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KALCHEIM: The government’s diet fraud – and other deceptions

The minute establishment figures start calling anyone who questions them a loony, fringe thinker, who, for the sake of all of us, has to get with it, and adapt the accepted position on something, you should be very, very suspicious.  

Almost exactly a year ago The New York Times reported on an exhaustive new Cambridge University study, drawing on 90 pools of research and 27 randomized samples that concluded there is no basis for the longstanding theory that consuming fat and cholesterol is a leading cause of heart disease. To add insult to injury to toe-the-line dieticians, the study found that eating some foods possessing unsaturated omega-6 fatty acids, such as many common vegetable oils, are actually worse for you than saturated fat (17 March 2014). A week later “Times” op-ed contributor Mark Bittman blithely announced, “Butter is Back.” Last month, as if even The New York Times wasn’t an official enough forum to debunk decades of dietary proscriptions, the government’s own “Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee” admitted, in its once every five years report (how much more mainstream can you get?), that the government’s advice about cholesterol all these years can no longer be supported.

butterWhat took them so long? As long ago as 2008, a study of the drug “Vytorin” found no appreciable health benefit in lowering cholesterol. Even in 1979, when the anti-fat/cholesterol crusade was in full-flight, a National Institutes of Health study found that at best LDL “bad” cholesterol was but a “marginal risk factor” for heart disease. According to that study, the main significance of cholesterol as a risk-factor for heart disease was not, in fact, high levels of “bad cholesterol,” but low levels of “good cholesterol” (N.Y. Times 20th January 2008). Yet only now has this divinely-ordained nutritionist orthodoxy finally and officially been debunked.

But the consequences have been real. Nina Teicholz, commenting in “The Times” shortly after the Guidelines Committee issued its report in February, observed that American’s consumption of fat had decreased by 25 percent over the last 30 years, while their consumption of starchy carbohydrates, had risen by 30 percent, all in direct conformity with the governments dietary crusade. Yet now, the Government’s nutritionists have essentially had to admit that such behavior almost assuredly made American’s health, worse and not better. Even in following the government’s decades-old guidelines, to a large degree, Americans are more obese than ever.

Could it be, as Teicholz wrote in the times, that dietitians have for too long been overly dependent on group-studies which can, at best prove “correlation and not causation,” or is it something much more sinister, something that has affected not just the way we think about nutrition, but almost all questions of public policy with which we engage? In his 2008 article in “The Times” about the “Vytorin” cholesterol drug study, Gary Taubes offers his own diagnosis: “Because medical authorities have always approached the cholesterol hypothesis as a public health issue, rather than as a scientific one, we’re repeatedly reminded that it shouldn’t be questioned. Heart attacks kill hundreds of thousands of Americans every year, statin therapy can save lives, and skepticism might be perceived as a reason to delay action” (27 January 2008).

juliaDoes this sort of thing sound familiar? It really is the same old strategy. When anyone of us used to question military involvement in the Middle East, we were told that our national security was at stake, and that it would be unpatriotic and destructive, in a “Post 9/11-world,” to dare say that we weren’t entitled to bomb whoever we wanted, whenever we wanted, as part of a newly invented “war on terrorism.” Urgency, and appeals to imminent national catastrophe are substituted for reason and facts; and the results, as we now see in Iraq and Libya, are worse than if we had sat around and done nothing. Anyone who questions orthodox positions is a deluded “conspiracy theorist” who is wasting all of our time by looking at facts (heaven forefend!) rather than getting with the program to help institute a proscription we all “know” to be true.

Except that sometimes what they feed us isn’t true at all. The Golf of Tonkin incident was fabricated; Reagan lied about selling arms to the Contras, Saddam Hussein was not trying to buy Uranium ore in Africa, Iraq was a mortal enemy, not a friend of Al Qaeda; the NSA is tapping our phones, and watching everything we do on line; ISIS, though heinous in every way, has no interest in attacking the west… Oh, and by the way, on a more trivial note, everything you have been ever been told about what makes for a heart-healthy diet, is bogus. Sometimes — actually with great regularity — it’s all a big fraud.

I am not at all saying that every conspiracy theory challenging the prevailing orthodoxy that has ever roamed the Internet is true. Most of them are probably false. But the minute establishment figures start calling anyone who questions them a loony, fringe thinker, who, for the sake of all of us, has to get with it, and adapt the accepted position on something, you should be very, very suspicious.

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