James Delingpole

The big fat lie about cholesterol

A gigantic scare that lasts for decades because the experts are too embarrassed to back down. Remind you of anything?

21 June 2014

8:00 AM

21 June 2014

8:00 AM

Though I’m not generally big on banning stuff, there’s one substance I would prohibit without a moment’s hesitation — probably on pain of death if that’s what it took because clearly, where vanquishing monstrous evil is concerned, no sanction is too extreme.

I’m talking, of course, about the devil’s semen: semi-skimmed milk. And about its unholier cousin — aka the devil’s urine — skimmed milk. Seriously, almost nothing can conspire to ruin my day more effectively than when I order up a flat white and the barista doesn’t know that only weird faddists with no taste take their coffee made with anything but full fat. Apart from maybe when someone tries to add some skimmed or semi-skimmed to my tea. ‘If I want a dash of cold water, I can always add it from the tap,’ I want to say to these loons, but of course never do because I’m far too polite.

Seriously, though. What is it with you skimmed/semi-skimmed people? If it’s about the taste then you’re just wrong and stupid. But if it’s about your health, then you’re more wrong and stupid still. You realise, don’t you, that it’s all over? That whole ‘fat/dietary cholesterol is bad for you’ thing. They’ve discovered it’s a myth. The story has even made it to the cover of Time magazine. ‘Eat butter,’ it says. Because now you can.

Actually, you’ve been able to do so with impunity for quite some time. As early as 1977 Dr George Mann, in the New England Journal of Medicine, described the cholesterol myth as ‘the greatest scam in the history of medicine’. In 1997, a massive trial of 350,000 men at high risk of heart disease found that drastically cutting down their cholesterol and saturated fat consumption did not improve their survival prospects. Worse, according to an earlier study in Finland, men who continued to follow a low-saturated-fat diet were twice as likely to die of heart disease as those who didn’t. In fact no trial has ever demonstrated the benefits of reducing dietary fat.

So how come so many of us still believe otherwise? Because, as the doctor and medical author Malcolm Kendrick puts it in the rather excellent book Panic Nation, the ‘cholesterol hypothesis’ has, over a period of decades, become like a cathedral built on a bog. ‘Rather than admit they made a horrible mistake and let it sink, the builders decided to try to keep the cathedral afloat at all costs. Each time a crack appeared a new buttress was built. Then further buttresses were built to support the original buttresses.’

The story goes like this. From the 1940s onwards, the increasing incidence of heart disease in the western world prompted researchers to hypothesise a link with cholesterol and a high-fat diet. Foremost among these was Ancel Keys, a persuasive nutritionist from the University of Minnesota (he devised the K-ration pack used by troops in the war) who advised that fat was the new enemy and that everyone who cared about their health should switch to a Mediterranean diet.

Keys’s theory — though not backed by any solid evidence — suited the mood of the times. A newly affluent postwar society, which no longer had to worry about getting enough to eat, could now afford the luxury of dietary fads. And the food industry moved quickly to exploit this neurosis with a whole new range of low-fat yoghurts and butter substitutes. Governments, no doubt encouraged by the usual health-Nazi pressure groups, did their bit too. Even now it remains the standard recommendation of almost every national and international advisory body in the world that a healthy diet should be low in fat.

One problem with this, as the great Clarissa Dickson Wright once told me, is that fat is a great carrier of flavour. So if you cut out fat, you have to find some other way of making food taste exciting. This the food industry achieved from the 1970s onward by ramping up the sugar content — with consequences we are now rueing today. It’s sugar, it seems, rather than fat that is primarily responsible for the growth in obesity which in Britain, for example, is forcing the NHS to devote more of its scarce resources to buying wider, stronger hospital beds and reinforced ambulances capable of transporting lard buckets.

It’s not as though we weren’t warned, as Julia Llewellyn Smith recalled in the Telegraph. In his 1972 book Pure, White and Deadly, John Yudkin, founder of the nutrition department at the University of London’s Queen Elizabeth College, noted the correlation between increased sugar consumption and both heart disease and the raised insulin levels which lead to type 2 diabetes. ‘If only a small fraction of what we know about the effects of sugar were to be revealed in relation to any other material used as a food additive, that material would promptly be banned,’ he wrote. (Yudkin, it almost goes without saying, was ridiculed and marginalised for his outrageous cholesterol denialism.)

But my beef here isn’t with sugar. If people want to fizzy-drink themselves to obesity, diabetes and premature death, that’s absolutely fine with me. Rather, my irritation is reserved for those who created the problem in the first place and who variously profited by it, either professionally or financially: the nutritionists, the activists, the chief medical officers, the interventionist politicians, the supermarkets and food manufacturers with their slyly bullying, hectoring, and nauseatingly self-righteous low-fat food ranges, the pharmaceutical companies and doctors so assiduously pushing statins, the newspapers touting their latest health scares… A vast but entirely pointless, corrupt and worthless global industry built over decades on a foundation of junk science, public hysteria and woefully misguided government regulation.

There’s something about the scenario I’ve just outlined which seems eerily, coronary-inducingly familiar. I wonder what it can possibly be.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

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Show comments
  • crandreww

    I remember as a teen, my father had a heart attack, and we switched to skim milk, low fat everything else, reduced this, low that…a few years later my father had another heart attack, enter statins, was on a few different statins over the years, then he developed 8 vessel coronary artery disease, and had an 8 vessel bypass surgery. (In spite of being “treated with statins”) He showed me the article in Time Magazine, did we get it wrong? referring to Cholesterol hypothesis…I said of course we got it wrong, there is no money in not “treating” cholesterol. Lies, Damn Lies and Stastics…

    • Andrew Morton

      Lies, Damn Lies and Statins…

  • Can’t stand full-fat milk, the Wicked Witch of the East’s breast dribblings.

    Anyone interested in this subject will be well rewarded by Gary Taubes’s book, Why We Get Fat — And What To Do About It. He is also the author of Good Calories, Bad Calories, but I’ve read both and think that the first is the more valuable and useful text.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      Try the documentary, “The Men That Made Us Fat”. It’s all over YouTube.

    • Ooh!MePurse!

      I am no expert at all but that is such an interesting post and seems to make sense to me. So the answer is unrefined carbohydrates? Does that mean wholemeal? Or am I being too simplistic?

      • Puss in High Wedgies

        Thank you for the compliment and no, you are not being too simplistic but have grasped the whole thing, really. Brown rice is better for you than white rice because, in addition to having more nutrients, the body takes a longer time to digest it and your insulin doesn’t act like a rocketship, trying to deal with it. It’s the difference between eating the table sugar equivalent of six apples or just eating the six apples. The fact is that no one is going to eat six apples, though you could certainly eat at one sitting the sugar value of six or ten or fourteen apples, no trouble at all (in a pie, for instance). Your body wasn’t designed for this, and your organs don’t like having all the glucose shoved into them by the insulin that’s dying to get it out of your bloodstream (since that’s what insulin does, and it doesn’t care about the hard job your organs are having to do as a result). I hope I’ve got this right and I’m simplifying but this is the gist as I understand it.

        So the general advice is: if you do want starches, reach for the less processed form of the food: brown rice, wholemeal flour, baked potato rather than crisps. Try to have sugar substitutes such as sucralose (Splenda) or stevia where you can (for instance, plain yoghurt mixed with microwaved juicy berries tastes very nice with Splenda: I don’t use sugar for that). Also, be aware that vegetables and cheese — in fact most foods — have some carbohydrates. If you are trying to lose weight, buying a carb-count book (they’re cheap and badly proofread but generally reliable) will show you how many carbs you’re actually consuming — and you’ll be surprised. Keeping them under 30 a day helps most people.

  • I asked my friend whether he’d read this article. He said he’d semi-skimmed it.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Sugar’s your problem, especial that cheap corn syrup $hit. Check how much sugar goes into a can of soft drink.

    • None, if you get the ubiquitous ‘diet’ versions.

    • UKSteve

      15 teaspoons (equivalent).

      As you say, High Fructose corn syrup. This guy is very well respected – and to think they keep telling us to eat lots of fruit (fructose = fruit sugar!)….


  • ClausewitzTheMunificent

    Hear hear!

  • Simon Williams

    You did say ‘lard bucket’, didn’t you? Shouldn’t that be ‘syrup bucket’?

  • Retired Nurse

    like ‘5 a day’ – now its 10…feel like singing a chorus of ‘Anything goes”…

  • rosebery

    James, you need to ease back on the vitriol, even if you have a good point to make.

    As a child I recall being given the very thick cream off the top of the bottle of milk on my porridge, and it was good. But that was then. Now, the taste and smell of full-fat milk is not appealing, so I am happy with skimmed or none. Overdone tea benefits from a little, some coffees ditto, but when you say ‘If it’s about the taste then you’re just wrong and stupid’ you’re merely exposing a personal choice and value judgement dressed up as objective comment.

    Of course ‘experts’ who have built a career and reputation on received wisdom and orthodoxy do not easily admit error and persist with falsehood. Reading your piece was like watching one of those 1950s cold-war movies that used invading aliens as a proxy for the real issue of ‘reds under the beds’. If you want to have another go at the whole climate change/AGW issue, then go ahead, openly. Remember, Galileo was peer-reviewed! [You will, Oscar, you will].

    • Tom M

      “James, you need to ease back on the vitriol, even if you have a good point to make.”
      I tried to tell him that a while ago. He replied and banned me from reading his articles.

      • MartinWW

        From time to time, a dash of vitriol is healthy in journalism. What a terribly bland place it would be without some zest. James, keep up the good work. Most of us enjoy the writing, and can easily spot an exuberant flourish!

        • Puss in High Wedgies

          It’s better when it’s not directed at your harmless and sophisticated readers, though (in my opinion, a taste for fatty milk is unsophisticated).

          • Chris Morriss

            Good! Being considered a sophist isn’t really something to be proud of you know.

          • Amanda

            What have gourmet tastebuds to do with sophistry?

      • jamesdelingpole

        You didn’t bloody listen, though, did you Tom? Yet weirdly both you and Rosebery seem to find my appalling style so compulsive you keep coming back for more. Your masochism is NOT my problem.

        • bengeo

          Oooops. Panties in a twist.

        • SimonToo

          So, you did not take up their suggestion of semi-skimmed vitriol ?

    • Puss in High Wedgies

      you’re merely exposing a personal choice and value judgement dressed up as objective comment
      You’re right, but that’s James, and we let him have his foibles that way.

      I am just old enough to have been at school in England when milk was given out to the pupils. I hated it (and still think the American idea of a treat being ‘milk and cookies’ a bizarre and savage thing). One day I simply poured mine down the sink. Looking at my empty bottle, the teacher said to me ‘now that was easy, wasn’t it?’ I smiled and nodded. I don’t remember drinking it again. As it is, milk to me is an ingredient like children to be seen not heard: to have effect, but not actually to be tasted!

  • Damaris Tighe

    Of course all the flavour is in the fat. Taste minced beef with 20% fat compared with the lean alternatives. I don’t bother any more. I want to enjoy my food, not eat tasteless cardboard. Unfortunately a lot of food has been ruined by the low fat nonsense. The original boxed full fat Philadelphia cheese has disappeared. The stuff in a tub that’s called original Philadelphia is a tasteless slop.

  • sfin

    The “Mediterranean diet” isn’t healthy because it’s low in fat – far from it. It’s healthy because it’s low in processed foods.

    I once saw a very good advert for the old milk marketing board comparing butter to a low-fat butter substitute spread, which was fashionable at the time. The comparison took the form of an ingredients list. Under the low fat spread was an ingredients list as long as your arm – manufactured chemicals mostly. Under butter was ‘milk’. We’ve since learned that these spreads contain trans fats which stay in the body forever.

    My doctor once referred me to a heart specialist as I have high cholesterol. He told me that he thought the correlation to be very tenuous and that, in his view, the overwhelming factor in heart disease was genetic.

  • Mrs Josephine Hyde-Hartley

    ‘Rather than admit they made a horrible mistake and let it sink, the builders decided to try to keep the cathedral afloat at all costs. Each time a crack appeared a new buttress was built. Then further buttresses were built to support the original buttresses.’

    Some people reckon that’s what all scientific knowledge is like at the end..

    • Ooh!MePurse!

      It’s also a great description of the Labour Party’s pitch since 1979.

      • Craig King

        And of the , alluded to, AGW maniacs.

  • Alexsandr

    James has gone after the wrong culprit. I am not keen on full fat milk -its a bit sickly to me.
    but the substitution of butter with the vile margarine or whatever its called these days is tragic. A slice of freshly made bread and butter is divine. as is mashed potato with butter in it. And a cake made with butter – yum.
    and you cant beat a fried egg fried in lard.

    • Kathy Farrey

      I prefer my eggs fried in bacon.

      • Alexsandr

        Well yes, if you can get decent dry cure. But so much bacon these days is full of water so you get that horrid white emulsion seeping out which just makes a sticky mess.

      • Shonkin

        Bacon is smoked and salted lard with a few skinny bits of lean pork in it.

  • Terence Hale

    “The big fat lie about cholesterol”. I’ve been thinking with careful cloning we could have a cow with udders on the left side giving semi-skimmed milk and on the right normal milk and instead on moving there bowls giving dung they give cheese.

  • BuzzyB

    Cow’s milk is really designed for baby cows and we should have been weaned off milk a lot earlier than when we started drinking tea and coffee. Having said that I prefer the higher carbs of skimmed milk for my coffee and tea, as the full fat variety makes my sinuses react. Why do US kids often have such nasally thick voices – too much full fat milk and cookies? I do love a bit of cholesterol in my diet, I love prawns, eggs and avocados – I am considered medically obese, I exercise 5 times a week, walk the dogs and have very strong muscles and bones (like a cow), from all the milk I had as a child – my father and step-father were milkmen……..I blame them.

    • Kim S.

      US children drink 2% (part-skimmed) or 0% (skim) milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all children over the age of 2 switch to skim milk. So it’s rare to find an American child that drinks full-fat milk (which is a tragedy, considering that growing brains need healthy fats).

      Perhaps those nasally voices are a result of a lactose intolerance. In which case raw milk or goat’s milk will usually resolve that issue.

      • Amanda

        Skim milk! Yes, but they probably recommend the federal food pyramid, too — lots and lots of breads and starchy veg and sugary fruits!

      • Da St

        Both raw milk and goat milk have lactose, and for actually lactose intolerant, it won’t solve the problem.

  • The Shambolic Skeptic

    Am with you on the cholesterol freak Nazi’s James when it’s simple sugar and processed starch people should worry about. After all cave man ate animals back in the day but no where were Krispy Kreme stands!

    But milk in your coffee? Milk is vile stuff in any form. Full, half or completely devoid of fat. Yech!! Never touch the stuff. Drink coffee like a proper man. Black!

    • Amanda

      Heh heh heh. : )

    • Liz

      It’s a bit of a myth that cave people had a high animal fat diet. Catching animals was hard, and they were only available part of the year, consequently it makes up only a small proportion of the tribal diet. It was always the gatherers rather than the hunters who supplied the majority of the group’s calories.

      • The Shambolic Skeptic

        No where did I say cave man ate ‘high’ levels of fat. Simply that we ate actual animal fat and didn’t eat processed sugars.

      • Chris Morriss

        Really? Everything I’ve read states that with the very low human population at the time, but with high populations of large animals, then catching animals was easy if you had the skills. Don’t forget that Homo Sapiens 10,000 years ago were just as clever as we are today, and a lot more skilled in catching their food animals.

  • Sean L

    Delingpole says it’s fine with him If people want to fizzy-drink themselves to obesity, diabetes and premature death. But who does he mean by “people”? Presumably not his family or friends or neighbours or colleagues or readers; and presumably not their friends and families etc either. But what else does “people” stand for?

    • The Shambolic Skeptic

      If people want to eat themselves into an early grave I say let them have at it!

    • Hayekian

      I imagine he does mean his family friends etc, he may discuss it with them and try and persuade them to behave differently but in the end everyone has to make their own decisions. It’s called freedom … our ancestors used to love it but the socialists abolished it because they knew better.

      • Sean L

        It can’t be fine with him if his family or friends die prematurely, whatever the cause. Otherwise they either wouldn’t qualify as such, or he’d qualify as a psychopath. That they ought to be free to eat what they like is not the same thing as saying it’s fine by him if they die. But that’s what he said. Why, God knows. As a right winger myself I often want to say outrageous things just to wind up the self-serving do-gooders. But there’s a difference between idle thought and banter and what one commits to print. And there’s no evidence of satire here. So why shoudn’t I take Delingpole at his word? And however much I may agree with him politically it makes no sense to me to say it’s fine if people die prematurely without further qualification. But perhaps some people are so consumed with political doctrine they mistake the map for the territory. Thus their words and the thoughts they stand for exist in some purely ideal realm. Thus Delingpole and such ideologically driven types mirror their left wing counterparts and similarly stand in need of a reality check.

        • Hayekian

          It can of course be fine with him if his friends or family die prematurely without him being a psychopath. We all do things on a daily basis that increase our likelihood of death such as travelling in cars, on aeroplanes and even walking down the street. We do these things because we believe that the trade off of their benefit to our lives is greater than their downside, everyone must come to their own conclusion of what that balance is. Respect that your friends and relatives can make their own choices has to be more important than your own views otherwise what sort of control freak friend or relation would you be?
          Would you stop your friends and relatives from joining the military or the police or riding motorbikes, deep sea diving, skiing or becoming an astronaut. The challenger crew would be alive today if they hadn’t got in the shuttle but would you stop your children from going into space? it’s much more likely that they would die of this than of anything related to fizzy drinks (around 1 in 20 die in space flight at the moment).

          • Sean L

            That’s all beside the point. Where did I express a wish to ban anything? I detest “health and safety” as miuch as Delingpole. But no one would say it was fine for their friends to die from a car crash. Iit doesn’t follow that they wish to ban driving or are unaware of its risks. And if a loved one dies without you feeling any grief then you’re by definition a psychopath.

          • jamesdelingpole

            Technical term for what you are, Sean L is a “concern troll.” Your claim to be a right-winger is rather undermined by your evident addiction to Nanny Statism. If I were a lefty loon posing under a pseudonym at the Spectator I too might be tempted to give my rants specious credibility by beginning them “I’m a right-winger but….” Happily I’m not and am sufficiently uncowardly not to have to hide my opinions behind some anonymous avatar.
            But yes, I am quite sincere when I say I am perfectly happy for people to go to hell in the manner of their choosing, be it via heroin or sugar or whatever. Where I’d get on my high horse over the issue, though, is that your friends in Big Government seem to have been complicitous in the scam whereby fatty foods were declared public enemy number one and the sugar/corn syrup industry cleaned up. For that, heads should roll. But of course they won’t.

          • Sean L

            Thanks for the reply James. I believe the technical term for its content
            is “straw man”: entirely avoiding the original question and imputing a
            view to the questioner with no basis in what he actually said. As for
            being a troll, all I asked was what you meant by “people”. Just so you
            don’t have to look again this was my question:

            *Delingpole says it’s fine with him if people want to fizzy-drink
            themselves to obesity, diabetes and premature death. But who does he
            mean by “people”? Presumably not his family or friends or neighbours or
            colleagues or readers; and presumably not their friends and families etc
            either. But what else does “people” stand for?*

            I fail to see how that qualifies me as a troll. Or a “friend of big government”. Not at all.

            you imagine one can only argue with you from a left wing point of
            view. My point was merely to do with truth. It can’t possibly be true
            that it’s fine by you if people die prematurely, without further
            qualification, since *people* must include your loved ones and those
            whose demise could affect your own welfare, however tenuously.

            just can’t see the point of saying it. With the mortality rate at a
            stubborn 100%, it stands to reason that insofar as one is *fine* at all,
            one must be *fine* with people dying! Otherwise I totally agree with
            your general argument, though bigging-up milk does seem to me a somewhat
            perverse way of putting it, as some others have suggested. Note: not being
            pro-dairy doesn’t make one left wing either, but if you wish to think it so
            bully for you!

            As for anonymity, isn’t that also a bit of a
            straw man given that most of your respondents are? Why pick on me? Isn’t
            it possible to *argue* a point?

            As for being left wing, I’ve had
            a couple of supportive responses from you on your Telgraph blog back in
            the Climategate days when I was posting frequently – but being left
            wing was the last thing I’d be guilty of.

            Otherwise here’s evidnce of a previuos opinion and my identity. Though I don’t see why I shouldn’t maintain anonymity for posting comments here. Anyway, very much enjoy your writing but don’t see why that should entail total agreement:

          • Amanda

            That’s an excellent rebuttal, Sean. Nicely done and very comprehensive.

            It might interest you(?) to know that since Delingpole is quite familiar with many of his readers and has met several in person — indeed, has worked with them on this project or that — he has a different experience of his readership than other writers do, who expect their readers to be anonymous.

          • Sean L

            Ok thank you Amanda.

        • Amanda

          That’s where you make your bloomer. You say you’re a ‘right-winger’ (dreadful term). Well, he isn’t one. But more to the point, JD tends to overstate things, it’s part of his nature. I myself accept it for what it is without taking it very seriously.

    • Mukkinese

      Presumably he means adults who are well informed and should not be told how to live their lives by overbearing, new puritans…

  • gert2222

    Adults need fat to survive and kids need meat to grow. That’s the way we have been doing it for a while.

  • Picquet

    Mmm, yes. You haven’t had a heart attack (or “myocardial infarction”) yet, then?
    I have, and for the first five years afterwards ate only the ghastly recommended rabbitfood. Ever so gently I went back to decent nosh. Kept reasonably fit, though.
    17 years and a rusty stent later, and I’m more worried about my liver; that Merlot is a beast!

    • Amanda

      Try Tempranillo!

  • A tour de force there David – superb! Vitriol where it’s due…..

  • StephanieJCW

    I can’t stand the taste of full fat milk. Too heavy. It’s only semi-skimmed or skimmed for me now.

  • Could you please post the links to the 2 studies you referred to? I would love to read the studies…….

  • Can you please post the links to the studies you referenced?

  • Da St

    This is grade-A crap. His account of Keys is bastardized plagiarism of Taubes’ spurious account of Keys’ work. Saying Keys had no scientific support is blatant ignorance. The Sven Countries Study is on e of the largest, highest-quality

    • Amanda

      The point is that a whole medical-nutritionist Weltanschauung was built on his theorizing and his stance. It did not keep up with new studies and in fact tried to suppress any evidence that didn’t fit. It was hostile to the idea that fibre/fiber was NOT the answer to the increasingly obvious weight/body composition problem of Westerners. It overturned decades and indeed centuries of understanding about why people get fat, without having any real justification for doing so. It caused tens of millions of people to eat the wrong things, thinking they were doing right, and bullied them into getting more unhealthy.

      I think we’ll be the judge of what ‘grade-A cr*p’ is, thanks!

      • Da St

        That is laughable. An 18-year study that is is still being used–it the new studies. It suppressed nothing; that is more of Taubes’ dishonest distort ions and his followers’ repetitive plagiarizing.

        • Amanda

          Well, we’ve got at least two immediately obvious facts here.

          1. I don’t know who you are or what your claim to knowledge is, but I know evidence and a cogent argument when I see them, and Taubes presented plenty and gained my confidence in his truth-telling and logical soundness.

          2. Westerners and especially Americans and Brits followed the advice of Keys and all that followed in his wake, including those that thought they knew all about what caused diabetes (they hardly blamed sugar, never mind carbs in general!), and yet we have been getting fatter and fatter and fatter, and more unhealthy on their advice.

          So clearly, the nutrition industry was boasting about some things it didn’t know, while suppressing the scientific truth that others were trying to bring to light.

          Do you have a vested interest in this, by any chance? I wonder where your hostility comes from, and what it is meant to serve.

          • Da St

            No surprise: Resort to the genetic fallacy. My vested interest is in seeing the people I know and care about (and those I don’t but toward whom I have a general benevolence) healthy. Perhaps you have a financial vested interest in seeing people get sick and die. That would explain your hostility by the end it is meant to serve.

            Taubes said, with reference to Keys, that Keys presented only six of 22 countries data, and that he was refuted by presentation of 22 countries’ data. But the authors who presented the data of 22 countries did not refute Keys; they found the same association of fat and heart disease to a lesser degree and said it could not yet be validated. Keys went on a year later to start the Seven Countries Study. (Lost you now, haven’t I. You thought that Taubes refuted the Seven Countries Study. Sloppy. Like Taubes.) But an earlier study did not refute a later study–a study that went on to do what had not “yet” been done in 1957, and that is to validate the association.

            Check Taubes’ references and dates. He didn’t tell the truth, and his argument is not logically sound.

            And I had no doubt where you got your errors, even without your saying it.

          • Amanda

            Fail, on all fronts. Have a good night.

          • Da St

            I agree. Maybe you’ll have better luck next time. It will be aided by going beyond finding security in your appetite, taking one guy’s word without checking his references because they seem truthy to you, and accusing people of greed.

          • Amanda

            Golly you’re obtuse. And I still wonder about your motives. We can all see the fat people miserably trying to fix their fatness. Who and what created it? –The very thinking you bizarrely defend! (And by the way: do not accuse me of thoughts I don’t have: I never once brought up ‘greed’: are you working to a script?)

  • Call me TC

    ‘In fact no trial has ever demonstrated the benefits of reducing dietary fat.’ I thought there was still a consensus that trans-fats aren’t good.

    • Amanda

      That’s only one tiny corner of the world of fats and I never see them listed on any packet I pick up, ever.

  • pearlsandoysters

    It’s been a long time I started to avoid any health-related stories, since they just float spectacularly in the air and exist solely to justify the salaries. Be it fat, sugar or any other enemy of humanity in the food-stuff, there’ll always be willing adherents and proponents, those ready peddle any nonsense in the name of universal well-being. My take is that the food industry should find the way to somehow disengage with chemistry industry, once the effect of artificial stuff may be far more damaging than fat, sugar or whatever.

  • beejeebers

    Perhaps the danger of sugar should relate to “processed sugar” and not natural sugar as found in fruit and sugar cane, since the natives of Jamaica for instance who survive largely on both, have wonderful teeth and physically strong bodies.

    • Amanda

      Good point, but the ‘physically strong bodies’ also come from the physically hard work they perpetually do, and the fact that because of that hard work, the body doesn’t have left-over energy just ripe for conversion to fat. If those Jamaicans stopped manually labouring all day, but kept up their sugar cane habits, they’d lose muscle mass and gain fat like anyone else.

      Fruit sugar, also, can be a problem if consumed in great quantities (as for instance in smoothie drinks). Slice and dice it as we will, sugar is sugar.

      • Alexsandr

        eat a balanced dite. eating huge quantities of fruit is just silly. people dont understand that eating some of something is good eating loads of it is bad.

        • Amanda

          Yes, and the flip side of your observation is that sometimes very small adjustments can make big differences (such as cutting out soda pop to get rid of acid reflux).

      • beejeebers

        So really exercise is the key.

        • Amanda

          Yes, it may be the key of keys, but it depends on what kind of exercise — just doing a lot of walking or even strenuous cardio isn’t really enough. And diet is so important for functioning in exercise, and exercise affects how beneficial your diet is… so it’s sort of a loop and our idea that diet and exercise are separate is probably not realistic. Diet affects hormone production which in turn affects the willingness and ability to exercise, while exercise helps balance one’s hormones and encourages the shedding of toxins — and on it goes.

  • Coin Shepherd

    The fact that the British Heart Foundation get loads of dosh from the makers of Flora doesn’t help rational discussion.

  • Ilana L

    WEEEELLLLL ya’all I eat my own cheese made with 5.3% Jersey milk, drink goat’s milk and eat goat’s milk cheese and yogurt which averages around 4 to 5% fat and it is raw (how we can call milk straight from a cow or goat beats me. Never see a kid or a calf cook their milk before they suck it up.) and I feel find and my vitamin D levels are fine. There is a lot to look at in diet and there will be heaps of weird diet problems in the future. Be warned.

  • Kathy Farrey

    and meanwhile in America, they serve skim milk to the school children. If they won’t drink the tasteless garbage, add some sugar, chocolate & carrageenan. I told my grandkids there’s seaweed in it & now they won’t drink the stuff.

  • Gareth Hardcastle

    Hi James ,any chance you could apply the same degree of scepticism to claims that fracking will is safe? “”Rather, my irritation is reserved for those who created the problem in the first place and who variously profited by it, either professionally or financially: the nutritionists, the activists, the chief medical officers, the interventionist politicians, the supermarkets and food manufacturers with their slyly bullying, hectoring, and nauseatingly self-righteous low-fat food ranges, the pharmaceutical companies and doctors so assiduously pushing statins, the newspapers touting their latest health scares”

    • Why do you assume it isn’t? Let’s frack, and be free of bloodstained oil!

  • brojoejoe

    Can you be clearer and say Type 2 before each diabetes?

  • charlie williams

    Great article as always James. There has always been and always will be a group of people who insist on bossing us around because they know what is good for us. Cromwell banning Christmas, today’s government banning marijuanam, the pagans insisting we have been naughty to mother earth and caused ‘global warming’ and therefore we must (literally) sacrifice resources, money and our right to chose what kind of effing light bulbs we can buy. They are ALL on the same spectrum: the one that loves the taste of dogma. At one end sometimes annoying and harmless, at the other end….sending you to burn or to the Gulag. The ones at the softer end are not guiltless though, they start the shit off.

  • Deep Blue

    Complete tosh. If you have the time or inclination, read this: http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/162/8/764.full

    But I’ll save you some time.

    “Over half of the substantial decline in CHD mortality in Finland between 1982 and 1997 was attributable to reductions in major risk factors. In addition to the remarkable decline in CHD mortality, the incidence of first coronary events also declined in Finland during this period, indicating successful implementation of primary preventative measures. The biggest single risk factor contribution was from the large decline in total cholesterol levels.”

  • Shonkin

    “Cholesterol” is a very vague, general term. It includes low-density lipoproteins (LDL), which tend to build up arterial plaque, and high-density lipoproteins (HDL), which tend to remove plaque or at least do not contribute to it. Dietary cholesterol is a minor consideration, because most of the serum cholesterol in most people is made by their livers. However, saturated fat stimulates the liver to make more cholesterol, so it has a bad reputation.
    On another issue in the essay, too much sugar or easily-digested starch contributes to Type 2 diabetes. But what else does? Being fat does! My wife and I were both obese and becoming borderline diabetic ten years ago. We also had high blood pressure. Since then we each lost 65 pounds. Other than having to buy new clothes, we had no ill effects, but we now have normal levels of blood sugar and insulin. We also have more stamina, fewer joint and muscle aches, and no sore feet at the end of a day. Our blood pressure is also normal now, without medication.
    I had high cholesterol and low HDL. My doctor tried to put me on statins; I had terrible reactions to them. I have now been taking niacin (vitamin B-3) in the form of slow-release pills for five years. My LDL is now low and my HDL is high. The doctor is pleasantly surprised.
    A third issue, which has come up in this discussion, is milk. Infants and other young mammals need milk. Most of the people in the world lose their ability to digest lactose when they reach adulthood and therefore get indigestion when they drink fresh milk. Adults don’t need milk anyway. And everyone can digest fermented milk products like cheese and yogurt, or lactose-free milk products like butter.
    A final point from the discussion: Coffee tastes fine without milk or sugar if it’s good coffee. If you buy light or medium-roast beans (or ground coffee), you will discover what a delightful taste coffee can have. (Just don’t go to those espresso bars where they serve a horrible bitter, burnt-tasting dark roast and then conceal the taste with milk, sugar, and other flavorings and charge you half an hour’s wages for a cup.)

  • Stephen Griffiths

    I wonder how much the cholesterol-lowering-medications industry makes throughout the Western world each year?
    I bet it’s nearly as much as the high-blood-pressure-lowering-medications industry!
    My GP has told me that I have pre-hypertension and that I should take such medication,probably for the rest of my life.
    Pre-hypertension is,obviously,a modern made-up condition that overnight caused about 50 million Americans to suddenly require a new and ongoing course of treatment. A quick calculation using the annual amount that i have to spend on my medication comes to just short of $3 Billion a year for those new patients to spend.