My husband and I read the newspaper every day. Whenever we find a super interesting story, we read it aloud to each other. Sometimes the piece is funny, other times it contains incredible information. Last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal featured an opinion piece by Nina Teicholz, a researcher who has been investigating dietary fat and disease for years.
The crux of her work is that the public has been misled about saturated fats. The prevailing negative attitude toward saturated fats is not well reasoned, the result of “personal ambition, bad research, politics, and bias,” she argues. Her piece traces some of the history behind the anti-saturated fat movement.
Heart disease spiked in the 1950s and Americans wanted answers, she explains. Many people jumped on the bandwagon with a scientist named Ancel Keys whose “Seven Countries” landmark study of 13,000 men pointed to poor nutrition as the source of heart disease, not aging.
The research was flawed in many ways but that was not heavily discussed until 2002. For example, Keys’s star data points rested on a couple dozen men on the island of Crete who were eating very little because they were enduring particularly hard times and observing Lent. Statistically, that’s not a decent enough sample to survey and their circumstances didn’t accurately reflect their regular, day-to-day lives. (Where were the women in his research? I wondered.)