Those who love rib-eye steaks and double-cream Brie will feel better about their guilty pleasures after reading Nina Teicholz’s article in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, “The Questionable Link Between Saturated Fat and Heart Disease.” She writes, for example:
Too much whole-grain oatmeal for breakfast and whole-grain pasta for dinner, with fruit snacks in between, add up to a less healthy diet than one of eggs and bacon, followed by fish.
Gary Taubes covered some of the same ground in his excellent 2008 book, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health. Taubes argued that that consumption of saturated fat does not cause obesity and heart disease; the culprit, instead, is refined carbohydrates like white flour and sugar.
Teicholz describes the flawed methodology of Dr. Ancel Keys, the director of a large nutritional study conducted in the early 1950s:
The study’s star subjects – upon whom much of our current understanding of the Mediterranean diet is based – were peasants from Crete, islanders who tilled their fields well into old age and who appeared to eat very little meat or cheese.
As it turns out, Dr. Keys visited Crete during an unrepresentative period of extreme hardship after World War II. Furthermore, he made the mistake of measuring the islanders’ diet partly during Lent, when they were forgoing meat and cheese.