The Politics of Diet

I’ve noticed that diet has become quite political these days. Many people feel very strongly about their chosen diet, and love to share news articles and studies supporting their particular view. And boy was everybody tweeting about that low carb v. low fat diet study yesterday.

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I hadn’t had time to read the study, but I did get to read Dr. David Katz’s take on it (he’s the Director of the Yale Prevention Research Center, so I guess he’s kind of smart) and I’m glad that was the first thing I read. It highlights how important it is for us (well, our journalists should be doing this but they sadly rarely bother) to read these studies. Nutrition science is still new and there are still a lot of challenges, but we don’t need to muck it up further by conducting and publishing truly crappy studies.

Since Dr. Katz essentially wrote everything I would have – and likely better – I’m going to yield the floor to him now.  From Dr. Katz on LinkedIn:

Diet Research, Stuck in the Stone Age

You cannot get a good answer to a lousy question.

The current diet study making headlines purportedly asked, and answered this question: which is better for weight loss and improving cardiac risk, a low-fat or a low-carb diet? For starters, that is a truly lousy question, resurrected from something like the Stone Age. I doubt even the Paleo clan find the question attractive, since they like prehistoric food; not prehistoric research questions about food.

Why prehistoric? Because it is long known and well established that dietary fats run the gamut from good to bad to ugly. No good diet should willfully exclude the monounsaturated fats and omega-3s in nuts and seeds and avocados; I’m pretty sure everybody not stuck under a boulder knows that.

There is on-going debate today about specific effects of specific fats, but the wholesale cutting of dietary fat intake was pretty much yesterday’s news yesterday. The relevant concept today would be plant-based eating, which at the extreme of veganism, tends to be low in fat- but as an effect rather than an objective. This was not a study of a vegan diet.

The concept of low-carb is also terribly outdated, and was silly when it was first spawned. Everything from lentils to lollipops is carbohydrate; why on earth would anyone want to treat such a vast expanse of the food supply as if it were just one thing? Sillier still, all plant food is a carbohydrate source. A truly “low carb” diet is, of necessity, low in all plant foods- including vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, and lentils along with whole grains. This is directly at odds with everything we know about diet and health across the lifespan.

Read more.

PS If you like reading about a common sense approach to health and would like to read about it more often than my once weekly blog, use the link above to follow him on LinkedIn.

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