carbgrrl · 2009-07-28

Fat Head

My low-carb pal Mark Wilcox pointed me to this movie. I haven’t seen it yet, but it somehow (ahem) reminds me of the politico-nutritional mess we’re in. Two headlines I saw today, right next to each other:

  • USA Today: Obesity is a key link to soaring health tab
  • San Diego Union-Tribune: Senators inch toward deal on health care

Sorry, but I just don’t trust senators to get it right on health and nutrition. What if senators had something to do with the problem in the first place?

In GCBC, Gary Taubes relates the controversy around Dietary Goals for the United States, produced by the staff of George McGovern’s U.S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs in 1977. This document is pretty much the well from which all U.S. public-health “fat bad, carbs good” nonsense springs.

Taubes quotes the Senate testimony of Philip Handler, president of the National Academy of Sciences and a metabolism expert in his own right, representing the NAS Food and Nutrition Board:

However tenuous that linkage [of dietary fat and cholesterol, blood cholesterol, and heart disease], however disappointing the various intervention trials, it still seems prudent to propose to the American public that we not only maintain reasonable weights for our height, body structure and age, but also reduce our dietary fat intakes significantly, and keep cholesterol intake to a minimum. And, conceivably, you might conclude that it is proper for the federal government to so recommend.

On the other hand, you may instead argue: What right has the federal government to propose that the American people conduct a vast nutritional experiment, with themselves as subjects, on the strength of so very little evidence that it will do them any good?

Mr. Chairman, resolution of this dilemma turns on a value judgment. The dilemma so posed is not a scientific question; it is a question of ethics, morals, politics. Those who argue either position strongly are expressing their values; they are not making scientific judgments.

(For your reading convenience, I’ve helpfully emboldened the ethical/moral/political choice I’d make.)

I know I’m always saying this, but: Read the whole thing. And if you’re suspicious about which scientists worked for the Egg Board, just wait till you see where the Frito-Lay funding went.