February 28, 2007

Low fat foods and vitamin supplements.

Bad for you! A new study suggests. I suspected as much.
Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.

You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or... hot fudge?


George said...

Dr. Melik: [puzzling over list of items sold at Miles' old health-food store] ... wheat germ, organic honey and... tiger's milk.
Dr. Aragon: Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.
Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or... hot fudge?
Dr. Aragon: [chuckling] Those were thought to be unhealthy... precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.
Dr. Melik: Incredible!
Miles Monroe: Where am I anyhow, I mean, what happened to everybody, where are all my friends?
Dr. Aragon: You must understand that everyone you knew in the past has been dead nearly two hundred years.
Miles Monroe: But they all ate organic rice!

--Dialogue from Woody Allen's "Sleeper" 1973

PatCA said...

Is there anybody who believes these "studies" anymore?!

Tibore said...

Wait, wait, wait... that Times article is overreaching. If you dig a bit deeper into the study, which by the way was actually a meta-analysis of other studies, you see that there's no causal factor established. They only state a relationship of increased mortality. That can be coincidental to vitamin intake.

Let's also remember this:

"Balz Frei, director of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, said the study and the data studied are both flawed because more than two-thirds of the previous research that was examined involved people with heart disease, cancer or other risks who were being treated to see if the supplements worked."

Source: ABC.net Australia news portal

So immediately, we see that a big part of the metastudy included folks with an already increased risk of death. Now, that doesn't necessarily undo the validity of the finding, but it does indicate that the bulk of the conclusion isn't based on data from entirely healthy people.

Anyway... the study can be found here:


... and I need to read through the original work rather than the news analysis, which just tries to grasp at taglines and concepts without providing context. But let's understand that what the news breathlessly reports may not exactly be the findings of the study. Or if they are indeed accurate in it's reflection of the study's conclusions, it many not necessarily reflect the entire medical communities consensus. In short, take that study with a grain of salt.

No health pun intended there...

Evil HR Lady said...


You've just ruined my day. For one brief, shining moment, I was going to make a milk shake out of Ben and Jerry's and whole milk.

Instead, I shall now have to return to eating fresh fruits and taking my daily vitamin until more info is available.

Tibore said...


Look, I'm just commenting on the vitamin/antioxidant study. Not the fat one. Not yet. Denial is a state of bliss, and so's a juicy burger. So I don't want to pick that study apart. I just want to pretend everything's okay and savor that juicy burger.

Mmmm.... juicy burger...

Besides... the low fat study was talking about fertility consequences in women, right? So as a male, it doesn't apply to me, right??


Yeah... I'll be Mr. Science & Logic for the vitamin study, but I intend to just whistle a happy tune past the fat one. I'll read it... ummm... next week... yeah. Next week.

Or the week after.

Or maybe later than that...

SteveR said...

My body is in competition. What will kill me first? My genetic predisposition to cancer or dementia, complications from multiple sclerosis, being able to eat whatever I want, not exercise and maintain a low weight or an asteroid striking the earth.

Really though, along the lines of PatCa's comment, the best way to deal with a bad study is find a good one.

Hey said...

The low-fat study shouldn't be all that surprising. Fertility is directly tied to body fat % in women. Go too low and you won't get pregnant - a halt in ovulation is a common symptom of anorexia nervosa.

Consumption of low fat dairy products likely correlates to body fat % in women, and hence the fertility results. That this even got reported is annoying, and whoever funded this study should be beaten severely. It is always distressing to see idiotically obvious research funded while actually interesting work goes without.

To women who want to get pregnant: if you are less than a size 6, you should put on a bit of weight, or if your BMI is less than 21.

Ron said...

I want a deep fried cream pie with strips of Kobe beef on it, whipped cream and a cherry and extra amounts of hot fudge! and I need it stat!

Eli Blake said...

Well, it wasn't all that long ago (as recently as the 1960's in fact) that they even advertised tobacco products as being 'good for the digestion.'

People who want to sell you something will say anything about it.

Kevin Lomax said...

Tobacco products do aid digestion. However, the tradeoffs are severe.

MadisonMan said...

I had a Double ButterBurger with cheese tonight just to piss off the Health Nuts. Mmmm. Culvers.

Ann Althouse said...

Hey, I wrote "a new student study." The word "student" was some weird typo! Fixed.

Anyone who's criticizing me for not being more critical of the study needs to go eat a tofu-burger. I said "suggests." Anything mroe that that would be BORING.

Peter Palladas said...

"...may actually increase the risk of dying."

Wow, so there's a risk of not dying? Why wasn't I told? I woulda made whole other pension arrangements.

Anna said...

Found out hubby is diabetic three weeks ago with fasting glucose above 300. Researched the whole thing, trying to figure out how this happened since he had only been drinking 2% milk and ate low-fat everything. Turns out that:

1. Carbohydrates are the main culprit in obesity and high blood glucose; pretty much any carbohydrate you eat, including fruits and veggies, turn into sugar. Any excess of it is turned into fat.

2. Dietary fat alone does not cause one to get fat. Add carbohydrates in the picture and some dietary fat does turn into body fat.

After changing our diet into a protein-rich, low-carb, don't-care-how-much-fat-there-is diet, hubby's fasting glucose is now in normal range (100 mg/dL) for the last few days. It only took us three weeks, but boy, what an education that was.

Also, low-fat almost always means high-carb. I think the whole social experiment on the American diet is scandalous. Whoever fomented this "fat is bad, carbs are good" mantra should be hung.

Richard Fagin said...

I'm waiting for a study that shows cigarettes aid digestion, just like the Duke used to tout for Chesterfields.

Meade said...

Ron said...
I want a deep fried cream pie with strips of Kobe beef on it, whipped cream and a cherry and extra amounts of hot fudge! and I need it stat!

Good god, man, are you trying to ovulate or what?!!

Madison Guy said...

Just listen to the snow primates. They know what's good. Torpid snow primates discovered in the Midwest. In Madison, Wisconsin, to be precise. These primates hunker down on the ice and exhibit what can only be described as a form of social bonding based on communal outdoor hibernation.

bill said...

Anna, that was one of the themes running through the Gary Taubes article, What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?, (NY Times, july 7, 2002)

Main problem being we chase fads. Fat is bad? Ok, then do away with all fats. Food companies try to keep up and remove fat from their products. Problem is, fat equals flavor. No problem, they just added sugar. Compare two versions of the same product: one regular, one low fat. The low fat version will have more carbs and more calories.

Jump ahead to Atkins, and the other sugar buster diets, and we see-saw our diets in the other direction. Cut out all carbs, because protein and fat are now good. Next thing you know, skinny people are keeling over from heart disease.

In chasing the simple solution, the easy answer is overlooked: eat less, exercise more. We need a balanced diet of fat, carbs, and protein. Of course we now know there are good and bad carbs and fat. But even the bad is relative to an individual's diet/health/amount.

Biggest tip is to eat less processed foods; that's where you'll overload on salts and high fructose corn syrup.

In the end, though, enjoy yourself, because no matter what you do you're still going to die.

Pastor_Jeff said...

I bet Wes Clark feels like Miles Monroe now.

Doug said...

I am a bit skeptical for reasons that Tibore mentioned, though I have a feeling that megadosing on some of the vitamins probably isn't healthy. There was a study that showed that people who were slightly overweight had lower risk of near term death than those at their correct weight. They had a couple reasons, just as some people with normal weights had cancer, which is a weigh suppressor, and some might be smokers.

I have read that getting a solid dose of Vitamin D is very good for you, lowering colon cancer risks. If you live in the north like I do, you don't get much sun in the winter,so a supplement would be helpful

Puppy 1000 said...

The whole "low fat" thing makes no sense.


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