Another New Study Favoring Fat Over Carbs – Here’s Why Science Can’t Make Up Its Mind
A new study published in the journal Lancet suggests that higher carbohydrate intake is associated with a higher risk of mortality, while a high fat intake with a lower risk. It was conducted by an international team of scientists who studied the cases of more than 135,000 people and their diets between 35 and 70 from 18 different countries.
The subjects were followed for an average of more than seven years. Their nutritional regimes were self-reported, and the data was controlled for age, sex, habits such as smoking, lifestyle, BMI. They established that high carbohydrate intake was not associated with particular causes of death, namely cardiovascular death. It was established, however, that those who ate the highest 20 percent carbohydrates had a 28 percent increased risk of dying earlier.
In line with that, people with the highest 20 percent in total fat intake — an average of 35.3 percent of calories from fat — had about a 23 percent reduced risk of death compared with the lowest 20 percent (an average of 10.6 percent of calories from fat).
Furthermore, consuming more saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat were all associated with lower mortality. Higher fat diets were also associated with a lower risk of stroke.
Current federal guidelines recommend a diet that provides no more than 35 percent of calories from fat.
“Guidelines recommend low saturated fat, and some recommend really low amounts,” said a co-author, Andrew Mente, an epidemiologist at McMaster University in Ontario. “Our study, which captures intake at the lowest levels, shows that this may be harmful.”
So why the dissonance in study results in the last 20 years or so?
First they say fat will give you a stroke, and you should eat your veggies, then they promote the English breakfast as the best thing since sliced bread. Followed by a sharp rise in vegetarianism and veganism, it’s clear that nutritional trends are shifting as time goes by.
But not everything should be looked at as a black-or-white problem. The truth is that people have become to quick to judge, and even worse – too quick to believe, and just don’t have enough will or patience to get into the meat of the problem (pun intended).
Common claims like chocolate is good for health, or that grape skins and wine have anti-aging properties, or that the Mediterranean diet prevents heart disease have been touted using research supported with funds or scientists closely connected to all kinds of potentially biased organizations, from Mars, Inc. to the California Walnut Commission.
There is an inherent conflict of interest in the whole business and even the news outlets are keen on reporting new findings since more and more people are getting increasingly confused by the world of nutrition.
It’s kind of funny when you think about it. A self-feeding loop: the more people get interested in nutrition (and their attention is worth a lot of money, as advertising companies know), the more media outlets will push that kind of content. Which means more studies will be reported on, and incidentally, more of the biased, sponsored studies will be out there to read about.
Some of them are conflicting with each other, but it’s mostly unintentional. What IS sometimes intentional, is the statistical magic like p-hacking and similar techniques that make it difficult for reviewers to see through. Also, if a company funds 10 studies and only one of them has results that favor the company, it will trash the other 9 and only submit the one favorable to a journal for peer review.
Another thing that’s unintentional but even more detrimental is the fact that non-biased studies and those with less sensational results almost get buried under the news.
Our obsession with nutrition in the past decades is causing more harm than good. And rarely anyone remembers that each of us probably has a grandma or grandpa who would eat anything you put in front of them and still live to be 85 or more years old.
Readers be advised: there’s a lobby out there for everything – bananas, meat, avocados, milk, eggs, you name it. All food costs money and makes money, and sponsored research is just marketing, not science. First and foremost – listen to your own body and keep listening. If you don’t plan on doing thorough research, don’t stress out over every new study.
Besides, stress is the real killer, at least according to this report.