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September 04, 2002

Lard on the Brain

When I first read What if it's All Been a Big Fat Lie?, by Gary Taubes, I was seriously skeptical of his premise. This sort of contrarian writing has an honorable history, but more often than not it is done to promote the author rather than a suppressed truth. Moreover, all the research I had read, most of which had a pretty good pedigree, flatly contradicted him. Still, it appeared in the New York Times, and surely the editors there are careful about telling America to go on a heart-attack diet.

The other shoe has dropped. In Experts Declare Story Low on Saturated Facts, Sally Squires, writing for the Washington Post, goes over Taubes' research, even contacting most of the researchers he interviewed. It turns out that Taubes just doesn't believe the preponderance of evidence. He in fact conveniently quotes various researchers out of context to support his thesis, and calls peer-reviewed research cult science. Any doubt I'd had about the man is evaporating as we speak.

If Sally Squires had not done such a bang up job of following up on Taubes' research, this article would not be so damning, but he really comes out as wrong-headed, based on the studies he rejects, and the people he misquotes. Unless of course Squires is misquoting the 'victims' in a much more egregious manner. But the content of researchers' replies to Squires seem unambiguous: "replace unhealthy fats with healthy fats ... That way," Willett said, "you reduce the bad cholesterol, but don't reduce [the protective] HDL cholesterol at the same time ... And I have gone over this a number of times with Gary, but he barely mentioned it in the article."

Near the end of his article, Taubes says " [fear of potential damage from high-fat diets] is the state of mind I imagine that mainstream nutritionists, researchers and physicians must inevitably take to the fat-versus-carbohydrate controversy. They may come around, but the evidence will have to be exceptionally compelling." Unfortunately, compelling evidence is not good enough for Taubes, either.

Posted by dpwakefield at September 4, 2002 03:47 PM