Fats in the news … again


veg oil

¬†… decisions, decisions …

So much of the choices we make both about our own health and the health of the environment around us depends upon our being able to interoperate science, but when we don’t understand the workings of ‘science’ it is easy to have the wool pulled over your eyes.

There’s a great article in the That Guardian today that highlights the 20 things that politicians need to know about science. Politicians usually have not had a career outside politics, and few understand how science works, This is a problem because they have to make decisions based on science findings.

For us the issue is different but the themes are similar.

We are constantly being told that ‘X’ is bad and ‘Y’ is good, never more often than in the world of nutrition or to buy this or that supplement. Here’s two examples making the rounds this week:

“Nuts decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease”

The time was of course when we were told to cut back on all fats, but those times have changed, however healthy foods like eggs for example still get poor press. Saturated fats are still a no-no for many who work in health despite the evidence for their connection to CVD. A good example of the problems of using science to form advice.

“Oils thought of as ‘healthy’ actually raise the risk of cardiovascular disease”

Over the last 40 years we’ve been told to cut the sat fat despite the evidence against it being flimsy, instead we’ve been pushed towards polyunsaturated fats, but now there’s cracks appearing in that advice.

So what to do?

With the advice changing all the time and the pile of research, reading and outdated advice growing what do you do? My take is this.

  1. Keep it as simple as possible and focus on the practical aspects of eating a good diet, which is #’s 2 & 3
  2. Eat a variety of foods – don’t put all your nutritional eggs in one basket
  3. Eat actual food – foods that we have been eating for thousands of years. Their worth is proven by time and experience.
  4. Keep and eye on developments in the health science but be cautious, and learn to read research

On that last point have a look at my roadmap to reading research, this will help you navigate your way through what can be a minefield and possibly help you dispel some worry and not get conned.

You’ll note that the stories above both link oil and fat intake and heart health and the one involves a positive outcome associated with a tried and tested food and the more problematic findings are connected with a new processed choices, this may give us some food for thought.

I think Michael Pollan put it well in his book¬† The Omnivore’s Dilemma:

Eat food
Not too much
Mostly plants

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