Four decades of bad nutrition advice based on 'settled science' was contradicted by rigorous study of the time – but it was largely suppressed

Newly unearthed data from four decades ago contradicted gospel that animal fats are worse than vegetable fats — and was ignored.  All those climate alarmists who proclaim that they "believe in science" fail to understand that science is created by flawed human beings who are susceptible to ignoring findings that don't confirm their hypotheses.  Or generate future grants for more research in the field.

Today, the "settled science" of nutrition as it stood decades ago is being questioned, in part because Americans have become obese after decades of following federal guidelines that turn out to be poppycock.

In The Scientific American, which is all in on global warming as settled science, renowned science writer Sharon Begley chronicles the rediscovery "in a dusty basement" of a rigorous study from 40 years ago that contradicted the dietary wisdom of the day.

[Christopher] Ramsden, of the National Institutes of Health, unearthed raw data from a 40-year-old study, which challenges the dogma that eating vegetable fats instead of animal fats is good for the heart. The study, the largest gold-standard experiment testing that idea, found the opposite, Ramsden and his colleagues reported on Tuesday in BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal).

Despite the quality of the data and study, it went almost completely unnoticed:

The Nixon-era experiment had produced only a single journal paper, in 1989, which concluded that replacing saturated fats found in meat and dairy products with vegetable oils did not reduce the risk of coronary heart disease or death. But it had few quantitative data and little statistical analysis, and was silent on many of the questions the researchers told NIH, which funded it, they intended to answer.

Ramsden wondered if there was more data from the study somewhere.

In 2011, he sought out the sons of the experiment's principal scientist, Dr. Ivan Frantz of the University of Minnesota, who died in 2009.

That detective work led to discovery of the data themselves, which were converted from magnetic computer tapes and yellowed documents into modern formats, and lo and behold, the solid study contradicted the settled science of the day.  Begley laments:

Absent a time machine, it's impossible to know how publication of the study, conducted in Minnesota from 1968 to 1973, might have influenced dietary advice. But in an accompanying editorial, Lennert Veerman of Australia's University of Queensland concluded that "the benefits of choosing polyunsaturated fat over saturated fat seem a little less certain than we thought."

Translation: My family probably would not have bought quite so much margarine in place of butter — which is now understood to be far healthier.

As for why the details of the study were never made widely available, Begley shrugs:

No one knows why the Minnesota results were not published decades ago. (snip)

The Frantz children always felt fortunate that their father brought his work home, his beliefs about the dangers of saturated fat shaping what the family ate. "Other kids would have ice cream; we had ice milk," recalled Ivan Frantz. Bob said they were "reared on margarine," foreswearing butter's saturated fat.

I take this to mean that Frantz was a true believer in the gospel of polyunsaturated fats.

It's possible, Bob Frantz said, that his father's team was discouraged by the failure to find a heart benefit from replacing saturated fats with vegetable oils. "My feeling is, when the overall objective of decreasing deaths by decreasing cholesterol wasn't met, everything else became less compelling," he said. "I suspect there was a lot of consternation about why" they couldn't find a benefit.

Now, consider, as Begley does not, the implications for global warming science today, where people seriously want to criminalize dissent from the reigning hypothesis.  The fact is that science can have political and financial implications that put pressure on scientists to shape their findings and shape their release of data in order to conform to the party line, especially when future research funding is an issue.

Photo credit: Needpix.

Newly unearthed data from four decades ago contradicted gospel that animal fats are worse than vegetable fats — and was ignored.  All those climate alarmists who proclaim that they "believe in science" fail to understand that science is created by flawed human beings who are susceptible to ignoring findings that don't confirm their hypotheses.  Or generate future grants for more research in the field.

Today, the "settled science" of nutrition as it stood decades ago is being questioned, in part because Americans have become obese after decades of following federal guidelines that turn out to be poppycock.

In The Scientific American, which is all in on global warming as settled science, renowned science writer Sharon Begley chronicles the rediscovery "in a dusty basement" of a rigorous study from 40 years ago that contradicted the dietary wisdom of the day.

[Christopher] Ramsden, of the National Institutes of Health, unearthed raw data from a 40-year-old study, which challenges the dogma that eating vegetable fats instead of animal fats is good for the heart. The study, the largest gold-standard experiment testing that idea, found the opposite, Ramsden and his colleagues reported on Tuesday in BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal).

Despite the quality of the data and study, it went almost completely unnoticed:

The Nixon-era experiment had produced only a single journal paper, in 1989, which concluded that replacing saturated fats found in meat and dairy products with vegetable oils did not reduce the risk of coronary heart disease or death. But it had few quantitative data and little statistical analysis, and was silent on many of the questions the researchers told NIH, which funded it, they intended to answer.

Ramsden wondered if there was more data from the study somewhere.

In 2011, he sought out the sons of the experiment's principal scientist, Dr. Ivan Frantz of the University of Minnesota, who died in 2009.

That detective work led to discovery of the data themselves, which were converted from magnetic computer tapes and yellowed documents into modern formats, and lo and behold, the solid study contradicted the settled science of the day.  Begley laments:

Absent a time machine, it's impossible to know how publication of the study, conducted in Minnesota from 1968 to 1973, might have influenced dietary advice. But in an accompanying editorial, Lennert Veerman of Australia's University of Queensland concluded that "the benefits of choosing polyunsaturated fat over saturated fat seem a little less certain than we thought."

Translation: My family probably would not have bought quite so much margarine in place of butter — which is now understood to be far healthier.

As for why the details of the study were never made widely available, Begley shrugs:

No one knows why the Minnesota results were not published decades ago. (snip)

The Frantz children always felt fortunate that their father brought his work home, his beliefs about the dangers of saturated fat shaping what the family ate. "Other kids would have ice cream; we had ice milk," recalled Ivan Frantz. Bob said they were "reared on margarine," foreswearing butter's saturated fat.

I take this to mean that Frantz was a true believer in the gospel of polyunsaturated fats.

It's possible, Bob Frantz said, that his father's team was discouraged by the failure to find a heart benefit from replacing saturated fats with vegetable oils. "My feeling is, when the overall objective of decreasing deaths by decreasing cholesterol wasn't met, everything else became less compelling," he said. "I suspect there was a lot of consternation about why" they couldn't find a benefit.

Now, consider, as Begley does not, the implications for global warming science today, where people seriously want to criminalize dissent from the reigning hypothesis.  The fact is that science can have political and financial implications that put pressure on scientists to shape their findings and shape their release of data in order to conform to the party line, especially when future research funding is an issue.

Photo credit: Needpix.