For decades, it was known as the “French Paradox.” Why was it, in the face of dietary knowledge to the contrary, that the French ate far more meats and cheese, more dairy, more butterfat, more cream, drank more wine than any other nation in the western sphere, and had a quarter of the heart disease? Honestly, the whole country should have dropped dead of hardening of the arteries! All that cholesterol SHOULD have been blocking them up tighter than the Hoover Dam.
Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the supermarket. After those same decades passed, and we in the most advanced nation on earth fell for the peer pressure brought on by the delphi method of using “experts” to make bucking government advice not fashionable, new, actual scientific studies are regularly proving one thing about food and diet: the French had it right all along – and in the case of milk fats they REALLY had it right.
Last year in this space, this writer expounded on how the government was oh, so wrong on meat. Well, now they are wrong on another American dietary staple: milk. For all those same decades, we’ve been told to cut the fat in the diet, and one of the simple ways to do that is to drink 1% or skim milk…despite the fact that vitamin D in the milk is a fat soluable substance. But I digress.
Yes, well, new research concludes that this “helpful” government advice was just all wrong:
Scientists who tallied diet and health records for several thousand patients over ten years found, for example, that contrary to the government advice, people who consumed more milk fat had lower incidence of heart disease.
By warning people against full-fat dairy foods, the United States is “losing a huge opportunity for the prevention of disease,” said Marcia Otto, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas and the lead author of large studies published in 2012 and 2013, which were funded by government and academic institutions, not the industry. “What we have learned over the last decade is that certain foods that are high in fat seem to be beneficial.”
No kidding. (So the people in this household refuse to feel guilty about the home delivery of whole milk, butter, cream and half and half from a local dairy every other week.)
Of course, the government can’t come right out with a blanket mea culpa. No, the people who are facing the every now and then review of the dietary guidelines they’ve been pushing on the public with all the credibility “experts” can muster, are amending the boilerplate to say “replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats from fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.” (Make that wild fish when you can get it, tree nuts, and olive oil and you’ve got the start of a deal after the transfats are gone.)
On Wednesday, a House committee will air concerns regarding the evidence for the guidelines with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell.
The Dietary Guidelines have stepped back slightly from their blanket advice to reduce saturated fats, adding the caveat that saturated fats ought to be replaced with unsaturated fats. But Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist, epidemiologist, and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University said that in his view the Dietary Guidelines have yet to retreat far enough from the idea that saturated fat is a dietary evil, and their suspicion of whole milk is a good example. Judging a particular food solely on how much fat it contains, he said, can too easily blind people to its other benefits.
“If we are going to make recommendations to the public about what to eat, we should be pretty darn sure they’re right and won’t cause harm,” Mozaffarian said. “There’s no evidence that the reduction of saturated fats should be a priority.”
Why the government may well be holding onto what is quickly becoming debunked information on diet and nutrition about whole milk is along the same lines that told us eggs, bacon, and saturated fats were bad for us: jumping at the new “scientific” idea that seemed to explain the high incidence of heart disease and cancer. The problem being that in both recommendations’ cases, the science was faulty.
It all goes back to Ancel Keyes’ hypothesis in the 1950’s that “demonstrated” countries with high consumption rates of saturated fats had high incidents of heart disease. That might well be true, but it was what ELSE that was in the diet and lifestyles that was not considered.
…the subsequent 40 years of science have proven that, if nothing else, the warning against saturated fats was simplistic.
By itself, cutting saturated fats appears to do little to reduce heart disease. Several evidence reviews — essentially summing up years of research — have found no link.
“There is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease,” said one published in 2010 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
“Current evidence does not clearly support” guidelines linking saturated fat and heart disease, according to a review of experiments and observational studies published in the Annals of Internal Medicine….
One of the most noted experiments on fats was the Women’s Health Initiative, which involved more than 48,000 older women. Some had counseling to eat less fat and more vegetables and fruits; others continued, more or less, with their normal diets. Subjects in the diet group cut their saturated fat intake from 13 percent of their diet to 10 percent, as well as their consumption of other fats. Their levels of “bad” cholesterol dropped. Yet when it came to heart disease, researchers found no significant difference between the two groups.
Ancel Keyes’ research has been called into question at best and outright discredited at worst in the last 40 years. So, what does that have to do with whole milk? The government is still holding onto the recommendation that humans consume skim milk based on the old fat dogmas, but NEW research says that milk fat just is not the same animal as muscle fats in meat.
To improve estimates, Otto and Mozaffarian used a blood sample for each of more than 2,800 U.S. adults. Using the blood sample, they could detect how much dairy fats each had consumed. And over the eight-year follow up period, those who had consumed the most dairy fat were far less likely to develop heart disease compared to those who had consumed the least.
That’s an awfully big conclusion to ignore when recommending a nation just ditch the stuff out of the diet for “health reasons.”
So, as it happens, if the French are right about nothing else, it is that dietary fat in the form of cream, cheese, milk and the like does not increase the level of heart disease. Actual research now says that it DECREASES the chances. Of course, more study is needed, but for the moment the big question is how to get the “experts” to admit they were wrong. In a culture where expert advice trumps tradition, those are the people that have to be convinced.