Pass the Prime Rib

Study Finds Low-Fat Diet Won’t Stop Cancer or Heart Disease (NY Times)

The largest study ever to ask whether a low-fat diet keeps women from getting cancer or heart disease has found that the diet had no effect.

The $415 million federal study involved nearly 49,000 women aged 50 to 79 who were followed for eight years. In the end, those assigned to a low-fat diet had the same rates of breast cancer, colon cancer, heart attack and stroke as those who ate whatever they pleased, researchers are reporting today.

“These are three totally negative studies,” said Dr. David Freedman, a statistician at the University of California at Berkeley, who is not connected with the study but has written books on clinical trial design and analysis. And, he said, the results should be taken seriously for what they are — a rigorous attempt that failed to confirm a popular hypothesis that a low-fat diet can prevent three major diseases in women.

And the studies were so large and so expensive that they are “the Rolls Royce of studies,” said Dr. Michael Thun, who directs epidemiological research for the American Cancer Society. As such, he said, they are likely to be the final word.

We’ll have to wait and see if the results will be replicated in a study of fat consumption in males, but this study points at an interesting phenomenon: accepting on its face any assertion that what we enjoy has got to be bad for our health. Having recently read Michael Crichton’s State of Fear, this has me wondering whether in a few years we’ll still simply choose to believe that low-fat diets will prevent what this study says they do not.

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Leopold Stotch
About Leopold Stotch
“Dr. Leopold Stotch” was the pseudonym of political science professor then at a major research university inside the beltway. He has a PhD in International Relations. He contributed 165 pieces to OTB between November 2004 and February 2006.


  1. Mark says:

    I finished State of Fear about a week ago. And the day after I finished it, there was an article in the newspaper featuring some scientist saying it was probably too late to reverse the effects of global warming, unless we did something “very drastic.”

    Damn. And I was just getting used to my new car and its new car smell. Oh wait. THAT is now bad for us too!

  2. G A PHILLIPS says:

    415 million, to watch girls eat, somebody needs their head cut off! Dude whats global warming, another gay cowboy movie?

  3. John Anderson says:

    And earlier soy/tofu news –
    Soy Study: Heart Association Dismisses Health Claims
    “Veggie burgers and tofu might not be so great at warding off heart disease after all. An American Heart Association committee reviewed a decade of studies on soy’s benefits…”

    Seems if there is any benefit it owes nothing to soy itself, but only to eating less fat. Maybe.

    Salt, coffee, alcohol, eggs, and even milk (no, not the PETA twits, doctors!) all have been villainized as universally bad and then – oops – only bad in limited circumstances. Even chocolate has been found to have some health benefits: can refined sugar and flour be far behind?

    Mostly I trust medicos, but I remain aware of how little they actually know about us.

  4. Herb Ely says:

    One wonders why 1) we believe anything these nutrition scientists say and 2) why we fund them with tax dollars.

  5. m says:

    I actually heard this reported on WABC yesterday to the effect that “it shows that a healthy diet needs to start before 50”. This is the same MSM reasoning as “fake but accurate” — ignore the evidence, but believe us when we tell you what a healthy diet is.

  6. yetanotherjohn says:

    I think the definitive word on this was spoken over 30 years ago in a movie titled “Sleeper”

    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!

  7. Scott P says:
  8. Scott Lawton says:

    From the article:
    In the first year, the women on the low-fat diets reduced the percentage of fat in their diet to 24 percent of daily calories, and by the end of the study their diets had 29 percent of their calories as fat. In the first year, the women in the control group were eating 35 percent of their calories as fat, and by the end of the study their dietary fat content was 37 percent. The two groups consumed about the same number of calories.

    i.e. a MODEST reduction in fat along with NO reduction in calories has no significant affect on cancer and heart disease. Note that sugar consumption often goes up when fat consumption goes down.

    Based just on the article, the study looks interesting — though leaves many important questions unanswered. I hope the blogosphere is smart enough to evaluate it in context. For my part, I suspect that there’s not “one true way” and that different people can succeed on different diets (food plans).

  9. Richard Atwood says:

    Oh dear. There’s fat and there’s fat. The big glob fat — LDL — BAD! the little glob fat — HDL — GOOD! other stuff makes food taste good but has unnecessary calories. I don’t eat meat from mammels (cows, sheep, pigs, goats, buffalo) and have not for 18 years. Just because eating our close kin results in a big increase in colon cancer — fat or no fat. I eat lots and lots of cabbage, kale (ugh!) brocolli, sauerkraut, cauliflour, and watercress. (Correlates with lower cancer risk.) I eat lots and lots of tomato sauce in and over almost anything else because of the lycopene content. I eat currants, walnuts, figs, grapes, mangos, pomegranite juice, and OJ. I exercise 30 minutes three times a week by vigorous walking with light weights pumping in my hands so as to divide the stress, and I walk to most places rather than taking the bus or subway. I drink half a bottle or more of Finger Lakes Pinot Noir with dinner (for resviratrol). I take a small selenium and also vit. D supplement daily, and a multivitamin. I try to get some additional fresh fruit every day, and greens like collards or turnip tops. Carrots and garlic are also daily staples. My pastas and breads are always whole wheat. I avoid dairy products and poultry that are not organic because of the hormones. About half the time I buy organic fruits and vegetables. I put turmeric and crushed or chopped garlic in almost everything. I have a cup of coffee in the morning and a cup of tea in the afternoon. And MOST important… I make sure no matter how tired I may be I masturbate at least once a day. I am very healthy.