October 17, 2011

One bad idea leads to another

When it comes to understanding how people jump to the wrong conclusions, I'm fond of the saying:

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Once enough influential bodies accepted the lipid hypothesis, both nutritional theories and their real world applications had to conform to its conclusions.

Low-saturated fat diets were recommended for heart patients. Then these same diets were considered a good idea for people who wanted to avoid becoming heart patients. Since overweight was a risk factor for heart attacks, it only made sense to recommend these same nutritional principles to those seeking to lose weight.

As the media and the food corporations began picking up on this message, it became even more simplified... and distorted. From "lower your saturated fat" the message became "fat is bad." That was easy to splash across a box or bag, so food manufacturers began touting their low-fat products.

Since so many outlets thought fat was bad, the general public internalized these messages. In the 1980's, it was repeated over and over that cutting fat from one's diet lowered the calories, and since "everyone knew" lowering calories was the way to lose weight, it made a relentless kind of sense to the embattled victims of overweight.

Naming your elephant Rover will not make them a dog.
The low fat/high carbohydrate diet was born. Nutritionists were quick to plug any holes in the dam by explaining that of course we had to exercise, too!

If it didn't work, it was our fault. It must be because we were still eating too much and not exercising enough.

The latest wrinkle in trying to make it work is the admission that processed carbohydrates are nutritionally empty and should be "eaten in moderation."

That also led to enshrining the unprocessed version of carbohydrates as the centerpiece of our daily intake; thus the emphasis on "healthy" whole grains.

All along, this officially-embraced, heavily-promoted, staked-a-reputation-on-it lipid hypothesis led to cholesterol-lowering drugs, the idea of very low fat diets to reverse heart disease, and a higher health reputation for vegetarianism. As a nation, we dutifully lowered our fat and increased our exercise.

Except none of this makes any of the science of the lipid hypothesis actually work.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed 5 x 5. I believe my post today is in the same vein.