using Clifford Algebra (or similar constructs) as the fundamental mathematical model of physical (space-less) reality in stead of using vector algebras over Cartesian spaces as it has been customary to do until now.


john said...

Yes, politically correct aspects of traditional diets are exaggerated, while saturated fat intake is ignored or explained by [red wine].

Actually, since school (five years ago), I have followed physics only casually, mostly just reading notable stories. I haven't read papers in a while, but I do like Penrose. Maybe I'll do some reading and see what I can understand. Abstract algebra was my area of "specialty," but, again, now I just dabble in discrete and "recreational" math.

DannyJ said...


A question for you that no one has been able to answer for me.

I've been eating low-fat for at least 10 years, but not really by choice. Starting about 10 years ago or so, it seemed like every time I would eat a "fattier" meal -- sausages, eggs, or creamy sauces or gravies -- I'd get an overall very uncomfortable feeling, but especially in my legs, often to the point of RLS at nights.

So I know I need to increase my fats, especially saturated fats, but every time I try to, I develop circulation problems. The only 'fattier' type of food I seem to tolerate is salmon.

Sincerely hoping you can help with some suggestions or advice.

Stan (Heretic) said...


I am not sure what is causing the RLS (restless leg syndrome I presume?), in your case, but a cursory search brings up a connection with Magnesium deficiency:

However, magnesium deficiency may also induce metabolic dysfunction. Why is that aggravated by an intake of fat, I am not sure. When you were experimenting with adding some fat, did you also reduce your consumption of carbohydrates, at the same time? A diet that is high in both fat and carbs leads to physiological insulin resistance condition and that may also block the transport of other minerals and hormones in and out of the cells.

This is just a guess, I would suggest to contact a doctor and request a full set of relevant tests.