Subject of dietary fat and cancer

What looks to the paranoid among us to be a coverup is most certainly nothing more than overzealousness, a pervasive quality indeed among dedicated scientists. To stress this point, let us consider a recent hearing on the subject of dietary fat and cancer held by the FDA and printed in the Federal Register.12 They concluded:

All of the publicly available evidence supports the conclusion that diets high in fat increase the risk of cancer, and more importantly that diets low in fat are associated with the reduced risk of cancer.

There is only one catch. The literature cited in this major federal health publication contained the Harvard Nurses Study on colon cancer but not the study about breast cancer I just told you about in which thirty one more cases were found in the 20% of nurses with the lowest consumption of animal fat. Naturally, I checked and doublechecked. Could this really be true? Indeed, it was.

The studies cited in the cancer section contained many very small and necessarily tenuous reports on 200 or 300 subjects but not the largest study on breast cancer ever conducted, a study on 90,000 subjects by the same investigators in the Harvard Department of Epidemiology, using the same nurses and published by the same New England Journal of Medicine as the colon cancer study that received such headlines. (Other studies showing no relation between breast cancer and dietary fat were also missing.) I am more than curious about these omissions; I hope we will soon be given an explanation. I do know that consensus experts diligently study the data offered to them by the consensus

panel staff. It’s a shame that national health policy can be so greatly influenced by research assistants so overworked that they miss little details like the most significant study on breast cancer ever reported.

And yet I haven’t written this chapter to focus your attention upon possible discrepancies between scientific findings and the beliefs of certain scientists but to reassure you that the next time you confront a bacon and cheese omelet that you hotly desire but are afraid to approach, you needn’t be afraid. The evidence that you’re going to get heart disease or cancer from the fat in your diet isn’t strong, it’s weak; it isn’t persuasive, it’s remarkably unpersuasive. False accusations are being passed off as scientific gospel simply because those upon whom our political leaders rely for scientific insight have long ago become devotees of the low fat cause and don’t scruple to slant the evidence, although they may imagine that in doing so they perform a public service.

I hope the foregoing discussion has at least awakened you to the realization that there is not scientific unanimity on those points, either. As with so many other considerations involving your health, you can survive best by becoming critical enough to make your own decisions.

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